Emily Dunn is calm and soft-spoken. With a gentle demeanor that can be misleading. Whether it’s chairing the county board of education, owning and managing a small business, or serving in leadership for a national trade association, Ms. Dunn—the first female chairman of the State Transportation Board— makes things happen.
Dunn represents northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.
Home to the nicest people in the world, she says.
The region is large, mountainous and rural with an abundance of two-lane roads. And lots of water and bridges. They are a unique people – mountain people.
In the beginning. Dunn grew up in Copperhill, Tennessee on the border of Georgia and North Carolina. She now lives just across the state line in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
My brothers and I were raised in a traditional family. We had wonderful parents. My mom was a school teacher and my dad was a chemical engineer. They encouraged us to be well-rounded and to appreciate all kinds of things.
Making a difference. As a home health care registered nurse early on, Dunn would bring groceries to her patients after work.
My mom had a huge impact on me. I like to think that I am like my mother. She taught me to step up. I may not always be the leader; maybe I support the leader. But I am always involved. When you get involved, you make a difference.
What’s important. Family, friends and church are central to Dunn. She is proud of her two adult daughters - Alison and Sarah.
I lost my husband and my mother in the same year - the year I turned 40. That was a time that I had to grow up. I thought I was already grown up, but I needed to dig down and get serious about raising my children and addressing my work.
Power of persuasion. Prior to her election to the STB in 2011—her term expires in 2018—Dunn served 10 years on the Fannin County Board of Education, including four as chairman. She is one of a few women in the male-dominated amusement vending industry.
These experiences have taught me about how I lead. Mine is the power of persuasion. I try to understand where people are coming from, to build consensus and create buy-in.
Love of learning. Dunn has many interests. She recently took a class where she created a bamboo fly rod – a blend of art and of science.
I don’t even fish. I say I don’t have the time, but I must have spent 50 hours making this rod. The science is incredible. I had to measure to the thousandth of an inch. I also learned to use a blowtorch. It was hard—I sweated for days—but really fun.
Not all business. Dunn loves traveling and sharing good food and wine with friends. And national parks.
I appreciate how past generations had the foresight to protect these areas for the future. And skeet shooting. I’m not very good – it will take time. I do love a challenge. And her pets. Her cat Sacagawea is a hunter – named for the Native American woman from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Kindle is her dog - I thought I was getting an Amazon Kindle for Christmas.
On board at GDOT. The STB oversees the policies and objectives of the Georgia Department of Transportation, and is a go-between for the Department, citizens and elected officials.
As Board Chair, my role, in partnership with my 13 colleagues, is to help to move transportation ahead to benefit all Georgians – whether they live in a rural area like mine, or in an urban region, an agricultural locale, on the coast or someplace in between.
Dunn’s love of learning serves her well on the State Transportation Board. For example, she recently received a lesson on “problem asphalt” that was performing poorly.
I was intrigued by an engineer who explained everything in detail from the bottom up. His knowledge and dedication were impressive. I appreciate that about many in the Department. They are passionate about what they do.
Exciting times. In addition to GDOT’s centennial in 2016, the New Year continues to see a substantial increase in work activities in preparation for receipt of state funds resulting from the Transportation Funding Act (TFA) of 2015.
There are so many positive things occurring in transportation in Georgia. We just selected the apparent best value development partner for a major project - the I-285 and SR 400 interchange reconstruction. We went for so long with inactivity. It’s exciting to see cranes up and people working on Georgia Express Lanes. And the funding from TFA will enable GDOT to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The strength and value of a group is in its diversity. I like being a part of a group that makes things happen. Georgians want transparency in their transportation process. The Board and the entire staff at GDOT are committed to nothing less.