ELLIJAY, GA. – A recent listing as a finalist in the Nicest Places in America, Ellijay is garnering extra attention from the nation as a whole.
Hosted on the USA Today 10Best.com website, the poll actually encompasses a cooperation including Reader’s Digest Magazine as well as Good Morning America. Even further, the poll draws in judges from other well-known shows and publications like hidden-camera show Random Acts, the Washington Post, and Project Happiness.
Among 450 nominations nationwide, the pool has at last been narrowed to the top 10 finalists. Ellijay, Ga is one of the cities next to Bothell, Wa, Kalamazoo, Mi, North Riverside, Il, and Katy, Tx. The list also has one county, Mower County, Mn, and four specific spots, Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md, Yassin’s Falafel House in Knoxville, Tn, Life Moves Yoga in Killeen, Tx, and North Evergreen Street in Burbank, Ca.
According to Reader’s Digest Magazine, the nomination for Ellijay came from Marie and Steve Cortes who related the story of their first visit to Ellijay one January morning as they stopped into the Cornerstone Cafe. With every table in the restaurant taken, the Cortes’ were invited to sit with strangers as diners “scooched over” to make room.
As someone who has lived here in Ellijay most of my life, I, too, have felt the indescribable pull of the people. Something about the area encourages me to grab a bite at the Cantaberry Restaurant while people watching and inevitably speaking to the people who walk by because we recognize each other.
In fact, one of the recurring themes I hear about the city, and the county as a whole for that matter, is a story about a wave. Whether its Abby’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt owner and Downtown Development Authority member, Mark Luchauer, who describes the city’s feel as “small-town USA at its finest, where you can walk down the street and wave at everybody and they’ll wave back,” or the owner/operator of the Cartecay River Experience, Woody Janssen, who said in an interview earlier this year, “It feels like The Andy Griffith Show in a way, everybody waves still. You go down to Atlanta and you wave at somebody, it’s not like that … It brings that down-home feeling,” the same them shows up repeatedly.
There is something so special about a gesture so simple. Why do I hear it as the special memory from visitors and citizens alike? Just a wave back, it is something that transcends language, but it is so meaningful that everyone notices if it happens or not. Maybe we don’t realize it at the time, but a city where I can sit on the side of River Street and wave at people generates that community. It creates that connection. You may not know it, but just waving at someone says so much. It says, “I see you.” It says, “I noticed you.”
While the voting on the poll continues, people who visit the site are encouraged to vote once a day until July 7. As of June 27, Ellijay is in second place of the voting and is continuing to rise in numbers.
The winner of the poll will be named “Nicest Place in America” and featured on Good Morning America and as a cover story in the November issue of Reader’s Digest.
People from all over are encouraging you to vote, everyone from locals to businesses to the Gilmer Chamber have been posting on social media sites about voting and why they love the town. You can join in by voting on the website as well as sharing your vote and story on social media. While you’re sharing the story, make sure to continue sharing the love through everything you do, even with a small wave at a stranger on the street.
*These election results are unofficial until being certified by the Secretary of State’s office.
2018 Gilmer County Primary Election Results
Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner
Karleen Ferguson (R) – Totals – 1,677 votes at 61.27%
Woody Janssen (R) – Totals – 359 votes at 13.12%
Jerry Tuso (R) – Totals – 701 votes at 25.61%
Danny Hall officially withdrew from the election race. An official comment from the elections representatives in Gilmer stated that while they did post notices as to his withdrawal at polling sites, his name did appear on the ballot. As such, Hall received votes during the election. However, the representatives did confirm that they had spoken with officials at the state level and were instructed not to count his votes as part of the process. This count stands with the three candidates at their current percentage of the votes counted. FYN has requested the total votes cast for Hall, but have not received them at this time.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman
Charlie Paris (R) – Totals – 2995 votes at 100.0%
Gilmer County Board of Education Post 4 Seat
Michael Bramlett – 3,424 votes at 99.22%
27 Write-in votes
Gilmer County Board of Education Post 5 Seat
Ronald Watkins – 3,429 votes at 99.22%
27 Write-in Votes
Georgia House of Representative District 7
David Ralston (R) – 2,757 votes at 72.23%
Margaret Williamson (R) – Totals – 1,060 votes at 27.77%
Rick Day (D) – Totals – 458 votes at 100.0%
2018 Georgia Primary Election Results
Casey Cagle (R) – 1,471 votes at 38.46%
Hunter Hill (R) – 708 votes at 18.51%
Brian Kemp (R) – 1,065 votes at 27.84%
Clay Tippins (R) – 383 votes at 10.01%
Michael Williams (R) – 198 votes at 5.18%
Stacey Abrams (D) – 296 votes at 53.05%
