Listed among philanthropists, politicians, corporate executives and educators, those with local connections on the 2013 list of Most Influential Georgians include U.S. Congressman Phil Gingrey, State School Superintendent John Barge and Coosa River Basin Initiative Executive Director and Riverkeeper Joe Cook.
In its 15th year, the list highlights “the state’s most powerful and influential citizens who affect the lives and livelihood of all Georgians,” according to the January 2013 issue of GeorgiaTrend, released this week.
Being named for the second time, Cook humbly accepted the recognition with hopes of raising awareness for water sources in northwest Georgia.
“It’s certainly an honor,” Cook said. “But any number of people involved in the Georgia Water Coalition are probably more worthy of being named to that list than me.
“I think it speaks to the fact that CRBI and the Georgia Water Coalition and the state’s environmental community as a whole is perhaps achieving a little more clout. … The Georgia Water Coalition represents about 300,000 people across the state from all walks of life. So that coalition of organizations, which CRBI is a part of, is influencing state policy and making a difference in protecting our rivers and our streams and our lakes.”
GeorgiaTrend praised Cook for his organization’s work at temporarily halting development at a wetland site along the Oostanaula River where a 60-acre retail project was proposed. The permit suspension handed down from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will result in a public review and comment session if a new permit is applied for.
“We’ve been working on a project up here that threatens some wetlands and flood plain and we think it’s a really bad place to build a shopping center and that there are better places to build a shopping center,” Cook said. “This particular land was originally slated to stay as green space and become part of what they were talking about calling Rome Central Park. So we would like to see the property preserved for that purpose and remain green space and we’re working toward that end trying to protect the wetlands that are on site.”
CRBI continues to advocate for area water sources in relation to various proposed projects, including reservoirs prompted by Gov. Nathan Deal’s water supply program. Two proposed reservoirs currently pose a threat to area rivers with the Dawson Forest Reservoir at the headwaters of the Etowah River and the Richland Creek Reservoir in Paulding County, which would pump up to 40 million gallons a day out of the Etowah River.
“Those are issues that the Georgia Water Coalition are working on,” Cook said. “The idea that our state needs to invest in a more fiscally responsible way by putting money toward water conservation and efficiency before it invests in multi-million dollar reservoir projects that may or may not be needed.
“The Richland Creek Reservoir is a perfect example. The state has issued a loan of $29 million to help build a reservoir for a water system that can’t account for 25 percent of the water it purchases from the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority. So we believe it would be much more fiscally responsible to help the Paulding County Water System fix leaks and account for all its water before we invest state money into building reservoirs.”
Gingrey is another figure returning to the list after an absence last year. His placement refers to his first career as an OB-GYN in Marietta, which has influenced his view in policy making for health care issues. He is now co-creator of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus formed to help shape healthcare reform.
Most recently, Gingrey voted in opposition to the hotly debated “fiscal cliff” bill, which was approved by the House Tuesday to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts. In a statement released Wednesday, Gingrey explained his reasoning for not voting in favor of the bill.
“Rep. Gingrey opposed the Senate amendment regarding the fiscal cliff because it did not address spending, entitlement or tax reform in any meaningful way. Furthermore, it continues Washington’s habit of kicking the can down the road, fails to provide certainty for job creators or protection for small businesses,” stated Gingrey’s office.
Lastly, Barge, a Floyd County resident, began his education career in Bartow County as an English teacher at Cass High School from August 1991 to September 1992 before serving in several administration capacities across the state and one appointment at the state level. Prior to his election to state school superintendent, Barge served again in Bartow County as Bartow County Schools’ director of secondary curriculum.
Thursday, Barge released a statement on his Facebook page regarding the recognition. “I am humbled to have been named one of Georgia Trend’s 100 most influential Georgians. Congrats to Gov. Nathan Deal and others who were named along with me! It’s an honor to be among such talented company,” he said.
For more information and the complete list, including a list of 2013 Notable Georgians, visit www.georgiatrend.com.