Question: How can the labor commissioner best reduce unemployment?
The best way to retain and attract new jobs is by having an educated and well-trained work force. The labor commissioner's role is not simply to administer unemployment but to work closely with other state departments. These include the Department of Education and the Department of Economic Development.
By moving jobless Georgians back to work four weeks quicker than the national average, we are significantly reducing unemployment. Another benefit of our focus on rapid reemployment is our ability to reduce employer taxes, which protect existing jobs and encourage job creation.
Question: How can the agency help more high school students prepare for the work force?
One out of every three Georgia students enter the work force without a high school diploma. The Labor Department needs a strategic alliance with the Department of Education, which should include a seat on the state board of education. Skill-based curriculums should be returned to all Georgia high schools.
The Jobs for Georgia Graduates program offered by the department in 35 Georgia high schools is a highly successful solution to our dropout problem. This initiative has produced graduation rates averaging 90 percent, 18 points higher than the state average. The availability of funding for this program should clearly be expanded.
Question: What do you see as the main priority facing the labor commissioner?
Georgia's Labor Department is stuck in the 19th-century mentality. I will modernize and transform the office from a reactive office, primarily dealing with unemployment, to a pro-active one that will focus on employment - keeping the jobs Georgia has and creating new jobs.
Results matter. That's why it is critical to maintain the high level of service the department offers to job-seekers and employers. I will continue to strive to maintain the department's status as one of the most effective and efficient labor departments.
Michael Thurmond - D
Political experience: Ran for labor commissioner in 2002 but lost in the Republican primary
Education: Bachelor of science in management, Georgia Tech; master of business administration, University of Georgia
Family: Wife, Pamela
Brent Brown - R
Political experience: Georgia House of Representatives, 1987-92; director of Department of Family and Children Services, 1994-97; state labor commissioner, 1998 to present
Profession: Labor commissioner; former lawyer
Education: Bachelor of arts in philosophy, Paine College; law degree, University of South Carolina
Family: Wife, Zola; a daughter