By STEVEN WELCH
TAMPA, Fla. —Only a year and a half into his first term, Gov. Nathan Deal, of Georgia, already has big plans for the future of the state he’s spent his life serving.
As a child growing up in Sandersville, a small town in middle Georgia, Deal spent his time doing activities most boys his age did, with basketball being his favorite sport to play. The son of two teachers, Deal’s education became an important focus early on in his life.
“They inspired me in a lot of different ways; I was active in things like debate in high school, and carried that on into college,” he said. “Those were the kinds of things I think at least prepared me for public service.”
As he grew into adulthood, Deal earned his law degree from Mercer University and began practicing law in Gainesville, Ga. His career included stints as an assistant district attorney as well as juvenile court judge, when he was encouraged to run for an open state Senate seat.
“I was fortunate enough to be elected, and have been in elected public office ever since,” he said.
After working his way up through various political offices, Deal was fortunate enough to be elected Georgia’s 82nd governor in 2010. Since then he has used his knowledge and experience from both his law and political careers to try and better the state he was chosen to run, by passing legislation such as criminal justice reform.
“Having been involved as a prosecutor and also a juvenile court judge, it gives you a chance to see how the system works and become familiar with some of the areas you think you might need to make some changes in to make the whole system better,” he said. “I think those kind of experiences carry over into public life.”
Along with criminal justice reform, there are a couple other issues Deal feels strongly about when it comes to the state of Georgia. As with the rest of the country, fixing the economy is a priority for him, and something he wants to work hard to accomplish.
“The plan is to create more jobs for our citizens, that’s certainly the thing that’s first on my mind for Georgia,” he said. “We can’t come out of this down turned economy unless we have better job opportunities for our people.”
Ginger Howard, a Republican delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention from Georgia’s 5th District, is a small business owner in Atlanta. She echoes Deal’s belief that Georgia needs to create more jobs, and is satisfied with what has happened so far.
“From what I’ve heard from the Legislature, he’s doing a lot to help with small businesses, with passing bills to make sure that we are still doing our great job of bringing businesses to Georgia,” she said. “We have a lot of big companies coming to Georgia, and I think that’s going to help bring an influx of people into Georgia.”
Deal plans on continuing to implement more of his reforms he has brought into the state, things such as the elimination of the sales tax on energy for manufacturing, something he feels will continue to bring more businesses into Georgia.
“We’ve been successful with two big ones so far, the Caterpillar facility is going in the Athens area and the Baxter Pharmaceutical is going to be going into the Newton and Walton County area,” he said.
Education is one important issue that Deal refuses to compromise on. His wife Sandra has begun a grassroots campaign to encourage reading throughout the state, as he wants every student to be able to read at or above their grade level at the end of each school year. Sandra Deal was inspired by her husband’s love of public service, and how he sees it as a way to give back to his state.
“He wants to serve. He’s a family man, he’s a religious man and his heart is in serving his people and his country,” she said.
As he moves forward in his first term, Nathan Deal is optimistic in his plans for Georgia, and is eager to continue to bring success to the state he has devoted his life to.