One of the items new Gov. Brian Kemp is prioritizing in his fiscal 2019 budget is a crackdown on gangs and drug cartels.
“Regarding public safety, street gangs and drug cartels are rampant in our state,” Kemp said. “I know you’re seeing it even in areas like Buckhead. We’re going to go after them. We put $500,000 in the budget for a gang task force for the GBI. We’re also working with the state attorney general, Chris Carr and the local and federal prosecutors on this issue.”
Kemp spoke on that topic and more at the Buckhead Coalition’s annual luncheon Wednesday at 103 West in Buckhead. The coalition is a chamber-like, invitation-only organization of 100 CEOs. Kemp, an Athens resident, moved into the Governor’s Mansion in Buckhead with his family the day before his Jan. 14 inauguration.
“Probably the best event we’ve had with our whole (series of inauguration festivities) was our prayer service (Jan. 14) at the Cathedral (of St. Philip in Buckhead),” he said. “We had a private communion before(hand), and just had a great, diverse group of folks who brought prayers and thoughts for our family as we took on this awesome responsibility. I was just honored to be there.”
Once sworn in, Kemp got to work fast. During his first day he signed three executive orders. The first will create the Georgians First Commission to identify ways the state government can help small businesses thrive, and the second cracks down on sexual harassment in the Georgia government’s executive branch and the third establishes a code of ethics for the executive branch and its employees.
Kemp’s wife Marty, in one of her first roles as the state’s new first lady, announced last week that the Governor’s Mansion is Georgia Grown, meaning meals served there are made with ingredients sourced from its grounds.
Kemp said the fiscal 2018 through 2020 budgets include funding for school security, mental health, the state’s dual enrollment program, senior citizens and justice system reform. But giving each of the state’s public school teachers a $5,000 raise, one of his campaign promises, may be the most important item in the fiscal 2019 budget.
“To enhance educational outcomes, we must invest in those who educate, inspire and lead our students,” Kamp said. “Forty-four percent of our teachers are leaving the profession in the first five years. To recruit the best talent, we must keep the pay competitive. That’s why my budget includes a $3,000 raise for every teacher in the state. This is the largest pay increase in Georgia’s history and it serves as a sizeable down payment to take that to $5,000 in the future.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was the keynote speaker at last year’s coalition luncheon, introduced Kemp.
“My wish for you that this year (is) much less uneventful. It has been a pleasure to work with you thus far and to go through a dress rehearsal for a real snowstorm,” she said to laughter from the crowd, referring to Tuesday’s closure of state and local government offices and schools due to forecast snow that never came. “By the way, we are prepared. … I know we are all excited the Super Bowl is here and we’re all excited it will be over by Monday.”
Kemp, a Republican, said he plans to build bridges with the Democrats in the state Legislature and elsewhere, such as Atlanta’s government.
“I know in local politics we’re not going to agree on everything, but we can all work together,” he said.
In related news, the coalition announced the appointment of new executive committee members and the election of new officers.
The new executive committee members are Niles Bolton (chair), Rawson Haverty and Matt Rohrig, who each will serve for two years, and Kevin Cantley, Joe Fried, Kevin Glass, Ray Padron and Jonathan Rodbell, who will serve for three years. The new officers, who each will serve for two years, are David Coxon (treasurer), Sheffield Hale (secretary), Bill Harrison and Linda Klein (vice chairs), Sam Massell (president) and Joe Evans (chair).