ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum to meet the candidates in Gilmer’s two major elections this year.
First, the Post 2 County Commissioner race saw candidates Karleen Ferguson, Woody Janssen, and Jerry Tuso speak about Gilmer specifically and their own lives and qualifications while 7th District State Representative candidates Rick Day, David Ralston, and Margaret Williamson spoke more generally on Gilmer’s place in the state as a whole and their role as a representative.
Hosted by Gilmer Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paige Green and Board of Directors Chairman Trent Sanford, the event gave five minutes to each candidate to offer their words to citizens before allowing for time for citizens to mingle and speak face-to-face with them and ask their own questions.
The event kicked off with the candidates for Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner.
First to speak was Jerry Tuso who offered a few words about his past as a retired air traffic controller and negotiating contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars over his 19 years in the position. As a past chairman of the Gilmer County GOP and eight years of involvement in the party, Tuso stated he has received great support throughout his time from people like Rita Otum and Stephen Aaron among many others. Tuso said he is running for Post 2 because he was raised and told that hard work and studying could make you something. Tuso continued saying, “It wasn’t enough. My father told me, ‘Son, that’s not enough. You’ve got to be a servant as well.’ So, during my entire working career, I have found ways that I can serve. And that’s why I am running, to serve Gilmer County.”
Next to speak was Karleen Ferguson. Ferguson has owned property with her husband in Gilmer County for 20 years, and in 2011, she became the Gilmer County Tourism and Events Coordinator. She noted it as the “funnest job in the world because I got to tell everyone that I knew how wonderful Gilmer County was and encourage them to come visit.” However, Ferguson said she learned in that position the impact of tourism on Gilmer’s community. She noted the Apple Festival’s economic effect on hundreds of families in the county, including the apple growers, but also the families who volunteer and work to earn extra income for their own needs. She connected this with the growing agri-tourism area alongside maximizing the natural resources the county has to offer for both citizens and businesses. Ferguson went on to note the effect that commissioners can have on the economy noting the previous board of Charlie Paris, Dallas Miller, and Travis Crouch and their efforts to replace old systems and catching up their departments to maintain the county. She stated, “We are headed in the right direction, and my intention as your county commissioner is to continue the direction that these gentlemen have been leading us in. I am naturally a problem solver … I am a great team player. I have a passion to protect the history and culture of this community as we grow in a qualitative way.”
The final candidate to speak was Woody Janssen. Living in the county for 12 years, he got out of his major corporate past in national accounts management to settle down locally in Ellijay, where he started a river tubing business. In business since 2009, Janssen said he has been affected by and benefited from what the Board of Commissioners and the Gilmer Chamber have accomplished. Growing out of the recession, he spoke about the growth of the county and his business’ successes in bringing people to the county. It was something he said he wanted to continue in the county. Being so involved in the small business market, Janssen said he hoped to deregulate the county’s small businesses to further expand their growth. Janssen said, “That’s something I’d like to see happen, and I think I can help everybody out. Everybody has done a phenomenal job here locally. I’d like to see less regulation and let’s utilize what we already have.”
With that, the night’s events turned towards the District 7 State Representative election.
First to speak was Rick Day. Running as a Democrat, Day said he hoped citizens were interested in finding out who he was as he came out of nowhere. Day told a story about a job he took on an oil field in central Texas. He said he showed up for work and ran into immediate troubles as the vast majority of his coworkers were Hispanic and did not speak English. Day continued his story saying he was working in his combat boots from his time in the military. The boots began melting in the chemicals. Day said he did not know what to do, feeling alone with boots melting and no way to reach out to family or friends. It was then that his coworkers bought him a new pair of boots simply saying, “Pay it forward.”
It was a touching moment, said Day, who added he rides his motorcycle through our district and sees pockets of poverty, noting 51 percent of this district is employed, meaning that 49 percent are unemployed. With one half of the district “carrying the weight” for the other half, he could only ask how it could happen. Day said, “We are supposed to have leadership in Atlanta. For 10 years, the leadership has gone unchallenged. For 27 years, one person has had the power and authority to make this the number one district in the state … As beautiful as we are, behind the beauty, behind the cake of make-up, there is poverty. There is addiction. There is a quiet desperation.”
It is the quiet desperation that Day said he wants to address. He wants to represent them and increase the economy and growth for all those in the county to answer the “quiet desperation.” Day said the way he intends to pay for that growth and that answer is by adopting the Colorado approach by legalizing cannabis. Day likened the agricultural growth in our region with vineyards to a bridge, saying the next step with cannabis is a massive economic impact and job growth waiting to happen in our region.
