Roy Barnes enters a room with a booming voice, a greeting for everyone and a firm handshake for all he meets.
The 61-year-old Marietta lawyer may have left the office of Governor of the state of Georgia over six years, but he still has the look and thoughts of a politician.
This time around, according to Barnes, and local supporters, like City of Americus attorney, Jimmy Skipper, he has a new perspective about the state of the State and how things should operate.
He’s visiting areas all across the state, getting feedback from communities about their ideas and thoughts, and at the same time considering another run for the office of Governor in 2010.
While in Americus, Barnes visited: the local school system, met with teachers, and the school superintendent; the local fire and police departments; Georgia Southwestern State University; and county and city officials before making a final stop at the Americus Times — Recorder.
Barnes — his laid-back demeanor was evident with his casual, but well thought answers and genuine smile — first spoke about the education system in the state of Georgia.
The former Governor said, “I believe we have a a good group of teachers and administrators for the state, but they can’t deliver the services without adequate funding.”
He continued, “I believe we are progressing, but I don’t see how a school board has been able to run a school system over the last few years when they have had their funding cut — some even at $2 million. The greatest failure we have had in the education system is the lack of funding.
“We have a great foundation if we would lift it up and celebrate the great teachers that we already have, instead of criticizing everything,” said Barnes.
Barnes talked briefly of the current state of the economy for Georgia, and discussed the measures that Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly have recently made to the upcoming budget.
“I think we are going about it the wrong way. I think our priorities are askew. We seem to think nothing below, really, Griffin, needs to be concentrated on as far as marketing and economic development. I think every member of the legislature should take a tour of the state of Georgia. I believe there are some members who are not aware that there is more to the state then the metro areas.
“Georgia is the largest state geographically east of the Mississippi. We have challenges to make sure that we spread growth throughout the state, instead of concentrating it in one part of the state,” Barnes said.
He added, “The part of the state that the growth is concentrated in, is the metro area. The growth has been so overwhelming in that area and taken away from the quality of life. You can’t drive anywhere. And the other part of the state is starving to death.
Barnes paused, and he added, “You have to remember that 57% of the population in the state is concentrated in and around Atlanta. I believe a large portion of the elected officials, state elected officials, probably have never heard of Americus, Dawson, Blakely or Ellaville.