Staton announces retirement from state Legislature

mlee@macon.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Consolidation

Cecil Staton

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com Buy Photo

ATLANTA -- State Sen. Cecil Staton announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of this term after 10 years in office.

“I think 10 years is probably a good number, a good run and enough,” said the Macon Republican and Senate majority whip.

“It was a tough decision for my wife and I. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and it takes a lot away from family, business, being at home,” Staton said, sitting in his corner office at the state Capitol, laid back in a leather chair.

The proprietor of WRWR-TV 38, the Warner Robins Patriot newspaper and two publishing companies, as well as a former Mercer University professor and administrator, Staton became a key figure in higher education and health care policy in the Senate.

But the first bill he brought to the state Senate in 2005 was a voter ID law, a measure that eventually attracted court challenges.

“I’m certainly proud of that, consider that one of my accomplishments that I look back upon that hopefully is a positive thing for Georgia and for having free and fair elections in our state,” Staton said.

He also authored a 2009 requirement that proof of citizenship accompany voter registration papers. The bill was successful, but it also attracted legal and administrative challenges and has never been fully implemented.

He has also helped to secure about $206 million for the Mercer University School of Medicine over the last decade, in part to fund training for doctors who will serve in rural areas.

And as for a college that had already closed by 2005, “I’m very proud we were able to get the Tift College campus revitalized in Monroe County” and turned into Georgia Department of Corrections offices, he said.

“When I first ran, that was a big issue for that part of the district.”

That district now covers all of Monroe, Upson, Crawford and Peach counties, plus parts of Houston and Bibb.

Staton also sponsored the legislation that created the Georgia Trauma Care Network, which aims to improve and coordinate trauma centers statewide.

“There may be lives that maybe would have been lost if there wasn’t a trauma network,” said Staton’s colleague, state Rep Allen Peake, R-Macon.

Peake called Staton a great friend and mentor.

The state Senate loses “a lot of depth of experience” with Staton’s departure, said state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson. “I hate to see him go.”

Macon Democratic state Sen. David Lucas said, “We didn’t agree on everything, but at least he will be honest and straightforward.”

Staton was also a leader in the charge for consolidated Macon-Bibb government and nonpartisan local elections, Peake said.

“I’m very proud we finally got that done,” said Staton, calling it one of the “best things” to happen to Macon and Bibb in the long term.

As for unfinished business, Staton said the state Legislature needs to continue looking for a way to sustain and improve midstate transportation infrastructure.

Voters in much of the midstate turned down a legislative proposal in 2012 to charge themselves an extra penny in sales tax for transportation projects. Staton called the referendum result a disappointment.

He also hopes someone finds a way to fund trauma care permanently. The public rejected a $10 fee on car tags for the cause in a 2010 vote.

Staton departs a race that has already attracted two announced Republicans: Macon attorney John F. Kennedy and Thomaston physician Spencer Price.

Price came within some 200 votes of besting Staton in the 2012 GOP primary for the District 18 seat.

“I hope whoever follows me will view this as public service and really view it as a calling,” Staton said.

He also advised any freshman legislator that the job requires thick skin. Indeed, in 2011, he was accused of writing e-mails critical of fellow Republicans under an assumed name.

Staton called the accusations childish.

“The reality is my caucus supported me and they went on to re-elect me whip.”

The rather donnish Staton said he loves higher education and might consider returning to the lecture hall in the future.

“I hope I’ve got one more good thing or two in me,” he said.

He also said he felt humbled to play some small part in Georgia history.

“One of the things that I’ve enjoyed very much every day is walking into this historic building.”

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