Second to speak was Margaret Williamson. Williamson’s background comes from engineering, marketing, and business administration. However, it was her time at home with her children and supporting her husband that Williamson said allowed her the time to become more active in volunteering in the community. This time in our community is what she said gives her the “pulse of the things that are going on in District 7.” She told a story about visiting Abby’s, a local business, for ice cream and frozen yogurt with her grandchildren. As she sat watching them pile as many sprinkles on their ice cream as they could, Williamson said she realized that was the biggest issue for them. She asked herself what their future in our district was?
She commended the Chamber of Commerce in their efforts as well as the agricultural community as the mainstays of our economy. Growing now into vineyards and tourism exemplifies the growth the community has seen. She also noted the commissioners’ efforts in controlling and growing the economy under an annual $4.4 million debt from past irresponsibilities, a debt obligation stretching to 2032. Williamson said, “Our leadership claims that we are the number one state to do business in. So, let’s capitalize on that here in our district. We have more than other parts of Georgia to offer.”
Utilizing our resources, Williamson said we have enough to attract more of smaller, low impact businesses that offer better-paying jobs with advancement. She went on to note that she is running for the position to offer real representation from someone who cares, will work for the people, and will be honest about legislation and how it will affect the people. Williamson said she wants to change the office to be more present in the district besides just for “photo ops” as well as adding a weekly event in the district during session so that citizens can speak to her about legislation and concerns in the state.
The final candidate to speak was Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston. Ralston was born and raised in Gilmer County where he graduated high school. Ralston said it was the community’s help that achieved his successes like $550,000 for the “long overdue completion” of the Clear Creek Ball Fields, $150,000 for the Gilmer County Playhouse, $310,000 for equipping the Gilmer Canning Plant, $250,000 for repairs and renovations to the Gilmer County Library, $283,000 in state funds for improvements to the River Park, and $1,2 million for expansion of the Gilmer County Water System.
Ralston went on to say, “Yes, that is your money, but it was your money that was not coming back to Gilmer County until the last few years. It was going to Atlanta, and it was going to south Georgia. And it was going all over the state, except here.” He also noted that the state has reacted to the change and growth of new industries like wine as well as responses like the hiring of a “viticulturist” so that local wineries don’t have to wait for a professional to come to Georgia from other states to “monitor the effects of weather and disease on grapes.”
Ralston also noted the recent legislative session as the most successful in recent memory. The first cut to the state income tax in history, the ending of austerity cuts to local education in Georgia, and the first reform to Georgia’s adoption law in 30 years were the major points that he utilized to exemplify that success. Ralston noted that despite the successes, there is more work to be done.
Having lived in Gilmer County for nearly 40 years I consider it home. My husband John and I raised our 4 children here and now enjoy our reward – having 11 of our 15 grandchildren who live in the county.
I am a naturalized citizen who has embraced everything America – the Constitution, our natural God-given Rights, the Rule of Law, and our Flag.
I have had a full life; I studied Engineering, worked as a Health Care professional, studied Marketing & Business Administration, took time off to raise our children, and owned my own business.
We are retired now giving us time to volunteer in our community, do some traveling, and do our best to help safeguard the future of our State and Country.
First Baptist Church Ellijay has been our church home for 37 years. I am a member of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, Optimist Club, Gilmer County Republicans, Gilmer County Republican Women, and Georgia Federation of Republican Women.
I’m also a Master Gardener Volunteer putting in many hours at the Ellijay Farmers Market, because how best to use the freedom than to make things beautiful.
My Pro Life position is not one of political expedience like many politicians.
I helped found a crisis pregnancy center in Ellijay which has served young women for over 25 years, was on the board, supported it financially, and was a counselor. On Sanctity of Life Sunday I was on the sidewalk praying and waving signs.
It’s simple for me; you can’t have liberty without life.
My first involvement in politics goes back to 1994 as a volunteer in a congressional race and since that time I have worked on several campaigns. Most recent was as county campaign manager for Donald Trump.
As a regular visitor to the Georgia Capitol I keep informed on current legislation especially those that affect the taxpayers of our State House District 7.
It has been distressing to see bills passed that fail to meet our needs but only help big business or special interest groups, bills that increase our taxes, and bills that burden us with unfunded mandates, regulations, and growing number of fees that hurt our economy.
