Today’s Courier Herald Column:
It’s fair to say that Newnan Georgia’s Warren Budd is a mainstream, even “establishment” Republican. He was President of the University of Georgia Young Republicans during Barry Goldwater’s campaign. He’s served as Chairman of the Coweta County Republican Party and 1st Vice Chair of the 8th District GOP.
He also demonstrates Republican values in his daily life. He is a few years shy of his 50th wedding anniversary and the father of five. He began leading a young adult Sunday School class at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in 1991, and a Senate Resolution passed in 2003 honored his tenacity for the church’s annual barbecue because of his ticket sales and other work for the event.
He’s also known to be an avid outdoorsman and a respected conservationist. As such, Governor Sonny Perdue appointed him as the 8th District representative to the Board of the Department of Natural Resources. Though scheduled to become the boards Chairman this year, Governor Nathan Deal has chosen not to re-appoint Budd to the position.
Bud first ruffled feathers after pushing DNR officials to investigate a fish kill in the Ogeechee River. The responsible party ultimately paid $1 Million toward cleanup, but was able to avoid fines of potentially $93 Million. The matter seemed to begin an open conflict of business interests and the board which is charged with protecting Georgia’s natural resources.
Budd told the Atlanta Journal & Constitution “We talk about protecting business, but I talked to one bait-shop owner whose business was down 70 percent because of that fishkill. He’s a businessman too, and he wasn’t alone. A lot of people who make their living off that river were hurt.”
The breaking point between Deal and Budd appears to be Budd’s opposition to the Governor’s plan for multiple reservoirs in North Georgia to support Atlanta’s water needs and reduce dependence on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin. Budd told GPTV “I was told by people on the inside that the reason I was not re-appointed was my opposition to building reservoirs north of Macon. If you’re not going to have a board members speak out and try to be activist in managing our natural resources in Georgia, you might as well not have a board.”
It appears, according to Deputy Chief of Staff and spokesperson Brian Robinson, that Budd is not a “team player”. While customary statements replacing an appointed official are generally written on boiler plate and include phrases like “We thank Mr. Budd for his service” or “The Governor looks forward for the opportunity of (insert name of person willing to rubber stamp an agenda here) to serve the people of Georgia”, Robinson is never one to miss an opportunity to spike the ball when making a point on behalf of his boss. As was the case when Robinson banned Atlanta’s Fox5 from a signing ceremony in retaliation for an unfavorable news story from their investigative reporter Dale Russell, Robinson prefers public, visible confrontation when asserting the rules, policies, and wishes of the Governor’s office.
Regarding Budd, he told the AJC, “If anyone on any board considers himself indispensable, this is what educators call a ‘teachable moment.’ It takes an eyebrow-raising amount of self-regard for someone to suggest publicly that, out of 10 million Georgians, only he or she brings a diverse viewpoint to a board.” Robinson then went on to explain that the remaining DNR board members are asking the Governor’s opinion, presumably to suggest what diverse opinions they should have.
Robinson, remember, is the spokesperson who has told us that there was no choice given Georgia’s budget cuts to reduce the State Ethics commission staff to two people, and cut the executive director’s pay by 30%, only to accept her resignation when she protested. We are to ignore that she had prepared subpoenas to investigate ethics complaints against the Governor. That’s not an action of a team player.
Just weeks later, Robinson’s girlfriend was elevated from scheduler to the state’s mental health Ombudsman, doubling her salary to $107,000. Clearly, it pays to know which team you’re on.
Robinson should at least be commended for his honesty, which is both arrogant and brutal but also refreshing in modern day political speak. He has clarified in one statement that anyone either appointed by Governor Deal or subject to his approval for reappointment is not allowed independent thought. When the governor wants their opinion, he will tell them what it is. There is only one team, loyalty is more important than honesty, and if you think anything different you’re not on the team. Any illusion of independence has been shattered. A teachable moment indeed.