“I’ve always enjoyed serving and I’ve always enjoyed the application of state law.” Kevin Johnson said he enjoys and looks forward to the position of Magistrate Judge if elected.
Running to transition into the Judge’s office after retiring from the Highway Patrol after seven years as post commander in Blue Ridge at the end of 2019, Johnson said he believes his experience and history will transfer easily into the office as he comes from 30 years experience in law enforcement. Transitioning between applying warrants and making arrests to approving warrants and seeking righteous cause to protect citizens will be easy as the core purposes of public service and protecting people’s rights is his focus in both.
Johnson lives in Gilmer County with his wife, Julie. With four kids in the family, he calls Gilmer his home post. The Appalachian Mountains have been home throughout his career and as a Gilmer County resident for over 25 years, he says he vested in his community, in the place where his kids grew up, where one son still lives.
A veteran of Marine Corps with six years of service, two in the corps and four in reserves, Johnson said that public service has been a part of his entire life. Service in the Marines, service as a Sheriff’s Deputy, and service as an officer in the Highway Patrol. Taking the next step is just the natural feeling as he says he closed the door on his police career with his retirement, but saw another door open with the Magistrate position.
The Magistrate’s Office is something Johnson said he has been interested in for years, and sees it as the next step in service. Dealing with the Magistrate’s Office over the years in law enforcement, the interest grew the more he interacted with them. While retiring from the State Patrol, he said he never wanted to run against Gilmer’s Magistrate Judge, but when he learned the position was coming open with the Judge retiring, he knew it was time to pursue the office that has interested him for so long. It was time to take that next step in service.
Johnson said that the bench has its differences, such as not searching for evidence but listening to it. Making those determinations based on evidence. But he said much of those changes, he has already prepared for. During his time with law enforcement, he had annual training for courtrooms including case law, arrest warrants, affidavits, and courtroom testimony. He says statutory law and writing and requesting warrants in addition to training and experience in conflict resolution means ready skills and applicable experience in the office.
“It becomes who you are, you want to serve,” said Johnson about his career so far. From military to law enforcement, “I wanted to defend those who could not defend themselves.”
He noted many times in law enforcement, an officer has to guide and mediate arguments in situations like domestic disputes, for example. He spoke about how sometimes you have to be a little bit of a counselor, that the job is not all about making arrests. Reaching a middle ground and resolving a problem, that is the feeling he wants to take from the position of officer to the position of Judge. Johnson said that was the key personality he wanted to bring to the position, a servant’s heart that wants to reach goals and solve problems.
“It’s a new chapter,” said Johnson as he explained not just a desire to to become the Magistrate Judge, but an excitement to learn new things and continue his service while enforcing the right for people to have their voices heard in the judicial system. He said he has the knowledge in the law, he has the experience, and he has the drive to become the Magistrate Judge. Combining education with experience provides the perfect balance needed for leadership and guidance in the position.
There is a trend in many cities now having legal experts, that is to say attorneys, in judge positions as they have the training, education, and experience readily available in the courts. Michael Parham said he believes that expertise is the key. He explained that he wants to bring a professionalism that can only come after decades of experience and immersion in the system through training and practice. He said that he thinks any of the candidates could run the office well and he is not here to challenge that credibility, instead, Parham said he is running because he wants to continue the idea of attorneys and legal experts in the office.
Parham has that expertise whereas new non-legal experts require the extra training. Each candidate can become what the county needs as they grow and progress each day. But Parham already has 20 years of experience. He said that he also will have to grow and progress in the office, learning from the public and the people. But with the training already done, he said, “If we can put someone with professional training and background in the office, why not do that.”
Michael Parham is an attorney, a pastor, a husband, and a father. His wife of 50 years, Margaret, and he has two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Living in Talking Rock in 1981 and hearing the call to minister earlier in his life, it was in 1984 that he actually moved into Gilmer County and began calling it his home. Before that, he lived closer to Atlanta and was a pastor at a church just outside the city limits as he attended law school.