In retirement I have the luxury of being involved but the average North Georgian is busy with both spouses working, raising a family, taking care of elderly parents, or just trying to make time to spend time with their kids. – All with less money in their pocket.
We should be able to trust that our Representative is watching out for us, and that is something that we are currently lacking. I will be your watchman.
Under our current leadership, over the last 10 years, our annual state budget has grown from $15B to $26B.
In 2015 the largest tax increase in the history of Georgia was passed under HB 170. That’s $1 billion more dollars that is taken out of the private sector every year.
52% of our 2017-18 budget goes to Education – that’s $13B and yet we rank #34 in the nation in education. College tuition has gone up over 75% while state contributions have decreased.
Tuition for Technical Colleges has gone up 100%. Teacher pension plan (TRS) is severely in jeopardy with over $2B in unfunded liabilities and now a change in the pension plan is discouraging prospective teachers from entering into education – the result is less teachers and larger classroom size. How is this good for teachers and the kids??
Leadership tells us that Georgia is the #1 place to do business but professional assessments give Georgia a ranking of #17 in Economic Performance and #19 in Economic Outlook.
Key factors contributing to this ranking; a State Income Tax that we should abolish, Property Tax Burden, and the recent legislative Tax changes – excise tax hike on fuel, and increased burden on counties that did not vote for T-SPLOST.
In the 7th District almost 35% of our residents live at or below the poverty level, our annual household income is around $40,000, and our per capita salary in $11,000. All well below state and national averages.
High property taxes, increasing school taxes, fees, penalties, regulations, fuel taxes, and the increase in sales tax on used cars that was just passed – all reduce spendable income.
We need new leadership who isn’t out of touch with the everyday working men and women of Georgia, and really, who aren’t out of touch with reality.
It seems that big government only sees us as a way to get more money so they can give handouts to their buddies. We pay more taxes for gas while politicians wan tto exempt Delta from paying sales tax on jet fuel! Who do you think needs the tax break?
I’ve had enough of the good old boy system. We are already taxed and regulated more than enough.
We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the US. Outdoor recreation attracts mountain bikers, hikers, boaters, fishing enthusiasts, and more. Other attractions include all the new locally owned wineries in their beautiful settings in all three counties in the District, cabin rentals, and most recentlyfabulous wedding venues.
Local Chambers of Commerce work hard to bring in businesses with higher paying jobs and to attract tourists, as this industry is now the biggest contributor to our economy.
We can all work together to make our counties attractive to tourists, business, and families – without compromising our Conservative North GA values.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, limited government principles and a culture of hard work and what made the American economy great. Let’s just go back to that instead of subsidies and big government.
Significant tax cuts, getting rid of penalties imposed by recent legislation, lowering the corporate income tax rate, and reducing the cost that each wage earner pays for benefits received by illegal immigrants, an annual cost to the state of $2.4B for education, health care, justice and law enforcement, public assistance, and government services.
I also support a restructuring of the welfare system. Stronger requirements have worked in other States, why not here in Georgia.
I will work with the many like-minded members of the House and Senate to make changes that reflect our principles of Conservatism.
For years we have been promised “Conservative leadership”, “protection for our North Georgia values”, “Constitutional freedoms”, “protection for our Religious Freedom”, “support for our public schools and teachers”, “gun rights”, “good paying jobs”, a “crack down on illegal immigration”, a “stronger economy”, “fiscally conservative policies – less spending – lower taxes”, and the “end of state government benefits for those here illegally”.
These are all promises taken right off the campaign mailers sent out by my big government opponent. What has he delivered on?
Campaign promises are soon forgotten, our Constitution trampled on and despite overwhelming Republican control we still haven’t passed Constitutional Carry, meaningful tax reform, and the fight for Religious Freedom for all continues.
Billions of dollars are paid in benefits to illegals, and government keeps growing despite the promise to “downsize government”.
Out of control spending does not reflect “fiscally conservative principles” and the promise to “keep taxes low” turned into the biggest tax increase in the history of Georgia.
As I visit around the district I am struck by all the needs and concerns expressed to me – teen suicides and deaths from opioid overdose, the injustice of finding criminals have more rights than the victim, a shortage of affordable nursing homes, and the frustration of dealing with mental illness.
I have said from the very beginning of my campaign that I am not running AGAINST the establishment – I am running FOR the People of District 7, Fannin, Gilmer, and Dawson County.
