Sheriff Frank Reynolds of Cherokee County gives his endorsement of Kevin Johnson for Chief Magistrate Judge of Gilmer County. Click the video below to play.
New energy. Beth Arnold, candidate for Gilmer County Coroner, says she wants to bring new energy to the office in Gilmer County. An office that she holds 11 years of experience for from funeral service as she says she has worked in Bernhardt Funeral Home. She also studied funeral services in the program at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, Georgia.
Arnold said that she decided to run for the Office of Coroner because she wants to serve the citizens of the county while taking the next step in education and public service through the career she has spent so much time in. A lifelong resident of Gilmer County except the time spent at college, Beth is the daughter of Lee and Buffy Rittenberry Holcombe. She graduated from Gilmer High School in 2010 and is married to Dusty Arnold with two daughters, Reagan and Farrah.
Relying on her family for support in her career is key as she says they have already gotten used to strange hours in her career. Continuing that support into the Coroner’s Office, she says it is her firm stance on the importance of family and her Christian beliefs that drive her.
Though not the first time she’s thought about the office, Arnold said that now, the timing is right to make that run. This is where that ‘new energy’ she talks about comes from. Arnold said she is excited to take these next steps receiving the education and training, but also to bring renewed growth and a new face to the office.
“[The Coroner’s Office] has always been there in a time of need, they’ve done well at gathering information to pass on to investigators… They have served the community well,” says Arnold who noted she wants to add new ideas to renew and revitalize the position. She pointed out she didn’t have major issues she wants to change, but rather just improve upon with a fresh face.
The Coroner’s investigations and correspondence with those involved in the investigations are a key point in the office. Being a part of the community in service is another. But with separation from personal businesses, she wants to isolate the office in that area. She asserted this point saying that she wanted to separate the office from her own personal business included. Work at a funeral home is service to that business, but working in a public office is service to every citizen in the county.
Arnold said that she wanted to be “Beth Arnold, Gilmer Coroner” in those times. To be a coroner serving the community with dignity and respect is the goal she wants to achieve.
Arnold said that her career is a calling that isn’t for everybody. But setting to join funeral services in her career, she knew that. Being a blessing for people in a time of need, guiding them, and being a blessing for them as well. In funeral service, Arnold says that she wants to encourage people where she can.
The next step of running for Coroner, she says, is just an extension of that. Having that passion for helping people and the interest in funeral services, she wants to continue serving in a new role, a new capacity. Taking on the challenges of education and administrative responsibilities with that position, challenges like maintaining the budget and growing inside that budget, are all challenges to overcome in that service.
A fresh new role for her to fill, a fresh new face for the county. New energy to drive it into the future. Arnold says she will be there, any time of day, to provide in a time that people need to be treated with dignity and respect. There is no inconvenient time in this position and she wants that to be known saying, “It’s a position of service for those in the county and I want to serve you in that manner.”
Twenty-nine years of service since 1991. Jerry Hensley, candidate and incumbent for Gilmer County Coroner has been serving the citizens in his position for nearly three decades.
Studying the mortuary science in Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science, now Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service, Hensley graduated and, later, began licensed embalming and funeral services since 1975.
Since becoming Coroner, Hensley has undergone over 700 hours of training and classes for death investigations, family services, and law. With such a long history, he says much of the job has become muscle memory, but while practices and procedures don’t often change, laws and jurisdiction do. Hensley has worked alongside Sheriffs, city police, and even the Georgia Bureau of Investigation during his time with the county as he said he gets calls in all hours to support these investigations.
He has been married to Debbie Morrow Hensley for 44 years. They have two sons, Bryan and Nathan, and four grandchildren. Hensley is a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church. A 1973 graduate of Gilmer High School, Hensley has lived in Gilmer most of his life, save for attending school. He’s never felt a need or draw to leave the county saying, “I love the mountains, and I love Gilmer County and have always loved the people. I am comfortable here.”
