Georgia's Top Dawg
Georgia Governor and CAES alumnus Brian Kemp returned to campus recently with his wife, Marty Argo Kemp, a 1990 graduate of UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and the couple’s three daughters, Jarrett Kemp (right), an undergraduate in UGA’s College of Education; Lucy Kemp (center), a senior in high school who plans to enroll at CAES in the fall; and Amy Porter Kemp (left), a high school student in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski)
CAES Alumnus Brian Kemp leads as Georgia's 83rd governor
In January, Brian Kemp (BSA – Agricultural Mechanization Technology, ’87) was sworn in as the 83rd governor of Georgia. He is the first College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumnus and the 26th University of Georgia graduate to hold the office.
During the governor’s race, one of Kemp’s primary campaign platforms was strengthening rural Georgia, including supporting farmers, agribusinesses and small-town business start-ups to promote economic development and investment in the state’s rural communities.
Prior to becoming governor, Kemp was appointed Georgia’s secretary of state by then-Governor Sonny Perdue in early 2010. He won reelection in November 2010 and again in 2014. Kemp also served as a Georgia state senator from the 46th District from 2003 to 2007. He was a home builder and developer before entering politics.
Gov. Kemp visited campus recently to reinforce his commitment to supporting agricultural research, education and innovation in Georgia. He answered a few questions for Southscapes magazine about his time at CAES and how it has influenced him personally and in his career.
Southscapes: One of your main campaign platforms in the governor’s race was strengthening rural Georgia. Can you be more specific about what you hope to accomplish in terms of giving rural communities the same opportunities as more populous areas of the state?
Kemp: As governor, I will work to ensure that someone’s potential is not determined by their zip code. I believe the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences can be a major player in strengthening rural Georgia. My plan is to help make (CAES) the No. 1 agricultural school in the country while building on the great research and extension that we have in our state through the college. Keeping agriculture No. 1, expanding access to high speed internet, raising teacher pay, spurring job growth and improving health care delivery are steps I plan to take toward a new day in rural Georgia.
Southscapes: In your opinion, what are the most valuable things that CAES does for the state of Georgia?
Kemp: The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences does so much for our state, the main being workforce development, preparing students for today’s workforce in agriculture and many other industries in Georgia. The research and extension that touches all 159 counties is another true benefit of our land-grant institution.
Southscapes: How do you feel your experiences in CAES prepared you to lead Georgia as governor?
Kemp: Having a challenging academic environment that required you to balance a wide array of subject matters has helped me in my career in both the public and private sectors. Having to balance a wide range of subject matters all at once is certainly something that I have to do as governor.
Southscapes: Who were your mentors or favorite professors at CAES and why? What were some important lessons you learned here?
Kemp: Cecil Beggs (BSA – Agricultural Education, ’67), who taught our ag structures class, stands out more than anyone as a mentor. His class was not just classroom learning. He took us out on the weekends to construct farm buildings and pole barns, so we got practical, hands-on experience to supplement what we learned from our textbooks. Those were invaluable lessons, especially for someone like me, who went into construction.
Southscapes: What is your most memorable UGA experience? Favorite places in Athens now and when you were a student?
Kemp: I do not know if I can point to just one thing — it is the whole experience that you get at UGA that is memorable. From celebrating a Dawgs victory in Jacksonville to spending 14 hours straight in the library preparing for exams, it is all very memorable. For my favorite places, I would say The Varsity is still one of them. When I was a student, we had some great times at “World Famous” Allen’s in Normaltown, which unfortunately, is no longer there. Other favorites that come to mind are Strickland’s Restaurant and the Mayflower Restaurant.
Southscapes: We’d like to hear about your family’s experience with 4-H, one of the primary functions of UGA Cooperative Extension in the state. What about the organization do you most appreciate?
Kemp: 4-H is a great benefit for children and young adults across Georgia. In our family, it was a great way for our girls to branch out and experience new things they had never done before. From showing livestock in regional shows and in Perry at the Georgia National Fair to attending meetings, it was a great way for them to develop both personally and professionally as they were growing up.
Southscapes: If there is one thing you could tell CAES alumni and friends as you start this new chapter, what would you say?
Kemp: Continuing to support UGA and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is vital to our state’s future. I believe CAES provides great opportunities and is an invaluable resource for Georgia’s students and workforce.
Southscapes: Is there anything else you would like our CAES alumni to know?
Kemp: Throughout my career of more than 30 years in the private sector, as a state legislator, as secretary of state, and now as Georgia’s 83rd governor, I am — and will always be — proud to be a CAES graduate. Go Dawgs!