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Lawmaker settles into first session
Dudgeon 1
District 24 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon checks constituent e-mails at his office in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, with the state Capitol in the background. - photo by Jennifer Sami

ATLANTA — Sometimes, Mike Dudgeon feels like he’s right back in high school.
 
Wednesday was one of those days, said the freshman District 24 state representative from Cumming as he roamed the Capitol.

Like a class change between bells, Dudgeon went from committee meeting to the floor to another committee meeting, with just a few minutes in between to enjoy a snack and stack of mail.  

It was the busiest day for Dudgeon since the 2011 legislative session began Jan. 10, though it started like any other.

“I’m up at 5:30 a.m. and driving at 6:15 a.m.,” he said. “I’m here early just to beat the traffic.”

By about 7 a.m. Dudgeon is in his legislative office, and starts by checking e-mails.

Wednesday, Dudgeon attended a legislator Bible study until 8 a.m., when it was time for his Science & Technology Committee meeting.

That session was particularly exciting for Dudgeon, who got to hear about a cardio medical tool created by undergraduate biomedical engineering students at his alma mater, Georgia Tech.

“It’s going to save a ton of money and help a lot of people,” Dudgeon told the students. “I’m glad you brought it to show and I hope as many people can see the kind of stuff we’re doing here in Georgia Tech and in Georgia with this kind of technology.”

The presentation was also a refreshing reminder of his four-year term on the Forsyth County Board of Education, when he got to learn what students were doing in school.

He misses the school board, but is settling in well to his new role.

He also tries to keep the mood light, often engaging in witty banter with Forsyth’s other lawmakers.

“I’m big on that,” he said. “There’s way too much stress down here, so I try to make some sort of lighthearted remark as often as I can to keep it interesting.”

There were a lot of jokes during Wednesday’s session, which ran from about 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dudgeon sits a few seats away from the other local Republican delegates, District 9 Rep. Amos Amerson of Dahlonega and District 23 Rep. Mark Hamilton of Cumming.

Dudgeon is one of 35 freshmen representatives this year. Though a large class, Dudgeon said the group, both Democrats and Republicans, sticks together.

Among his closest friends is District 101 state Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, one of the few other House members who graduated from Georgia Tech.

The two sat in on a Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee meeting Wednesday to hear about proposals for zero-based budgeting.

While neither serves on the committee, Dudgeon said he often spends his spare time learning about topics of interest because “my personality is if I’m going to do something, I want to dig into it.”

With three sons from ages 11 to 15 at home, Dudgeon chooses not to live in Atlanta during the week. Instead, he makes the daily commute from Forsyth to Atlanta and back. So far, he has yet to miss a family event.

“I have a Droid [smart phone] and my wife has one and she can look at mine and tell when I’m going to be home, and I can look at hers and see what’s going on,” he said.

“I have family things. You’ve got to keep those first and I’ve done that.”

Technology does more than keep Dudgeon’s home life in order. It’s the key to his legislative work as well.

“If it’s not in my e-mail, it’s dangerous, because I’m a very electronic-oriented person,” he said. “I laugh because they dump all this paper on your desk ... all the bills and calendars, and to me, it’s all there on the computer.

“I bring my laptop to session and boom, if I need a bill, I don’t need a page to bring it out for me.”

It was through text messaging that Dudgeon was able to communicate with other House members during session, and how he met up at the right place with Leadership Forsyth on Wednesday.

The group of future county leaders was touring the capitol and stopped for a brief photo with their delegates.

After a vote for Emily Dunn to replace Steve Gooch as the 9th District representative on the state board of transportation, Dudgeon also made time for another constituent.

Shiloh Point Elementary first-grader Ava Leavitt’s work was featured in a statewide art contest.

Dudgeon squeezed in a quick visit and photo shoot with Leavitt and her family before heading to a reception for the Technology Association of Georgia.

Dudgeon, who doesn’t drink coffee, said it can get tiring on the busy days, especially with more bills being discussed in the coming months. Still, he’s enjoying the experience.

“If you had told me five years ago I’d have gone into politics, I’d have laughed you out of the room,” he said.
“But so far, I’m glad I did it. It’s an experience of a lifetime.”