So connected to several areas of the community, from the office to friends, family, and church, Hensley said he has never felt comfortable in other places the way he does with Gilmer.
Much the same way as setting roots in Gilmer, Hensley set roots into funeral service as he had in interest in it when younger. As things tend to go, one thing leads to another, and a student that studies that which interests him finds work in it. Hensley continued that study and work into services and a position at Logan’s Funeral Home.
Since 1991 and taking the Office of Coroner, Hensley said he is most proud of reaching close to 95% of all his calls. He said, “The people of Gilmer County elected me as their Coroner and I try my best to do my job.”
Helping in that office though, Hensley said he could not ask for two better deputies. He and his two certified deputy coroners, Melissa Waddell and Brian Nealey, have a combined 49 years of death investigation experience. All three coroners maintain their certification by receiving the state-mandated 24 hours of continuing education annually.
He went on to note that multiple calls or busier periods that require multiple responses require a deputy coroner to fill in with full authority of the Coroner’s Office saying, “That’s why I am proud to have two good Deputy Coroners. Because I can comfortably send them out on a call knowing they have got full power of the Coroner, and they are the Coroner when they are there. Everything’s going to be run like it’s supposed to.”
Having those deputies helps, but doesn’t always make the job easier in the one area that Hensley says is the single hardest part of his position. Notifying families. “It is always sad,” he said about the necessity of this service.
That necessary part comes with great balance to maintain professionalism while also being compassionate to the families. Hensley said it is what he has always strived for, compassion and courtesy amidst a professional, efficient office.
He wants his record to speak for him in this election as he said he hopes to continue serving the county just as he has for so many years. Furthermore, he asserted a need for citizens and encouraged all to get out and vote in the coming primary as many of Gilmer’s offices will be decided at that stage.
“I saw the need, I heard the need,” says Penney Andruski about her run for Tax Commissioner of Gilmer County. She went on to say that rather than just complaining or bypassing what she feels is a need in the county, she wanted to jump in and do something about the issue.
Andruski worked in the courthouse for two years under the State of Georgia with the Department of Community Supervision. She says she saw a lot in her time there and learned how important the office and staff is to the county. She has had 28 years of business experience and management. She has also spent 10 years in Gilmer’s community with the Mountain Ridge Garden Shop. She has spent 23 years in Gilmer and is engaged. Unfortunately, with the virus outbreak, she has had to put things on hold there but wanted to push ahead with her candidacy for the office.
Being a public servant is hard, she said, but researching the position before she announced her candidacy, Andruski said she is the right person for it. The experience she has gained and diversity through everything from entry-level to executive positions, from mom-and-pop-businesses to high-end styles. Budgets, board meetings, committees, law, these are all things that Andruski specifically pointed to as she says she is ready for the challenge.
“Your staff is the face of you,” she said. “When you’re a good leader, and you have good leadership skills, that reflects out that you have a balance in that office because that is a work-family…”
Andruski said she wants to be pro-active and engaging to the public. Utilizing things like digital media and web-based information, the goal is to become pro-active in providing an expedient, professional, and engaging service to citizens so that they know all they need to.
“Information is critical,” said Andruski.
The office has been great at collections according to Andruski who says the next step is better connections. Whether a staff member is answering a phone or signing a legal document as a judge, the elected officials and employees of the courthouse serve the community and should strive to offer the very best work possible.
She said even amidst the virus, she has noticed the great works of entities like the Chamber who has kept people’s spirits up, but also kept the flow of information up. She said she wants to be just as good in engagement areas like that telling people about extensions and requirements and new updates. She doesn’t want surprises.
The more information that citizens and residents have, the better they will feel. She wants to improve upon the successes the office has made, but fill in the areas she says has needs.
Organization is a key point for Ansruski’s personality as she said she loves the details of operations. The reason behind her passion in this office specifically comes from the details of everything, details like the numbers, accounting, collections, citizens, law, and the ways to engage all of these together.
