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Interview with Steve Wrigley, May 20, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:41 - Current occupation / Early life

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Partial Transcript: Before we talk about Zell Miller and your experience with him, let’s talk a little bit about you.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley explains how he became the director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. He talks about his schooling and childhood in the Atlanta area, which experienced a rural-to-suburban transition between the 1960s and 1980s.

Keywords: UGA; University of Georgia; Vinson Institute; external affairs; government relations

00:03:51 - Meeting Zell Miller

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Partial Transcript: When did you first meet Zell Miller?

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley recalls meeting Zell Miller through an internship program. Wrigley and Short discuss Governor Miller's passion, resilience, and political savvy.

Keywords: Mountain Protection Act; education; lieutenant governor

00:09:18 - Miller and Murphy's relationship

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk about his relationship with the Speaker of the House.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley evaluates Governor Miller's contentious relationship with Speaker Murphy, stating that their disagreements were substantive and beneficial for state policy. He describes the differences between Miller and Murphy's responsibilities, political influence, and strategies.

Keywords: Eggs and Issues Breakfast; Mountain Protection Act; Speaker Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; speaker of the house; taxes

00:14:05 - Governor Miller's personality / Miller's early public service

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Partial Transcript: Steve, you probably have spent more time with Zell Miller than anybody outside of his family while he was in public office.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley talks about Zell Miller's personal attributes, including his caring nature, his sense of humor, and his ambition. He also outlines Miller's path to the governorship as well as his relationships with previous Georgia governors.

Keywords: George Busbee; Joe Frank Harris; Lieutenant Governor Miller; Senator Miller; personal life

00:20:03 - Miller's 1990 campaign

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Partial Transcript: Let’s roll the clock ahead to 1990 and his decision to run for governor.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley speaks briefly about Miller's progressive goals for Georgia. He focuses on Miller's interactions with the media, which became more disciplined and focused after Miller hired campaign managers to gather polling and focus group information. Wrigley also discusses fundraising for Miller's primary and general elections.

Keywords: James Carville; Paul Begala; campaigning; campaigns; media; public relations

00:25:20 - Georgia's education lottery

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to that 1990 race, the big issue that Miller raised was the lottery.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley describes the role of the educational lottery proposal in re-branding Miller during the 1990 election. He evaluates Miller's opponents and compares the demographic groups and regions from which each candidate gained support. Wrigley describes the process of passing Miller's lottery amendment through Speaker Tom Murphy's House.

Keywords: Andrew Young; Bubba McDonald; Roy Barnes; demographics; education; election; opposition; pre-k; pre-kindergarten; public school; reelection; school funding

00:33:46 - Miller's economic policies

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Partial Transcript: The financial crisis you spoke of required some innovative solutions as I recall.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley talks about Governor Miller's budget management strategies, including spending cuts, increased fees, inter-agency redirection, and bond sales. He mentions the Williams Commission, an efficiency and accountability committee that tracked Miller's progress on campaign promises.

Keywords: Georgia Rebound Program; Governor Harris; Governor's Office of Planning and Budget; Hank Huckaby; Joe Frank Harris; OPB; Virgil Williams; budget; funding; revenue; state funds

00:38:06 - HOPE scholarship

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Partial Transcript: You were present at the birth of the HOPE Scholarship.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley explains Miller's motivation for creating the HOPE scholarship as well as the requirements high school students must meet to earn funding for attending university.

Keywords: college; education; scholarships; school; tuition; university

00:43:54 - State lands, boot camps, and competing interests

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Partial Transcript: What are some of the other programs that you got underway during Miller’s first term?

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley explains how Governor Miller expanded Georgia's public land holdings and its state park system. He talks about Miller's stance on violent crime, which led to the introduction of state boot camps. Wrigley also examines how Governor Miller dealt with competing interests on the legislative agenda.

Keywords: Department of Natural Resources; Preservation 2000; Tallulah Gorge; education; environment; public lands

00:48:08 - Changing Georgia's flag / Miller and Bill Clinton

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Partial Transcript: Talk about the flag for a minute.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley speaks about Governor Miller's aggressive approach to changing the state flag in 1992, stating that Miller did not have enough support to pursue such a politically risky issue. He also mentions Miller's desire to travel the state and engage with his constituents. In addition, Wrigley discusses Miller's relationship with the Clinton family.

Keywords: Hillary Clinton; President Clinton; controversy; state flag

00:55:27 - Governor Miller's reelection

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Partial Transcript: Steve, if you don’t mind, let’s move ahead now to 1994 when Governor Miller is running for reelection, even though he said that he would only serve one term.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley comments on the close 1994 gubernatorial race, mentioning Democrat Zell Millers's campaign strategies and voter base, Republican Guy Millner's political blunders, and the state's preoccupation with the 1996 Olympics. He recalls that although Miller won in Georgia, Republican candidates for governor were far more successful than Democrats throughout most of the country.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Lawton Chiles; Olympic Games; Republican Party; campaigning; candidates; marketing; messaging

01:06:00 - Judicial and school board appointments

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk for a minute about the judicial appointment situation when Zell Miller was governor.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley talks about Miller's perspective and influence on Georgia's judicial branch. He also tells a story about Miller replacing all of his Democratic school board appointees, who continually blocked the elected Republican superintendent's policies.

Keywords: Alabama; BOE; Board of Education; Johnny Isakson; Linda Schrenko; appointed officials; court system; courts; water rights; water wars

01:12:59 - Business relations / Miller's achievements

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Partial Transcript: In his early career being a senator from the mountains of Georgia, North Georgia, Miller had some problem understanding the role of business in politics.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley and Short discuss the evolution of Miller's stance on the business community's role in politics. Wrigley outlines Miller's greatest achievements, including voluntary Pre-K programs in the state's public schools, a CD developed to stimulate babies' brains, investment in higher education, and surplus-inducing budget policies. Wrigley also mentions possible changes Miller may have made to his political style and to the HOPE Scholarship program.

Keywords: Georgia Hospital Association; HOPE; University System of Georgia; college; corporations; education; populism; private industry; taxes; university

01:25:02 - Miller's Senate Service

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Partial Transcript: Were you surprised when Governor Roy Barnes appointed him to the United States Senate?

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley compares the roles of senator and governor, explaining why he believes Zell Miller was better suited to serve in the executive branch.

Keywords: U.S. Senate; federal; legislative branch; legislature

01:29:32 - The Vinson Institute

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Segment Synopsis: Wrigley talks about some of the Vinson Institute's activities, including training state and local officials, developing policy, and researching demography.

Keywords: GIS; UGA; University of Georgia; demographics; outreach; policy; population; public service; research; technical assistance