Robert Busbee of Statesboro announced this week that he will run for the District 160 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. He identified modernization and transparency in Georgia’s state and local governments as his key platform issues.
Both Busbee and the incumbent, Rep. Jan Tankersley of Brooklet, are Republicans. So he plans to challenge her on the May 22 Republican primary ballot. The election that day includes the primaries for both major parties and also serves as the general election for nonpartisan offices such as those on the Bulloch County Board of Education. Candidates do not officially qualify until March 5–9.
“My platform is going to be modernization and transparency,” Busbee, an attorney in private practice, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “You know, I deal with the courts and bureaucracies on a regular basis, and everything is done by hand, and there are paper files.”
He contrasts this situation in Georgia’s system with the federal courts, which have long digitized most of their records. Documents from federal courts such as the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia are available over the internet for a fee through a service called PACER, or Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
Georgia’s state agencies need to catch up to current technology “kind of across the board,” he said, mentioning agencies such as the Georgia Department of Transportation as examples.
“We’re still in the 20th century, or the state is, while its citizens are in the 21st, and I’d like to see the state, whether it’s the Department of Education or the DOT, everybody, I want this state to leap forward into the 21st century,” Busbee said.
Busbee, 35, is a native of Jesup but first arrived in Statesboro as a Georgia Southern University student. Majoring in political science, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2009. He then went to the Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta. But after receiving his law degree in 2012, Busbee moved back to Statesboro that year before starting his law practice in 2014.
He owns Busbee Law Group LLC, in Statesboro’s Market District, and is currently its only attorney. Busbee specializes in criminal defense and domestic litigation. He also handles wills and estates and serves as an appointed attorney for people who cannot afford one in cases involving the Department of Family and Children Services.
His call for transparency also concerns the handling of public documents. Many records created or received by state agencies and local governments are subject to the Georgia Open Records Act.
“Transparency is something else I’m passionate about, and expanding the open records compliance,” Busbee said. “I’ve run into and I’ve heard from colleagues and even a journalist who’s struggling with this issue right now in a neighboring county, difficulty getting documents that are needed from government officials.”
The officials usually release the documents but sometimes try to charge exorbitant fees, he said.
“In this day and age, first of all, all of that stuff should be digitized,” Busbee said. “They shouldn’t be printing files and making copies for you; it should all be available.”
Kids & technology
Robert Busbee and Erika Jordan Busbee, also a graduate of Georgia Southern, have been married since November 2016. They are expecting their first child this fall.
Observing that his young niece and nephews learn almost “accidentally” from things such as electronic games on a tablet, Busbee advocates putting interactive technology into students’ hands for individualized learning. He also proposes adding more computer science and software classes in Georgia’s schools as a means to make the state more competitive for business and graduates more competitive in the job market.
“I think any kid who graduates from high school should have at least some exposure to coding and what makes up a computer,” Busbee said.
He has not served in any elected office but is Pittman Park precinct chair for the Bulloch County Republican Party.
Surrounded by his family and friends, Busbee announced his candidacy Monday on the Bulloch County Courthouse steps, a campaign media release stated.
Georgia House District 160 encompasses southern Bulloch County, including a big slice of Statesboro, plus northern Bryan County, including Pembroke.
The reporter noted that Busbee was not criticizing Tankersley either in the emailed announcement or brief phone interview.
“I’m certainly not,” Busbee said. “She’s been in office for eight years, and I actually didn’t know for sure that she was going to be running for re-election until you told me a few moments ago. I mean, we appreciate what she’s done, but I want to get in there and try something different.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.