Mike Roby was named Georgia Commissioner of Veterans Service effective July 1, 2015. GDVS Public Information Director Jon Suggs sat down with Commissioner Roby recently to discuss his first few months on the job and his plans for the future.

SUGGS: Commissioner, thank you for taking the time to join us. How do you like our new blog?

ROBY: I’m happy to be here. I’m glad we’re expanding our outreach with this new area of the website.

SUGGS: Me, too. I think we’re going to bring a lot of interesting stories to our readers, stories that interest veterans and their families.

Speaking of which, why don’t you start by telling us a little about your family?

ROBY: My father is a retired Army Sergeant Major. He served during Vietnam and also spent time in Germany, South Korea, and South America. I’m proud to say I followed in his footsteps and joined the Army and was able to retire as a Sergeant Major myself. I have three brothers, all of whom served on active duty in the military and retired from the Army. Between all of us, we have served a total of 107 years in the military.

SUGGS: You went straight from the Army to the GDVS, correct?

ROBY: That’s right. I retired out of Fort McPherson in March 1994 and went to work as manager of the GDVS Griffin office in April.

I later became an area manager, then North Georgia regional director. In 2012 Commissioner Wheeler asked me to come to Atlanta and be his Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations & Appeals. When he passed away, I was blessed that the Veterans Service Board selected me to follow in his footsteps as Commissioner.

SUGGS: I know he was a great influence on you, as he was on all of us who were lucky enough to work for him. What are some of the things he most impressed upon you?

ROBY: Hard work, dedication, doing what’s right for the veteran. He was a great man, served 66 years in state government, worked for 12 different governors – there won’t ever be another like him. All we can do is follow in his footsteps and continue to do our best to serve the veterans of Georgia.

SUGGS: Indeed. Speaking of following in his footsteps, we will continue his legacy by holding our department’s annual Supermarket of Veterans Benefits on Dec. 2. This has been an annual event for our department since 1966. I think Commissioner Wheeler, a UGA graduate, would have appreciated that we’re having it in Athens this year, don’t you?

ROBY: Definitely. It’s been many years since the Supermarket has been held there, and I think we’re going to have a great one this year. Our team in Athens has put a lot of hard work into promoting the event, and I can’t thank them enough. Dale Bell is a great manager, and Ramona Roper is a terrific service officer. Ron Cason just joined the team, and we have high expectations for him as well.

SUGGS: We’ll be sharing more information on the Supermarket in our next few blog posts. As for this blog post, let’s wrap things up by having you tell us some of the exciting things you hope to accomplish in the near future.

ROBY: Well, as Commissioner Wheeler was fond of saying, “If it’s good for the veteran, then I’m for it!” We have a number of proposals in the works that are, I feel, very good for the veterans of the state of Georgia.

We are currently working with Governor Deal, his staff, the Office of Planning and Budget, and members of the General Assembly on a number of new items going into the next fiscal year.

Number one on that list is to increase our number of Veterans Field Service Offices. Our budget request for next year includes staffing for several new offices, which would be located in those parts of the state where we currently have a high population of veterans without an office nearby.

We are also proposing a new sub-acute care unit at our Milledgeville nursing home that would serve veterans recuperating from war injuries. This would be primarily a rehabilitation unit for veterans with PTSD, TBI, and amputations to help them reintegrate into society. We have federal funds on the line for the project and, provided we can get the state to match, we believe we can provide a service that is sorely needed.

SUGGS: Commissioner, thank you for taking the time to help us launch the blog. We hope to see you around in future posts!

ROBY: Thank you. To those of you reading this, if there is anything the Georgia Department of Veterans Service can do for you, let us know.