Six new inductees join REACH

Bobcat's Corner, News
Gilmer's 2018 signees into the REACH program, pictured here from left to right, (front) Emma Bell, Ben Becerra, Naydelin Ajiataz-Arreaga, (back) Annalyssa Brown, Alba Monraga-Telles, and Candelaria Raymundo-Bautista.

Gilmer’s 2018 signees into the REACH program, pictured here from left to right, (front) Emma Bell, Ben Becerra, Naydelin Ajiataz-Arreaga, (back) Annalyssa Brown, Candelaria Raymundo-Bautista, and Alba Monraga-Telles.

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education celebrated on Friday, October 19, to welcome its six new students into the Gilmer County REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) Scholars Program.

The six 8th graders were hosted at Clear Creek Middle School with a ceremony for their signing of the program agreement in the presence of the Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, and Chris Green of the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

The six students included Naydelin Ajiataz-Arreaga, Ben Becerra, Emma Bell, Annalysa Brown, Candelaria Raymundo-Bautista, and Alba Monraga-Telles. Each student celebrated the day with family members and member of the community in concerted agreement of support and encouragement for their years in high school and their plans beyond.

David Ralston speaks at Gilmer's 2018 REACH Signing Ceremony.

David Ralston speaks at Gilmer’s 2018 REACH Signing Ceremony.

REACH Georiga is a needs-based scholarship that begins in 8th grade. REACH Scholars are paired with a mentor and an academic coach throughout high school. Scholars must maintain good grades with a 2.5 GPA in core courses, good behavior, and good attendance throughout their remaining middle school and high school years.

Scholars who successfully complete the program and graduate from high school are awarded a $10,000 scholarship that can be used at HOPE-eligible institutions in Georgia.

Ralston praised the commitment of the students and schools in this effort saying, “If Georgia is to continue being the envy of the nation, if we are to going to continue to be the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business, we’ve got to also lead in preparing our young people for success in college and in their careers.”

Chris Green, Georgia Student Finance Commission, speaks to Gilmer Students signing into the 2018 REACH Program.

Chris Green, Georgia Student Finance Commission, speaks to Gilmer Students signing into the 2018 REACH Program.

He continued to thank the students and schools for their work in the program saying the ceremony reaffirmed the commitment to education and seeing every student succeed. He also noted the states full funding for Georgia’s QBE (Quality Basic Education) program and increases in the state budget for securing our schools. He also spoke to the student’s futures noting the state’s financial contributions to the new campus. “A dream come true,” as Ralston called it during their groundbreaking ceremony according to UNG.

Green added to the sentiment as he noted the HOPE Scholarship program has already awarded over $10 billion to over 1.8 million students in its 25 years. As the REACH program follows those eligible institutions, Green asserted the commission’s efforts to spread the program to every school in the state. Congratulating Gilmer’s Scholars on their signing ceremony, he said he was proud to partner with the schools as the commission pursues its mission to help every Georgian to access post-secondary education.

 

 

Make sure to check out more photos of the signing ceremony at FYN’s Facebook Photo Album.

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BOC says Wrestling Capital “is what you’ve earned”

Bobcat's Corner, News
Gilmer County pursues state recognition as Georgia's Wrestling Capital.

ELLIJAY, Ga – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are moving forward with plans to seek state recognition of the school system’s major success in the wrestling world with a proclamation of Gilmer as the State Wrestling Capital.

Parents and Coaches filled the Commissioner’s conference room on Wednesday, September 12, to ask the board for a sign at the county line claiming Gilmer as the wrestling capital of the state in honor of the 17 state titles the county has brought home in the sport.

Coach Mark Waddell spoke first for citizens in the work session saying that what Gilmer has accomplished is “pretty unprecedented.” Noting the 17 team state titles, he said that these were only the team’s titles, not individuals.

As each student practices and becomes part of the team, several parents noted in the work session that their kids have become entirely different people. From the discipline to the camaraderie and the inclusion of faith into the program, many of those present threw support behind the idea, lauding the coaches who have done so much and pushed these athletes to accomplish even more.

One parent even said, “They carry themselves differently.” The changes the students go through during the program was constantly repeated emphasizing its importance to them.

Coaches, Parents, and Students all attended the BOC Meeting in September to show how meaningful that state recognition is to the community.

