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Posted: September 24, 2011 9:11 p.m.

Latarski:GDOT Leadership

Don't look now but the Georgia Department of Transportation is looking for a new commissioner and this will be the fifth one in about the last six years. As the ol' boy said when he saw the locomotive sitting on the dirt road: "This ain't no way to run a railroad."

To make matters worse, voters will soon have the opportunity to vote on a self-imposed tax designed to help fund transportation projects local communities deem important.

While the idea of having some local control over projects that can affect the long-term welfare of a community is a good idea, it will be tough for voters to agree to tax themselves when the confidence in the people in charge of getting the work done appears to have the efficiency of the Keystone Cops.

At a minimum the commissioner's chair looks like a bad version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine. Given the run of commissioners at the GDOT the last few years, maybe it's time to consider a new kind of leader.

How about Bill Elliott? He may know little about road building, but he sure knows how to drive and can appreciate gridlock and pileups. If nothing else the HERO trucks would be a lot faster.

They could call Bobby Cox. His hallmark was consistency, and given the state of the GDOT that could be a good thing. His only problem might be building roads that almost got there.

Sarah Palin is a possibility. Since she doesn't seem to know which way to go these days, putting her in charge of the GDOT seems fitting. The only problem might be you could expect her to quit about halfway through her term. Al Gore might take the GDOT in a new direction. Big Al could bring a whole new look to road building in Georgia because the state could be the first one with grass medians and grass roads.

It's tough for an ex-president to find a job, so George W. Bush could be an option. The only problem might be that he would build a road to West Virginia and then invade the state.

Jim Cantore is a possibility. Since the GDOT commissioner always catches grief if there is a traffic problem related to weather, having a Weather Channel guy in charge could prove useful. The trouble would be if he showed up to check on a project there would be a massive traffic jam of people trying to get to the store to buy bread and milk.

None of these candidates may be ideal, but what we've had recently hasn't proven entirely successful either.

Politics always plays a role in who gets the high appointed guvmint potentate positions in Georgia agencies, but naming a GDOT commissioner appears to have brought the petty, vindictive, incompetent pettiness of politics to a new high, or low as the case may be. It is rare indeed to see someone appointed as commissioner of the GDOT, no matter what their background or what political party is in charge, come to the job not carrying a steamer trunk full of political baggage.

And the good ol' boy system is alive and well. The idea of undertaking a real search, even a national search, for an eminently qualified person to run the GDOT will never happen as long as those in charge of filling the position can find a politically connected flunky who can say "yes, sir" without drowning in their own saliva.

And there's the rub.

Generally it is not a bad thing to promote or appoint people from within the system, individuals who have talent, experience and familiarity with the problems and issues facing the organization. But right now the GDOT seems to be in a state of constant upheaval, spinning in some type of meandering but decaying orbit as a result of lack of focus and direction. Yet this is the very agency that arguably has more impact on the everyday lives of the citizens of the state than any other.

Perhaps its time to conduct a search for a qualified candidate who can come into the job without owing favors or carrying so much baggage he is herniated from the outset.

Perhaps that person is in Georgia, perhaps not, but the time has come to find out.

And besides, they can always call Bill Elliott.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

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