Budget director leading candidate for lottery job

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Budget director leading candidate for lottery job

The Georgia Lottery Board put off naming a new president Thursday, but the state’s top budget official is expected to get the post, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, who heads the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and serves on the Lottery Board, is expected to replace Margaret DeFrancisco as president of one of the country’s most successful lotteries.

If she gets the job, Alford would be the state’s first lottery director without previous experience running a lottery. The game’s first director, Rebecca Paul, started the Florida lottery before coming to Georgia. DeFrancisco ran the New York lottery for four years before taking the Georgia job.

Neither Alford nor Gov. Nathan Deal’s office would comment. Alford was appointed to the Lottery Board by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2009. Governors are responsible for appointing the board.

The lottery board adjourned Thursday after a 35-minute executive session without taking action. Chairman Jimmy Braswell took no questions, saying “a personnel matter” was the only agenda item and that “I don’t think we have any other business to take up today.”

Georgia’s lottery — with $3.8 billion in ticket sales last year — pumps more than $900 million into the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs each year. Since its inception in 1992, sales have only fallen three years, making it one of the most successful lotteries in the country. Still, sales have not kept up with the growth of HOPE, and scholarships to students have been cut back in recent years.

When DeFrancisco announced she would retire in August, she agreed to stay on until the lottery board hired a new president.

As only the second CEO in the lottery’s history, DeFrancisco experienced record ticket sales over an almost nine-year tenure as well as fierce criticism over financial bonuses awarded to staff during the recession.

DeFrancisco is paid $378,000 a year. She won the job in December 2003, one of three finalists from among 300 people who applied for the job as part of a two-month nationwide search.

This time around there have been no signs of a nationwide search. An open records request to the Georgia Lottery by Channel 2 Action News asking for search documents turned up nothing.

While Alford would be the first president without previous experience running a lottery, she has extensive experience in state government. She served as president of Georgia’s virtual technical college and as deputy director of the budget office before taking over the top job in 2010. Her husband, Dean Alford, is a former state lawmaker who was appointed to the state Board of Regents by Deal earlier this year.

Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia, a group that has been critical of Deal, said he is “not surprised” Alford is the leading candidate. “He [Deal] has a history of appointing department heads who have no experience in the department they are over,” Long said. “This has become routine for him.”

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