As the first state representative living in Dade County, Ga., in about 50 years, John Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, likes to remind his colleagues in Atlanta of the county's location in Georgia's extreme northwest corner.
Dade was left off the Georgia quarter, he tells them, and it also tends to get punched out of state maps that are included in reports inside three-ring binders.
"I have [mentioned] that in several meetings," Deffenbaugh said Friday after his first week on the job as representative for Georgia House District 1.
One aspect of the new job that pleasantly surprised Deffenbaugh, he said, was "the friendliness of all the representatives -- both parties."
Drawn after the 2010 census, the new District 1 includes all of Dade and most of western Walker County. Deffenbaugh was elected in November and replaces Rep. Martin Scott, R-Rossville, who chose not to run again after serving eight years. Scott was stripped of committee leadership roles in 2008 by then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson and introduced only one bill in 2011, which failed, compared with about 40 bills written by other area legislators.
Deffenbaugh said he looks forward to working with longer-serving legislators from Northwest Georgia: Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga; Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette; and Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold -- even if that means Deffenbaugh's name will be left off legislation they jointly support because he's new.
"We have an understanding that we're going to work together," Deffenbaugh said. "You can do more as a group than you can as an individual."
The four recently gathered in Neal's office on the top floor of the historic Capitol building to do cable TV and radio interviews.
"Rep. Deffenbaugh is part of the team up here in Northwest Georgia," Neal said. "We're going to be working with him. There is a learning curve, but we'll help him."
Freshman legislators don't have the chance to introduce significant legislation or lead committees, Neal said, but they can influence the lawmaking process.
"There's plenty of opportunity to be part of a team," he said. "Certainly, the ability is there to influence legislation ... as you build relationships. I think [Deffenbaugh] will be successful."
When committee appointments were released Wednesday, Deffenbaugh was named a member of three: Transportation, Regulated Industries and Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.