Elected by state legislators in the 11th Congressional District, Lewis will return to public service in April. Previously, Lewis served Bartow County as a state representative for 16 years before losing a bid for re-election to State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville.
Wednesday's vote between four candidates took several rounds to eliminate the other hopefuls before coming to a tie between Lewis and outgoing board member David Doss of Rome. A final round of voting resulted in Lewis' election by a small margin. The other nominees for the board were former State Sen. John Wiles and Paul Chastain, a real estate agent, both of Cobb County.
The board oversees general control and supervision of the Georgia Department of Transportation, including the naming of the commissioner, designation of roads within the state highway system, approval of long-term transportation, overseeing the administration of construction contracts and authorizing lease agreements.
"We're excited about having a board member from Bartow County but he will serve the entire district. He and David Doss, the former DOT board member, made a commitment they would work together in this transition. And, of course, Jeff, I believe will try to work with all the communities he represents," Battles said. "After 16 years, I think he's got a good working knowledge of the state and how it functions but also he has connections with people he served with in both the House and the Senate."
Battles added that although access and availability with Doss was not bad, having Lewis living and working in Bartow should improve upon those matters.
State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, serving his first term this year, also feels that Lewis' history with many current legislators and the state government process is a definite advantage. Coomer also noted that Lewis shares a desire to see important projects completed, topping that list for Coomer was the 411 connector.
"I think this is certainly a good result for Bartow County, I think Jeff will do a good job. He is certainly familiar with the issues related to legislation and budgeting that a DOT board member needs to be familiar with. He's somebody I think I can work with, have a good rapport with, and I look forward to working with him on important transportation issues facing the 11th district, in particular, the 411 connector.
"I interviewed Mr. Lewis before the vote as I did all the candidates and one of the things he assured me is that the 411 connector is a priority project in his mind and it certainly is in mine, so I'm looking forward to working with him toward getting that project completed."
Also speaking to the issue of major transportation projects, Battles noted that Bartow contains many state roadways serving populations outside of county lines. This location, he added, is therefore a central area of interest for regional transportation matters.
"As it is with Atlanta kind of being the hub of the Southeast, Cartersville really is the hub geographically of the 11th district if you think about it. Some may say Floyd but I think it's Bartow," Battles said, specifically mentioning projects such as the 411 connector, Old Alabama Road, Highway 113 and Highway 20. "I think having [Lewis] geographically in a location that is close to Interstate 75 gives him a better avenue of that corridor of most of the transportation that flows north and south."
Sharing in the optimism of other local legislators, State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, echoed their belief that Lewis' history in the House and his relationship with lawmakers will prove an asset. Loudermilk commented on the subject brought forth by opposing parties that Lewis' family advertising business may create a conflict of interest. To that point, Loudermilk added that due to the nature of their job, all legislators will at some time face the same dilemma.
"Everybody here in the legislature at some point has a conflict of interest because of the broad-spectrum that we deal with and that's why we have the rule of recusal. When we get to those issues we recuse ourselves, so I think as long as he exercises that I think he'll be fine," Loudermilk said. "He's been in the legislature before and he knows a lot of the people and he has a lot of relationships, and so I think he'll do a good job."
Lewis could not be reached for comment by press time.