Neal was first elected to the post in 2004. He has lived in Chickamauga since 2007. Before that, he lived in LaFayette, since 1989.
Neal plans to continue working on the three pledges he made during the 2004 campaign: create a better business environment, improve education and make Georgia a safer place to raise a family.
“I have successfully kept those promises and will continue to work to do so,” Neal said.
He admits the shaky economy has made his job more challenging.
“I did not realize just how critical that would be as we struggled through such a terrible recession and the painfully slow recovery,” Neal said.
“We have exhibited responsible leadership by being fiscally responsible and conservative in our budgeting process, being willing to make decisions that are very difficult and sometimes unpopular,” he said.
One difficult measure the state legislature took in dealing with annual budget shortfalls was making austerity cuts to public school budgets for the past decade.
“Responsible leadership means you look beyond the urgency of the moment, look at the big picture, and make decisions based on building a stronger Georgia for generations to come,” Neal said.
To build a strong state there must be a healthy business environment, he said.
“Georgia is now one of the best states to do business and we are beginning to see the fruits of our efforts as businesses are coming to Georgia,” Neal said. “We must continue to create that business-friendly environment."
Neal outlined his endeavors to make Georgians safe from crime.
“I have fought for public safety through my efforts against meth, synthetic marijuana, and other designer drugs,” Neal said. “I have worked with the GBI on numerous pieces of legislation and most recently played a significant role in criminal justice reform.
“It is my goal to build upon these successes and continue to stand strong to my commitment in these areas,” he said.
Neal is the chairman of the state institutions and property committee. He is also a member of the appropriations, economic development and tourism and the public safety and homeland security committees, along with a special joint committee on Georgia criminal justice reform.
The passage of the criminal justice reform legislation is Neal’s primary achievement from the 2012 session.
“This is a comprehensive reform package that will hold offenders accountable, follow evidence-based practices that improves outcomes, reduce recidivism, reduce the corrections budget which has now grown to more than $1 billion each year, and ensure that Georgia will have the resources to adequately protect us from the most violent offenders,” Neal said. The legislation took two sessions of planning to enact into law.
Originally from Oak Ridge, Tenn., Neal is a graduate of nearby Powell High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Emmanuel Theological Seminary in Nashville.
He served as a pastor at three churches over a 25-year period, including Gordon Lake Wesleyan Church in LaFayette.
Today Neal works as a campus director for Penfield Christian Homes’ north campus in LaFayette. He previously worked as a substitute teacher and drove a school bus for 15 years.
Neal and his wife, Gretchen, have been married 28 years. They have two grown daughters and two granddaughters.