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February 6, 2013

Burke headed for learning experience

THOMASVILLE —

The District 11 senator-elect will go to Atlanta with learning on his mind.

Dean Burke, a Bainbridge physician elected Tuesday to the Senate seat in a runoff with Thomas countian Mike Keown, said Wednesday he will go to Atlanta and learn from people in leadership roles.

Once Tuesday’s election results are certified by the secretary of state, a date for Burke to be sworn in will be set.

As a senator, Burke, a Republican, will meet regularly with other local legislators.

His first order of business will be to address the job situation, although, he said, there is no overnight solution to the dilemma. Careful consideration and planning must be involved, Burke explained.

Amid ever-resurfacing hints that Southwestern State Hospital in Thomasville might close, Burke is a strong advocate for keeping the mental hospital open.

While in college, Burke worked as an aide at a former Southwestern satellite facility in Bainbridge.

To meet mandates of a ruling on a lawsuit filed against Georgia by the U.S. Department of Justice, some patients in state mental hospitals are being released to residential facilities in communities.

Burke said the releases must be a careful process and “not too fast.”

“There’s a balance there we’ve got to meet,” he explained.

The local legislative delegation — three representatives and two senators — receives information and meets to address issues relative to the area.

“We have an amazing relationship,” said District 175 state Rep. Amy Carter, Valdosta.

The House and Senate might compete in Atlanta, “but we come together for the community,” Carter explained.

For instance, said Carter, if Thomasville city government requested a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the local legislative delegation would do everything possible to see that the grant was secured.

“We do this for the benefit of South Georgia,” said Carter, chairman of the House governmental affairs committee and secretary of the appropriations committee.

The representative said that because of squabbling about who will get credit for legislative action, some local legislative delegations cannot be in the same room together.

In Southwest Georgia, a team approach is used, Carter said, and she plans to continue a plan that works.

“We get it,” she explained.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

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