UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Ron Fennel, November 17, 2010

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:18 - Introduction

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short, and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia and Young Harris College.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Bob Short introduces interviewee Ron Fennel.

00:00:47 - Early life and education

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Odum, Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel discusses growing up in Odum and becoming interested in politics while a student at GSU, where he met future governor Zell Miller.

00:03:54 - Working for Zell Miller

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Is that when you first got interested in politics?

Segment Synopsis: Fennel recalls how meeting Miller at GSU led to a position in Lieutenant Governor's cabinet and describes working on Miller's 1980 Senate campaign.

Keywords: Aide; Gofer; Intern; Jimmy Carter; Macon City Council; Macon, Georgia; Princeton University; Puddle-jumper; Queen Noor of Jordan; Rick Hutto; Senate race; Walter Mondale

00:09:09 - Service to the Democratic Party of Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, from there, from Miller, I believe you held several positions in the state party.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel discusses some of the various positions he held within the state Democratic Party.

Keywords: "Smart-Ass White Boys"; AT&T; Andrew Young; Anne Cox Chambers; Atlanta, Georgia; Bell South; Bibb County, Georgia; Collect call; Field director; Fundraising; George Israel; Georgia Democratic Party; Grassroots politics; Mission statement; Ronald Reagan; SAWBs; Tommy Coleman; Walter Mondale; Young Democrats of Georgia

00:15:12 - Shift from Democratic to Republican majority in Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, Ron, while we're on the subject of parties, let's talk a little a bit about Georgia becoming a two-party state...

Segment Synopsis: Fennel opines that Georgia has always been a conservative state and that the current Democratic party's urban platforms alienate the state's rural voting base. He also discusses party switchers.

Keywords: Balanced budget; Bill Clinton; Carl Vinson; Conservative; Disenfranchisement; Georgia House of Representatives; Georgia legislature; Gun rights; Hiram, Georgia; John F. Kennedy; Labor votes; Liberal; Lyndon B. Johnson; Maryscott "Scotty" Greenwood; Minority votes; Moderate; National defense; Newt Gingrich; Progressive; Richard B. Russell; Rural Georgia; Second amendment; Tom Murphy; Urban Georgia

00:22:57 - Campaigns and early days in state legislature

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So you're elected in 1988.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel speaks about his first unsuccessful run for office, when he lost by four votes, and how he prepared for his next successful run. Fennel describes his early work as a Congressman and speaks about some of the other young members with whom he served, including his inclusion in a group dubbed the "Four Horsemen."

Keywords: Absentee ballot; African-American Congregation; Alternative energy; Attorney General; Ballots; Brooks Brothers; Construction business; Corvette; Cynthia McKinney; Democratic primary; Doug Teper; Earl Ehrhart; Georgia history; Georgians Against Nuclear Energy; Judy Pogue; Karen Irwin; Martin Luther King Jr.; McCracken Poston; Murray County, Georgia; Oath of office; Polling station; Ray Holland; Rev. E.C. Tillman; School board; Shilo Baptist Church; Thurbert Baker

00:34:54 - Work on reforms in the legislature

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned Ray Holland; tell us about the "Holland Manifesto."

Segment Synopsis: Fennel indicates that he and his fellow young legislators, including Holland, advocated for more transparency in the House and discusses his work on an environmental protection bill.

Keywords: A.D. "Pete" Correll; Amendments; Committee chairman; Computers; Databases; Environmental issues; Environmental regulation; Estuaries; Ethics reform; Fennel Construction Company; Georgia Pacific; Hercules Inc.; Larry Walker; Legislative bill; Legislative session; Marshes; Natural resources committee; Public hearings; River and Mountain Protection Act; River protection; Rivers; Sea Island Company; Terry Coleman; Tom Buck

00:40:37 - Defense and transportation committees

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I served on Defense and Veteran's Affairs.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel briefly mentions his work on the defense committee but indicates his passion was for the transportation committee, where he bargained with Speaker Murphy and a Republican representative from his district to allocate funding for the re-construction of a bridge in Brunswick County.

Keywords: Bridges; Budget; Burger King franchise; Buzz Weiss; Chamber of Commerce; Civil defense; Earthquakes; Elks Lodge; Johnny Isakson; Junior committee; Louisville, Kentucky; Public servant; Railroads; Roadworks; Saw Mill Gang; Sidney Lanier Bridge; Transportation committee; Willou Copeland Smith; Willow Smith

00:46:30 - Ethics legislation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's talk a minute about ethics.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel discusses how Ken Poston's health scare led to a collective reassessment of ethics among his legislative peers, though all of them had been beneficiaries of lobbyists' gifts.

Keywords: Bill repeal; Cap Hicks; Davey Allison; Diabetes; Diabetic; Do the Right Thing; Electioneering; Ethics in Government Act; Gas station; Golf; Introvert; Jefferson-Jackson Democratic Party of Georgia Dinner; Lobbying; Lobbyist; Masters Tournament; Oil companies; Retail divorcement; Richard Petty; Ritz-Carlton Hotel; Sawgrass Resort; Spike Lee; Texaco

00:57:07 - Zell Miller and Tom Murphy's contentious relationship

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned, uh, Murphy and Miller; tell us about your experiences with, uh, our extinguished lieutenant governor and Murphy's mausoleum.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel recalls serving as a relay-man between Miller and Murphy, who refused to speak to each other directly.

