Beatty's the best for DCA? 

Perdue's appointment makes sense for Perdue, not the agency

In selecting Mike Beatty to head the state Department of Community Affairs, Gov. Sonny Perdue chose a man openly hostile to some of the very programs he'll now be in charge of overseeing.

Perdue's pick makes sense politically -- as a sop to the Christian fundamentalist wing of the party and an old Senate buddy -- but not practically.

Perdue spokesman Shane Hix cites Beatty's background as a farmer, small-time real estate developer, school teacher and member of the Georgia General Assembly as evidence that he's deserving.

"Those are some pretty good qualifications having worked in the state House and the state Senate. It gives him a pretty good understanding of state government and the issues that are going to be before this department," Hix says.

Not quite. Nothing in Beatty's resume suggests he's custom fit for an economic development and social services agency that oversees about 425 employees and administers programs such as the Section 8 housing initiative and programs for people with HIV.

Beatty's appointment might say more about what the governor thinks about DCA than what he thinks about Beatty. As a legislator, Beatty never distinguished himself as a politician and tended to harp on hot-button morality issues -- abortion and video poker.

The Jefferson native recently founded the conservative Georgia Values Political Action Committee to raise money for candidates who share his philosophy of preserving the "Judeo-Christian foundations of our society" and limiting the size of government. He will step down from that organization once he assumes control of DCA.

Says one longtime DCA employee who asked, for obvious reasons, that she not be identified: "He's a disaster waiting to happen unless he gets smart and behaves as the absentee commissioner, just goes to a bunch of groundbreakings and meetings and lets staff do their job," she says. DCA operates homeless programs, programs for people with HIV, AmeriCorps, and "he's not likely to be real interested or supportive of these kinds of programs."

Beatty, who is disarmingly charming, doesn't agree.

"This is all about facilitating partnerships between state government and local government and also private enterprise," Beatty says. "I think it will be a neat challenge. 'Course there's eight divisions -- a myriad, is that the right word? -- a myriad of programs, and I'm in the process of really educating myself about the different programs."

DCA's board of directors must approve Beatty's nomination to head the agency, and it's not expected to challenge Perdue's choice. Roger Boatright, the mayor of Alma, Ga., and a board member, says he anticipates a trouble-free confirmation when the board meets with Beatty via conference call Wednesday.

Bob Sosebee, a councilman from Commerce, says he's known Beatty for years and expects he can be successful. "He's a great people person," Sosebee says. "If he will blend himself in and take advantage of staff, I think he can be successful as a commissioner."

But for a job that's been occupied by longtime bureaucrats such as Jim Higdon and the widely respected Laura Meadows, who had served as head of the OneGeorgia Authority and the state director for rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before coming to DCA, Beatty's appointment just doesn't make sense.

What's next? Linda Schrenko for Supreme Court justice?


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