Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vance Smith interested in vacant Georgia DOT post

State Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, said Tuesday morning he is actively pursuing the vacant Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner’s job.

“I have contacted all the board members,” Smith said. “I feel that I can offer the leadership skills the DOT needs.”

Smith came one vote short of getting the job in October 2007. The 13-member board hired Gena Abraham Evans on a 7-6 vote that split not only the board, but the 5,000-employee state agency.

The board fired Evans, who was strongly supported by Gov. Sonny Perdue, in February on a 9-3 vote. Evans’ tenure had been controversial, and included a romantic relationship with DOT Board Chairman Mike Evans, which later ended up in marriage. Evans, who resigned from the board after the relationship came to light, was one of the seven votes against Smith.

Smith, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he is the person who can fix the problem that exists in and around the DOT. “I think I can bring all of the people involved to the table and help us move forward,” Smith said. “I am talking about the executive branch -- the governor’s office -- the speaker of the House, the lieutenant governor, the chairmen of the House and Senate transportation committees and the DOT board.”

Smith has a strong ally in DOT Board member Sam Wellborn of Columbus. Wellborn pushed Smith hard the first time around.

“I think Vance is a strong candidate for the position,” Wellborn said. “But we have a board search committee and we are going to go through the process.”

“He’s a leading candidate and I wish he could be commissioner today,” Wellborn said. “He has lots of strengths and I think he could be the catalyst to mend a lot of fences.”

The board meets May 21 and 22 in Douglas. It is possible a new commissioner could be named at that time, but probably unlikely, Wellborn said.

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