For citizens, she says, it is all about the experience and the service and participation of the commissioner translates through the staff and provides that service. When it all comes together, we will continue to grow, all of the dollars, the people, and the budgets have to balance to achieve these common goals.
One challenge she says she sees ahead is transitioning. The first year is key as, if elected, she operates off a budget she did not create, but also in meshing with the staff and bringing a welcoming environment to carry on to achieve the goals.
Andruski said being a good public servant is being the face of the office for the public. Open door policies are a given without a need to say such things. Andruski said that as a candidate for the Tax Commissioners office, she wants to be the breath of fresh air that leads to a more engaging office for citizens.
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.
Ken and his wife, Karen, have called the Coosawattee neighborhood home for thirteen years and describe Gilmer County in one sentence: “Friendship with a sense of community.”
Ken’s public service career began with a five-year tour in the United States Air Force, followed by a fire service career in Central Florida, where he retired as Assistant Fire Chief after 25 years.
His public service career continued with the Seminole County Department of Public Safety, serving first as the Public Information Officer, then as County Emergency Management Director, and retiring as the Director of Public Safety. All of these positions involved coordination with county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the navigation of county-level government operations.
Ken currently serve as a Magistrate Judge for Gilmer County. He has served the Magistrate Court – which is often referred to as “the People’s Court” – with one simple philosophy: Do the right thing, always. This approach has served Gilmer County well, earned him the respect of the local law-enforcement community, and proven to be especially valuable when dealing with citizens coming to court for the first time.
Ken is running for Chief Magistrate in order to continue applying his philosophy of fairness, respect, and always doing the right thing; and would appreciate your vote.
For more information, visit electkenroberts.com
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Candidates Marjorie Greene, 14th District, and Rich McCormick, 7th District, visited Ellijay to speak about their campaigns for election at the famous Poole’s Bar-B-Q.
Each candidate met with citizens in Gilmer and offered a few words on campaigning and their support for Trump in the coming elections.
Dr. Rich McCormick spoke about opportunities for the people and the need for a leg up. He said, “This is about an American dream and selling something that’s good for everybody. I think that’s one of the things we’ve been lacking. We’re so busy trying to prove people wrong and trying to demonize people, that we forget that what really brings home a message, and you talk about Christianity, If you study the Bible with anybody and you ever try to convert anybody, it’s not by proving them wrong that you convert them. It’s by loving them.”
McCormick went on to say that people want in to this country because of the American Dream. He spoke about when he was young and picking berries then moved on to a paper route. The opportunities continued as he said he joined the Marine Corps for 16 years as a pilot. Then he went to Morehouse School of Medicine where he became student body president.
Achieving that was not because of pretending to be somebody according to McCormick. But it is about relationships and about believing in people, putting in the real work, and accomplishing things for the people. He pointed out that the United States hasn’t passed a budget in over decade.
Being a doctor today and having served as a doctor in the Navy after Morehouse, he says he got into politics because he realized the bad politicians and the dirty politics he saw. Waste and abuse of the system is rampant, he pointed out the medical system saying, “If you’ve had to deal with the medical system the way it is, you’re probably already frustrated… 18 percent of your tax dollars, every year, is consumed by medical costs for taxation. That doesn’t include your premiums. That doesn’t include your deductions. That’s just what the government takes to pay for medicine.”
He went on to add that a single payer systems, the budget would be increased by $30 trillion in national debt, from $23 trillion to $53 trillion. He called it the single biggest step the United States could take towards Socialism.
McCormick said he wants to go to Washington with “real solutions” and to reach across the aisle with a message of hope, love, and the american dream to steer the nation back to a better place.
Marjorie Greene spoke about her skills in management, problem solving, and budgeting along with her success as a business owner over the last two decades since she bought her parents business in 2002. She said she wants to take these skills to Washington.
