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5 compete in race for labor commissioner
0713LABORMelvin Everson
Melvin Everson

Labor Commissioner candidates 
PRIMARY DATE: July 20. Winners meet Libertarian Will Costa in November.


Terry Coleman
Age: 66
Residence: Eastman
Experience: Former state representative, chairman of the Natural Resources, Public Safety and Ways and Means Committees. Chosen House Speaker, 2002. Appointed Deputy Agriculture Commissioner, 2007.

What he'll do if elected:
Will support schools, colleges and universities to train workers. Expand resources available to small-business owners. Work with the General Assembly, academic institutions, nonprofits and businesses to boost entrepreneurs. Work with local governments and chambers of commerce to develop local and regional economic development programs to attract good jobs.

Darryl Hicks
Age: 46
Residence: Fayetteville
Experience: Manager with AGL Resources for 20 years. Officer for the Fulton County Chairman’s Office.

What he'll do if elected:
Reduce unemployment rate and provide new hope for those who want and need a job. Proposes drastically rethinking how the labor department assists people with not just unemployment assistance but with re-employment efforts. Thinks the Labor Department ought to be more about re-employment than unemployment.


Mark Butler
Age: 39
Residence: Carrollton
Experience: State representative for eight years, chairman of Appropriations Human Resources Sub-Committee. Real estate appraiser.

What he'll do if elected:
Believes education systems, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Economic Development must work together to develop an educated workforce. Will create a strategic plan to build a workforce to be competitive worldwide. Will work with the Georgia General Assembly to encourage lower taxes on small businesses.

Melvin Everson
Age: 52
Residence: Snellville
Experience: Two terms as state representative. Former Snellville city councilman. U.S. Army veteran, associate pastor at Lilburn church.

What he'll do if elected:
Will make Labor Department work better, provide access to training and education. Give small-business owners access to highly trained, skilled, and self-motivated employees. Run a more efficient and effective organization. Will conduct a detailed audit to determine the potential sell back of lease space estimated to save millions of dollars.

Sources: Times research;; candidate websites

There are five candidates willing to tackle record unemployment rates as the state’s next commissioner of labor.

Two Republicans, two Democrats and one Libertarian are hoping to succeed Michael Thurmond, who resigned after 12 years in the job to run for the U.S. Senate.

Long tenures are not uncommon in this position — Thurmond is only the eighth person to hold the office since the post was created in 1938.

If a Republican is elected, it will be a first for the state.

The commissioner of labor oversees the Georgia Department of Labor, an agency that provides services to job seekers and employers.

The department administers unemployment benefits, provides job training, seeks to link the jobless with new employers and inspects amusement park and carnival rides. The Department of Labor also tracks unemployment rates.

The labor commissioner in 2009 was paid $121,570.

Perhaps the most surprising contender for the job is Democrat Terry Coleman of Eastman, who’s seeking a political comeback after a brief tenure as speaker of the Georgia House 2003-2004.

Coleman, 66, left the legislature in 2006 after Republicans took control of the House and the speaker’s gavel. He’s well known among Democrats after serving 34 years as a lawmaker.

His Democratic opponent, Darryl Hicks of Fayetteville, is touting more than 20 years of business experience working for the parent company of Atlanta Gas Light, where his duties included lobbying for the utility. More recently, Hicks served as chief of staff to the chairman of the Fulton County commission.

Hicks, 46, finished second in a four-way Democratic primary for secretary of state in 2006. He lost a runoff with 45 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Melvin Everson is quick to point out he’s the only candidate who’s been running for the job for more than a year. The other three got in after Thurmond announced his Senate bid in April.

Everson, 52, of Snellville says the head start has enabled him to campaign in 79 counties — roughly half the state — and rack up endorsements from 110 of his fellow GOP legislators.

That didn’t stop Republican Rep. Mark Butler of Carrollton from entering the race. Butler, 39, says he’s more qualified for the job, citing his work as chairman of a House subcommittee that oversaw the Labor Department’s budget.

Butler says his insider’s knowledge of the Labor Department as a lawmaker means he’ll need little on-the-job training.

William Costa, a Libertarian, will be on the ballot in the November general election.


Courtesy of The Gainesville Times