Originally created 11/15/02

Georgia DOT will get new faces



First, voters and politicians performed the congressional redistricting shuffle. Now it's the Georgia Department of Transportation's turn as it readies for its own topsy-turvy move.

"This is something most of us haven't been through," said Burt Brantley of the DOT, referring to Georgia's recent redistricting. "A lot of it is new to us. We're kind of waiting to see how it will all work out."

Because of the redistricting, the Georgia DOT Board, which approves all major state road projects, will gain two new members next year, increasing its size from 11 to 13. State law mandates the additions because every congressional district in the state must have a DOT board representative.

The two new members won't be named until after the General Assembly convenes in January. That's when state representatives from each district will vote on candidates.

Three current member seats also have to be filled by April 15, when terms expire. The result is a board with several its positions up in the air.

"It's hard to know what will happen until you actually have a member that can say what their priorities are," Mr. Brantley said.

Currently, the Augusta area's only board member is Jimmy Lester, who represents what was the 10th Congressional District. But under redistricting, Augusta gained a new district, the 12th, and much of the 10th District became the new 9th Congressional District.

"Certainly, board members tend to be very territorial," Mr. Brantley said. "And it would make sense that with two board members representing your area, you would have twice as many people on your side."

Mr. Lester has been a lone voice for the Augusta area on the board for 15 years. He said he's happy to be gaining a partner.

"I think it will be a definite help (to bringing road projects to the area)," he said.

That new board member would represent District 12, which encompasses an area stretching from Savannah to Athens. Mr. Lester's new 9th District includes a portion of Richmond County and all of Columbia, Lincoln, McDuffie and Wilkes counties.

Even though Augusta will have an additional DOT board member, that won't necessarily put it ahead of other major cities.

"There are several areas that will end up having multiple board members," said Mr. Brantley, including Savannah, Columbus, Macon and Atlanta.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.