Greene said her worry is about a particular group in Congress tearing apart the subverting the Constitution and citizens rights. She pointed out what she calls embarrassments in Congress like Pelosi ripping apart Trump’s speech saying, “This is something that I, very much in particular, want to take with me. I am a strong, unapologetic, conservative woman. Republican. I’m a Chirstian. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. Now, I want to go to Congress. I’m working very hard to get elected, but once I go there, I want to stand firmly in the face of these women that I see are radical, Anti-American, women…”
Greene listed several of the plans she felt are a part of that radical ideals including abortion up until birth, abolishing Second Amendment Rights, the Green New Deal at $93 Trillion, and medicare for all, among others. She said the nation could not survive medicare for all.
Greene said another reason she wants to go to Congress is to fight these policies as her kids enter the workforce, to “save” America for her family.
FYN caught up with the candidates after the event to ask their thoughts on another major race as each candidate mentioned Trump and their thoughts on his presidency. Closer to home, we asked these candidates their thoughts on Doug Collins running against Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate. While Greene said she wanted to just focus on her race and hasn’t thought much about other races, McCormick offered a comment saying, “I hope it doesn’t become a divisive topic with the Republicans because right now, we’re in a good position.” He went on to add a secondary thought saying he hoped that Trump could possibly step in with a great solution “because he’s a problem solver and because he’s a leader.” Yet, the fear of division remained forefront.
Additionally, Richie Stone, Chairman of the Gilmer Republican Party, offered a few comments as well saying that even though he cannot endorse any candidate over another, he was interested in seeing the race and hoped that it would drive turnout in the elections to support them and others on the ballot including both U.S. and State races.
Kevin Johnson proudly announces his candidacy for the 2020 elections for Chief Magistrate of Gilmer County.
As a veteran of the Marine Corps and with over 30 years of law enforcement experience, his dedication to service continues on as he humbly asks for support in his campaign to further his community that he cares so much for.
As a former Georgia State Patrol Trooper, he has received annual training in courtroom demeanor, case law, affidavits, arrest warrants, search warrants, and courtroom testimony. He is very experienced in courtroom demeanor and procedures as it relates to trial law. During his career, he has often been called upon to give expert testimony in both criminal and civil court cases.
His background establishes a solid foundation to serve as your Chief Magistrate. He has the experience that makes him the right choice to serve our community in this role.
Election day is Friday, May 19, 2020. The elections will be held concurrently with the statewide primary election.
Learn more about Kevin Johnson and his campaign by visiting www.facebook.com/badgetobench
Name: Kevin Johnson
Organization: Kevin Johnson for Chief Magistrate
“It appeared to be a time when my background and experience would be a help to the county,” said Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Hubert Parker when asked why he decided to run in this year’s election.
Hubert Parker has lived in Gilmer County for 15 years since he last moved here, however, he also grew up in the county before moving away. “You keep coming back,” he said as he has continued to return to the county and family who have lived here. He has been married for 55 years and has two kids, a son and a daughter.
Parker has served as a certified public accountant for three years, 33 years in University of Georgia’s Business and Financial Administration,
Such a business background focused on banking relationships and treasury functions throughout his accounting experiences as Parker agree it is not his first time in budget processes and balancing finances. In fact, its not even the first time Parker has served in parts of Gilmer’s government. He has served on the Board of Tax Assessors and Building Authority before.
Parker said he mainly wanted to focus on roads and jobs, growing small business in the county and finding the right kind of businesses saying, “The quality of life is very important here, and we have to keep that in mind in the kind of businesses we recruit.”
Parker pointed to a lack of jobs for young people in the county as an example of this need. He said creating opportunities for people is only one step. Projects like the CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility and its mentor programs is another step.
As we continue growing and recruiting businesses, Parker said we need to recognize and appreciate the tourism as well. Looking even further out, other projects and goals for Parker include a desire to continue expanding the water system and reduce the impact of the county’s debt.