Going from preacher to lawyer, in the late 70s, it was a time when several child murders had occurred near his home, but also a time of increasing interests in christian schools and other needs for church’s to have lawyers. “I wanted to be an advocate,” said Parham explaining that he has always felt a need to help people. In that time, it was an advocate for people in the christian school movement and churches in need. It appealed to him and he grew into the legal studies from there. The two run along parallel tracks in his life as he says it gives a unique background and view of people. It has never become a one or the other option as Parham later went inactive with the bar and became a minister again, but then returned to his legal career again after that.
In court settings, Parham said he has the understanding for precedence and proceedings. He has the knowledge to be sure that warrants are valid and viable and to speak with officers over merit. Just as lawyers have their role, a judge must know his role so as not to become an advocate or speak for either side. A judge must not impose himself or herself into the cases, but also be available to explain proceedings neutrally.
“It’s a head start.” With 14 years and 1 month in public defender office, you deal with people from the public, you are called to help people in all situations. Clients are assigned despite whether you want it, like it, or anything. Because of that, Parham said he has learned to have the the mindset of just focusing on the case at hand and putting any thoughts, biases, or personal feelings aside to focus on ‘how can I help this person in this situation.’ He explained it as “You take people as they come and you just try to serve them to the best of your ability.”
Private practice allows more selective options with cases and clients. And while he has practiced privately, Parham said that his time as a pastor bleeds through, “I love serving people.” The vast majority of his law career has been as a public defender and continuing that into a Judge’s position came because he saw no other lawyers qualifying.
He said he doesn’t want to rush in and make a bunch of changes, but rather fully immerse himself in it. A new judge will deal with things maybe differently than the previous judge, but it shouldn’t be a difficult transition. Taking the bench is a role to service and a step to provide what he believes to be a necessity for the position. Taking that transition is just another among his life as he recalls his start in legal studies.
All of his career has been in defense, Parham is already looking at this and understanding that has a different look at things than prosecutors. Looking at cases in certain ways, and looking to a new office and a new way of things, it means taking the ideas of different cases and looking at cases in different ways. It’s about resolution. A Judge’s position is about providing and guiding resolution in many ways. People have high expectations in court and you have to guide resolutions without advocating for one side over the other.
Parham said, “Wise judges usually try to guide parties toward resolution that they have a part in bringing about.”
Taking that step is not a big step as Parham says he has learned these lessons throughout his life.
“Yes, there will be things for me to learn. I would be, certainly, remiss to think I am going to just waltz in and I got it all down. I don’t. We’re all going to be learning, any of these candidates are going to be learning, but I have a whole lot more experience to bring to that learning,” said Parham. Qualifications are not something that should be ignored. He said he is the candidate with background and education to step into the position with qualifications and experience.
He went on to note that he didn’t qualify early on in the process. He waited to qualify until Thursday afternoon of qualifying week because, as he told his wife, if another attorney had run, that would have been fine. “I think an attorney has to be in that role.”
Though being elected for two terms and having almost eight years of experience in the position, Becky Marshall has been in the office of the Tax Commissioner for 16 years.
Married to Danny Marshall with two daughters and five grandchildren, Rebecca “Becky” Marshall has lived in Gilmer County for just under 24 years.
“I feel like I have made a big improvement to the Tax Commissioners office. I feel like I have worked well with the citizens of Gilmer County. I love what I do. I am passionate about what I do. And I want to continue to be available for all the taxpayers if they need me,” says Marshall.
Marshall offered a few of the accomplishments made over the years, but as she listed them, she noted that ‘we’ have done things. She said, “We have gotten the delinquencies caught up. We have been maintaining almost a 99 percent collection rate with all the tax bills… We have cross-trained all staff members so all staff members work in the motor vehicle division and in the property tax division.”
She noted improvements to PC’s over terminals and email contacts for employees, training and improving in customer service and decreasing wait times for citizens, and improving information for citizens to come in and get the information that they need.