Coaches, Parents, and Students all attended the BOC Meeting in September to show how meaningful that state recognition is to the community.

Waddell asked for the support of the Commissioners in placing a sign to highlight the 17 combined titles. He noted that part of the success is that it is a singular program. It doesn’t individualize the middle school, the youth, and the high school. With the whole program on track to a singular vision, the success follows with the students accomplishing everything they can.

Coach Sam Snider also spoke about the program’s state recognition sharing stories about the numerous times that Speaker David Ralston brought Gilmer Wrestling to the capital to highlight their championships. Students from Gilmer are spreading across the country, Snider pointed to those who wrestle on scholarships in college and others who use what the program teaches to further their careers in other areas.

Honoring their success, these and other coaches want to highlight the students with a sign acknowledging them. As Snider said, “A sign that says Gilmer County has accomplished this rewards success.”

Coaches weren’t the only ones pushing for recognition of these students as several parents were present at the Work Session. Some spoke of the program’s influence, but Jim Fox emotionally recalled one of the parades they held for winning the state championship, “The memory I have is right across the square during the parade. People were coming out on the sidewalks from the different stores. And out of the city barbershop comes a man with shaving cream on half of his face and a bib trailing behind him… We were escorting all the trucks down the road and I got a view of the sunrise, the flags, and people cheering and wondering what was going on. They were coming out of the store saying, ‘Why is traffic stopped?'”

Fox continued saying that they were explaining that they were celebrating the young people involved in the state wrestling title when he was asked, “Gilmer County won a state wrestling title?”

Fox says he replied, “No, they won two.”

Gilmer Wrestler, Thomas Chastain speaks to the Commissioners about the wrestling program and what it means to him.

Gilmer Wrestler, Thomas Chastain speaks to the Commissioners about the wrestling program and what it means to him.

No less emotion came to the Commissioners Regular Meeting when coaches returned with part of the wrestling team. This time, though, it wasn’t parents or coaches to share what the program meant. It was a wrestler, Thomas Chastain, who stood before the Commissioners saying, “It helps everybody grow as a team. Most people don’t think wrestling is a team sport, but it is because you all have to work together to get a team score to get first. Not just one person can get first in duals.”

Addressing the request for a sign calling Gilmer the capital, Post Commissioner Travis Crouch said the state would only give the county one state-level recognized “capital” sign. Though that didn’t stop the board from planning to seek state-level recognition without the sign.

Additionally, Crouch brought up an older discussion that the county seek a county-owned sign at the line recognizing the Wrestling Capital among other things.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted that an electronic sign of substantially larger size than requested was something the county could feasibly look at next year as they move forward seeking the state’s recognition as well. Engaging in talks with Speaker Ralston, they hope to have the item in the legislative session early next year.

In the last few moments of discussion during their regular meeting, one of the coaches offered his deepest thanks to the commissioners for listening and for what they do.

Paris responded by saying, “This is not so much something that we are doing as it is something that ya’ll have earned.”

And with that, an unanimous decision was made to move forward with both options.

 

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Speaker David Ralston Attends White House Speakers Conference

Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is attending the White House State House Speakers Conference. This conference brings together state house speakers from across the country to receive an update on President Trump’s policy initiatives. Several administration officials will meet with the group including Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson and Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.

“I thank President Trump for his invitation, and I appreciate his administration’s continuing outreach to state and local officials,” said Speaker Ralston. “The President understands that our government can be most effective when the federal, state and local levels work together as partners on behalf of the citizens we serve.”

Following the conference, Speaker Ralston will attend the President’s recognition of NASCAR Cup Series Champion Martin Truex, Jr., and his team at the White House.

Speaker Ralston previously visited the White House in February to represent Georgia at President Trump’s infrastructure plan announcement. That proposal would combine public-sector funding with private-sector investments to rebuild and improve the nation’s infrastructure – particularly in rural communities.

“It is refreshing to have a President who leads on issues like tax reform and infrastructure improvements,” said Speaker Ralston. “I am hopeful that Congress will support the President’s infrastructure plan, which would spur economic growth and create jobs across the country.”

 

River Park opens new playground

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Officials from both the county and state met today in Gilmer’s River Park to join with the Gilmer Chamber in officially cutting the ribbon on the new playground at River Park.

Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch met with Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston for the event celebrating the work of all parties. “The grant from the state really made it all possible,” said Crouch who added that seeing the county with successes like the new playground gives him a sense of accomplishment after the hard work the Board of Commissioners has put into directing the county over the last four years.

Paris took note at the ceremony to thank Kevan White, Gilmer County Recreation and Parks Department Director, for his vision and direction in the project. Despite the project taking a little longer than originally expected due to weather and unexpected costs, Paris said the park looked “more spectacular than I thought it was going to be.” Paris told FYN the entire playground was White’s vision as he took the main brunt of design and layout for something he could not have imagined.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today's Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

The completed playground equipment at River Park is officially opened after today’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

During the ceremony, Speaker Ralston took a moment to say he was proud to have played a small part in the project of the new playground but thanked Chairman Paris and the County for their hard work in making the project a reality, specifically noting White’s leadership role.

Crouch also mentioned a special thanks to the community for their patience in both this project and the county’s progress as a whole. He commented saying, “We had a lot of challenges. I think we’ve turned a corner and are heading in a positive direction on a lot of different

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county's new playground.

Left to right, Kevan White, David Ralston, Charlie Paris, and Travis Crouch take a moment to pose in front of the county’s new playground.

fronts, especially in a financial front. We had to start somewhere, and people have been pretty patient. They’ve understood the situation we’ve had. I feel like progress has been made.”

Paris echoed his sentiments thanking the public for their support and patience in the time up to now as well as in the coming months when the county moves forward on the other projects planned for River Park.

 

See more details on what’s coming next for the park with FYN’s recent article, “County’s River Park moving closer to upgrades” or check out more photos of the playground as well as a few members of the county enjoying the new equipment on FYN’s Facebook Page.

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Speaker, Governor & Lieutenant Governor Announce Tax Cut Plan

Politics, State & National

Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, today outlined updates to HB 918, which addresses state tax code. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration, now combines the 2017 Internal Revenue Code (IRC) bill, HB 821, with 2018 IRC updates. It also addresses the state revenue projections resulting from the Federal Tax Act.

HB 918 would double the standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018. It would also reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent effective Jan. 1, 2019. Finally, the legislation includes a provision further reducing the tax rate to 5.5 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2020. This reduction would require approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor in order to take effect.

The bill will also help our state be more competitive by eliminating the sales tax on jet fuel, which will encourage airlines to fly additional direct flights from Georgia to destinations around the globe.

“Taxpayers have already started to experience the positive effects of federal tax reform here in Georgia and throughout the country,” said Deal. “Our state is also projected to benefit significantly in the coming years. The legislation presented today is a result of ongoing dialogue between House and Senate leadership and addresses Georgia’s projected windfall while balancing the state’s fiscal health and protecting our AAA bond rating.

“This bill keeps more of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in their pockets by doubling the standard deduction and reducing income tax rates. It will save taxpayers more than $5 billion over the next five years. Doubling the standard deduction will also allow Georgia filers to take fuller advantage of the newly enhanced federal standard deduction. Further, these combined changes mark one of the biggest income tax cuts in state history, and does so in a fiscally responsible manner. The standard deduction was last increased in 1981. The individual rate was set at 6 percent in 1937 and has not changed since, while the corporate rate has also remained at 6 percent since 1969. I’m confident HB 918 will be passed by the General Assembly quickly and immediately transmitted to my desk. The sooner I sign this landmark reform legislation, the sooner taxpayers may file.”

“This historic tax cut lowers Georgia’s income tax rate for the first time ever, returning significant savings to millions of families across our state,” said Cagle. “Most importantly, this framework sets the stage for continued reductions – building on the Trump administration’s tax reform to allow Georgians to keep more of what they earn.”

“I am committed to keeping the tax burden on Georgians as low as possible,” said Ralston. “This measure is yet another example of the General Assembly working with Governor Deal to empower families to save more of their money. I appreciate the Governor’s leadership and the cooperation between the House and the Senate in developing this income tax cut legislation. I look forward to it moving quickly through the legislative process.”

Speaker Ralston Attends Trump’s Infrastructure Announcement

News, Politics

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) attended President Trump’s infrastructure announcement at The White House this morning.  Speaker Ralston was one of several local and state elected officials invited to participate in a series of discussions with the President as well as members of his cabinet and senior staff about the plan and the infrastructure needs facing our nation.

