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Most the "now's" and the "let me tell you's" aren't written into the speeches. He just injects them whenever he feels the need to make it sound like it's just you and the governor of Georgia sitting at a bar, or standing around the bed of a pickup looking at a deer bagged a little while ago.
Part of him genuinely longs to be one of the old-style Southern politicians who was able to do as much schmoozing and glad-handing with his buddies as real work.
"I mean, I wish I had come to the office of governor when everything was on an even keel, when you don't have to worry about everything, our future was secure and I could have gone bird hunting and fishing all the time -- I haven't picked up a shotgun in four years -- but that's just not the way it was."
Everything about Barnes is vintage Georgian. He grew up in the west Cobb town of Mableton. He got his law degree from the University of Georgia. At age 24, Barnes was a prosecutor for Cobb County. In 1974, at the age of 26, he was elected state senator.
In 1983, then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris chose him to be his Senate floor leader, an experience Barnes says taught him much of what he knows now about governing.
"I learned you have to talk to folks and you have to listen. You have to try to persuade. You need to have your facts straight," he says. "As Gov. Harris' floor leader in the 1980s, I was looking for 29 votes to pass what the administration's package was that day. He always was teaching me things, about, you know, you have to control your personnel -- the way you control people is to control budgets -- the hiring of people not the individual. So all of that helped, hopefully, in being a better governor."
He ran for governor unsuccessfully in 1990 but got back into the political game as a state representative by 1993. In 1997, he stepped out of the governor's race to give his friend Pierre Howard a shot at the title and declared his candidacy for lieutenant governor. But when Howard dropped out, he jumped back in the gubernatorial race. After winning the Democratic nomination, Barnes defeated businessman Guy Millner with 52 percent of the vote.
Along the way, he practiced law and was involved in two family businesses -- a bank and a hardware store. Barnes' financial acumen is just one more reflection of his smarts. By the time he took office in 1999, his net worth was more than $8 million.
Barnes made his own noise as soon as the gavel banged in his first legislative session. Atlanta's sprawl and air pollution had become a hot issue toward the end of Zell Miller's second term. Barnes was elected partly on the promise that he'd do something about it.
He pushed through the General Assembly legislation creating the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, an agency that appeared as a savior to environmentalists, neighborhood activists and even business leaders.
In reality though, GRTA had little to do with the federally imposed ban on new road construction. The new agency merely approved a transportation plan the Atlanta Regional Commission and other agencies had been working on for close to a decade.
One lobbyist who didn't want to be named says, "GRTA was a huge power grab, in the same breadth though it's a do-nothing agency that hasn't done anything."
Together with the creation of the Consumers Insurance Advocate Office, GRTA prompted criticism that Barnes forms new, redundant agencies not to tackle pressing issues, but to surround himself with yes men so he can be sure that whatever progress is made happens the way he wants it.
"In all fairness, you can't blame the governor," says former GOP chief Clay. "But I do think in his zeal to take control of an issue, that the perception is [that Barnes says], 'Let me create a board, let me make all the appointments to it and control the outcome before we start dealing with the policy, whether it's water, the environment or traffic.'"
The first reported reference to King Roy came in February 2000 when Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snelling, blasted Barnes' first round at education reform: "We call him King Roy. He thinks he's a god."
It was during the 2000 legislative session that Barnes, as part of his education reform legislation, created the Office of Education Accountability and appointed Davis Nelson executive director.
That move, more than any other, turned Schrenko from an occasional combatant into Barnes' full-fledged archenemy.
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