I will work diligently to meet their needs and not those of a minority of special interest groups.
With our bloated budget and increased revenue thanks to a windfall as a result of President Trump’s federal tax cuts –surely we can do more to help the people of North Georgia instead of subsidizing Atlanta and their agenda.
The Primary election is May 22nd, and you can start early voting April 30th. I ask you for your vote so that, together, we can restore principled Conservative leadership to Georgia.
Margaret Williamson VoteWilliamson2018.com
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber has officially announced an opportunity for county citizens to meet with the candidates from the two major elections in our county May 2.
As the only two races with competition, citizens will walk and talk with candidates from the local Post 2 Commissioner election as well as the District 7 candidates for the Georgia State House of Representatives.
Candidates for Post 2 Commissioner include Karleen Ferguson, Jerry Tuso, and Woody Janssen. There is no incumbent in this race.
Candidates for House of Representatives District 7 include David Ralston, Rick Day, and Margaret Williamson. Speaker of the House David Ralston is the incumbent in this race.
Scheduled for Wednesday, May 2, at 6:30 pm, the event will last two hours. Find more information with the Chamber’s flier for the event below.
| BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Today, Monday, March 5, 2018 House Speaker David Ralston qualified to run for re-election in House District 7. The Republican Primary is May 22, 2018.
“Serving as House District 7’s voice in the Georgia General Assembly is an honor and responsibility I hold dear,” said Ralston. “Representing the best interests of north Georgia remains my number one priority.
“In the State House, we passed comprehensive tax reform that will empower job creators, spur economic growth, and keep more money in the pockets of Georgia taxpayers. Thanks to President Trump and the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, we delivered the largest tax cut in modern, Georgia history.
“To keep District 7 – and our entire state growing – I created the House Rural Development Council to identify the problems facing communities outside of Metro Atlanta and prescribe legislative solutions for growth and prosperity. We have already passed several of the committee’s recommendations and have a long-term commitment to the success and vitality of rural Georgia.
“While I am proud of what we have accomplished at the State Capitol and throughout District 7, I am seeking re-election to continue fighting for Gilmer, Fannin, and Dawson County families. With the continued support of local voters, we can keep our community strong and our future bright.”
David Ralston is the 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he has held since 2010. He was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2002, and represents House District 7, which includes Fannin and Gilmer counties and a portion of Dawson County.
On FYN TV, BKP interviews Georgia’s Speaker of the House for District-7 Representative David Ralston, as they discuss Georgia’s aggressive plan for a large infrastructure investment that was presented and highlighted at a meeting for Republican leaders including Ralston, over the weekend at The White House. Speaker David Ralston comments on what that means for Georgia.
Pictured below: Speaker of the House for Georgia District 7 David Ralston at this past weekends Infrastructure Meeting at the White House with Republican leaders and President Donald Trump.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The 2018 election is already starting to take shape as challengers emerge announcing bids for candidacy against well-known incumbents. The most recent of these announcements comes from Margaret Williamson who intends to face off against Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston.
Ralston was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2002 and represents House District 7, which includes Fannin County, Gilmer County and a portion of Dawson County. Ralston is the 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he has held since 2010.
Williamson, who resides in Ellijay, made a statement discussing her decision to run:
“For many years I have been involved in political campaigns, on local, state, and national levels. I have actively participated in legislative issues, in support of or in opposition to, learning all the way. Now I intend to use this experience and acquired knowledge to enter into the process as a candidate.”
Already having begun the process of running for the House District 7 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, Williamson acknowledged in her statement that she has mailed the “Declaration to Accept Campaign Contributions” form to the Georgia State Transparency & Campaign Finance Committee.
After approval of this form, Williamson’s next step will be to complete the qualifying process held in March of this year. The qualifying will officially make Williamson a candidate in the Republican Primary for Georgia State House Representative, District 7.
Williamson concluded her statement by announcing that she is in the process of creating a Facebook page which will contain her position on various issues.
“This decision is the culmination of months of debate and prayer. Please continue praying for both John and me,” Williamson said. “This is an exciting time for me.”
A General Primary Election for both Republicans and Democrats will take place on May 22, 2018. Voter registration deadline for the Primary Election is April 23.
Winners of the primaries will face off in the General Election to held on Nov. 6, 2018.
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Speaker of the House David Ralston will have to defend his seat in the 2014 election. Thursday afternoon Gilmer High School wrestling coach Sam Snider announced that he is running for the 7th district seat. (more…)