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Vacancy ahead on transportation board
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Northeast Georgia could be without a representative on the State Transportation Board for a couple of months.


Steve Gooch of Dahlonega will leave the board by Jan. 10, when he is scheduled to be sworn in to his new state Senate seat.


He will represent District 51, replacing Sen. Chip Pearson, who chose not to seek re-election.


Gooch said he hasn’t resigned the post yet because he still is working on some Transportation Enhancement grants. He attended his last board meeting on Dec. 9.


The process to replace him calls for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, R-Chestnut Mountain, and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, to meet soon after Gooch vacates the seat.


“And then there will be time for people to basically put their name in the hat ... for the position,” Gooch said.


The House and Senate members of the 15-county 9th Congressional District, including Gooch at that point, will meet to nominate a new DOT board member.


If there is more than one nominee, a vote by secret ballot will take place.


“I would think that within 30 to 45 days, we should know who that replacement is going to be,” Gooch said. “I would say that no later than March 1, (the new member) should be on board.”


The State Transportation Board is made up of one member from each of Georgia’s 13 congressional districts. The board meets monthly in Atlanta.


Gooch, a former Lumpkin County sole commissioner, was elected to the DOT board in October 2009 and qualified in May to run as a Republican for the Senate seat.


His election to the DOT board was to fill an unexpired term that had already been vacated twice since February 2008.


Initially, Gooch had said he planned to serve out the five-year term.


“I was not expecting to run for office again as quickly as I did,” he said, “but when Sen. Pearson decided to retire, it was basically the last day of qualifying. I had an opportunity there to serve the district.”


Gooch said he thought he could “put my experiences back to work that I had learned as county commissioner.”


“I regret leaving the DOT board because it was such a wonderful opportunity,” he said.


Gooch left on a positive note, with the DOT board voting Dec. 9 to allocate money for about $400 million in road projects statewide, including $17.8 million toward construction of a 1.76-mile segment of the long-awaited Cleveland Bypass.


Looking ahead to his new job, he said he has asked to serve on the Senate Transportation Committee “as one of my No. 1 picks.”