Larry Walker, the long-time state representative who has been vice chairman of the State Transportation Board through one of its more tumultuous times, is retiring from that board, he announced this morning via e-mailed letter.
Walker, an attorney in Perry, said the reason "and the only reason, is the probability of other opportunities that are incompatible with my being on the Board of the Georgia Department of Transportation." He did not elaborate in the letter, which was sent to numerous state officials, including Gov. Sonny Perdue, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house.
He will leave June 30 after about 2 1/2 years on the board, which sets transportation policy for the state. The board itself is also changing, after a General Assembly session that focused on it significantly and ended with legislation that strips the board of much of its power. Walker referenced that change in his letter, but only to say that he is confident "the board will work in good faith" to make the transition.
Walker was a calming influence on the board as the Georgia Department of Transportation found itself in the middle of financial and political crisis. Perdue and Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson battled over the department's commissionership, with Perdue winning out and Gena Abraham being named. Shortly after that Abraham married board member Mike Evans, who resigned. As Abraham - who changed her name to Evans - delved into the situation at the department, she reported that it had billions more in projects on the books than it could afford, and that DOT staff couldn't tell her precisely how many projects were planned. Eventually the board voted to remove her, even as legislators were in the midst of stripping the board of much of its power.
Still unresolved is a funding issue. Most public officials believe the DOT needs significant new funding to fulfill its mission.
"As most of you know, the Department and the Board are also confronted with serious financial difficulties," Walker wrote in his letter. "I hope and trust the relief from serious financial restraint will be forthcoming in the near future, so that GDOT can continue what I perceive to have been in the past very good service to the people of Georgia. "
DOT board members are elected by state legislators within each congressional district. A replacement will have to be elected from the 8th Congressional District.