It’s likely not to be particularly noticed, but the most revolutionary change Republicans will have wrought under the Gold Dome is on the verge of becoming law. It’s the shift of power from the Department of Transportation to elected officials. If successful, it is truly the end of an era that was in its heyday under the legendary highway czar Jim Gillis, a former Treutlen County commissioner who served in both houses of the General Assembly and who reigned from 1948 to 1955 and again from 1959 to 1970 as state highway commissioner.
The era when legislators and county commissioners came hat-in-hand to the State Highway Department for roads was preceded by an era in which a winning governor’s political supporters filled patronage ranks. That practice was effectively ended by creation of the state merit system under Georgia’s best reform governor, Ellis Arnall, in office between 1943 and 1947.
The point here is that the politicians and the road-masters have never quite found