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Georgia not doing itself any favors by re-electing Poitevint as chair of the ports authority

By Maria Saporta

Some things just don’t make sense.

Georgia seems determined to stab itself in the back.

On Monday, the Georgia Ports Authority re-elected Alec Poitevint II of Bainbridge to serve a second term as chairman.

That would not be an issue if the Georgia Ports Authority weren’t seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government and the Obama administration to deepen the Savannah port so it can accommodate the mega container ships that will be hitting the seas in 2014.

Georgia has made the deepening of the Savannah port one of its top economic development authorities — some even comparing it to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

But Georgia is not helping its case in Washington by re-electing Poitevint as its chairman.

It just so happens that Poitevint has another major role that is not listed in the Georgia Ports Authority bio. (See the Georgia Ports Authority’s bio of Poitevint below).

Poitevint is chairing the Republican Party’s 2012 political convention in Tampa — the convention with the sole purpose of nominating a candidate to run against President Barack Obama.

One can argue whether its right or wrong, but in the world of politics it is not in Georgia’s best interests to have someone who is trying to un-elect President Obama head an agency that is seeking hundreds of millions of federal dollars.

State officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal, have been fully aware of the Poitevint problem, but they obviously have failed to exert the necessary pressure to permit a smooth transition to a new chair of the Georgia Ports Authority.

If Poitevint really had the best interests of the ports and the state at heart, then he would not have stood for re-election as the GPA’s chair.

Now there are only two actions for Poitevint to redeem the situation. He should resign, explaining that there’s an obvious political conflict of interest and turn the reigns of the authority to the Robert Jepson of Savannah, chairman and CEO of a private investment firm who was elected vice chairman at Monday’s meeting.

Or Pointevint should resign as chair of the Republican Party’s 2012 political convention.

But people who are close observers of the Georgia Ports Authority don’t see Poitevint being able to act in such a selfless manner.

So if Georgia ends up receiving federal funding to deepen the Savannah port, we know it will be in spite of Poitevint and will show that the Obama administration can rise above partisan politics.

But if Georgia loses out on that federal funding, we can blame no one but ourselves.

GPA’s bio of Alec L. Poitevint, II, of Bainbridge:

Poitevint was first appointed to the Board of Directors in July 2007 and previously served as Vice Chairman and Chairman. He is the Chairman and President of Southeastern Minerals, Inc. and its affiliated companies headquartered in Bainbridge. He is Chairman of American Feed Industry Insurance Company and past Chairman of the American Feed Industry Association and National Feed Ingredients Association. He serves as a Director of the Georgia Agribusiness Council and was Federal Commissioner of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Water Compact. He was a former mission member of the U.S. Agricultural Trade and Development Mission to Europe in 1990 and U.S. Delegate to World Food Summit in 2002.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Burroughston Broch June 28, 2011 10:44 pm

    Maria, whom would you suggest be the chairman? Roy Barnes?

    By your reasoning, any chairman who does not support the President’s re-election has a political conflict of interest.Report

  2. Burroughston Broch June 28, 2011 10:46 pm

    One more thought. After the 2012 elections Mr. Pointevint may not have any political conflict of interest with the new President.Report

  3. Maria Saporta June 28, 2011 11:03 pm

    You may not have read the post carefully. I suggested that Jepson become chairman — someone who is not identified with being either pro- or anti-Obama. But almost anyone would have been a better choice than the one they made considering Georgia’s desires to deepen the port.
    Also, the chairman serves a one-year term and Obama will be president throughout Pointevint’s term. If there were to be a change in administration after the 2012 election, then the Georgia Port Authority could act accordingly.
    All I’m saying is that Georgia should be a lot savvier politically than it’s proving to be.

  4. Maria, I love your posts and very much respect the way you bring attention to key issues facing the Atlanta Region and Georgia, especially when it comes to transportation and quality-of-life issues, but I think that you’re making way too much of a big jump on this one.

    It seems as though you are trying to make a big issue out of what seems to be a non-issue.

    As Chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, Alec Poitevint may be “double-dipping”, so to speak, by chairing the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, but I doubt that the Obama Administration really cares about that detail. It’s not as if Alec Poitevint has been all over the TV and radio airwaves screaming “Obamer is a foreign-born marxist terrorist who hates America” at the top of his lungs every single day.

