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A conversation with RJ Hadley
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This is the fourth of an occasional series of conversations with local leaders, movers and shakers. RJ Hadley served as Chief of Staff to the Board of Commissioners since January of this year and was the manager for BOC Chairman Richard Oden's election campaign in 2007 before his appointment. Hadley is leaving his post to run for the Democratic nomination for the senate seat against incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson.

Have you run for elected office before?
I have not run for elected office anywhere at this level before.

It's not so much that I'm interested in running for a Senate seat. I'm interested in helping people if I can. I feel like I have a duty to help where I can. I saw that it appeared no one had stepped forward to make this run.
There's a gap that I see. It's not necessarily a gap between the races or a gap between the right and left and center. It's a gap between those who achieved the American dream and those who are really struggling to even hope to achieve it. I believe that government should be about the people. That's what I'm about. Some people will say to go from this to that, it's such a grand leap. I don't see it as that. It's public service. Yes it's public service on a larger level. But no one should feel like it's an impossible thing to reach to serve the public.

All in all, people tell you, "You can't do this, you can't go and be delegate, you can't get this Democratic chairman elected." I've never really looked at things like that.

I don't limit myself by the words of others. I step forward on faith, I step forward on belief in myself. That's what I'm doing now.

How does your family feel about this?
Oh they're very supportive. I definitely talked it over with my wife, obviously, and my immediate family, my extended family, my good friends. They felt good about it because I felt good about it.

A good friend of mind said, "Wow, you really think you can do this?"
I said, "Yeah, I think I can do it because I believe I can do it." There's no achievement without believing.

The crazy thing is, I'm pretty certain my campaign will have none of the indicators that say, "Hey, this person is going straight to DC." I understand that. What I'm asking people to do is just listen and maybe not rely on the traditional indicators. I can't even say that I won't raise whatever is needed, or high level endorsements.

For me, I'm just out listening to people. If that turns into a win at the end of the day, then great, I'll represent Georgia, I'll represent Rockdale, you'll be proud. If it doesn't work out at the end of the day, that's fine, we're OK.

What's been the reaction you've gotten from other politicians?
People have been appreciative I've been willing to step into the role. At this point, there's a high level of wait and see.

There have always been naysayers and I've been able to come up and be successful.

I think people say, well this looks improbable. But if someone is going to do that, it would probably be RJ.

Some folks are embracing and supportive. That's pretty much the gamut. Supportive and believing it's possible or wait and see or totally dismissive. But that's in anything. You're going to get that range of feelings.

What would you say to people who might accuse you of using your time here as a stepping stone?
There's nothing I can say to that. If people feel that way, I'm sorry that they do. I live here. This is my home. I didn't grow up here like some folks, I understand that. But it's been a very good community, it's been very accepting of me and my family. I'm thankful for that. I'm proud of this community. I think our best days are ahead of us.

To me a stepping stone is you come in and you're off. I have a residence here and will continue to have a residence here even while I'm DC.

What goes into being a good Chief of Staff?
I can't speak on that. I just know the skills I brought to it. Humility. You have to be compassionate in the sense that you have to be able to take so many different views and feelings and ideas and take those on and be able to translate it into some type of action. Those are skills that I used.

I don't believe it's a one-size-fits-all type of thing. I believe each person will come to it with their own set of rules and do it to the best of their abilities.

I hope in the end, people feel, "Hey, the guy came in; he did some positive things." Hopefully they feel like they can support me.

What do you do in your off time?
I do a lot of (internet) surfing and researching.

I enjoy just walking, being out in nature. We like to go out on the South River trail and walk. I'm really just a country boy. Southern New Jersey [where I grew up] is rural, when you get away from the city.

A lot of people say you have to stick with the metro area, that's where the votes are. And I understand that. But now that I'm in the early part of the campaign, I want to take the time to go around to the rural areas because a lot of times they don't get the resources and they don't get the support because they're small and that's not where the lion's share of votes are. I definitely think about my rural folks.