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Governor Nathan Deal

Nathan Deal’s rise to become the governor of Georgia is a story rich in Georgia history. Born in Millen to parents who were career educators, Governor Deal grew up in Sandersville. His father, a high school agriculture teacher, taught him to love the land and those who produce its food and fiber.

Gov. Deal attended Mercer University in Macon, where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees with honors. In college, he answered the call of his country and began preparing for his full-time service in the United States Army, where he earned the rank of captain.

Gov. Deal’s career includes 23 years in private law practice. His public service includes his work as a criminal prosecutor, a juvenile court judge, 12 years in the state Senate and 9 terms in the U.S. Congress.

Council Members by Region

Jason Winters
Vice Chair
Region 1

Jason Winters was elected Chattooga County commissioner in 2008 and is currently serving his first term. He served as chairman of the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce in 2006 and sits on the board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors of the Coosa Valley Regional Development Center in Rome. Winters earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Berry College. He lives on his family’s farm in Lyerly.

Rick Phillips
Region 2

Rick is the Founder and CEO of The Phillips Group, Inc., a Corporate Investigative and Security Firm. Rick is a former member of the Henry County Planning and Zoning Board and now serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the Toccoa Stephens County Airport Authority. Rick is a Board Member of the NE Georgia Council of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Toccoa Stephens County Boys and Girls Club. Rick and his wife Letha are active members of The Ebenezer Baptist Church of Toccoa.

Richard Harrell
Region 3

Harrell is the chief financial officer for U.S. Enterprises, Inc. (USE), a holding company located in Atlanta. Prior to joining USE, he was senior vice president of First American Bank of Georgia. He has served on the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission, Urban Residential Financial Authority, Atlanta Development Authority, Oglethorpe University Board of Visitors and the Urban Residential Authority. Harrell sits on the board of directors for the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award Foundation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and accounting from the University of Georgia and a commercial banking degree from Louisiana State University. Harrell resides in Atlanta.

Nancy Jones
Region 4

Jones serves as chairperson of the Meriwether County Board of Commissioners. She ended a 34-year career with the Georgia Department of Transportation as the local government Right of Way coordinator. She is a member of the Meriwether County Industrial Development Authority and the Joint Development Authority of Meriwether County and the city of Hogansville. Jones attended West Georgia College. She and her husband, Gary, have two daughters and three granddaughters. They reside in Woodbury.

Pat Graham
Region 5

Graham is the former mayor of Braselton and previously worked as an industrial manager for Frito Lay, Inc. She is a member of the Upper Oconee Water Planning Council and serves on the board of the GA Piedmont YMCA in Winder.  Graham is a past member of the board of directors of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Pat and her husband, Earl, have four adult children. They reside in Braselton.

Tom Thompson, JR
Region 6

Thompson is the president and CEO of Tom Thompson Co. Inc. and Eatonton Dairy Farms. He is chairman of the Putnam County Commission, the Tri-County Electric Member Cooperative and building committee chairman for the Eatonton First Baptist Church. He is a former member of the board of directors of Georgia Milk Producers, Atlanta Dairies and the National Milk Producers Federation. He was awarded Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Best Divestiture of the Year” award in 1986. Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting from Emory University. He and his wife, Pamela, have seven children and several grandchildren. They reside in Eatonton.

William "Billy" Jackson
Region 7

Billy Jackson is a partner in Tile Center Inc., a tile and stone distribution company located in Augusta, Martinez, Statesboro and Greensboro. He serves on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Board for the Augusta Region, is chairman of the Greenbrier High School Athletic Foundation and is board chairman of Liberty Retreat and Conference Center in Gleason, Tennessee. Jackson is director of the nonprofit Georgia Sting AAU organization for girls basketball. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Young Harris College. He and his wife, Robin, have two children, Brittany and Brooke.

Charles "Buddy" Leger
Region 8

Leger is the co-owner and operator of Leger and Son, Inc., a watermelon production company. He is a navy veteran and former manager of the Cordele Farmer’s Market. Leger serves on a number of boards and councils including the Upper Flint Water Council , UGA CARET representative and the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Advisory Council. He also served as the past president of the Georgia Pecan Grower’s Association, the Pecan Distributing Association, the Georgia Watermelon Association, the National Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Research and Promotion Board. He also served as a member of the board of commissioners of Crisp County Power and the Georgia Agri-business Council. Leger was named “Man of the Year” by the Cordele-Crisp Chamber of Commerce in 2008. He and his wife, Marjorie, are members of Hatley Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon. They have five children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. They reside in Cordele.

Region 9




E. Dewey Robinson
Region 10

Robinson is the owner and operator of Robinson Motors in Bainbridge. He is the owner of River Plaza Shopping Center, People’s Loan Service, Inc. and the co-owner of Decatur Broadcasting. He is on the board of directors of First National Bank of Decatur County, serves as board chairman of Bainbridge Salvation Army and is the scholarship chairman for the executive committee of the Bainbridge College Foundation. Robinson and his wife, Joyce, are members of First Baptist Church, where he is a deacon. They have three sons, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The Robinsons reside in Bainbridge.


