The state Department of Transportation’s longtime board delegation from metro Atlanta got a dramatic shake-up in elections last week, with two new members and the ouster of a member who has represented the city for 20 years.
In a surprise development, Emory McClinton lost his 5th district seat, representing most of the city of Atlanta, to businesswoman Stacey Key. McClinton’s term ends in April.
McClinton has been an unflagging advocate for mass transit, especially commuter rail, and he once chaired the board. But in board meetings he spoke often in frustration, and in recent years he did not chair high-profile committees.
McClinton was not a modern communicator. He was known for his refusal to use e-mail, which once drew a half-joking public rebuke from a DOT commissioner. Constituents looking for McClinton’s phone number couldn’t find it on the DOT website, unlike the numbers for most board members, but had to go through the DOT secretary instead.
Key, who will replace McClinton, is president of GBK Enterprises, which owns and operates a Bruster’s Real Ice Cream store, and she is president and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
It’s unclear how much the change means to Atlanta commuters. The board sets policy for the DOT’s $2 billion budget. It is trying to plan a public-private venture to finance a downtown passenger terminal, a project of importance to Atlanta.
But the board doesn’t have as much say as it used to in choosing the state’s project list, though it still has a veto. In addition, Atlanta members are often most interested in mass transit but the money in the DOT’s deep pocket, the gas tax, can only be spent on roads and bridges, not mass transit.
And, the board’s power is now dispersed among 14 board members.
In another metro Atlanta vote, former state Sen. Dan Moody of Johns Creek was elected to replace Brandon Beach of Alpharetta. Beach recently left the board to take up a seat in the state Senate. Beach was an influential member who chaired the high-profile toll road committee and advocated for a transit line in the northern Perimeter area.
Each DOT board member represents a congressional district and is elected by the state senators and representatives whose districts touch that district. This year the board added a 14th seat as a result of congressional redistricting, and in the elections some of the board members shifted districts.
Board Chairman Johnny Floyd and Vice Chairman Jay Shaw were re-elected. Former State Rep. Ann Purcell of Rincon was newly elected to the board, and Jim Cole of Forsyth has left the board.
Another transit advocate, Dana Lemon of McDonough, retained her seat representing Atlanta’s southern and western suburbs.
Three more seats were decided Tuesday. Emily Dunn of Blue Ridge held her seat, and Bobby Parham of Milledgeville lost his seat to Athens real estate appraiser James Boswell. Former state Rep. Roger Williams of Dalton won in the newly created 14th district.