Even in the current crisis, simple measures like adding a dropbox outside have made improvements for citizens wishing to maintain little to no contact. Marshall added that past improvements have helped as well like putting services online and allowing citizens to pay bills and attend to things that way have allowed people to stay home. She noted that even those coming in have needed adaptation as she has even said some have phoned and the office has offered curbside service to them.
Marshall said that the office needs to be flexible in these times saying, “It’s going to be a struggle for a lot of people. So, we want to be firm and we want to be strong, but we also want to be compassionate and understanding.”
Even now, Marshall says she wants to keep improving the office, growing with the times. Even though she says that she, personally, isn’t the best at upgrading and using social media, she wants the office to be better in that regard and has been working towards expansions into these realms for some time.
Reaching out is the next step, says Marshall. While some older generations may not use or need the digital upgrades, reaching out to younger generations and incorporating the citizens’ wants and interactions is a part of that step. She said she has considered options like self-service kiosks and convenience for people who work full-time, more open information through social media, and website improvements.
Even cooperations with other departments is improving as she states that the courts, the clerk’s office, the tax assessors office, all of these departments are crucial and communication and cooperation with them are just as crucial.
Marshall says she still has plans for the future, plans to continue improving the office past what they have already achieved. Yet, it isn’t progressing for progress’ sake that drives her. It’s the balancing and bottom lines that provide a sense of correctness and positive energy for her. Maintaining excellence is the force behind her. Continuing the effort and the payoff of her efforts for the office was why she ran eight years ago, and it is why, she says, she is running again this year.
She said, “The office belongs to Gilmer County, it doesn’t belong to me. My paycheck comes from the taxpayers. I want this office to run the way they expect it to run. I want the transparency, I want people to be able to see exactly what’s going on. There is always room for improvement. No matter what you’re doing…”
Candidate for Gilmer Tax Commissioner, Sharla Davis is a 30-year veteran of management and accounting positions with companies across Georgia.
Professionally working in accounting, management, and customer service in the Automotive Industry, Davis says she has worked for four of the top-ten Automotive Groups in the Nation. She currently works for Greenway Automotive group. Davis said she has gone through receiving, processing, balancing, and reporting for these groups including dealing with taxes, tax law, and exemptions that already start to cross over into the work as Tax Commissioner.
Two years of experience also comes from the Tax Commissioners office in Gilmer where she worked under current Commissioner Becky Marshall.
Speaking on working and living in Gilmer for five years, Davis said, “I love Gilmer County, my husband [David Hoover] and I moved up here five years ago and it has exceeded our expectations. The people, the landscape, and the area.”
She said that through his support she has gained the courage to pursue her campaign. Davis said that she loves talking with people one-on-one, but has had to rely on his encouragement for large public speaking venues. It is in those moments that little things like saying he is proud of her helps to motivate her through the process.
As Tax Commissioner, Davis said she would want to share this knowledge and training. The office has an accountant and deals with that area, but her experience also affords her management and leadership experience that she wishes to bring to bear and fill into more areas to make the office more successful.
Training and preparation are one of the curves Davis says she is excited to take on. Any new Commissioner has to go through training classes and learn the law aspects and procedures. While this is a learning curve for her, she says, it’s something she is looking forward to as she loves learning and exploring new things.
Accounting is, more so, a talent than a passion, says Davis. She went to school for teaching in Psychology. However, she was already in accounting positions as she worked. Continuing the current business after finishing school, accounting won out as she never really left it. Davis says it is the idea of having things balanced and complete that gives her satisfaction as she has honed a talent “that God blessed me with.”
Exploring those new areas means exploring the position and ways to adapt and improve while also continuing the postive practices already in place.
The Tax Commissioner can help people in the community simply by being accessible, being available. Davis said she wants to be a provider for the community just as much as the collections. Davis said she wants to improve areas of information gathering and distribution for the office. She offered ideas about improving the website and research capabilities, easing confusion of residents about the Tax Commissioners duties versus other departments, taking advantage of social media.
Even in the current situation with sheltering in place and business shutdowns, working with people is key. Adapting to the environment and being a part of the community are the ideas that Davis wants to express. Taking advantage of social media to continue easily accessed and noticeable updates.
