ATLANTA — Bert Brantley, who serves on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s board of directors, said he understands why it may come as a surprise that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is resigning from office to work for GPB.
“It doesn’t surprise me that people are surprised, but for me it actually made a lot of sense given his background and history and the kind of the things I’ve always known him to be passionate about and excited about,” Brantley said.
Brantley, who served as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s director of communications, acknowledged that politicos assumed Rogers would seek higher office one day.
“People assumed that, but I think if you heard him talking, he never talked about that stuff,” Brantley said. “People attached that to him. He rose to the majority leader position very quickly, and so I think people assumed that that ascension would continue.”
Rogers announced Tuesday that he was resigning from the Senate today to spearhead a new programming initiative at Georgia Public Broadcasting that will promote economic development and jobs in Georgia.
Rogers described his new job as an executive-level position working with Teya Ryan, president and executive director of GPB.
Read the full interview with Senator Rogers
“I will have global responsibilities somewhat for the entire organization, but my main focus will be on this new line of programming dealing with Georgia business and Georgia education,” Rogers said. “My role here was really created in conjunction with the CEO and the governor. We all three worked on his together.”
Rogers, age 44, was first elected to the Georgia House in 2002 and to the Senate in 2004. He and his wife, Amy, have four children, ages 7, 9, 12, and 13. While he has a Woodstock mailing address, he lives on the Cherokee and Fulton county line with his backyard facing the city of Milton.
No one would reveal what salary the new job pays. Rogers declined to answer the question, while no response came from Brian Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal. Nancy Zintak, spokeswoman for GPB, answered the question this way: “We don’t have access to those numbers right now. The details of Mr. Rogers’ employment here are still being hammered out.”
Georgia Public Broadcasting had a $28 million budget in fiscal year 2011, with 48 percent of its revenue coming from the state, 12 percent from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 25 percent from memberships, donations and corporate underwriting and 15 percent from other revenues such as rental income.
Headquartered in Atlanta, GPB employs 165 people with 17 radio stations and nine television stations.
After recently winning re-election to his Senate seat, Rogers opted not to seek another term as majority leader last month.
A source told the Journal that because Jan. 8 is when a special election will be held for state Senate District 30 in Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties, it would make sense that the state would hold the special election for Rogers’ seat on that same day.
Rogers said it would be premature to say whom he will support to fill his seat.
“I’m sure I’ll have some friends that are going to consider it,” he said. “I always support my friends, so we’ll see what happens.”
Rogers said no one pressured him to leave the Senate, noting that he and Gov. Nathan Deal first spoke of the job change a couple of months ago.
“He was extremely supportive the whole time,” Rogers said. “He said, ‘look, this is an opportunity that is available. I think you’d be great for it. If you want to explore it, we’re here to help you explore it.’
“(Deal and Ryan) want to do some programming in this area, and fortunately for me he thought about me as somebody that could make that happen,” Rogers said. “He was very supportive and all along said ‘whatever decision you make, I’m going to support you whether you don’t want to take this opportunity, you want to stay in the Senate, I’m going to support you.’ He was very supportive of my re-election, so I’ve always had a great relationship with him.”
Robinson described Deal’s involvement this way: “The governor knew Chip wanted to get back into broadcasting and he knew that Teya Ryan at GPB was looking to expand local programming. He suggested they talk. That was his only role.”
In a statement, Deal said, “As a former state Senator myself, I know how serving as a part-time legislator becomes full-time work that keeps you away from your family too often. Chip’s experience in broadcasting, combined with his many years of work on Georgia’s economic development, match up well with the exciting plans that executive director Teya Ryan has for GPB. We appreciate his continued service to the state.”
Marietta attorney Chuck Clay, a former county commissioner, state senator and Georgia GOP chairman, said it was clear there was a desire for a change in leadership in the Senate.
“When you’ve been majority leader and the pressures it puts on you in terms of not only speaking just income, family, producing for your family, it does not surprise me,” Clay said on Rogers’ leaving office. “Whether he had been unanimously re-elected majority leader, would this be different? May well be so. But the fact of the matter is when the numbers were going the other way he chose not to rerun (for majority leader).
“To me, that was a pretty obvious handwriting that in his mind, and I think it’s the appropriate decision by the way, to do what he needs to for his family, because what happens, a part-time job can send you to the point that you no longer have both job and ability to provide for your family, so when he chose not to run or when he did not be majority leader again. I think he made the right decision.”
Clay said Rogers has a natural talent for the new position.
“It’s probably appropriate at some level in regard to the service where he’s got a skill level and hopefully is a good return to the Georgia taxpayer,” he said.
Clay acknowledged the divide over the past few years between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and senators such as Rogers. He attributed that divide as having more to do with Rogers’ departure than any public controversies associated with Rogers such as the “Meth 6” motel.
“For the last years it has more to do with internal Senate politics than it does with external,” Clay said.
At the same time, Clay said, “What it points to is the difficulty of being in an incredibly time-consuming and important position and having to provide for your family in a way that if you do not have an income stream, if you’re not either retired or your kids are grown or you have a lot of money, it creates this constant stress and strain. That probably had more to do with his decision than the internal Senate politics which kind of is what it is. For whatever reason people were looking for a change, but I think that has to do with the internal dynamics of the senate.”
Clay said a popular statement elected officials make when leaving office is that they want to spend more time with their families, which is the reason Rogers gave for leaving office.
“It is always a good reason,” Clay said. “It’s never the only reason.”
Cobb Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy said he was sorry to learn that Rogers was leaving office.
“Cobb County hated to lose him as one of our Senators (through redistricting),” Dendy said. “He has contributed greatly to the Senate, and I really hate to see us lose him as one of the senators.”
Immigration reformer D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society called Rogers’ resignation a loss.
“Chip has decided to put his family first,” King said. “Georgia was fortunate to have reaped the benefits of the public service and extraordinary leadership that my friend Chip Rogers provided in his decade under the Gold Dome. He has made huge sacrifices to do the right things for the right reasons. His departure from the Senate is a great loss, and his absence will soon be felt in the entire state.”