Nathan Deal hires a familiar face as his top lawyer

Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday hired David Werner to be his executive counsel. He will succeed Ryan Teague, who said this month he’ll leave the office after six years as Deal’s top attorney.

The move returns Werner to the governor’s office just weeks after leaving to become the chief operating office for Georgia’s economic development arm. A long-time Deal aide, Werner had served as the state’s chief operating officer and the governor’s chief legislative liaison.

Teague had served as Sonny Perdue’s deputy executive counsel in the final years of his administration and was tapped by Deal as his top attorney after his 2010 election. He also served as general counsel for the conservative Freedom’s Watch advocacy group. Deal called him an "invaluable asset" in a statement.

“During Ryan’s tenure, he helped craft and implement groundbreaking criminal justice reform legislation, spearheaded Georgia’s fight to protect our state’s water, and streamlined and modernized our court system," the governor said.

Werner, who has also served as co-chair of Deal’s criminal justice panel, is a long-time Deal deputy. He was among a trio of staffers who took temporary leave from the state to join Deal’s campaign in 2014 and a part of his inner circle. Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, said Werner was the “perfect fit” for the role.

“There was really only one person we had in mind to replace him, and that was David Werner,” said Riley. “He has never hesitated to answer the call. We are excited to have David coming back. He was the only one on the radar.”

It also means a hefty pay raise. Werner was among the Deal deputies who received a pay hike after his 2014 election that elevated his salary to $137,500 – just below the salaries of Riley and the governor. He wouldn't give specifics, but Riley said Werner’s new salary could top the governor’s annual pay of $139,339.

“We want to keep senior talent,” he said, “and sometimes it means you have to pay more.”

Read more about Deal’s recent administration moves:

How Gov. Deal is using a spate of openings to reshape Georgia government

Deal appoints loyalist as attorney general

Another statehouse shakeup means new roles for Deal allies

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.