Athens, Ga. – Joseph W. Whorton Jr., senior fellow at the Fanning Institute and associate professor of public administration, has been named interim director of the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia. The Fanning Institute specializes in multidisciplinary approaches to community economic development. His appointment by Art Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach, is effective Nov. 17.
“We are fortunate that an individual with Joe’s knowledge and experience is available and willing to serve in the important role of interim director,” Dunning said. “His background and knowledge of Fanning’s mission and its clientele will ensure as seamless a transition as possible.”
Whorton succeeds Karen E. Holt, who will become assistant vice president of the Institute for Public Service at the University of Tennessee.
For nearly three decades, Whorton has served the state of Georgia, assisting governors and other elected officials, and helping to shape public policy to improve government. Among his recent accomplishments, he has been the architect of Partners for a Prosperous Athens, an ongoing community-based effort to address issues related to poverty in Athens-Clarke County. Georgia Trend presented him with the 2007 Georgia Excellence in Public Service Award, which honors individuals who epitomize the best in public service in Georgia.
Whorton’s involvement in public service dates back to his days as an undergraduate in the 1960s. A chance meeting with the city manager of Oklahoma City convinced him to leave his job as a cook at a Lebanese restaurant and take an internship in city government. That led to positions as assistant city manager of Oklahoma City, executive director of the Oklahoma City Housing Authority, and graduate school.
In 1980, Whorton came to UGA to head up the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Research and Service Division Research. He coordinated a collaborative study of poverty in the rural Southeast, which identified a region of persistent poverty that includes 91 of Georgia’s 159 counties. This seminal study has informed his subsequent work such as establishing UGA’s Poverty and the Economy Initiative and developing processes that center on citizen involvement to break the cycle of poverty. Those processes, which are being used in Athens-Clarke County’s poverty initiative, also are serving as models for work in Griffin and Columbus.
Among his previous leadership roles, Whorton served as director of the Institute of Community and Area Development, and first executive director of the Georgia Rural Development Council. In 2003, the Georgia Municipal Association presented him with the Georgia Key Citizen Award.
Whorton earned a B.A. in political science and sociology from Oklahoma City University, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate in public administration from the State University of New York-Albany.