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Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Let’s get the hard part out of the way first: After nearly 19 years as vice president and resident Jiminy Cricket, December 31, 2021, is my last day with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

As part of this wonderful organization, I deliberately shared many of my life experiences, to be both a warning and an example. As many Foundation supporters are aware, the United States is my second home: I grew up in apartheid South Africa, a second-class citizen in the land of my birth, and I moved to here in 1986 to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. Among them were a quality education, a safe environment, unlimited opportunities, a voice, a vote and the ability to thrive and excel without being held back because of the color of their skin.

In the Foundation I found a like-minded platform for my gratitude and my voice. Our 30th anniversary celebration this year was a personal victory, too, as I celebrated the survival of good times and hard times. I’m leaving behind a flourishing, respected nonprofit that continues its founding mission: to protect the interests of ordinary Georgians and small-business owners. These Georgians don’t have time, day after day, to trudge to the State Capitol or daytime government meetings, so their freedoms and hard-earned dollars are threatened as encamped special interests and carpetbaggers seize the day.

Since 2003, through three presidents, numerous colleagues and countless policy proposals, I’ve proudly shared in the satisfaction of a job well done. We’ve also shared frustration, tears, excitement and drudgery. Teamwork and commitment helped as we digested countless white papers to produce a weekly commentary; condensed academic, political and policy input into cogent, fact-based briefs, legislative testimony and issue analyses; perused thousands of newsletters, newspapers, blogs and official announcements to produce a thoughtful weekly Friday Facts; and responded to hundreds of calls for resources, counsel and speaking engagements.

Many times, the excitement of a policy victory turned in a flash to frustration as politics sabotaged policy. Most times, success comes in baby steps and rarely with the credit the Foundation deserves. But, as the plaque on President Reagan’s desk noted, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”

By the time policy proposals become legislation, elected officials have long forgotten the mind-numbing groundwork laid by this nonpartisan organization to produce Georgia-focused policies that benefit all Georgians. Long forgotten is the Foundation’s pioneering education work in Georgia, for example, on charter schools. Or the work on transportation policy, from roads to rail to the burgeoning toll lane network. Or in criminal justice reform, welfare reform, tax reform, occupational licensing, healthcare, government spending, and privatization and outsourcing of government services.

Much of the success is because of our approach. Every stance incorporates the three-legged stool: principles, respect and integrity.

The principles of limited government, free enterprise, personal responsibility and individual initiative are the starting point for every policy. Then there’s the respect in every interaction with critics, foes and allies. Our willingness to talk to any reasonable person and group –  including those who respectfully disagree with our proposals – earns us respect in turn, sometimes grudgingly. The Foundation strictly adheres to the decree of our founder, Hank McCamish, when we were established in 1991: Never attack individuals.

Finally, there’s the Foundation’s unwavering commitment to integrity. From the beginning it was impressed upon me that we welcome those who support our ideas in “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives.” We cannot be bought. There is never any quid pro quo and there is never any government funding.

With everything going well for the Foundation, I’ve decided now is a good time for me to bid a difficult farewell. I leave with a full heart and enormous pride in a career spanning nearly two-thirds of the Foundation’s existence. As I look forward to a new adventure, I am forever grateful to have been part of this “family” of dedicated leadership, staff and network of experts, and supporters and friends.

I look forward to following the Foundation’s progress, and I thank you for your friendship and support through the years. You can find me at . I hope you’re as proud of our work as I am of having been a part of it. In this critical juncture for the state and nation, I ask for your continued support of the Foundation’s commonsense, unifying policies that help Georgians help themselves.