Channel 2's Richard Elliot sat down with the governor as he prepares for his final days in office.

Gov. Deal’s college lecture plans praised, but $120K salary panned

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, whose second and final term in office ends next week, will soon have a new title: Professor Deal.

The state’s Board of Regents voted Wednesday to appoint Deal as a Regents Professor, effective March 1, for at least three years. Deal will hold lectures at the University of Georgia and other schools in the University System of Georgia.

Top officials at the system, the Regents and UGA were thrilled with the appointment, but others raised complaints about the arrangement.

Deal’s salary will be about $120,000 a year, said University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley. The average tenured professor salary at UGA during the 2016-17 school year was about $126,000, according to a university web link.

Regents are appointed by the governor, and Deal has either picked or reappointed all 19 of them during his eight years in the Governor’s Mansion.

Ethics watchdog William Perry suggested the arrangement would be better if Deal was paid for his travel to campuses for lectures, not a six-figure salary.

“The compensation shows favoritism and a conflict-of-interest,” Perry said.

Deal also plans to start a lobbying and consulting firm with his longtime chief of staff, Chris Riley.

Regents Professors are among the most acclaimed positions in the state system. The system’s four research institutions — UGA, Augusta University, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech — usually appoint, combined, about 10 faculty members to such positions a year. The average salary for a Regents Professor the last three fiscal years has been $172,005, $199,866 and $150,930, system officials said, in response to complaints about Deal’s salary.

Deal’s team pitched the idea of him teaching. Wrigley said he wants to lecture to undergraduate students, focusing on political science and law.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from a former governor,” Wrigley said.

UGA President Jere Morehead said Wednesday he’s looking forward to Deal’s arrival on campus, noting he’s the latest prominent Georgia politician desiring to teach after leaving office. Zell Miller taught at UGA, Emory University and Young Harris College after leaving the governor’s office in 1999. Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is a visiting professor at UGA’s law school.

It may be a while before Deal is behind the lectern. He plans to take six months off to recuperate from back surgery, aides have said.