Davis said that some of this accessibility she wants to push forward on could include adaptations like talking with the Board of Commissioners and other departments and looking at opening at least one Saturday of each month, even if only for a few hours, to be available for those who may not find the time during the week between work and their lives.
Davis said she wanted to look at options for some employees who may want to look at more part-time availability or adaptive schedules to look at employee’s choices and wants.
Having worked for two years in the office, Davis said she loved that the staff was very knowledgable and friendly. The environment is already in place that she wants to foster. Moving from a denser population towards Atlanta, she said that seeing these people in the office so helpful, kind, and informative was a very exciting change from what she was used to.
Adaptability is key, according to Davis, as she says she brings the experience of positions in need of flexibility. A leader with a positive attitude can work wonders in an office that has laws, software, programs, and needs that are constantly shifting.
“I believe in people before politics,” says Davis. This is an administrative position and the people are who we, as elected officials, serve. Davis said she wants to provide the residents of Gilmer with the most courteous, professional, and accessible service she can provide in a county that she loves.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Seniors received good news about Graduation during the Board of Education’s April Regular Meeting as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs read an email that was sent from Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley.
The email noted details about the plans for graduation as well as a recognition on May 22, 2020. While some of these are similar to plans discussed earlier in the week at the work session, final details came through the email.
Foley said, “While we must wait to hold a large gathering, we do not want to let May 22nd pass without celebration.”
The school will give each senior an opportunity to walk across the field and receive their diploma with their parents and family members close by. They will video each senior having their name announced and receiving their diploma. Then, after having the videos = edited together, the plan is to air the Class of 2020 commencement proceedings on ETC 3 at 7 p.m. on May 22nd.
While these are the current plans as Gilmer will not be returning to class this year, the plans are in effort, according to Downs, to provide some closure to the year for these students through a graduation as well as a recognition day.
Downs did provide the specific details from the email later:
Seniors will be able to pick up their caps and gowns at GHS on Thursday, April 23rd, between 12-3pm. Please enter the GHS campus via Old 5 and Bobcat Trail, and follow the signs and directions.
At that time, each senior will be given a paper with a number (1-265), date (May 6th-8th), and time (9am-3pm) to arrive at Huff-Mosely Stadium, via Bobcat Trail, behind the Larry Walker Education Center. You will not be allowed to enter the stadium via Old 5 or Legion Road.
Seniors and their family members (1 carload – maximum 6 occupants, including the senior) will arrive at LWEC no earlier than 15 minutes before your assigned time.
We will be working in groups of 5 seniors at a time. The first 5 cars, in numeric order, will be lined up and directed around the LWEC toward the visitor entrance of the stadium.
The first senior and his/her family will enter the stadium and check in at the table, and proceed to the podium. In order for seniors to participate in the walking ceremony/taping, all fines and fees must be paid in full. Look for an email indicating if your child owes any money for fees or fines.
Once that senior leaves the check in table, the next senior and their family will get out of their car, enter the stadium, and check in, and so on. Please do not leave your car until directed to do so by a Gilmer County Sheriff’s officer.
At the podium, the senior’s name will be announced, along with any academic awards and scholarships from the Gilmer Education Foundation they have received. (Applications for Gilmer Education Foundation scholarships are due by noon, on Monday, April 20th, to your child’s counselor)
The senior will then proceed to the middle of the field to receive their diploma cover and a folder with additional awards and scholarship information from me, and Superintendent, Dr. Downs. Actual diplomas will be mailed to students after May 22nd. Students need to complete the following Google Form to indicate where their diploma should be mailed: https://forms.gle/RFVfJEVViSNpRwsZA
Next, the senior will go to a table to pick up their yearbook. If you haven’t ordered your child’s yearbook yet, it is not too late. You can order online at: https://tinyurl.com/y8rz5q8y , or you can order and pay in person when your child comes to pick up their cap and gown on April 23rd.
Finally, there will be a place on the field where parents and family members can take pictures with your senior.
