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Our Views: With politics set aside, DOT now can move ahead
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The State Transportation Board is the only panel appointed exclusively by the General Assembly. It's a job that legislators both love and hate.

While this is a rare example of the legislative branch appointing members to the executive branch, in times past we have seen leaders of both branches overexert themselves in the process.

The most classic example of this was the February re-election of former board chairman Mike Evans. Evans had the support of Gov. Sonny Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Yet House Speaker Glenn Richardson selected former Hall County state Rep. Stacey Reece as his candidate.

Evans won, leading Richardson to deal out severe punishment to the handful of lawmakers who voted against Reece.

Then in April came news that Evans and DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham were involved in a personal relationship that went beyond a handshake. That again put the DOT board in the news, with fears that another political tussle was in the making.

Evans resigned and Abraham was reprimanded by the board but kept her post. Last month, Evans and Abraham announced they were engaged to be married.

Now Evans is gone from the DOT. His replacement was elected last week in what turned out to be a professional, fair process, minus any arm-twisting by Perdue, Cagle or Richardson.

The transportation board is a powerful post where decisions are made on billions of dollars in road projects. Voters elected their state lawmakers and they, in turn, appoint the board. It gives the voter some say in the process -- that is, when the powerbrokers stay out of it.

The process last week produced four capable candidates who each had admirable qualities and each could have made a good member.

The new member, Steve Farrow of Dalton, is a respected attorney who served in the Senate and as chairman of the State Ethics Commission. He came to the eastern side of the 9th Congressional District and met personally with many legislators. He has promised not to favor one region over another.

The politics of asphalt is always going to have its moments. But Farrow seems up to the task and the district needs to rally behind him as he and his fellow board members seek to fix the bureaucratic problems that have tarnished the reputation of the DOT.

Likewise, Abraham can now move on to perform the important tasks before her, chiefly by prioritizing the state's transportation projects to get the maximum yield from the department's funds.

In a time when our state continues to grow beyond its roads' boundaries while rising fuel costs have hammered commuters and businesses alike, transportation is the state's key link to future prosperity.
And the DOT, with its leadership now set to meet that task, must show it can put aside politics and personal distractions and get the job done.

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