Q: Why are you resigning?
A: It was kind of a two-part process. I decided to not seek re-election as majority leader actually the day before we went to our caucus meeting, which would have been two or three weeks ago, and then it was kind of over the Thanksgiving time period spending time with my wife and kids, my in-laws and my parents, and you do a lot of soul-searching and kind of felt that everything hit at the right time.
Q: Was it because you are no longer majority leader?
Q: For years, politicos spoke of you as one of the rising stars in the Republican Party who would go on to seek higher office, which is why I don’t understand this decision.
A: When I first got elected I had a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old, and as a parent you can only picture the time on where you’re at — everyone can tell you about it, but you can’t really understand it until you get there. And so I had a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old, and now I have a 13-year-old and a 12-year-old, and a 9-year-old and 7-year-old. It has nagged me for a few years now how many times I’ve had to say, ‘no, I can’t do that, I can’t be here,’ and the times I am there you’re not mentally there, you’re answering phone calls and things like that, and I guess every parent feels this at certain times in their life. You have one shot, and that window slowly but surely closes.
And for me, having been presented with this opportunity to get back into a field that I love, which is broadcasting, while at the same time being able to be at home a lot more often, it was just something I couldn’t pass up. I had accomplished a lot here, especially with the passage of this charter amendment that I helped sponsor, that was a big victory for me.
Q: What are some other achievements you’re proud of accomplishing?
A: I authored and passed the first-ever statewide comprehensive immigration reform than any state had ever done back in 2006, and then rewrote a large portion of the state’s property tax law, which I don’t know how many tens of millions of dollars that’s going to save the tax payers through the years, but a lot, and I’m very happy with that. You know, I did small things like creating the NASCAR tag to I wrote the bill that created the Open.Ga.Gov website, so that everyone sees all the things we’re doing down here online. Dog fighting (reform). Those are the things that I will look back on and be very satisfied with, but the education reform mostly because I understand that the lives that’s going to impact. When you impact one generation of school children you impact the next generation, the next generation. Having a child get an education who otherwise may not have that doesn’t just impact them, their children and their grandchildren, those are the things that I am really going to look back and say ‘job well done.’
Q: Tell me about your new job.
A: I’m moving over to Georgia Public Broadcasting. We’re beginning a new line of local programming that I am going to be heading up, looking at Georgia businesses, and Georgia’s education system and how we bring those together and the opportunities that exist within each. It’s an executive-level position working with the (Teya Ryan, GBP president and executive director.)
Q: What is your title?
A: We don’t really have a title. It’s newly created. I’m not taking anyone’s spot. (GPB is) a corporation that owns all the TV stations and the radio stations. The governor appoints the director, but there’s a board as with any other corporation that determines all the other things that go on. My role here was really created in conjunction with the CEO and the governor. We all three worked on his together.
Q: When is your first day?
A: Sometime in early January. I will be from producing shows to being on camera to hosting statewide radio programs all across the board. Luckily it’s a position where we’re building it. It’s not there. It’s going to be brand new, so a lot of the details we haven’t done yet, but we have this kind of shared general vision of where we want to go. I’m in a fortunate position that I don’t need a job, which is nice, and so I’m not having to go do something because I have to go do it, it’s something that presented to me and something that I think I really enjoy, and it’s a good opportunity, and it’s something that I want to do. In that respect I’m very much blessed because I know particularly in tough economic times there are a lot of people who they hate going to work on Monday. I’m not going to be in that position. I’m going to get to go to work on Monday because I really want to.
Q: Why don’t you need a job?
A: Well, let me just say I’m in a financial situation where I’m not having to go out and seek other positions.
Q: What qualifies you for this position?
A: I’ve got a long history in broadcasting, and I would hope that I can do that. Even to this day, I still do broadcasting. I host a television show on the Dish Network based out of New York so even to this day I still do broadcasting. I owned a radio station, was involved in radio and television for many, many years, so I’ve got that experience and I have no problem with the on-camera stuff.
Q: Are you releasing your salary?
A: No. Let me just tell you that was not an issue.
Q: Critics have tried to make a blood sacrifice of you over such topics as the “Meth 6″ motel and sports gambling controversies. Do you believe you have an ethics problem?
A: I don’t know that there is an ethics issue. I mean, I don’t know what would be the ethics accusation, I guess?
Q: The mentioned controversies.
A: Look, I have long found out that in politics that the last thing most people want to talk about are issues. So they will find any way possible to talk about something other than actual issues. When I rewrote Georgia’s entire appeals and assessment process for property taxes, which effects every single Georgian in one capacity or another, you know tens of millions of pieces of property, I think two or three articles written on it and it was a major, major piece of legislation that has implications for generations to come, and people, they don’t really want to focus on that even though it impacts every Georgians’ lives, and I remember at least with my local newspaper — not you — but the (Cherokee) Tribune and the (Cherokee) Ledger they ran top-of-the-fold headline articles this year on the fact that I had some Georgia and Georgia Tech election signs that I had produced two years before and that we hadn’t produced anymore. It was just the people I was giving them to two years later were putting them out in their yards —– I guess my whole point is policy is not sensational to a lot of people. Other things are. In a world of blogs where very little work is done to determine accuracy or validity on any accusation that’s what we get now, and that’s unfortunate, but I put zero faith in any of those type of things that are written.