Stacey Evans (D) – 262 votes at 46.95%
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CANDIDATES:
Geoff Duncan (R) – 838 votes at 24.72%
Rick Jeffares (R) – 940 votes at 27.73%
David Shafer (R) – 1,612 votes at 47.55%
Sarah Riggs Amico (D) – 402 votes at 76.57%
Triana Arnold James (D) – 123 votes at 23.43%
SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATES:
David Belle Isle (R) – 965 votes at 28.98%
Buzz Brockway (R) – 465 votes at 13.96%
Josh McKoon (R) – 574 votes at 17.24%
Brad Raffensperger (R) – 1,326 votes at 39.82%
John Barrow (D) – 293 votes at 56.13%
Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D) – 159 votes at 30.46%
R.J. Hadley (D) – 70 votes at 13.41%
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES:
Jim Beck (R) – 2,062 votes at 61.59%
Jay Florence (R) – 699 votes at 20.88%
Tracy Jordan (R) – 587 votes at 17.53%
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES:
District 3 –
Chuck Eaton (R) – 2951 votes at 100.0%
Lindy Miller (D) – 342 votes at 68.13%
John Noel (D) – 119 votes at 23.71%
Johnny White (D) – 41 votes at 8.17%
District 5 –
John Hitchins III (R) – 1,557 votes at 47.54%
Tricia Pridemore (R) – 1,718 votes at 52.46%
Dawn Randolph (D) – 347 votes at 71.40%
Doug Stoner (D) – 139 votes at 28.60%
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.
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with the Gilmer County Probate Court that Danny Hall has removed his name from the Post 2 Commissioner ballot.
Tammy Watkins from the Gilmer County Probate Court confirmed with FYN that the official paperwork has been filed to remove him from the race. However, the name will still appear on the ballots in the election. According to Watkins, there will be notes in the election booths about his retirement from the race.
It is the current understanding that the official reason for Hall backing out of the race is due to work scheduling conflicts that he said would detriment his service to the county. Hall stated that the conflicts would not allow him to make a full commitment to the position.
With only the official statement available, stay with FYN as we seek more details from Hall in the coming days. Hall’s withdrawal from the election leaves three other candidates in the race: Karleen Ferguson, Jerry Tuso, and Woody Janssen.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Local citizen, and owner/operator of the Cartecay River Experience, Woody Janssen has qualified for Post 2 Commissioner in Gilmer County.
Running for the position, Janssen says he hopes to utilize his business and logistics background to move Gilmer forward in its economic process.
Janssen graduated in 1996 from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) and moved through logistics management for several years before moving to Texas. Returning to Gilmer County, he has operated the Cartecay River Experience since 2009. Janssen tells FetchYourNews he has seen Gilmer County after the recession slowly progressing on its path to recovery and economic stability.
Noting the current commissioners’ progress in expanding the activities of Gilmer, Janssen pointed to an abundance of natural resources in the county to facilitate growth for “family activities” to attract a larger variety of people to the county. However, he tempered his statement on growth saying Gilmer needs to stay rural. He went on to say, “It feels like The Andy Griffith Show in a way, everybody waves still. You go down to Atlanta and you wave at somebody, it’s not like that … It brings that down-home feeling. That’s how I grew up in Utah when I was a kid. It was a small area, we were all farmers. I was on a farm since I was five years old.”
Janssen pointed to other local communities prospering in the rural parts of the state like Blue Ridge in Fannin County and Helen in White County. The common thing Janssen noted that he wants to see in Gilmer is the variety of activities to see and do.
Accomplishing this is not something one man does alone. Janssen noted the community’s work and great people working alongside other entities. He praised the current commissioner’s work on the Golf Course specifically saying it is the greatest he has ever seen it: “The way Mike Brumby has done this, what he has done with the golf course, it is going to slowly progress.” With definitive and continued progress, it becomes a matter of continuing the hard work to get Gilmer financially into the black.
Janssen continued, “There is a lot of work to be done, but with what Charlie has done, and Dallas and Travis have helped, they are bringing it more into the black.” Janssen said continuing the work of bringing in more commerce would be his focus in taking the position of Post 2 Commissioner.
In a final word towards voters, Janssen took a moment to say, “The progression is awesome with what’s going on. Do I think we can do a little bit better as a community? Yeah, everybody can. You can always progress. You can always get better. Something my coach always said, ‘You have to get better every day. If you don’t, then your competition is.’ There are little things we can always progress on. We can create more.”
Woody Janssen is one of four candidates running for the Post 2 Commissioner position in Gilmer County. Check out FYN’s other Candidate Interviews as they become available for Jerry Tuso, Karleen Ferguson, and Danny Hall.