Sources say lottery board has finalist for CEO

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ATLANTA —

Only Channel 2 Action News had a camera at a specially called meeting of the Georgia Lottery Board Thursday where board members talked about the search for a new CEO.

Channel 2's Lori Geary listened in on the meeting as the board went into executive session to discuss personnel matters.

The board has an important task ahead with replacingthe retiring CEO Margaret DeFrancisco after she reported a record setting $3.8 billion in ticket sales last year.

But even with those numbers, demand for the popular HOPE scholarship and pre-K programs is outpacing lottery money.

"We need someone over there who is top flight," said state Sen. Vincent Fort.

Through an open records request, Geary learned the board has not hired any recruiting or consulting firms in its nationwide search but did receive unsolicited phone calls for the position.

Several sources have confirmed to Geary that Debbie Dlugolenski is the leading candidate and has extensive experience in state government.

Dlugolenski is currently a member of the lottery board, the director of Gov. Nathan Deal's Office of Planning and Budget, is the vice chairwoman of the State Road and Tollway Authority, and is also on the boards of OneGeorgia, Georgia Workforce Investment and the Georgia Employee Benefits Council.

Dlugolenski is also the former president of Georgia's Virtual Technical College.

Deal appointed Dlugolenski's husband, former state lawmaker Dean Alford, to the board of regents in January.

Several sources who would not go on camera told Geary they have concerns about her lack of experience in the lottery industry.

Fort, an outspoken Democrat, said the position it too important for on-the-job training.

"It seems to me it's not putting young people first, it's not putting education first. It's putting cronies first," Fort said.

Other sources who know Dlugolenski told Geary anyone who expresses doubts about her has never met or worked with her and said she's one of the hardest working and smartest people in state government.

The governor's office would neither confirm nor deny that she's being considered for the position that pays almost $500,000 a year, including salary and bonuses.