Running the plays
Chris Carr has found his niche in Georgia politics
Chris Carr likens his first job in politics to being a football quarterback. The year was 2004 and “head coach” Johnny Isakson hired Carr to be his campaign manager, working with a staff of seasoned advisers.
“Basically, they called the plays and I ran them,” Carr (BBA ’95, JD ’99) says.
Now chief-of-staff for U.S. Sen. Isakson, Carr is himself a veteran politico, overseeing more than 50 staff members and interns in Isakson’s Washington, D.C., and Georgia offices.
“The beauty of the job and the challenge of the job is that every day is different,” Carr says. “We have an opportunity to do a little bit of everything—legislative work, communications, administration, constituent services. It’s a lot like running a business, from the public policy side.”
It was not the career path that Carr envisioned when he was a student at UGA in the 1990s. A business major, he went to work for Georgia Pacific after graduating in 1995. While he was there, he also volunteered for Isakson—whose son had been a friend of Carr at UGA—during a 1996 state Senate run.
“I was having more fun in politics than selling plywood,” Carr says.
Isakson lost that race. And in 1997, Carr returned to UGA for law school. After graduating and passing the bar exam, he went back to Atlanta to work for Alston & Bird, one of Atlanta’s largest corporate law firms. After 18 months there he concluded that law practice was not his thing.
In 2001, he went to work as vice president and general counsel for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. He was there just two years when he had another opportunity to work for Isakson, with whom he had stayed in contact.
Running Isakson’s 2004 Senate campaign took Carr throughout Georgia, meeting rural and urban Georgia residents and listening to their concerns. He had found his calling.
“Anybody who loves politics should do a statewide race,” he says. “It’s fun to be in politics in Georgia.”
Isakson won that race and went to Washington in 2005 to begin his first six-year term in the U.S. Senate. At age 32, Carr went with him as deputy chief-of-staff. He was promoted to chief-of-staff last year.
Earlier this year, he moved back to Georgia—he lives in Dunwoody, where he was raised—and he commutes to Washington during the weeks that Congress is in session. Other times, he does constituent work in-state, meeting with community and business leaders throughout Georgia to hear their concerns.
“I absolutely love what I’m doing and who I work for,” says Carr, who won’t rule out a future run for office himself. “Public service is just a great, rewarding opportunity. I don’t want to get out of this field. For now, I’m very happy behind the scenes.”