The Five Families of Georgia

Fredo: Mike! You do not come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!
Michael: Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.

While I’m not the only woman who posts on Peach Pundit, it’s safe to say I have the most interest in juicy interconnecting relationships.  “If you don’t have anything nice to say…come sit next to me.”  Totally kidding…but seriously.

This article comes to us from the Augusta Chronicle and lists notable family connections.  Assigning high level positions to those who worked on your campaign or have been loyal while in office is one thing – those relationships eventually expire.  Blood is much, much thicker than water though.

ATLANTA — In a state of 9 million people, it is more than a coincidence when a handful of families have multiple members serving in appointed positions to government boards.

And not just any boards. While governors must make hundreds of appointments to boards, commissions and task forces that range from the Civil War Commission to overseeing boxing and the nursing profession, those families tend to wind up on just a few boards.

For example:

  • Alec Poitevint, of Bainbridge, serves on the Georgia Ports Authority while his wife Doreen in on the Board of Regents.
  • Earl Barrs, of Cochran, used to serve on the board of Industry, Trade & Tourism and now is on the Natural Resources Board while his wife Wanda is on the State Board of Education. Last year, each chaired the board.
  • Dean Alford is a regent and his wife Debbie Dlugolenski is on the Georgia Lottery Corporation board and heads the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.
  • Joe Rogers is on the Ports Authority while his wife Frances is on the Lottery board.
  • Philip Wilheit Sr. is a regent. His son is on the Natural Resources Board.
  • Charles Tarbutton is on the Economic Development Board. Benjamin R. Tarbutton is on the Lottery board. Ben J. Tarbutton Jr. is on the Technical College System Board. Benjamin James Tarbutton III is chairman of the regents and is on the Rural Development Council and used to be on the state education board. Hugh Tarbutton is a former member of the Ports Authority.

I don’t have a spare wall in my house, but which one of you can build a string and pushpin ERD to keep up with how everyone is connected?

Feel free to add any relationships the article overlooked in the comment section.


  1. you says:

    Ken Cronan, the governor’s business partner serves on Ports Authority while his son, Kacy Cronan (who also works for Gainesville Salvage) was appointed to the Georgia Board of Public Safety.
    And then there is Jeff Payne who was appointed to the State Properties Commission. He is Philip Wilheit’s (mentioned above) son in law.

      • you says:

        Politicians are use to doing what they want and no one noticing….but we are paying attention and we are tired of being treated like fools. We want honest, well behaved men (and women) in office doing what is right for everyone, not just hooking up their friends.
        All of the people mentioned are probably great folks, but it sure does look bad.

        • CobbGOPer says:

          By virtue of being on these boards with other powerful people they build business relationships that will serve to further enrich them. Even if they have to wait until they step down, being in a position to build the relationship is the important part.

          Call me crazy, I just think these boards shouldn’t be state-sponsored networking opportunities for the politically well-connected. That’s impossible, however. Unless the composition of these boards is removed from the governors control. At least that would remove those there primarily because they bundled money for whomever happens to occupy the governors mansion, not out of a sense of civic duty.

  2. Dave Bearse says:

    From the Augusta Chronicle: “State law no longer requires appointees to file personal-financial disclosures with the state ethics commission, so it’s difficult to spot potential conflicts. They only need to file an annual statement saying they have no conflicts as of 2011.”

    Not so comforting, as only cronies and business associates can call them out.

  3. seekingtounderstand says:

    We have a strong mafia government don’t we?
    They do very little to help the everyday person just fleece them.

    • Bridget says:

      “The new vice chairman is Robert Leebern, head of the Washington lobbying arm of the Troutman Sanders law firm that represents large corporations.”

      Georgia Power’s law firm? Ah – that’s MUCH better.

  4. IndyInjun says:

    One day we are going to put out “The Five Families Who Rule Augusta” and the guys at the Augusta Comical will pass out in a dead swoon.

    Arguably the most corrupt red state city in America, the veil is being torn away showing a lot of lily white butts.

  5. SabrinaWorks247 says:

    Hi Bridget:

    “I don’t have a spare wall in my house, but which one of you can build a string and pushpin ERD to keep up with how everyone is connected?”

    A spare wall in my house is decorated with a string and pushpin ERD to help me keep up with how everyone in Gwinnett County is connected. It is a very ugly piece of art. (At least it is just a county and not the entire state!)

    • Calypso says:

      Perhaps you feel it best that those who appoint people have no idea who they are appointing or anything about them?

      Shall they just randomly circle names out of the local phone book?

      Of course politicians are going to appoint people they know, or know of through a recommendation. Why would they not, and why would it be better that they not?

        • Calypso says:

          Why do my questions of Sabrina seem funny to you? Are they not valid to the topic?

          If you’ve read some of my other comments on this website you’ll know I have issues with many things politicians in my county, state and nation do. But I can’t see why knowing a person and their abilities prior to appointing them to something is not a good idea.

  6. saltycracker says:

    Board’s vary by time demanded, pay and influence and “fringe” benefits (social & business).
    What does the state appointed Board pay, how difficult is it to find “volunteers”?

    Add in that many family heads have expectations of family members to take part in the community & public affairs.

    So fill in some blanks before blanket rejection.

  7. Gordon says:

    This is an excellent piece with the Barrs exception noted:

    – other notes: Barrs, and a gentlemen named Warren Budd, were summarily dismissed from the DNR Board when they would not adhere to the EXACT (no deviations allowed) policies of the Deal administration regarding public comment, reservoirs, and other topics. There is substantial press coverage on this topic. Read up on it. Draw you own conclusions. Detractors of my personal conclusion argue that of course Governors appoint and discharge folks based on policy disagreement. Really? I prefer a different, more balanced form of discourse, and governance, and so did the founding fathers (of both GA and the US).

    – in the list of the original article, note a strong Sandersville centrism, then know that Dean Alford is a key operative in Power4Georgians, originally a subsidiary of the corrupt Cobb Energy (now rescued for the and by the members of Cobb EMC after a long, long battle . . . . much press coverage on this, too), and the nominal developer (at least, permit applicant) of coal-fired plants in Washington County (Sandersville) and Ben Hill County (Fitzgerald; the latter canned integral to legal settlements over the former). Of course, this links, in various ways, Alford, the Tarbuttons, the indicted former head of Cobb Energy and Cobb EMC (Dwight Brown), and, of course, oddly enough, Brown’s attorney, Roy Barnes. Ain’t we got fun. Have some of it on that spare wall with highlighter, string, and paste.

  8. greencracker says:

    String and pushpin ERD?

    First let’s gather the data. Crowdsourcing !!1!!
    Put in any relationships you know, put in your name affirming it’s true, or verify a relationship someone else has entered:

    If y’all do this, I will find a way to generate an online ERD chart, hopefully a collaborative one.

    I mean, after I finish my real job today.

  9. I posted this on the Chronicle’s web site too:

    The Tarbuttons do benefit from serving on state boards. They own a short line railroad and a trucking company. By having Hugh Sr. serve on the Ports Authority Board, they are positioned to promote actions and policies which could directly benefit their companies.

    The Tarbuttons have a vested interest in a coal fired power plant which will be built on in large part on land they own and served by the short line railroad they also own. Charles Tarbutton’s mother-in-law was a member of the Department of Natural Resources Board, the state agency which issues permits for coal plants, while permits were being pursued for Plant Washington.

    Ben Tarbutton III has helped Plant Washington developer Dean Alford secure a seat on the Board of Regents.

    To learn more about the complicated relationships concerning money and profits, use this link:

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