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Freshman lawmaker adjusting to role

Early start key for Duncan

POSTED: March 4, 2013 12:31 a.m.
Jennifer Sami/

Freshman state Rep. Geoff Duncan works at the Capitol on Tuesday.

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Mornings for Geoff Duncan begin before sunrise.

By 5 a.m., the freshman state lawmaker from Forsyth County is out of bed and ready to “fire up a cup of coffee.”

For early days at the Capitol, Duncan’s on the road by 5:45 a.m. and in his office by 6:30 a.m. replying to e-mails. On good days — when he doesn’t have to be in Atlanta until 10 a.m. — 6:30 a.m. is when he’s waking up his three sons.

“Those are the really fun days. You feel like a normal human,” Duncan said. “You’re able to spend time with your kids as a family and then get in at 10 a.m.”

On the later mornings, the District 26 representative also gets to spend time with his non-legislative work in the building industry. But he still enjoys breakfast with the family before saying goodbye to wife Brooke and 2-year-old son Ryder, then driving his two older sons, Parker, 10, and Bayler, 7, to school.

It’s been about two months since Duncan took office. The biggest difference? His wardrobe. Gone are the days of jeans, a Polo shirt and tennis shoes. Though he’s joked about introducing legislation for casual Fridays, if Duncan’s at the Capitol, he’s in full suit and tie.

One thing that hasn’t changed is his list of priorities. As evidenced by the walls in his office — adorned with family photos and artwork — his wife and sons come first.

“I’m a lot different than many of the folks down here. I do none of the evening events,” Duncan said. “As soon as my last meeting here, I get in the car and I go home.

“For me … there’s no event that I’d have more fun at than being at home and coaching my kids’ teams — we’re right in the middle of baseball season — and getting to eat dinner at home.”

But his arrangement doesn’t come without sacrifice. While never much of a sleeper, Duncan admits he’s likely cheating himself, getting about five hours of rest a night. He also makes the most of his 45-minute commute to Atlanta, using his hands-free device for calls to residents of his district, which spans most of east Forsyth.

“At the end of the day, it’s rewarding for me to be able to look in the mirror and know that I’m the same person that campaigned as I am here,” Duncan said. “And I think the best way to assure that is to stay in close contact with your constituents.”

Because he doesn’t stay late, Duncan spends much of his time at the Capitol multi-tasking. During lulls on the House floor, he often can be found catching up on bills, networking with other legislators or working to get support for an item, including his first legislation, House Resolution 108.

The measure aims to guarantee a secret ballot wherever local, state or federal law requires an election. If approved by the legislature, state voters would then be asked to decide whether to amend the constitution. He presented the legislation Tuesday to the House Judiciary subcommittee.

Tuesday, Duncan also spent about an hour in a conservative discussion group, as he does every morning during session. The group allows him and other legislators to ask questions and discuss a bill before voting.

“You want to surround yourself, as a freshman, with positive influences around you,” he said. “Because every minute you’re down here, you’re talking about legislation, you’re talking about process.

“We’re able to have very up-front conversations with each other about legislation and about positions. And we don’t always agree, but we’re able to talk through it and explain it and it either solidifies your position or it allows you to get the knowledge to change your position before you vote.”

Prayer is also an important part of Duncan’s routine. He attends the 7 a.m. Wednesday Bible study group at the Capitol. And about 10 minutes before taking his seat on the House floor, Duncan huddles with a dozen or so other representatives for prayer.

“It’s an informal group of guys,” he said. “We get together and just take a deep breath and realize that our witness is the most important thing we’ve got to do for the day, our example.”

Duncan was a member of a large incoming class of state legislators, many of whom he’s befriended, including fellow District 157 Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glennville, and District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton.

As he meets his fellow elected officials and learns more about their districts, Duncan said he’s proud to represent Forsyth.

“Our education system, our economy, our growth — there are so many positive things about Forsyth County that I thought only we knew about,” Duncan said. “But so many parts of the state know about how strong we are and it’s really inspiring to walk into these committee meetings and hear other legislators use Forsyth County as an example.”

 

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