1986 saw the Chicago Bears win Super Bowl XX, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, the release of John Hughes’ iconic comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Bon Jovi’s classic “You Give Love a Bad Name” and nearly 6,000 students attending the former West Georgia College.
Among those 6,000 students was State Senator Mike Dugan, who graduated from West Georgia College with his Bachelor’s in History in 1986 and again with his Master’s in Organizational Development in 1989.
“My mother and I graduated on the same day, and my dad walked in the ceremony as a member of the faculty,” says Dugan. “When you talk about the school feeling like a family, there’s not a way to make it more family-like than that.”
Following his undergraduate graduation, Dugan enlisted in the U.S. Army and served his country for over 20 years. After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2008, Dugan became interested in other ways to serve his community.
The District 30 Senate seat sat vacant following Bill Hamrick’s resignation, and in January 2013 a special election was held. In a landslide victory, Dugan defeated Libertarian James Camp and was elected to serve factions of Carroll, Paulding and Douglas counties.
“I’ve been fortunate in my life and I like giving back to my community,” says Dugan. “I thoroughly enjoyed my service in the Army, and I felt there was more I could contribute. This felt like the way I could help the most number of people for the greatest good.”
After his reelection in 2014, Dugan continued focusing his attentions on three main goals in the Senate chamber.
“My goals this term are much like my goals were last term,” says Dugan. “We want to continue improving education, economic development and transportation across the state.”
Part of Dugan’s plans to improve the Georgia education system involve his work on the Dual-Enrollment Task Force. The task force collaborated while the Senate was out of session and created a more direct approach to the dual-enrollment process.
“Everyone always thinks dual-enrollment goes to the highest achievers in the class, but not necessarily,” says Dugan. “It’s hoped to increase graduation rates, because even though we are the eighth most populated state in the nation, we have the fourth highest number of GEDs. This program streamlines the dual-enrollment process into one broader method.”
In addition to acting as the Governor’s Floor Leader, Dugan serves as a member to numerous committees in the Senate, including Economic Development and Tourism, Veterans, Military and Homeland Security, Public Safety and Transportation. Dugan takes a special interest in Georgia’s transportation reform.
“There’s a transportation reform that needs to be done, otherwise our infrastructure will be so deteriorated it’ll cost us ten times as much to repair it,” says Dugan. “Right now, the House has introduced a Transportation Bill that has a variety of plans, whether it be road construction, road improvement, or mass transit improvement. I’m as anxious as anybody to see what that bill looks like when it comes out of the House.”
Another piece of legislation Dugan has taken a particular interest to is the Cannabis Bill. The bill would legalize the oil of marijuana plants, cannabidiol (CBD), which has been proven to lessen the severity of seizures. The bill first presented itself during the 2014 session, but was ultimately rejected by the House.
The bill has undergone significant changes since its initial proposal in the Senate, and there are many issues that need to be dealt with before the bill returns to the Senate floor. Despite these changes, Dugan is still hopeful to pass the bill and legalize this alternative treatment.
“If it comes back across I will support it again,” says Dugan. “The difference between the cannabidiol and medical marijuana is that the oil has only minute traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is the compound that is most effective in the elimination or at least mitigation of seizures, and the cannabidiol has a high count of CBD.”
In addition to his work at the State Capitol, Dugan works as a contractor for the Carrollton branch of RA-LIN and Associates. He also serves as a member of the UWG Athletic Foundation and his wife, fellow UWG alumnae Missy, serves on the Board of Trustees. Not only did the couple meet during their time at West Georgia College, but their son, Beau, now attends their alma mater and plays football.
“My fondest memory of West Georgia was meeting my future wife,” says Dugan. “I was walking from the library to what was then the Social Science Building and in the common area between the two we ran into each other and started talking. We’ve pretty much been together ever since.”
Over 30 years since Dugan’s freshman year, a lot has changed to the campus he once called home; most prominently, the accreditation of the institution changed from a state college to a state university in 1996, thereby changing the name from West Georgia College to the University of West Georgia. The student body has also doubled in size, jumping from roughly 6,000 in 1986 to over 12,000 in 2014, and our athletics department is stronger than ever.
“We’re starting to see the growth,” says Dugan. “Now, when I mention the University of West Georgia, everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a point of pride.”