Gary Paulk
Region 11

Paulk is a fifth-generation farmer from Irwin County. He is part owner of Muscadine Products Corp., a muscadine juice and health foods production company. He is chairman of the board of directors of the Ameris Bank Board and South Central Primary Care, vice chairman of the Irwin County Board of Education and president of the Irwin County Farm Bureau. Paulk graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s of science in agronomy. He and his wife, Ann, have four children and four grandchildren. They reside in Wray.


Matthew Cardella
Region 12

Cardella is a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments in Hinesville. He serves on the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, the Liberty County Public Facilities Authority and the Gateway Behavioral Health Services Board. Cardella earned a bachelor’s in business administration degree from Valdosta State University. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one son, Matthew. They reside in Sunbury.


Council Members At-Large

Bebe Heiskell

Heiskell is serving her 11th year as sole commissioner of Walker County. She is the only female sole commissioner to ever hold office in Georgia. Heiskell is a certified county clerk, holds an advanced county commissioner certification and has earned more than 300 hours of continuing education at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Heiskell serves as chairman of the board of Community Affairs, on the State Workforce Investment Board, as chair of the Walker County Water & Sewerage Authority and on the board of directors of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission. She was recognized as Professional Woman of the Year by LaFayette Business and Professional Women in 1994 and was named Walker County Citizen of the Year in 2008. Heiskell survives her husband, Arthur, and has two children and one grandchild. She resides in Chickamauga.


Dwayne Turner

Turner owns and operates ADT Development Co. Inc., a property development company located in Cleveland. He serves on the 9th District Economic Advisory Council and represents the 9th District for the Georgia Republican Party State Committee. Turner has worked in the construction industry since 1989 and been self-employed since 1982. He and his wife, Connie, have three children and nine grandchildren. They reside in Cleveland.


Ed Jordan

Jordan earned a bachelor’s in geology from the University of Georgia and worked in the clay industry for more than 30 years. This work included research, management and sales. He served as a division manager and received one patent. He also was director of the Georgia Mining Association and US Clay Producers. Presently, Jordan is owner of a plant nursery located on his 100-year-old family farm. He served as chairman for the Hospital Authority while living in McDuffie County, as president of the Wrightsboro Historical Foundation in Thomson and, most recently, as president of the Washington County Historical Society. He and his wife, Dianne, reside in Warthen and have three children and two grandchildren.

Ex-Officio Members

Camila Knowles
Commissioner, Department of Community Affairs

Camila Knowles was appointed as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) by Governor Nathan Deal in 2015.

Knowles leads DCAís work for community development, ensuring that through workforce housing, community infrastructure, downtown development and economic development financing, communities are prepared for opportunities to meet Governor Dealís top priority: creating jobs across the state. DCA provides funding and technical assistance throughout Georgia, partnering with local communities to create a climate of success for Georgiaís families and businesses. DCA manages millions of state and federal dollars through its 65 programs, 24 of them funding programs.

Commissioner Knowles joined DCA after serving as Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. She began her career with Senator Chambliss in 2003 as one of the Senatorís designees on the Senate Judiciary Committee focusing on immigration law and policy. After serving as a legislative assistant and chief counsel for the Senator in Washington, she moved in 2009 to his Atlanta office as State Director and was named Chief of Staff in 2013.

While on Senator Chamblissí staff, Knowles worked on legislation directly impacting communities across Georgia, including the designation of Arabia Mountain as a National Heritage Area, the amendment of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, and the deepening of the Savannah Harbor. She also worked on appropriations bills providing federal funding to numerous Georgia projects.

Prior to her work with Senator Chambliss, Knowles served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. She holds an A.B. in History from Harvard, from which she graduated with cum laude distinction, and a law degree from Georgetown University. She is a member of the State Bar of North Carolina.

Knowles is a member of the 2014 class of Leadership Georgia and an alumni interviewer for Harvard. She resides in Atlanta with her husband Sean and their three children. Commissioner Knowles is an active member of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, where she and her husband teach kindergarten Sunday School.

Gary Black
Commissioner, Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Gary Black began his career with the Georgia Farm Bureau leading the young farmer leadership development program and served 21 years as president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. During his career, Black led the development of AgriTrust of Georgia, a renowned workers’ compensation insurance program for farmers and agricultural businesses. He has championed sound policies throughout Georgia ranging from private property rights to food safety, and from lower taxes to science-based environmental stewardship.

Commissioner Black is an active supporter of agricultural programs that expand opportunities for young people. He serves in advisory capacities for 4H and FFA. As a student, Black served as State FFA President in 1975-76.