Q: Gov. Deal calls them political arsonists.
A: Some of the things that people said about me which are just so patently absurd. You know, luckily I have a thick skin. It doesn’t bother me in the least. It bothers my family and that bothers me that it bothers my family, but the actual accusations towards me I don’t give a second thought to.
Q: Did anyone pressure you or ask you to give up your Senate seat — the governor, for example?
A: Oh no. In fact he was extremely supportive the whole time. 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.’
Q: How did that happen?
A: The governor is a big fan of Georgia Public Broadcasting and the work they do, and this is an area where I think he and the executive director both saw kind of a hole that they’d like to fill. They want to do so programming in this area and fortunately for me he thought about me as somebody that could make that happen. 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.
Q; When did you first hear about this opportunity from him?
A: It’s been a couple of months.
Q: So this been on your mind, should I take this job or not?
A: Well, it was more exploring what this could possibly be, because we were dealing with here’s kind of an idea of where we might want to go and this was exploring that, and I did my own research on Georgia Public Broadcasting on what they’d accomplished, they’re very accomplished and have won numerous awards and have done incredible things, and do I want to be a part of that team, is this where I want to go careerwise, and that’s a long process and we took it slowly and it just luckily has all worked out.
Q: You said earlier the job of senator doesn’t allow you to be around your children, which is the main reason you’re doing this?
A: The world of politics is one that dictates that you attend an incredible number of events that you work both inside and outside this Capitol at hours that aren’t normal to average people, and when you do those things you have to sacrifice something else and that certainly takes away from the things that are most important to me. There have been times and a lot recently where you kind of have to be a little introspective and say, ‘is this really what I want?’ The worst regret I could ever have would never be over a piece of legislation that I didn’t pass or any issue I wasn’t able to conquer. The worst regret I could ever have would be when my youngest when we sit in the driveway getting ready to go to college, and I think four of my kids are gone now and did I have the time with them that I needed to, and to have that regret was something that I never wanted to live with, so that was probably the biggest driving factor in the decision not to seek majority leader and then the decision I made to take this new opportunity.
Q: How will you get this message out when critics say you aren’t majority leader because you didn’t have enough votes for re-election because of these controversies, therefore you lost your effectiveness as a senator and are bowing out to take a cushy job?
A: You can’t control the message of someone who predetermines what they’re going to say without looking at the facts. I can’t control that. Hopefully when people do that long enough, you hope at some point that they become an unreliable source of information. The fact of the matter is with respect to the majority leader, my best friend in the Senate is the one that took the position, and he supported me the whole time and has told everyone that ever asked him. He was even in my press release saying that he would support me continuing on as majority leader if that was what I wished to do, so there was no one running against me. The guy who took my position is my closest friend and I’m certainly glad he got it, so the facts bear out a totally different story than the one that is trying to be pushed by others, but I’m going to go to basketball practice tonight. I coach my son’s travel team, and the last thing I care about is what any blogger is going to write. They have their place and that’s what they do but it’s not my concern.
Q: Who will you support in the special election to fill your Senate seat?
A: I haven’t even resigned yet so it’s very premature to say. I’m sure I’ll have some friends that are going to consider it. I always support my friends, so we’ll see what happens.
Q: One of the topics you’re known for is helping to defeat the TSPLOST. Is that a point of pride?
A: In a span of July 30 to Nov. 6, in a span of four months I was able to help kill the largest tax increase in Georgia history and then pass a constitutional amendment to help create school choice. That was a really nice four months. So two things that I care a lot about which is lowering taxes and providing school choice they all happened in a four month span, I was very happy with both of those.
Q; You are also linked to the Agenda 21 United Nations issue.
A: I’ve told a few other reporters who have asked about that that in my 11 years of being a candidate and being in office and being kind of in the public spotlight there’s been a lot of silly stories. That will be No. 1.
There’s a group of tea party people, some of which are constituents of mine who have presented this Agenda 21, I guess it’s an informational session, they have presented it in this Capitol a number of times and around the state. They want to get the information out. They’re not trying to hide it. And many of them are from Cobb County, by the way. And some of them are my constituents, and they came to me and said, can you help us secure a room at the Capitol just like we secure rooms for people all the time, so in case anyone wants to come by and learn about it we’re going to be putting on an information session.
So as I would do with any constituent that wanted to do that that’s what we did. How that somehow got me tied into this I don’t know and I frankly don’t care.
Q: When is your last day?
A: It will probably be (Wednesday.)
Q: What will you miss?
A: There’s no doubt the thing you’re going to miss the most and I assume this answer is pretty much the same with everybody are the people you get to work with. I’ve had the same secretary since I started in the House of Representatives, and we consider her part of our family. Getting to work with those people on a day-to-day basis, those are the things you’re going to miss. The politics of it, I won’t miss for a second. All the political events you have to go to, some of those I’ll miss.
I’ll tell you the one that I love the most that I will miss the most is I’ve done over 100 Eagle Scout Courts of Honor. .. I really enjoy these Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, and I’ve done just about every one that I’ve been asked to do. I just love those things. Those I’m going to miss.