It’s a good idea to bring a healthy thirst to the office of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) because the first thing visitors hear as they step inside the door is, “Would you like a Coke product?—
[IMGCAP(1)]Georgia, of course, is home to the Coca-Cola Co., and so the Republican Senator and his staff have access to everything from Coke Zero to Sprite. The staffers tend to be relentless, asking more than once if visitors would like a Coke. These friendly Southerners won’t give up until each and every visitor has a can of soda in hand.
Once a visitor has accepted a Coke, the staffers begin doling out small bags of peanuts, another product of the Peach State. This is all in an effort to make those who pass through Isakson’s office feel welcome and at home in the great state of Georgia.
“I wanted it to reflect Georgia,— Isakson says of his office in the Russell Senate Office Building. In fact, he says, all of his office decorations are really a way to brag about his state.
The Senator has accomplished this mission. The artwork on the walls has been created by residents of the Peach State and shows different sides of Georgia.
“You can tell all of my landscapes or cityscapes are of towns in Georgia or areas of Georgia. I wanted it to be a place that people felt good about coming to,— he says.
After his Senate election in 2004, Isakson called Sunny Walker of Frameworks Gallery in Atlanta and asked her to outfit his office with art that would represent the many sides of his home state.
“I wanted to make sure they were Georgia artists and they depicted the state,— he says.
As a result, the office is peppered with paintings depicting Savannah, the North Georgia Mountains and other regions. The only painting that does not represent Isakson’s home state is a watercolor of the Capitol. The painting, done by his wife, hangs in his personal office.
The walls are filled with paintings, but the Senator has few photos of himself.
“I’m not big on putting my picture on the wall,— Isakson says.
The exception is in the Senator’s conference room. The far wall is peppered with a handful of photos of the Senator with several noteworthy characters including one of a young-looking George W. Bush.
A massive mural of Georgia themes dominates the room. The painting, which measures 6 feet by 18 feet, takes up nearly an entire wall and was painted by a group of sixth-graders. The mural features Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia Carpet Industries based in Dalton, and the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co.
Despite the overwhelming focus on Georgia, there are a few special touches that make Isakson’s personal office feel homey. The room features a pillow embroidered with city names and other mementos relating to Georgia that was a Valentine’s Day gift from his wife and an engraved Bible given to him by a friend upon his election. There are also more than a dozen photos of Isakson’s large family — he has three children and eight grandchildren — on the mantel.
Tucked between two of the frames is a handmade valentine that was sent by Isakson’s granddaughter Cecilia.
“She’s the one you can tell is full of mischief,— he says, picking up the heart-shaped valentine. “She is 2 on the sixth of May. She had some help as you can tell. She did the drawing but someone else cut it out.—
There is one incongruous item in the back office, home to much of Isakson’s staff. Hung high on a wall is a boar head draped in green beads in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
“There’s a story about the boar,— Isakson says. “We had this guy work for us for about three years — his name was Bradford Swann, he was a great guy. Bradford got married and his wife said either she went or the boar went.—
Because Swann’s wife wouldn’t allow the boar in their home, Isakson adopted it and hung it in his office. The staffers who sit around it decorate the boar for each holiday. Although the boar’s head seems a bit unusual, the creature was hunted in Georgia and thus stands as yet another element in Isakson’s Georgia theme.
In the end, Isakson hopes those who pass through his office learn a thing or two about Georgia and feel they are visiting a friend.
“This is more like a sitting room in a house than a politician’s office, and that’s really the way I wanted people to feel,— he says.
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