ATLANTA -- On Tuesday, for the first time ever, a Forsyth County resident presided over the Georgia Senate as Geoff Duncan, a former lawmaker representing the county, took on his first state Senate meeting as Georgia’s lieutenant governor.
“It’s an honor to work with, like I said in my [opening] comments, with so many talented people in this room that represent millions of Georgians across the state,” Duncan said following the morning’s session. “That’s the part I’m really excited about is getting to know the senators, but way more than just the title of senator, getting to know them personally as colleagues and as friends and knowing their districts not just by number but the communities that make up those districts.”
Duncan represented District 26 from 2013 to 2017, when he stepped down to run for the lieutenant governor seat. He defeated Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico in November’s general election.
He is a graduate of Chattahoochee High School and attended Georgia Tech, where he was a scholarship pitcher and member of the school’s 1994 College World Series team. After his junior season, he was drafted into the then-Florida Marlins organization, where he played for six years and reached the AAA level.
As lieutenant governor, Duncan serves as president of the state Senate and oversaw the morning’s meeting. By his own admission, it was a good first day on the job.
“Day one was a good day and I appreciate the help from the secretary’s office to help me get up to speed on it,” Duncan said. “This is a great opportunity and the role of lieutenant governor of the state of Georgia does have a foot in the legislative branch and in the executive branch. I take that seriously and look forward to working with folks in this room.”
In his new role, Duncan said he wanted to create an atmosphere where state senators can focus on all details of proposed legislation.
“I think that my job as lieutenant governor is to facilitate a conversation that allows all the facts and figures to come out on all of these big issues, allow it to be a very deliberative process,” Duncan said. “That’s the intent, right? That’s what we’re supposed to do here. We’re not supposed to have preconceived notions about what a piece of legislation is supposed to look like day one, it’s to work the process, to work the committees, to take the talent and the resources and the input of those folks on the committee process and really getting into that.”
Along with Duncan getting to know the legislators, some members of the body said they were excited to work with him.
“It was a good first day,” said state Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican representing Macon. “We’re glad to have him in, glad to have him as president of our chamber and wish him well. We’ll look forward to the days ahead when we get into the substance of what we do here in the Senate and watching him preside over us.”
State Sen. David Lucas, a Democrat also representing Macon, said he thought Duncan did will in his first meeting and expected him to continue learning on the job.
“It’s been a pretty good first day,” Lucas said. “He’s going to learn, the same way I had to learn when I first got here. He’ll get up to speed on it. He ought to do alright.”
Duncan isn’t the only former state representative from Forsyth County serving in a new role at the capitol.
Mike Dudgeon, who represented south Forsyth and north Fulton’s District 25 from 2011-16, serves as Duncan’s director of policy, which he said looks at each piece of legislation and works to advance Duncan’s legislative agenda, which will be released “in the next couple of weeks.”
Dudgeon said he was excited to see Duncan step into the role.
“I think Geoff is a natural leader and that is coming out already in the way he’s approached things here at the capitol,” he said. “I think that leadership style of a positive, policy-oriented [leader] and trying to keep the politics to a considerable level, I think that’s going to be a very good cultural thing. I think Geoff’s leadership, which has already shown by winning that election, can really help get Georgia moving that way.”
Things just got serious....my office nameplate just arrived! pic.twitter.com/ierFO660eO— Geoff Duncan (@GeoffDuncanGA) January 11, 2019
Dudgeon pointed out that between Duncan, himself and former District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, who represented west Forsyth County and now serves as Gov. Brian Kemp’s director of external affairs, Forsyth County has a strong position in the state, much like neighboring Hall County, who previously had several residents at top state positions, including former Gov. Nathan Deal, former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and District 49 state Sen. Butch Miller as president pro tempore of the Senate, a position he still holds.
“There used to be some friendly rivalry with Hall County when Hall County had the governor, lieutenant governor and president pro-temp of the Senate,” Dudgeon said. “Forsyth County was kind of underrepresented at that state level, so it is great for Forsyth County to have the lieutenant governor, to have former Rep. Mark Hamilton and myself as key positions here at the capital, so it is very, very important for Forsyth County.”
Duncan said on Tuesday it was a “process to learn” rules of the Senate and previously told Forsyth County News he had worked with Senate staff to run mock sessions before his first meeting. He said he will continue to use the experience of those who have served to help learn his new role.
“I think I come into this with the same approach I do in the private sector when I take on a new job. I ask as many questions as I can even at the risk of it being a silly question,” Duncan said. “A lot of good folks in this room have kind of helped me get up to speed.”