Black earned a degree in Agricultural Education from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1980 and is a past president of the college’s alumni society. He and his family are active at Maysville Baptist Church where Black serves in the music and adult Sunday school ministries.



Chris Clark
President, Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Chris Clark, a native of Fitzgerald, GA., earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and received his master’s in public administration from Georgia College and State University.  

Chris currently serves on the state board for the Department of Economic Development as an ex officio member, the Governor’s Rural Development Council as an ex officio board member, the Georgia Academy for Economic Development Board of Directors, and the advisory board for the College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Southern University. 

He, his wife Tiffany and son Christian reside in Fayette County.


Kevin Clark
Executive Director, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority

GEFA is the lead agency for state energy programs and is home to the Center of Innovation for Energy; directs the Georgia Land Conservation Program and maintains state-owned fuel storage tanks; and offers financing for reservoir and water supply, water quality, storm water and solid waste infrastructure.

Clark previously served as deputy chief operating officer and deputy executive counsel for the Office of the Governor of Georgia where he provided strategic support for core business areas of state government and advised the Governor and senior staff on legislative and legal matters. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Clark held several leadership positions in state government agencies.

Clark earned a law degree from the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is also a graduate of the Governor’s Executive Leadership Training Program.

Clark resides in Braselton, Georgia, with his wife, Cheryl.

Clyde L. Reese III
Commissioner, Department of Community Health

Clyde L. Reese III, Esq., is the Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). The agency administers Georgia Medicaid and the State Health Benefit Plan and provides access to health care coverage for approximately one in four Georgians. He also oversees the agency’s Healthcare Facility Regulation and Health Information Technology divisions, as well as five enterprise offices, three attached agencies and two licensing boards.

Reese was Commissioner of DCH in 2010 prior to serving as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) under the Deal administration from January 2011 through June 2013. As DHS Commissioner, he led the $1.5 billion agency that leads the provision of human services throughout Georgia, including aging, child welfare and child support services. Reese provided oversight of DHS’ public assistance programs, including the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, the Food Stamp program and Medicaid eligibility.

He has previous experience as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia and General Counsel for the State Health Planning Agency. Reese practiced health care regulatory law in the private sector from 2003 through 2007. He returned to state government in September of 2007 as the Executive Director of the Division of Health Planning at DCH. In early 2008, he resumed the role of General Counsel. Governor Sonny Perdue appointed him as DCH Commissioner in April of 2010.

Reese is a health care regulatory and administrative law specialist. He has an undergraduate degree in world history from Georgia State University and a Juris Doctor degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.


Chris Carr
Commissioner, Department of Economic Development

Governor Nathan Deal named Chris Carr Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development beginning November 2013.

Chris Carr has served as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson since 2007. Previously, he served as Isakson’s deputy chief of staff as well as campaign manager of his 2004 U.S. Senate race. Prior to his tenure with Isakson, Carr worked for Georgia-Pacific,as vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and as an attorney with Alston & Bird in Atlanta. He received his law degree and Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the University of Georgia.

Brenda Fitzgerald, MD
Commissioner, Department of Public Health

Dr. Fitzgerald, a board-certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist and a Fellow in Anti-Aging Medicine, has practiced medicine for three decades. As Commissioner, Dr. Fitzgerald oversees various state public health programs and directs the state’s 18 public health districts and 159 county health departments.

Prior to joining DPH, Fitzgerald served on the board and as president of the Georgia OB-GYN Society and she worked as a health care policy advisor with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Paul Coverdell. She has served as Chairman of the Board for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and remains a Senior Fellow. Additionally, she served on the Military Academy Selection Boards for Senators Paul Coverdell and Saxby Chambliss, and was a founding board member for the Paul Coverdell Leadership Institute. She also contributed to Leadership Georgia serving as a program chair, served as the 7th District Representative to the Georgia State School Board, and held board posts with Voices for Georgia’s Children, the Advanced Academy of West Georgia, the University of West Georgia Foundation, and the Carrollton Rotary Club.

Dr. Fitzgerald holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Georgia State University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine. As a Major in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Fitzgerald served at the Wurtsmith Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base in Michigan and at the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.


Mark Williams
Commissioner, Department of Natural Resources

Mr. Williams serves as Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, as well as Chairman of the Coastal Marshlands and Shore Protection Committees and on the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation, the Land Conservation Council and the Georgia Aviation Authority board. 

Commissioner Williams serves on the boards of Hospice of South Georgia, Wayne County Partners in Education, and the Altamaha Area Boys and Girls Clubs. He is a director of Prime South Bank, past president of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and recent recipient of its 2011 Distinguished Service Award, past president of the Rotary Club, and served as chairman of the Wayne County Hospital Authority for four years. Mr. Williams represented the 178th district in the State House of Representatives for two terms.

Born in Valdosta, Commissioner Williams received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia College and State University.