Executive Branch Officials: Overview
The current Georgia Constitution, the state's tenth, adopted in 1983 and amended many times, creates a complex system of shared power. The governor, currently Nathan Deal, shares control over the administration of the government with a variety of constitutionally mandated officials. The constitution requires that these officials be separately elected by the people, and they need not be members of the same party or share the same political philosophy as the governor.
Among the seven other popularly elected executive officials is the lieutenant governor, currently Casey Cagle, who presides over the state senate and plays an extremely important role in the legislative process. In case of a vacancy in the office of governor, the lieutenant governor becomes the chief executive until a successor is elected at the next general election. Routinely, the lieutenant governor is as powerful in the state senate as the Speaker is in the state House of Representatives.
Two general administrative officers are the secretary of state and the attorney general. The secretary of state, currently Brian Kemp, has widely ranging administrative responsibilities for the entire government, particularly in business activities and state records. The attorney general, currently Sam Olens, presides over the Department of Law and issues legal opinions on all matters affecting state law and administration. This official must share control over the legal arena with the judicial branch of government, particularly the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Georgia voters elect four other important executive officers, each with substantive control over the administration of a vital state interest: the state school superintendent, currently John Barge, and the commissioners of agriculture, insurance, and labor. The current commissioners are Gary Black (agriculture), Ralph T. Hudgens (insurance), and Mark Butler (labor).
In addition to these elected officials, there are constitutional boards and commissions that run their own specialized agencies, insulated from direct political control. These include the Georgia Public Service Commission, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Personnel Board, the Veterans Service Board, and the Board of Natural Resources. Generally, the boards function as committees with administrative powers defined in the constitution. Each board has its own chairperson, who presides over meetings and who has the power to break tied votes. One of these boards (the Public Service Commission) is separately elected, some (such as the Board of Transportation) are appointed by legislators, and several (such as the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and the Board of Education) are appointed by the governor with the advice and confirmation of the state senate. This system of shared power is complicated, but it has become a necessity, as the state government itself has grown larger and more complex.
Lee M. Allen and Richard T. Saeger, Georgia State Politics: The Constitutional Foundation, 3d ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt, 1998).
Lee M. Allen, Valdosta State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.