And then there was onePublished 8:30am Tuesday, February 12, 2013
He placed his hand on the Bible and in front of his colleagues, family and friends he promised to do the very best job he could do on behalf of those that elected him. Just a few minutes later, Dean Burke was seated at his desk on row two in the Georgia State Senate, shortly before casting his first vote as a member of the General Assembly.
It is easy to become cynical about politics these days. The American public, and indeed the citizens of Georgia, tend to see only the 15-second sound bites on cable news channels. They don’t understand the complexities surrounding the dozens of enormous issues facing our governments at every level. No more taxes. Tax the Millionaires. No more guns. Second Amendment Rights. Obamacare. Medicare. The list goes on and one.
It is a wonder that any good citizen offers themselves up for public service. Your entire life is scrutinized by the public. There are special-interest groups that could care less about anything in your political life other than how you will vote on their particular bill.
However, whenever I visit the State Capitol in Atlanta, I am reminded of all the really good things that happen there, and the good people who work hard with little credit to do the right thing.
Several weeks ago I happened to ride on the elevator with State Rep. Joe Wilkinson from Atlanta, who was elected after I left Atlanta. He asked where I was from and when I said Seminole County he responded that out of 159 counties in Georgia the only one he hadn’t visited was Seminole County.
He proceeded to offer me the use of his office, his private restroom, his coffee pot, and his telephone. He got me a pass to be in the House Chambers for the Governor’s State of the State address, even though the passes were long gone.
Joe’s extraordinary hospitality to a stranger makes me wonder at how attentive he must be to his own constituents. If I don’t do anything else on behalf of my home county in the next couple of years, I am going to make sure that Representative Joe Wilkinson gets to visit Seminole County. He can say at that point, “And then there were none.”
During Dean’s ceremonial first day, I ran into many old friends. I entrusted Dean’s care to my great old friends, Sen. Tim Golden and Rep. Gerald Greene. Heaven help them all.
I left Atlanta with one thing that I treasure and that made everything else worthwhile. Deep and abiding friendships with people I would not have ever known except for our common service to the state of Georgia. Cathy Cox, my predecessor. Kermit Bates, my friend and mentor. Jay Shaw and Johnny Floyd, two of my great suitemates. The list is much too long to continue, but let me just say that my blessings were great.
As Dean Burke begins his journey in Atlanta, I wish for him not just political success, but also the hope that he finds joy, strength and support in the many friends that he will make along the way.