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Doorkeepers: The Gateway to the State Senate

March 14, 2014
Mr. James Austin standing in front of the Capitol Rotunda

Unknown to many, 10 people in the Georgia State Senate control the flow of the session in ways you’ve never imagined.

The coveted position of the Georgia Senate Doorkeeper can only be given to a select few, such as James Austin, who has worn his metal badge with pride for 15 years.

Austin, a former assistant dean and counselor at Georgia State University, heard about the doorkeeper position through a friend. After retiring from GSU, he applied and was accepted.

“It sounded appealing because I thought perhaps I could keep abreast of what is happening politically and in the community, and the Capitol is the hub for that,” he says.

The position of the Senate doorkeeper is coordinated through Sergeant of Arms John Long, with help from Secretary of the Senate David Cook. The doorkeepers are stationed within and outside the Senate chamber with specific duties. They manually monitor the doors, screening people so that only those with authorization can get in. They help maintain the decorum of the Senate chamber, and they help a confused or lost page find the right senator.

Outside of the Senate, within the halls of the Capitol, the doorkeepers assume the role of tour guide and teacher.  People will ask them questions about how the legislative process works and even questions about the building itself.

Austin says that his favorite part of being a Senate doorkeeper is meeting people. Bystanders, senators and other doorkeepers — he likes establishing a relationship with them all.

Austin was born in north Georgia but has lived in Atlanta since he was a child. He graduated from Savannah State University and got his masters degree at Georgia State University. After working in the State Senate for 15 years, he has no plans of quitting now.

“As long as I am able to do it, I will do it," he says. "We appreciate any help we can give and we appreciate being a service.”

About the Author

Bethany McDaniel is the Editorial Director for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with degrees in Visual Communication and History.

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