I appreciate President Trump’s emphasis on public-private partnerships, as well as rural areas of America, as we look to address the nation’s infrastructure needs,” said Speaker Ralston.  “Much like his Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, this measure will make a real difference in projects of profound economic importance like the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project or long-overdue efforts like expanding broadband infrastructure into rural areas.  This is another example of President Trump focusing on creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity across our country.  I am honored to represent the State of Georgia at this important announcement.”

President Trump’s infrastructure plan looks to leverage the power of public-private partnerships to improve the nation’s infrastructure including transportation, water/sewer and other critical needs like broadband internet access.  More details on the President’s plan are available on The White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov.

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Ralston speaks on Yukon bus crash

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – While local citizens continue discussion of Monday’s incident involving a bus overturning on Yukon Road, the discussion has spread to the state capital as Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston released an official comment today.

“I’m so thankful no one was hurt in this week’s school bus accident.  While the road the accident occurred on is maintained by the county government, I’m willing to discuss state involvement in addressing any safety concerns with the road if the county feels that state involvement would be helpful.  I’m just glad that there was an emergency medical facility in the county which could treat the children who were injured.  The last time a serious bus accident occurred in Gilmer County, that wasn’t the case.”

As some have addressed concerns over the area of Yukon road where the accident occured, FetchYourNews has learned that county officials have been looking into the road this week since the wreck. While no official statement on their progress is available at this time, this comment from Ralston could open discussion for possibilities in the future.

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Cherry Log Fire Station: a promise fulfilled?

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Holding their groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend, Gilmer County has already spent months clearing land and preparing the lot on Pink Pig Lane for a new fire station.

With a contractor moving forward, officials gathered together to formally break ground on the building’s construction. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston visited with Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller, and Gilmer Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett as they joined with local citizens to celebrate the project.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log's Fire Station.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log’s Fire Station.

With the original fire station in the area closed several years ago, citizens have continually expressed the importance of replacing it. A fire station in the area was promised but proved to be slow going. According to local resident Ernest Watkins, many of those in the area lost faith and didn’t believe the station would ever be built. Watkins told FetchYourNews (FYN) the station means everything to him as he had two sons who became volunteer firefighters and having the new location represents the culmination of his community coming together and being heard in what they are wanting.

Opening the ceremony, Pritchett spoke on the importance of the project saying, “Community fire and emergency response capabilities for our citizens are the most vital and important services a local government can provide.” He went on to thank the current Board of Commissioners for making the project a priority and following through with the community through consistent hurdles and obstacles they encountered.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the Fire Station.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the fire station.

Chairman Paris echoed the sentiments on the community thanking the Sisson Family who donated the land for the fire station as well as the people of Cherry Log saying, “You’ve been promised for years and years now that there is going to be a fire station here. It has been my objective to make that happen … This groundbreaking today is actually a confirmation of our promise to you that this is going to get built. We are going forward on it.”

Paris thanked citizens for their patience in the project as he and the current board have worked through the trials and tougher points of completing it.

The contract sets the station to be completed within six months from now. This sets the station to be open before next winter and available for any needs such as warming centers or shelters like any other station. Paris confirmed the new building will be a volunteer station and that the county already has volunteer firefighters planned at the location. The new location, dubbed Fire Station No. 3, will be an unmanned station that utilizes the volunteers to man the position.

With the ceremony completed and construction underway, Paris said the next step will be preparing equipment and readying the transfer of that equipment to the facility.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, right, looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Ralston praised the community’s efforts throughout the project saying he wanted to show his support for them. The “community spirit and pride” were what Ralston said laid the foundation. The fire station represents a “capstone” on their efforts locally. He went on to say he was very proud of the community and all they had accomplished.

His sentiment was later echoed by Paris who told FYN in a one-on-one interview that it was the community who stayed with the project. Considering some citizens becoming demoralized after the years they had waited for the project, Paris said, “The fact that we have done this, this is hard to ignore … They just wanted it to happen, and now that it is, I think the folks here are pretty happy with it.”

Paris also praised his Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Travis Crouch for their support in the project saying, “There has never been a question about whether Cherry Log needed to have a fire station.”

Moving forward, citizens will continue to watch the project progress through construction and paving, marching ever closer to finally completing a promise years in the making.

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