Elected by legislators from their respective Congressional districts, board members oversee much of the department's dealings including long-range transportation plans and construction contracts.
The board consists of 13 members from each of Georgia's Congressional Districts serving five-year terms. An election to fill the expiring term of Rome native David Doss will be held at the state capital on Feb. 9. Lewis, former State Representative for District 15 serving Cartersville and eastern Bartow, is joined on the ballot by Doss hoping to retain his seat on the board.
As nominations were being made for the upcoming vote, Lewis was contacted by legislators asking him to consider accepting a nomination for the board.
"I got a number of encouraging phone calls from senators and representatives to encourage me to consider it," Lewis said. "I know a lot of the senators and legislators, I served with most of them for a number of years. ... I would assume that they would trust my judgment and discernment on transportation issues. They know I have a good working knowledge of those issues as it relates to policy matters with the [Georgia] General Assembly and so forth. And I think I have a pretty good reputation of working well with others and coming to satisfactory conclusions when there may be disagreements."
Lewis cited his years of service in the Georgia General Assembly as experience in policy and state-level operations lending to his qualifications for the board.
"During my the years in the General Assembly, I have a long history of working with the Department of Transportation when it came to issues here in and around the district and now this kind of represents an opportunity to kind of work from inside that area and to be an advocate not only for this area but all the areas that encompass this 11th congressional district," Lewis said.
Commenting on a factor leading to his run for election, Lewis spoke about needs at both the state and regional level. With a growing population, metro-Atlanta and most of northwest Georgia has a lengthy list of transportation projects waiting in the wings.
"We have a lot of right-now needs, we have a lot of short-term needs and long-term needs in this state and in this region in particular. We are still continuing to grow despite a downturn in the economy. We still have population moving in and moving around in this area and that puts pressure on our transportation infrastructure, so it's just motivating for me to be an active part in that and see if I can have a positive affect on various transportation projects and make sure they are in the right place at the right time and are appropriately funded," Lewis said.
Watchdog organizations have called a board position for Lewis, a conflict of interest. Lewis owns and operates a family advertising business based out of White specializing in billboards. The billboard industry is regulated by the department of transportation. Lewis noted that just as legislators do when presented with a conflict of interest, he would simply recuse himself from the issue if one did arise.
"I will not have a conflict because I will simply recuse myself from voting -- and in talking to some current GDOT Board members, in the last four years they can only recall one issue related to billboards. Out of all the issues they deal with, they only dealt with one in the last four years. So that may be about one or two percent of all that the board does," Lewis said.
After being defeated in his bid for re-election to the House of Representatives by Paul Battles in 2008, Lewis is excited to return to the call of public service if elected.
"I've always felt I've had a calling for public service. Ever since I was a little boy I've been fascinated with public policy and those serving in those arenas. That's just where I think I can serve people the best and do the most good. I thought that way when I was in the general assembly and I think I can accomplish the same task on the DOT board," Lewis said.