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Interview with Lindsay Thomas, May 4, 2012

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:28 - Introduction

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

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Bob Short introduces interviewee Lindsay Thomas.

00:01:08 - Early life / Education

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Partial Transcript: With this--and with your commission, permission, I'd like to start at the very beginning.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas recalls growing up in a small town and attending UGA before beginning a brief career at a Savannah bank.

Keywords: 4H; Band; Brokerage; CNS Bank; Church; Debate club; Farmer; Fishing; Football; Fraternity; Future Farmers of America; General store; Gordon Military School; Greek life; Housewife; Hunting; Melinda Thomas; Merchant; Omen; Patterson, Georgia; Quail season; Quartet; Savannah, Georgia; Small town; UGA; University of Georgia

00:04:10 - Inheriting a farm / Running for Congress

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Partial Transcript: Um, I went into the brokerage business and it was the only job I ever had that I did not like, that I could not put my heart into.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas discusses how his work as a farmer sparked an interest in public policy, and describes a letter written to him by his then-wife encouraging him to run for office.

Keywords: ASCS committee; Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service; Agriculture; Banking; Bo Callaway; Corn; Elected office; Energy provision; Farmer; Ford tractor; Grace Acres Farm; Inheritance; Legislation; Lindsay Grace; Primary; Public office; Ronald "Bo" Ginn; Run-off; Tobacco; Washington, D.C.; Water provision; Wayne County, Georgia

00:09:00 - Congressional campaign / Assembling a staff

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Partial Transcript: Well, without spin doctors and polls, and push-polls, and robo-calls, how did you campaign?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas details campaigning in small towns in Georgia and assembling a staff from Bo Callaway's employees following Callaway's loss.

00:12:42 - Early years in Congress

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Partial Transcript: So you go to Washington with no legislative experience; how long did it take you to learn all of the tricks?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas tells of learning the ropes in D.C. by watching other politicians and engaging in various political and social events.

Keywords: Appropriations committee; Bipartisan; Blue dog democrats; Bullfeathers of Capitol Hill; Carl Sagan; Committee chairman; Conservative Southern democrat; Conservative coalition; Corporate restructuring; Ed Jenkins; Edward Teller; Eulogy; House of Representatives; Jim Slattery; Moderate republicans; Newt Gingrich; Nuclear winter; Robert Reich; Ronnie Flippo; T. Boone Pickens; United States Senate

00:17:03 - Protecting agricultural interests in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So Jenkins was sort of a mentor?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas speaks starting the Congressional Sporstmen's Caucus, of which he remains chair, and serving on the Agricultural and Appropriations Committees

00:23:26 - Work on Southern caucuses

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned caucuses; were you a Blue Dog?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas mentions some of the caucuses and coalitions to which he belonged during his time in Congress.

Keywords: Arkansas; Boll weavils; Conservative coalition; Democratic chair; Herd animals; Joseph Westphal; Mike Ross; Sunbelt Caucus; Wetlands; Wolf compromise

00:25:19 - Critical issues in early Congressional service

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about some other major issues that, um, challenged you and you participated in when you were in Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas discusses casting a vote to disallow conversion of a war chest fund to private use and serving on a commission to change Social Security rules.

Keywords: Actuary; Alan Greenspan; Blue Ribbon Commission; Campaign funding; Energy crisis; Federal government; Health care; Non-partisan cooperation; Retirement; Social Security; War chest

00:29:36 - Decision to leave the Congress / Joining the Georgia Olympic Committee

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Partial Transcript: So after five terms you hung it up.

Keywords: 1996 Olympics; Billy Payne; Career politician; Charlie Battle; Georgia delegation; Government relations; Horace Sibley; Nancy Newton; Partisan divide; Statesboro, Georgia; Subcommittee chairs

Subjects: Thomas indicates his decision to retire from politics stemmed from growing partisanship and a disconnect with national Democratic leadership, as well as a desire to not be a career politician.

00:34:35 - Key accomplishments in office

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Partial Transcript: As you look back over your service in Congress, what do you feel were your greatest accomplishments?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas states that his congressional service was distinguished through group, rather than singular, efforts and describes some of the key issues of his service.

Keywords: Beach re-nourishment; Capital gains; Cumberland Island, Georgia; Dredging; FBI; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Federal prison; Forestry; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Freshwater wetlands; Negotiation; Savannah River; Taxation; Team player; Tidegate; U.S. Navy; Walter Jones

00:39:11 - Debating in favor of U.S. participation in the Gulf War

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Partial Transcript: It was a great experience--I tell you, one of the last things that I think I played a role in--I don't think there's any doubt about this...

Segment Synopsis: Thomas tells of advocating for the resolution to engage in the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

Keywords: Arab region; Bahrain; Barry McCaffrey; Benjamin Netanyahu; Egypt; Gulf War; Israel; John Sununu; Kuwait; Operation Desert Storm; Saddam Hussein

00:44:28 - Disappointments in office

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Partial Transcript: Any disappointments?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas expresses his disappointment in the schism within the Democratic party and lack of partisanship between the parties.

Keywords: Barney Frank; Conservative democrats; Doctrine; Henry Waxman; Moderate democrats; Political image

00:46:33 - Planning for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to the Olympics; how difficult was it to put the pieces together?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes some of the difficulties in bringing together disparate personalities to plan for the Olympic games

Keywords: Athletics; Billy Payne; Cedartown, Georgia; Construction; Economic development project; Olympic games; Olympic venues; Robert Woodruff; Security; Torch run; Transportation

00:50:54 - Petitioning for position with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce

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Partial Transcript: Well there's no doubt that your work with the Olympics caught the attention of the State Chamber of Commerce...

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes being impressed with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce during his time in office and subsequently vying for a position as president and CEO of the organization.

Keywords: A.W. “Bill” Dahlberg; Allen Franklin; Arnold Tenanbaum; Business interests; Charlie Harman; Chatham Field; Chief of Staff; Environmental conservation; Sam Nunn; Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport; Senate Armed Services Committee; Southern Company

00:56:24 - Georgia as the economic hub of the South / Natural environment

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Partial Transcript: Okay, let's talk for a minute about Georgia's transformation from just another Southern state into the empire state of the South.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas opines on what distinguishes Georgia from other Southern states, including leadership and natural resources, and emphasizes the particular role Atlanta has played in the state's economic development, and speaks about water issues in Georgia.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; Economic development; J.W. Fanning; Jim Blanchard; Jones family; Land-grant college; Leadership; Macon, Georgia; Natural resources; Public/private partnership; Quality of life; Rural areas; South Georgia; The sunbelt; William B. Hartsfield

01:05:17 - Recruitment of international industry to Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk, uh, for a minute about our modern governors.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas commends the work of Georgia's governors to recruit companies to set up in the state, though indicates that he would prefer that companies be dispersed throughout the state.

01:09:28 - Work on the Tri-State Water Compact

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Partial Transcript: Well you mentioned water; now let's talk about your role as commissioner of the Tri-State Water Compact...

Segment Synopsis: Thomas describes some of the conflicts and litigation stemming from water preservation and usage issues in the region, and opines that it will be impossible to sign a 50-year agreement with neighboring states because water availability is impossible to predict.

Keywords: Adaptive management; Alabama; Allocation formula; Atlanta Regional Commission; Clay Long; Florida; Harvard University; Lake Lanier; Newt Gingrich; Paul Magnuson; Rainfall; Reservoirs; Settlement; Tennessee; Tri-State Water Wars; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Watershed

01:20:11 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Lindsay, we've enjoyed talking with you.

Segment Synopsis: Short and Thomas conclude the interview.