05/19/2022

February 20, 2022: George E. Perdue is Back in Town and Ready To Roll

He’s b-a-a-c-k. I’m talking about George. George, as in former Gov. George E. Perdue. He is back from his stint in Washington as Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration and it is a foregone conclusion that the Georgia Board of Regents will officially appoint him Chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

The Regents voted unanimously last week to approve Perdue as the finalist for this powerful post. By state law, the regents must wait at least 14 days between naming a finalist and voting to approve them.

Assuming Perdue gets the nod, which is akin to assuming the sun will rise in the east, he will take over from interim Chancellor Teresa MacCartney, who has been leading the system’s 26 public colleges and universities since former Chancellor Steve Wrigley retired in July.

The appointment has sparked opposition from some academics who say he is not qualified. “He is completely inexperienced in education, and this appointment — though it shouldn’t be — is blatantly political,” reads a Change.org petition by a group called Stop Sonny. Welcome to the blatantly political real world, Stop Sonnys. You have been rolled by Gov. Brian Kemp like a cheap cigarette.

As much as I would prefer to stay out of matters concerning higher education in Georgia, I must say that academics are being a bit harsh on the man. They obviously don’t know him like I do. After all, I followed him closely during his two terms as our chief executive. There is much to commend him to the job.

For example, the man loves photo ops. Surely, you remember Perdue regaling us by riding a motorcycle around the Capitol in a black leather jacket or taking a spin in a school bus for reasons that escape me at the moment or donning a Cat in the Hat – um – hat while reading to some young tykes who seemed more interested in that silly thing on his head than what he was reading to them.

Just imagine the excitement at halftime of football games this fall when the public address announcer says, “Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to the 50-yard line where our chancellor George E. Perdue has challenged Big Bird to a race on tricycles!”

You probably are not aware that George E. Perdue is the only governor in our state’s history to have given an elephant a physical while in office. That was something even Arnold Schwarzenegger was unwilling to do while governor of the Socialist State of Upper Mexico. (I am not going into specifics but I am told the elephant still blushes when he recalls the prostate examination.)  As a result of Gov. Perdue’s efforts, elephants in Georgia now have unfettered access at the highest levels of state government, just like lizard-loafer lobbyists.

And who can forget the governor’s innovative “Go Fish, Georgia,” program? This was a $23 million so-called economic development initiative created in the middle of a recession while schoolteachers were being laid off. It was also built in the middle of Perdue’s Houston County. One of life’s little political coincidences.

I’m a little hazy on the details today but as I recall, the idea was that while India and China were busy turning out engineers and scientists, Georgia would be teaching our next generation of leaders how to catch largemouth bass. The idea was so cutting-edge, neither India nor China could figure out why we were doing this. Neither could I. I still can’t.

After leaving the governor’s office, Perdue was offered a job by Donald Trump as Secretary of Agriculture in Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp.” That may have been due to the fact that our former governor had a lot of experience in swamps, buying them at questionable prices and then getting retroactive tax breaks unavailable to the rest of us. Anybody remember Oaky Woods?

So, why is George E. Perdue about to become the next chancellor of our jewel of a university system? Insiders tell me it may be an effort by Gov. Brian Kemp to put Trump’s former Secretary of Agriculture buddy in this prestigious job in hopes The Donald won’t come to Georgia and personally campaign for cousin David Perdue who is running against Kemp in the Republican primary. Good luck with that.

I will leave the politics to the politicians. I am just glad to see the guy back. He was great column fodder. As for the elephant, I am told he can hardly wait for his next prostate examination.

 

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb