Georgia state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, feels pretty good about his chances of becoming the next commissioner of the Department of Transportation.
“But I haven’t resigned my House seat yet,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon by phone from Atlanta.
Smith is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He will have to resign his House seat which includes parts of Harris, Muscogee and Troup counties if he is named DOT commissioner.
Smith interviewed with the DOT board earlier in the day. The search committee recommended only Smith for the full board’s consideration.
“In my opinion, his chances are excellent,” said DOT board member Sam Wellborn of Columbus. “I will be very surprised if he is not elected the next commissioner.”
Smith said he was “cautiously optimistic” about his chances to get a job before the interview.
After what he called “a great interview,” Smith was more optimistic than cautious.
“I am very excited about working with all the board members, the executive staff and the DOT staff,” Smith said.
Smith’s caution is tempered by the fact that he has been close to getting the job before.
Smith came one vote short of getting the job in October 2007. The 13-member board hired Gena Abraham Evans on a 7-6 vote that split not only the board but also the 5,000-employee state agency.
In February, the board voted 8-2 to fire Evans, who was strongly supported by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Evans’ tenure had been controversial, including a romantic relationship with board chairman Mike Evans, which ended in marriage. The chairman, who resigned from the board after the relationship became public, was one of the seven votes against Smith.
When Gena Evans was terminated, a national search for a new commissioner was announced by the board. The General Assembly passed a transportation governance bill that takes some power and influence away from the DOT board and shifts it to the General Assembly and the governor’s office.
The DOT board meets from 9 a.m. to noon today at the DOT headquarters.