Elections are about a lot of things. They’re about issues, about character, about ideology. But they’re also about things like this:
That’s the Board of Regents, which governs Georgia’s critically important university system. It’s a highly sought post, and its membership is probably a pretty accurate reflection of the state’s power structure. It has 19 members, all of whom are appointed by the governer. As you can see, just two of the 19 are female; one of the 19 is black. (That man, Larry Ellis, is a retired four-star Army general).
It’s also about this:
The chairman of the DNR board is Philip Wilhite Jr., in the upper left corner. He’s the son of Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign chairman. You might also recall him as the man who made news with a memorable Facebook rant in the wake of Snowcapolyse, which left thousands of people, including schoolchildren on buses, stranded overnight.
As you might also recall, a young girl in Cobb County lost a leg trying to help push her mother’s car out of the snow. A pregnant mother gave birth to a child in the back of her stranded vehicle. Teachers and administrators volunteered to stayed overnight in schools taking care of kids who could not get home. Meanwhile, Wilhite wrote among other things that he was “sick of the whining” and demanded that people stop complaining. “The ‘men’ in Atlanta need to drink less cosmotinis and forget about ever getting another pedicure,” he wrote. Coming from a man who helps to lead a state agency with important responsibilities in disaster relief, the remarks just oozed a commitment to public service.
While I couldn’t easily assemble photographs of the highly influential Georgia Ports Authority, you know the picture already. Its 13-member board — all appointed by the governor — comprises 12 white men and one white woman. Do the math, and of the 51 members of these three high-profile state boards, one is black and five are women. And it’s a pattern recurring throughout state government.
There are no doubt a lot of fine people on those boards, men and (a token sprinkling of) women of accomplishment. But no one could argue that they accurately reflect Georgia in 2014. They reflect only an increasingly small subset of modern Georgia, to the glaringly apparent exclusion of many others.
That has to change.