Max Burns, a longtime Republican from Sylvania who once represented Georgia’s 12th District in the U.S. House, qualified earlier this week as a candidate for the District 23 seat in the State Senate.
That seat is being vacated by Sen. Jesse Stone, who cited a belief in term limits when he announced in early February that he would not seek re-election again. A Republican first elected in 2010, Stone will have served 10 years when his current term ends in January at the start of the next Georgia General Assembly session.
Another candidate, business consultant Trey Allen of Martinez, has qualified to face Burns in the May 19 Republican primary. Meanwhile, a Democrat, Army veteran Ceretta Smith of Grovetown, qualified for her party’s Senate District 23 primary ballot, so the race is destined to continue to the Nov. 3 general election.
“Having worked in business, taught in the classroom and been an elected official serving our state, I’ve experienced firsthand the greatness Georgia has to offer,” Burns said in a Feb. 25 release announcing his candidacy. “I’ve met individuals who dreamed of owning their own business, take a chance on that idea and turn that dream into a reality… creating jobs and giving their employees and their families a better life.
“I’ve watched young minds work hard and achieve a higher education so that they too can make their dreams come true,” he said. “And I’ve been given the incredible privilege of serving our state at the U.S Capitol.”
Term in Congress
After previously chairing the Screven County commissioners, Burns was elected to Congress from the 12th District in 2002 and served a single term, January 2003-January 2005. He had defeated Democratic nominee Champ Walker in 2002, but lost to Democrat John Barrow in November 2004. Barrow then served 10 years in the U.S. House – edging out victory by a fraction of a percent over Burns when he ran again in 2006 – before current Rep. Rick Allen reclaimed the seat for the Republican Party in November 2014.
Partially overlapping the congressional district, State Senate District 23 stretches across 11 counties, including all of Burke, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, McDuffie, Screven and Warren and portions of Columbia, Emanuel and Richmond counties.
“There is nothing more important we can do than to provide a quality education for our children,” Burns said.
He said he would take his lifetime commitment to education to the State Senate and advance policies to “empower teachers to teach and allow students to learn.”
Now 71, Burns was the 18th president of Gordon State College in Barnesville from January 2012 until his retirement in December 2017. He had served as dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega before his appointment at Gordon College.
Prior to his service in Congress, Burns taught at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro as a professor of management in the College of Business Administration. During his tenure at Georgia Southern, he was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Sweden and visiting professor of information management at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
Still earlier in his career, Burns worked in business and industry, including for Fortune 500 companies and national nonprofits in Atlanta, Miami and New York, his announcement stated. He attained a Master’s of Business Information Systems and a Ph.D. in business administration, both from Georgia State University, after first getting a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Although not a lawyer, after his congressional service Burns was hired by a law firm, Thelen Reid & Priest, as senior policy advisor for clients with federal issues in energy, commerce and agriculture. He previously served on the boards the U.S. Fulbright Association and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.
Business and ag
“We must keep Georgia the number-one state in the nation to do business by investing in infrastructure, like roads, bridges and rural broadband,” Burns said. “This creates more jobs and more opportunities for our communities. Agriculture is so very important to this district, and we need a strong leader who understands it and who will advocate for our farmers.”
He said he has “a proven record of protecting … conservative values” on the 2nd Amendment and pro-life issues.
He and his wife Lora have been married for more than 40 years and are active members of Jackson Baptist Church in Sylvania. They have two sons and three grandchildren.
“Lora and I have been truly blessed to witness Georgia work from so many different perspectives,” Burns said. “As Georgia grows, challenges emerge, and we need those representing us in Atlanta with the experience to confront these challenges and keep Georgia working.”