ATLANTA -- A couple of South Georgia state representatives said Thursday they were taken by surprise when their names showed up among James magazine's list of Georgia's Most Influential, but they both said the recognition had to do with their work on behalf of rural Georgia.
Reps. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, and Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, were among 30 House members on the list that was included in the February/March issue of the magazine that is considered the most respected political publication in the state.
"I was caught off-guard," Rynders said Thursday when asked about being included on the list. "If I had to guess, I'd say it probably had something to do with the recent upgrade in committee appointments.
"My primary goals are representing the people of House District 152 and trying to be a voice for rural Georgia. (The recognition) has more meaning because it includes people like Rep. Roberts and Sen. (John) Bulloch. It shows people in metro Atlanta recognize that we're advocating strongly on behalf of the people of South Georgia."
Rynders was named chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and was selected to serve on that body's Reapportionment Committee. Roberts was named chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee.
"It's humbling to be recognized in such a way," Roberts said of the James inclusion. "It feels good that others notice the work we put in on behalf of the southern part of the state, especially when you look at the numbers now. The decline (in population and representation) has made what people like Ed, Jay Powell (R-Camilla) and others in our region do more important than ever.
"Ed and I are in our fifth terms, and the seniority that we've built has certainly helped. The challenge, the constant battles we fight, are issues that are not so much Democrat vs. Republican as they are rural vs. metro and urban."
Rynders said the recognition by James will not change his aggressive style of representation.
"You can't be passive and be an advocate," he said. "We're outnumbered now, so a strong voice is more vital than ever. We have to speak out about issues such as infrastructure, water, taxes and jobs. That's why we're there."
Rufus Montgomery, who lobbies on behalf of the city of Albany and was himself named one of the Top 3 "rising stars" among lobbyists in the state by James, said the statewide recognition of Rynders reflects his influence beyond Southwest Georgia.
"Certainly Chairman Rynders' access and influence are felt in our region, but he's also a player at the state level," Montgomery said.
"And given these challenging times -- especially when it comes to the budget and reapportionment -- that influence he's able to wield is more important than it ever has been."
Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, was one of 23 state Senators recognized by James. Former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor of Albany was recognized among the state's most influential business leaders.