Monday, December 15, 2008

Governor Carter of Georgia

We all know the Carter Presidency, but what about Carter as Governor of Georgia?

The New Georgia Encyclopedia has this to say about Governor Carter: After easily defeating his Republican opponent, Carter surprised most of his Georgia supporters and attracted national attention during a short, twelve-minute inaugural address when he proclaimed that the time for segregation had ended. "No poor, rural, weak, or black person," he declared, "should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice." He soon revealed himself as a moderate business progressive with an extensive reform agenda designed to make state government operate more efficiently and to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens.

The reorganization of state government served as the cornerstone of Carter's gubernatorial program. This massive reform effort, which continued through much of his four-year term, produced large-scale structural reform. Sixty-five budgeted and 200 unbudgeted agencies, boards, bureaus, and commissions were consolidated into 20 line agencies. The objective was to group similar functions into a single jurisdictional body, thus saving money by avoiding duplication while improving the delivery of services. The most controversial aspect of the reorganization plan involved the creation of three super agencies—the departments of administrative services, natural resources, and human resources—that absorbed the functions and responsibilities of 62 existing state agencies.

An effort to improve management efficiency and reduce the costs of services accompanied the larger, more dramatic endeavor to restructure the administrative organization of state government. One of his more controversial proposals concerned budget reform. Under Carter's "zero-based budgeting" plan, state departments and agencies, rather than submitting an aggregate budget figure, supposedly started from scratch each year, evaluating and justifying every dollar they requested.

In addition to reorganization, Carter continued his earlier efforts to upgrade the state's notoriously weak educational system. The "Adequate Program for Education in Georgia," the governor's educational reform package, provided funds to support vocational education, reduce class size, and equalize funding among districts. At the same time, Carter increased the state's commitment to preschool education and launched a campaign that eventually led to the adoption of a statewide kindergarten program.

Substantial reform in the operation of the state's criminal justice system also occurred during Carter's governorship. These revisions included significant movement toward the creation of a unified court system, the systematic use of a merit system in the selection of judges, a constitutional method of regulating judicial conduct, and much needed penal reform.

Carter also initiated significant new mental health programs and took a variety of actions, both substantive and symbolic, to promote civil rights and equal opportunity for women and minorities. The governor reflected his commitment to fairness and justice most obviously in his appointment policy. He appointed more women and minorities to his own staff, to major state policy boards and agencies, and to the judiciary than all of his predecessors combined.

So just some pre-presidency background on Jimmy Carter – hope you enjoyed it!

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