By Linda Looney-Bond
Former Clayton County District Attorney Robert "Bob" Keller has been re-elected to serve as vice chairman of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to re-elect Keller, according to Scheree Moore, spokesperson for the board. Keller was initially appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in Jan. 2007.
Keller said that, after serving as district attorney for Clayton County from July 1977 until December 2004, the move to the parole board was quite a transition, but one that has worked well for him.
"I think that the Lord had a different plan, and had I not lost the election [in 2004], I would have never had this opportunity," he said. "It's a huge change. I thoroughly enjoy what I do now, and based on my experience, it gives me an added perspective to the process.
"It was a big transition in the sense that here I was on the front end of the criminal justice system [as district attorney], making recommendations as to who should be prosecuted," he said. "And now, on the back end, I look at cases of people who are incarcerated."
Keller serves as one of five parole board members, who determine which prison inmates are ready to be transitioned from incarceration back into the community. Parole board members are full-time employees of the agency, according to Moore.
They review and make decisions on approximately 17,000 inmate cases each year, and have Georgia's only statutory power to commute a death sentence, according to Moore.
"In Georgia, the governor's office has no authority in parole decisions, nor do they have any authority in commuting death sentences - but we [parole board members] do," said Keller.
"The last thing that happens before there is an execution is an appeal to the parole board," he said. "That's a tremendous responsibility. You know that you're one of the votes .... in the process that leads to an execution."
Although he has moved on to serve in a statewide role, Keller said he is proud to continue to call Clayton County home. "I still live in Clayton County," said Keller, who added that he and his wife, Louise, have lived in Jonesboro since 1973.
"My wife's still with the school system in Clayton County," he said. "My wife is a counselor at Jonesboro Middle School, and just finished her 20th year with the school system. Our kids are all grown," he said.
The couple has two children, Elizabeth, 30, and Adam, 26. "She's [Elizabeth] with Forsyth County Parks and Recreation, and Adam is completing a dual degree in law and the seminary," Keller said. "Both are products of the Clayton County Public School System."
He and his wife, he said, are members of Jonesboro First United Methodist Church.