In his part to accomplish these goals, Parker said, “I want to continually seek to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of county government.”
While realizing a Post Commissioner is not as involved in the day-to-day operations, Parker said he feels that being on the board, helping to identify these opportunities and guide the board while working with the other commissioners.
When asked what he sees as some of the challenges ahead if elected, Parker noted that working towards improving roads and continuing along the budget process could present challenges as he steps into the position mid-process. But he reasserted that continuing the intergovernmental relationships was another point he wanted to focus on with their projects.
Alternatively, Parker said he has never run for public office, but the aspect has energized him as he continues to get involved and speak to people in the county. He is continuing to learn “the whole picture of the county.”
Development of the county is important to Hubert Parker as he says he wants to keep the character of the county and not change the quality of life.
Looking specifically at recent issues the county has faced, Parker said he wants a full study on Carters Lake saying, “Let’s look at the total picture, lay everything on the table before we make a decision, and then from that, based on good information, make our decision.”
Studying financial feasibility and benefits versus costs, Parker said he wants to know what’s being offered while considering the money.
Similarly, when considering the pool, Parker said, “We need a pool, the young people need a pool, the teams need a pool. This is important. The problem as I understand it, I’ll find out more if I am elected, is where to put it.” In making these decisions, people want it to be convenient, but the county has to consider the project as a whole and locations based on financial practicality and location viability.
Some of these issues continue to focus on the natural resources the county has. In addition to the people, Parker said the rivers, the lake, the mountains, and the agricultural heart of the county are things the county holds dear. Parker said these are not resources to be exploited and taken advantage of, but they must be used and managed responsibly.
Taking up a leadership position is nothing new to Parker, even if an elected position is. Debating and working towards solutions as part of the board is a labor of mutual respect. He said he feels strong stepping into the position, even coming amid the tail end of the county’s budget process.
“I view myself as a workhorse, not a showhorse,” Parker said as he explained an uneasiness with the public eye and media attention of his campaign. Working towards the county’s future and the goals set is what Parker says he wants to strive for.
“I feel I bring maturity and experience to the board.” In his own words, Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Jerry Tuso explains why he qualified and is running for the position.
An Air Force Veteran operating in Air Traffic Control, Jerry Tuso has also served for 21 years as an FAA Air Traffic Controller with another 20 years as a government contractor for FAA Controllers, FAA Weather Observer, and Naval Weather.
The experience he brings also comes from when he was Chairman of Planning and Zoning in Hurst, Texas for three years, a town of 50,000 population, Labor Relations Manager for Crown Cork and Seal for three years, and Senior Agent for the State of Georgia DFCS (Division of Family and Children Services) for three years.
Tuso said he wants to bring this experience forward to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners and its recent growth over the years. He explained that while growth is inevitable, it should inevitably be done correctly. Through continued oversight in the county, the citizens’ money should be protected and guarded. Tuso said, “We have to be very responsible with our debt, with the additional possible liabilities that we take over.”
Tuso said he wanted to continue to focus on roads in the county. As the more pending situation alongside the debt, these responsibilities have to be addressed before taking on extras. With proper assistance, Tuso said the county has responsible builders and the growth we see could be a win-win situation.
Addressing the specific issue of Carters Lake, Tuso said he doesn’t see additional benefit with the county paying the cost without improving recreation for the county. He said, “I think we have to be very cautious every time the federal government wants to bequeath something to you.” Tuso wants more details to find the “strings attached.”
Additionally, Tuso spoke on the pool as he said its necessary to have different types of athletics situations for the youth. The pool is such an instance, but also serves for the older population who could use it for exercise and aerobics class possibilities. He did state that he wants to look further into funding sources saying, “I would have to be convinced first that we have exhausted all the grants at the same time.” He went on to say that he is comfortable with the county continuing to set aside money each year as long as they continue exhausting the grant opportunities.