Each senior will be given 15-minutes on the field from check-in to picture taking. Please honor this time in order to keep the number of people on the field to a safe capacity for all involved.
If you cannot make the date/time you have been assigned, please let me know ASAP. A few time slots will be available on Saturday, May 9th, from 10:30-12:00.
If your child will not be participating in this ceremony, please have your child notify their counselor ASAP.
Foley also said that the school will plan a graduation event in which all seniors and their families can meet on the field and celebrate their accomplishments should current circumstances change over the summer. “We just don’t want to miss the opportunity to provide something at this time.”
During this trying time, FetchYourNews.com wants you to know we are a part of your community. We know this Easter will be much different than most. No family gatherings, Sunrise services, or church gatherings but we want you all to remember, that we will get through this. We are all in this together. Here at FYN we wish you well on this Easter weekend.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home.
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Sheriff Stacy Nicholson announces he will seek re-election this year.
Sheriff Nicholson and his wife, Stacie, live in the City of Ellijay. They are both members and regularly attend Friendship #3 Baptist Church in McCaysville.
The Sheriff is 48 years old and will begin his 30th year of law enforcement with Gilmer Sheriff’s Office in March of 2020. He was first elected as Sheriff in 2004.
Sheriff Nicholson states, “I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and protecting the citizens of Gilmer County. I have never had the desire to pursue ANY job opportunity, professional or financial, that would take me away from serving the community in which I live. Instead, I developed the desire and vision of molding and leading this Sheriff’s Office to an agency that is second to none. In that, I have a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ invested. We’re not perfect by any means, but we strive daily to provide Gilmer County citizens with the best Sheriff’s Office they can ask for. I have an excellent group of deputies and staff that have bought into my vision, and they work hard every day for us.”
On day one as Sheriff, Nicholson began working on building strong relationships with the police chiefs of Ellijay and East Ellijay. The Sheriff states, “Our agencies are small, respectively speaking. We all sometimes need each other for assistance. Cooperation starts at the top. If the Sheriff and Chiefs get along and are on the ‘same page,’ then the troops out there doing the job will typically.” Sixteen years later, the working relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Police Departments is strong.
In highlighting just a few of the agency’s accomplishments under Sheriff Nicholson, the Sheriff’s Office received its State Certification in 2008, becoming only the 12th Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to achieve this “voluntary” distinction. The Sheriff’s Office is in its ninth year of offering a “totally transparent” view of their operation through their Citizens’ Law Enforcement Academy program. The Office has a strong in-house training unit, as well as outside the agency training opportunities, focusing heavily on active shooter response and crisis intervention training. Lastly, the Sheriff’s Office has just begun offering active shooter response for citizens, specifically focusing on churches.
In highlighting some recent professional recognition and accomplishments, Sheriff Nicholson was elected by the Sheriffs of the State of Georgia to serve as President of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association for 2018-2019. Prior to that, he served for six years as Regional Vice President of the Association. Most recently, he has been appointed as a District Director for the Constitutional Officers’ Association of Georgia, representing a 14-county area of Clerk of Superior Courts, Probate Judges, Tax Commissioners and Sheriffs. Sheriff Nicholson states, “It is a huge honor to be respected by my elected peers to represent them in our Associations second ONLY to the honor of being able to serve the citizens of Gilmer County as YOUR Sheriff.
Sheriff Nicholson concludes, “today’s law enforcement is ever changing, under scrutiny and sometimes even under attack. Leading a Sheriff’s Office is not for the ‘faint of heart.’ It is a fast-paced, stressful job with a lot of moving parts with 100-plus employees. I assure you that I am physically, mentally, and health consciously ready to lead this team that I have assembled for whatever comes our way.”
The record of the Sheriff’s Office, under MY watch, I think speaks for itself. Our goal is to address serious crime in a manner that might be a deterrent, using proactive versus reactive policing methods; but at the same time maintaining our small town approach to interactions with our good citizens, both young and old.
I would be honored to be YOUR Sheriff for the next four years and I humbly ask for your vote on May 19th.
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