Governor's transportation aide moves to DOT

Gov. Nathan Deal’s top transportation official, who holds sway over choosing what gets funded in the state’s road budget, is resigning that post.

Director of Planning Todd Long, one of the state’s two top-ranking transportation staff leaders, will go work for the other one. According to a statement distributed late Friday, Long will become deputy commissioner at the state Department of Transportation.

Long inaugurated the planning position, a post created under a 2009 law that was meant to shift power over project money from DOT to the governor.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Long was not pushed out.

Long said he had no problems with the governor.

"I've loved the job and have enjoyed working with Gov. Deal," Long wrote in an email. "He's been nothing but supportive. This new position is a great opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it."

Long resigned his office effective April 15 and will begin his new job April 16. As deputy commissioner at DOT he will work under Commissioner Keith Golden, who reports to the 13-member DOT board. The board members report to caucuses of state legislators and are independent of the governor.

As director of planning, Long has been the primary staff official in charge of choosing which transportation projects to fund. Other officials also have a role in approving project lists, including the DOT board.

Long was appointed by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue but was retained by Deal.

Deal's first year in office has seen tumult over high-profile transportation projects he inherited, such as the I-85 HOT lanes and the Northwest Corridor toll project.

In the transportation world, rife with pork politics, Long often has been described as candid and earnest, but also with formidable personal skills.

In a statement, Deal said that Long had set a “solid” precedent.

"I appreciate the work Todd Long has done as GDOT planning director and look forward to maintaining a close working relationship with him as he takes the role of deputy commissioner," Deal said in the news release. Robinson said that, to his knowledge, Deal had not selected a replacement for Long.

The law that set up the power-sharing arrangement over project money between the director of planning and DOT’s commissioner and board is not always clear and has the potential to create standoffs. Many believe that it has worked because Long and officials at DOT were determined to make it work.