    Every presidential administration has been known to hit back at its critics from time-to-time, but those hits are usually reserved for the loudest and most vocal critics who stand in front of cameras and get on radio and draw attention to themselves for a living or as political gimmicks, not quiet semi-invisible political operatives who are virtually anonymous.

    It’s not like Poitevint himself is leading the effort to negotiate for the federal money needed to deepen the port after having been on Rush Limbaugh and other assorted right-wing talk radio outlets screaming anti-Obama epithets all day.

    Alec Poitevint is a non-factor in the process to secure federal funding to deepen the port as it has been Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed who have taken the lead and have been front and center in the negotiations with the Obama Administration.

    Even Georgia’s Republican-dominated Congressional delegation has tamped down much, if not close to all, of their anti-Obama rhetoric because they know how critically important it is to Georgia’s future to secure the funding to deepen what looks to be one of the world’s up-and-coming next great seaports in the Port of Savannah.

    The Obama Administration isn’t THAT petty enough to deny federal funding because some virtually unknown guy who’s pretty much invisible on the national political scene is working behind-the-scenes to chair a routine political convention. If it weren’t for this article/blog entry, no one would even be aware of who Alec Poitevint is or what he does as most of us have never seen the guy on TV attempting to get face time, although I think that he might have possibly been quoted maybe once or twice in the AJC or maybe in the Atlanta Business Chronicle in a story directly relating to the Port of Savannah, but other than that, the guy is virtually anonymous and has done little, if anything, to draw lots of undue attention to himself.

    Even if the Obama Administration is aware of who Poitevint is, which I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t know or care since not many others in the national media do, I don’t think that they would be shocked to find that a Republican operative has been appointed, elected and re-elected to chair a state office in a state completely dominated by Republicans. The Administration is very aware that Georgia is a hard-core Red state and they’re not going to come apart at the seams, get completely broken up and totally not be able to function because a Republican “operative” is holding a state office in a state full of Republicans.

    This is all much ado about nothing. Now if someone who is a sharp critic of the administration, like a Bill Cunningham, Rush Limbaugh or the President’s personal favorite, Donald Trump, were leading the effort to get federal money to deepen the port then you could say that we were doing ourselves no favors and could even say that we were totally and completely screwed and just might as well wait until a Republican gets back in the White House to even bother to ask for the money again.Report

  5. chris June 30, 2011 9:07 am

    If the Obama administration is that petty, then we have much bigger problems to worry about than who serves as Chair of the Port of Authority. But based on my experience with the administration, I think this article is way off base.Report

  6. Cityzen June 30, 2011 11:20 am

    The Obama admin seems too spineless to tell Tea Party states to go to hell when they come calling for federal dollars – but perhaps Maria will be proven right. No state governor who signs a vile anti-immigration law or sues to block the health law should even be allowed in DC. LBJ and Nixon got things done because they were not afraid to bring idiots like Saxby, Johnny and Nathan to heel.Report

  7. Burroughston Broch June 30, 2011 11:38 am

    @ Maria
    You’re correct – I missed your suggestion of Mr. Jepson. However, he is not a major supporter of the President and so would have no political coattails to ride.

    @ Cityzen
    The Obama administration is in full re-election mode and won’t offend anyone who might vote for him in 2012. To date, President Obama has been every bit as petty and vindictive as past Presidents. He has failed to bring to heel any of the Democratic idiots like Hank Johnson, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who seem hellbent to drive this country off the edge of the cliff.Report

  8. @ Cityzen:
    Keep-in-mind that, even with Democrats being in the minority when it comes to local and state politics in Georgia and even with Georgia’s state government being completely controlled and dominated by Republicans, in part because of the very large population of minorities and transplants from more left and centrist leaning Northeastern and Midwestern states, Obama still has a great number of individual supporters in Georgia, a number that is greater than the entire populations of most states (remember that Obama still garnered 47% of the vote in Georgia in the 2008 Presidential Election, despite losing the state to McCain).

    Obama still has a very unusually strong base of support in Georgia despite not having enough overall support to win the state in a general election, which are details that I’m sure that are probably first and foremost in his mind when mulling over whether to give Georgia federal dollars to deepen the Port of Savannah, not whether some semi-anonymous relatively unknown political back-benching operative is helping to manage a routine political convention.

    The deepening of the Port of Savannah would be of immeasurable benefit to the overwhelming number of all of those Obama supporters who live in the state of Georgia and not just the overwhelming amount of opposition Republicans and Tea Party supporters who unquestionably control and dominate this state’s political scene, but not necessarily to the overwhelming plurality that is perceived because of their loud and vocal outspokeness on many political issues.

