For Marietta attorney and Georgia lawmaker Bert Reeves, it was a matter of leaving one dream job for another.
Reeves’ alma mater, the Georgia Institute of Technology, announced Thursday morning the seven-year state representative who serves as Gov. Brian Kemp’s floor leader, will become the university’s vice-president of university relations, a cabinet-level position reporting directly to President Angel Cabrera.
The appointment is effective May 1. Reeves, 44, will resign his District 34 Georgia House seat representing parts of Marietta and Kennesaw effective April 30. To fill the vacancy, a special election will be held no less than 30 days and no later than 60 days of Kemp calling for the election.
Reeves fills the university role following the resignation of Lynn Durham, who announced in December she had been named the new president and CEO of Georgia CORE (Center for Oncology Research and Education).
He described his career change as “an opportunity of a lifetime that is almost impossible to turn down.”
“Everybody in this community knows my association with Georgia Tech and my love for Georgia Tech and how rich Georgia Tech is in my family’s history.”
Reeves’ ties to Tech indeed run deep. Several family members graduated from the school, including his grandfather, Kerby Calloway, Class of 1938. He also served as “Buzz,” the Yellow Jackets’ mascot, from 1997 to 2000 and was named an All-American Mascot during his time there.
His responsibilities at Georgia Tech will include government relations at the federal, state and local level, corporate relations and economic development. He will have a staff of about 16 people.
“It’s more or less external affairs in a lot of ways. While most of the people in the Georgia Tech cabinet are focused internally, my eyes will be a set of eyes focused externally.
“This job is the perfect cross-point of two things that I love as much as anything — one is Georgia Tech and the other is Georgia public policy. And so I’ll get to be right at the epicenter of the crossing of those two things. So it’s really, it’s a perfect job for me. And I think I have the perfect experience in order to be able to roll into this.”
Still, the move is bittersweet; he said he treasures his seven years as a legislator — something he knew he wanted to do at a young age.
“It was Mrs. (Linda) Morrisson, one of my teachers (at North Cobb High School) and she was a government teacher, current affairs teacher, Model U.N. (United Nations) coach. And I got really involved with all that. Her mentorship inspired me to want to (become a legislator),” Reeves said.
Serving as a state legislator “was an amazing experience,” he said. “I was very intentional to not take any of it for granted, to work every day of it like it was my last, every session like it was my last session.
“While I was there, I wanted to be consequential ... it’s amazing to have had the opportunity to do this. Very few Georgians get the opportunity to be able to go sit in that room and have a seat and have a vote and be able to file and push legislation. It’s a very rare, unique opportunity to be a little, tiny, tiny slice of Georgia’s history.”
Accomplished as it has been, Reeves also admits that practicing law and politics can be physically and emotionally draining.
“With everything there’s a sacrifice and, you know, being an attorney is a very high stress job … It’s just a very high stress career. And that in conjunction with politics which is also very high stress has certainly taken a toll. It’s required a tremendous amount of my focus and time and I can see how it affects my family. With the distraction, I almost just feel like I’m never quite tuned in, I’m always, I’ve just always got so much running through my mind between those two things.”
Family remains a top priority. Bert and wife Amy, a physician’s assistant at Wellstar Health System, have two boys Charlie, 12, and Albert, 5. The Reeves live in Marietta and attend Metro Church in Marietta.
If Reeves had to choose a legacy issue during his time in the General Assembly, it would be that of child welfare, particularly an overhaul of Georgia’s foster care and adoption processes. After researching the legislation for two years, Reeves’ bill brought about a total reform of the state’s outdated adoption code, making it much easier for adoptive parents and reducing the foster care population by thousands.
In signing the bill in 2018 Gov. Nathan Deal said, “We last updated these laws ... a full generation ago. With the signing of this bill into law, we are giving children, including the 13,500 children in foster care, renewed hope for a forever family.”
Adoption and foster care reform, Reeves said, “wasn’t the issue that I went down there to fight for. The issue found me. ... what it really did in the end was it brought a tremendous amount of focus and attention to the issue. And what is wonderful is that right now ... It’s a priority issue for all three parts of state government, the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office are all doing their initiatives and synergy working together. We don’t work together on a lot of things, but this is an issue that has become such a focus. And I’m so proud of that. ... I think that’s probably my legacy issue with the General Assembly.”
This year he has also been active in helping to spearhead a proposed new city in west Cobb, the city of Lost Mountain, personally donating $10,000 toward the cost of a study that will determine whether such a city is financially feasible.
Reeves began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in Cobb County. After leaving the DA’s office, he joined the law firm Garrett McNatt-Hennessey Carpenter 360, where he was a partner. In 2014 Bert opened his own firm, The Law Office of Bert Reeves, before joining Smith, Schnatmeier, Dettmering, Collins & Reeves, LLP in 2017. His practice focused on general and civil litigation, probate law and criminal defense.
He was first elected to the Georgia House in 2014 after unseating Republican Charles Gregory and has served the last two sessions as floor leader for Kemp.
North Cobb teacher Morrisson, who helped light Reeves’ passion for politics, recognized that Bert was a standout student.
“Bert was very popular in high school. He was very friendly to everybody. And I’m not surprised at all where he ended up.”