State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) said some legislators across Georgia likely would not have made the state archives a high priority if it remained under the authority of Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Therefore, she said it was best to transfer the archives to the University System of Georgia.
MORROW Clayton County’s Legislative Delegation said it supports the Morrow-based Georgia Archives, but added all that can be done for the agency at this point is highlight its importance to the county and the rest of the state.
The Georgia General Assembly must decide in January whether to approve a plan to move the administration of the archives from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office to the University System of Georgia. Kemp and Gov. Nathan Deal agreed to make the move because Kemp had already pledged to close the archives to walk-in public access because of a lack of funding.
State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) said the archives must be moved out from under Kemp’s control because he had deemed it to be a lesser priority below other services his office must provide.
“I think you would have some problems with members of the General Assembly putting it on the top priority list when the secretary of state has said he needs more money for licensing for people in the state of Georgia,” said Davenport, who is the local delegation’s chairwoman. “That’s just the comments I’ve heard there, so I think this is probably just about the best move that could be made.”
Clayton County legislators told county business leaders Thursday they support the proposed transfer and talked about the plan as if it was a certainty to be approved in the General Assembly. State Rep.-elect Mike Glanton said Clayton State University President Tim Hynes has already been appointed to the state’s transition team, to handle the transfer of the archives to university system control.
Clayton State has a special relationship with the state archives. Past university officials pushed to get the agency moved next to the school’s campus, and the two institutions worked together to create one of the first master’s degree programs in archival studies in the southeast.
“It will be under the library system, where the funds will be appropriated it to appropriately,” Glanton said. He added he has not heard state officials like Kemp discuss moving the archives to another location. Some archives patrons have feared the state will move the agency to Athens, which is where Kemp is from.
“In fact, they are talking about moving additional records into Clayton County,” Glanton said.
But, just in case a fight over the archives takes place, some members of the nine-person Clayton County Legislative Delegation are preparing their arguments in support of the transfer.
“It’s not just for Clayton County, but for the entire state of Georgia,” said state Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale). “So, we need to make sure we drive that home because it is a state budget and we need to make sure folks don’t think we’re just talking about Clayton County.”
But, state Rep.-elect Valencia Stovall — whose district includes Morrow and the archives — said the agency’s importance to the county can’t be understated. She said the archives’ ability to generate economic development in the Morrow through family history tourism should be highlighted.
“The issue here boils down to we need money to sustain it, and I think its a jewel, just as the airport is a jewel,” Stovall said. “You have a lot of visitors that end up visiting the archives, mainly when it comes down to family reunions and family genealogy.”