    As for that vile immigration law that you speak of, do you mean HB 87, the immigration law passed to placate an increasingly paranoid nativist base that was purposefully written very poorly so as to intentionally be blocked by the courts, the immigration law that is chocked full of gargantuan loopholes for big-business and that was passed with no financial note like the previous get-tough on illegal immigration law in 2006 because they have no real intention of enforcing the law over the long-term just like with the ’06 law?

    HB 87 is nothing more than tasty red meat for a blood-thirsty base so that the Georgia GOP can look like they’re being just as tough, if not tougher than the Arizona GOP (although the Alabama GOP might have just taken the ultimate prize with an anti-immigration bill that’s even tougher than both Arizona’s and Georgia’s bills put together) when in actuality, the bill isn’t much more than a bunch of amped-up political rhetoric on paper designed to satisfy and turnout the Republican base in the 2012 elections. I could go in to more detail about how much of a swiss-cheese bill the anti illegal-immigration legislation is, but just that the fact the bill was passed with no money set-aside for enforcement, just like in the way the ’06 illegal immigration crackdown bill was passed, tells all you need to know to what extent this bill is mostly all bark and very little bite with a wink and a nod to the big-business and mega-corporate interests that REALLY run this state. If you think that the Georgia General Assembly is really serious about cutting-off the nearly endless flow of cheap labor to their big-business and corporate masters, then I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona and a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you….for half-off, it’s a sweetheart deal….

    But apparently there are alot of people who do think that the wholly corporate-owned Georgia GOP IS serious about cutting off the flow of cheap labor to their corporate masters and major campaign contributors, so I guess today really is going to be a banner day for oceanfront property and bridge sales after all….

    @Burroughston Broch:
    I certainly can’t argue with your correct and accurate assessment of Obama’s “management” of his misguided Democrat Party cohorts though I can add that those Democrat idiots that you speak have more than enough company on the Republican, especially given all of Congress’ continuing penchant for two-day work weeks and five-day weekends in the face of impending utter economic castastrophe.Report

  9. Burroughston Broch June 30, 2011 6:06 pm

    @ Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?….

    I understand that the Congress will forgoe their 4th of July recess to work on the debt limit issue. I hope that this is a glimmer of reason.Report

  10. Just A Grunt July 1, 2011 9:53 am

    First off the writer assumes that the Obama administration would be willing to part with money to a state that he didn’t carry in the last election. All one has to do is look at who gets federal dollars and who doesn’t to see that he took his Chicago political philosophy with him to Washington.

    Second this would be too good of an opportunity to appear to be serious about cutting our debt and dealing with the Democrats self imposed budget problems. By the way, have the Dems proposed a budget yet? It’s going on 2 years since they have done one.

    Third, this is exactly the sort of thing that folks who are fiscal conservatives are going to have to come to terms with. You can’t play the “not in backyard” game when it comes to fiscal restraint. AARP is busy scaring the Depends off of senior citizens already over proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security that doesn’t even affect their members. I just can not figure out how their recent spat of commercials should have any impact when the bottom line is nothing is being proposed to change the benefits for those already receiving them, but of course they just sort of leave that part out.

    I don’t think it matters that the head of the Port Authority is going to chair the Republican Convention, what matters to Barry is who is going to deliver the votes. If he won’t get up off of funds to assist the people in Alabama in the wake of the tornadoes, other then the minimum or assist Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the wake of the wildfires, and in fact is having his minions at the EPA shut down oil drilling in west Texas, what makes you think he would do anything to help yet another red state when the outcome would be yet another state that proves his economic policies are baloney.

    No, I think the best thing for the Port Authority to do right now is just hunker down, try to survive the last 18 months or so of this administration and then work with whoever takes over.Report

  11. Just A Grunt says:
    July 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

    “No, I think the best thing for the Port Authority to do right now is just hunker down, try to survive the last 18 months or so of this administration and then work with whoever takes over.”

    That’s not a bad idea…Report

  12. john July 5, 2011 6:17 pm

    Why send a lightning rod into into a thunderstorm? I doubt the Obama administration would be as vindictive as some others would have us believe. I can’t believe that one would starve one of the engines of the economy no mater what the current state had voted in the last election. Winning at all costs is not winning.Report


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