Speaker Ralston Names Rural Development Council

A couple of weeks ago I previewed the need to get the issues of rural Georgia into the 2018 statewide campaigns. The plight of rural Georgia affects us all, as policy decisions made in Atlanta (and often influenced by the 55% of the state that live in “Atlanta”) make a disproportional impact in that other Georgia. House Speaker David Ralston has named members of a Rural Development Council that will be looking at a variety of issues unique to rural Georgia. This isn’t your average “study committee”. Look at the names and titles of the members below. This is a serious effort to not only identify and isolate well known problems, but foster actual solutions – and translate the need for those solutions to those of us that live up here in “Atlanta”.

Press release follows:

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced the members of the House Rural Development Council. This council, which was created during the recent legislative session, will work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.

“Georgia is a growing and prosperous state, and we are thankful for that,” said Speaker Ralston. “But that prosperity isn’t being felt in every community across Georgia. Some of our rural areas are still struggling, and we must do everything we can to help private businesses grow jobs in every corner of our state.”

Speaker Ralston has previously announced that the council will be co-chaired by Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) and Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell (R-Camilla). Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), who chairs the House Rural Caucus, will serve as vice chair of the council.
The other members of the House Rural Development Council are:
· Rep. Patty Bentley (D-Butler)
· Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park)
· Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin)
· Rep. Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville)
· Rep. Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas)
· Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee)
· Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear)
· Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn)
· Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville)
· Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany)
· Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville)
· Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville)

In addition, Speaker Ralston has named the following committee chairmen to serve as ex-officio members of the House Rural Development Council based on their subject-area expertise:
· Rep. Brooks Coleman – Chairman of Education
· Rep. Sharon Cooper – Chairman of Health & Human Services
· Rep. Robert Dickey – Chairman of K-12 Education (Appropriations)
· Rep. Penny Houston – Chairman of Economic Development (Appropriations)
· Rep. Rick Jasperse – Chairman of Higher Education
· Rep. Tom McCall – Chairman of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs
· Rep. Butch Parrish – Chairman of Healthcare (Appropriations)
· Rep. Don Parsons – Chairman of Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications
· Rep. Jason Shaw – Chairman of Transportation & Infrastructure (Appropriations)
· Rep. Ron Stephens – Chairman of Economic Development
· Rep. Kevin Tanner – Chairman of Transportation

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Is Gurtler still in timeout? There are those of us up here who hope this council can offer some solutions other than building second homes on the ridgeline as the primary economic driver in our mountain communities. I’d hate for his behavior to leave us out in the cold.


Decent schools, quality medical care, good roads are the old standbys that are both constant needs and magnets for employers. Rural health care will be particularly hard hit by efforts to limit foreign-born doctors. That’s a place Isakson and Perdue and US reps can stand up, if someone would prod them. Also, it’s way past time for the state to expedite reliable internet access at faster than dial-up speed throughout the state. In general terms, I’m sure much of the rural Georgia would appreciate better access to cheap state money. I’m glad the state is paying attention. It doesn’t seem… Read more »


Very much agree with you on resisting a “one size fits all” strategy. I hope they also address that the tourism jobs which have replaced manufacturing jobs do not allow for folks to make a decent living anymore. Tourism is all well and good, and it should be part of a diversified local economy, but it cannot be the only show in town. I’m under no delusion that the old plant jobs will come back, but there has to be a better way forward. I know for so many small communities, the arrival of a plant meant that folks didn’t… Read more »