Keywords: Ambition; Casey Kagle; Commerce Club; Committee appointments; Fishing; Mark Taylor; Ray Holland; Southern Democrat; Stubbornness; University of North Georgia; Young Harris College

01:03:39 - Georgia's economic crises

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Similar, also, I think, is the economic condition of the state from when you were in the House and today.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel compares and contrasts the budget crisis the legislature faced during his tenure to the current budget crisis.

Keywords: Balanced budget rule; Budget crisis; Checks and balances; Economic downturn; Job cuts; Johnny Isakson; Lauren "Bubba" McDonald; Program cuts; Special session

01:05:38 - Environmental legislation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: One, uh, piece of legislation that I recall that you were very active in was the solid waste management act.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel describes his work on environmental issues, specifically used tire legislation.

Keywords: Environmental issues; Environmental regulation; Landfills; Reorganization Act of 1972; Rubber tires; Toxic waste

01:07:26 - Legacy of the Four Horsemen

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, you and your fellow horsemen certainly had, well, an impact on the legislature during the time you served.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel summarizes his time with the Four Horsemen, which he describes as youthful idealism which was tempered, over time, with realism.

Keywords: Back-door dealing; Convention; Disrespectful; House resolution; Idealism; Impolitic; Tradition; Winston Churchill; Youth

01:14:05 - Staying on Speaker Murphy's good side

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What is the toughest vote you ever cast?

Segment Synopsis: Fennel recalls being one of only two legislators to vote against a bill proposed by Speaker Murphy, which upset the speaker, and discusses a reconciliation between Miller and Murphy following Miller's election as governor.

Keywords: Anti-business; Finances; Leadership; Textile manufacturing; West Point Pepperell

01:17:06 - Run for U.S. Congress

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So you left the House to run for Congress.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel discusses his decision to run for Congress, a seat which he indicates is seldom open in his district, and his lack of support from Zell Miller, who suggested he run for state senate instead.

Keywords: Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; Barbara Christmas; Bill Stuckey; Billy Payne; Bo Ginn; Brian Ginn; Congressman; Gang of Four; Governmental affairs; Hinesville, Georgia; Jack Kingston; Lindsay Thomas; Runoff; Term limits pledge; Washington, D.C.

01:23:21 - Move into hospitality industry / Launching Georgia Capital Associates / Tourism in Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, have you ruled out politics?

Segment Synopsis: Fennel discusses moving from the home building business into the hospitality industry. He recounts partnering with a formal political rival to form a public affairs firm and speaks about the Georgia tourism industry in general.

Keywords: Agribusiness; Cancer; Clients; Dodge County, Georgia; Economic recession; Elmer Stancil; Food service; Gene Stuckey; Georgia Food Bank; Hotel industry; John Stuckey; John Teasley; Kasim Reed; Megan Middleton; Office space; Restaurant industry; Revenue stream; Rich Golick; Rolodex; Sea Island Company; September 11, 2011; Shirley Franklin; World Congress Center

01:33:08 - Gambling and betting in Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Some people believe that casino gambling would be profitable in the city of Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel opines that gambling and parimutuel betting would be profitable for the state of Georgia.

Keywords: Alabama; Educational lottery; Fund shortage; Gambling; HOPE scholarship; Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; Horse racing; Kentucky; Las Vegas, Nevada; Mississippi; Nathan Deal; Rubber tire market; Tennessee; Veterinary medicine

01:38:53 - Talmadge's loss in 1980

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That senate campaign of 1980 with Herman Talmadge was a sad thing for me to watch up close.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel recalls Talmadge's last Senate run and ultimate loss, and tells an anecdote about a hole in Talmadge's shoes that Fennel suggests encapsulates how out-of-touch Talmadge had become.

Keywords: Aquarama; Dawson Mathis; Jekyll Island Convention Center; Senate aid

01:41:43 - Greatest achievements and disappointments in political career

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Ron, looking back on your political career, what was your proudest memory?

Segment Synopsis: Fennel calls his role in the building of a bridge in Brunswick County the highlight of his political career, and cites his peers' opposition to ethics legislation as a legislative disappointment.

Keywords: Front-loaded funding; Imports and exports; Paper mills; Port city; Port traffic; Wedding pictures

01:45:43 - Family life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm sure there's something we've left out.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel recalls meeting his wife at a memorial gathering for his friend and business partner John Teasley.

Keywords: Cindy Fennel; Cocktail party; Columbus, Georgia; Family; M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial service; Paul Coverdell

01:50:04 - Political opportunities in Georgia

Play segment

Partial Transcript: A lot of fun being involved in politics in Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Fennel concludes the interview by discussing opportunities for young people to become involved in politics.

Keywords: Chris Clark; Concord Coalition; George Sonny Purdue; Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Peter Kennedy; Phil Smith; Pierre Howard; Press secretary; Real estate; Statesboro, Georgia; UGA; University of Georgia; Young Democrats