Speaking on the more day-to-day operations, he was more focused on a support role saying, “There should be more emphasis in assisting the Chairman, supporting the Chairman, than attempting to lead.” Tuso wants to focus on the most widely productive and widely used options in the county’s future. He said you can’t exclude any portion of the county, but we have to focus on projects and operations with the greatest and most widespread benefits.
Stepping into the position if elected, Jerry Tuso pointed to the community and its attitude as his biggest excitement for the job, saying, “That’s indicative that we are doing things right, and I want to continue to do things correctly and right. I think I have a good eye for the proper growth in the county. That’s where I would like to concentrate.”
Tuso celebrated the recent expansion of the water system to more parts of the county. He wants to continue these types of expansions even further to more residential areas as well. Achieving goals like this is not something any entity can do alone. We need each other and should continue to increase our cooperation. He said he wants to consider joint meetings. With relationships growing through the Joint Comprehensive Plan, Tuso said they should open the door to ideas like this. Continuing to improve those relationships even further in new ways that have never been done before. Connecting in these ways can only further support other needs like jobs and housing.
Growth requires insight, balance, and a tempering to the type of county you want to be. As a candidate, Jerry Tuso said he believes he has that insight. He has the experience and maturity to temper that growth and to provide the support and guidance into Gilmer County’s future. Tuso said, “People have asked me why I am running again. I am running again because I think there is more to be done.”
Priorities. Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Jason Biggs says he realizes that certain things need prioritization over others. Balancing those priorities and being successful in the position requires details and research, two points that he says are a large part of his life and skills.
Though visiting family and the county for 20 years, Jason Biggs has lived in Gilmer County with his wife for the last five-and-a-half years. With two sons and one daughter, he says his family has been a family of farmers and ranchers. Today, he proudly states his grandson is a native of Gilmer County.
Currently working as a Regional Security Manager, Biggs oversees properties to maintain security and safety on a daily basis. Also retired law enforcement, he is no stranger to analysis, research, risk, and budgeting as he says he operates daily on a number of properties within his given budget. He notes that as he continues studying the changing landscape of his business to continue new initiatives that he must research and implement in his business.
However, he also states he is no stranger to staying busy and working hard in his life. When he was a full-time police officer, he also worked full-time at a store-front business for screen-printing and embroidery for over three years.
Living in Gilmer County now, it has been astonishing, Biggs said, at how easily and readily he has been accepted into the county. It is the community that has welcomed him and his family and made this place a home.
Now, as the position of Post 1 Commissioner has opened and his current job schedule has become more flexible, Biggs has become concerned with what he sees in the county that is his home. He said, “The thing that concerns me the most is that we have a debt in excess of $4,000,000 that we have to service annually for a courthouse. That was supposed to paid by sales tax… It’s very hard for me to look 20 years into the future and say, ‘Sales Tax will be able to pay for this.’ At some point, you have to realize that there is a risk of that debt coming back on the taxpayer. And I am afraid that that might happen again if we’re not careful.”
Biggs said he wants to support the recreational sides of the county, but he also knows that to enjoy these projects, people have to be able to get to the pool. he said specifically that he is for constructing a new pool, but he wants to dig deeper to find “real costs” in the project including maintenance and operations for the larger size and a second pool.
Similarly, he addressed concern over Carters Lake as the county moves into a reactionary stance to this need. Touching on the possibilities at the lake, he questioned how the county would respond if they did create a new department. What would the staff costs including benefits and salary? What would the legal fees be for contracts be? What would operations include?
Biggs said, “As a taxpayer, I want to know, it is going to cost ‘X’ amount of dollars, to the penny…If I am elected to this position, that is something I want to start doing.”
Also looking at the roads in the county, continuing the improvements and continuing to “grow intelligently” requires the priority on this infrastructure to continue its prioritization. Biggs said the infrastructure has to be top priority.
He went on to say, “Tax payer dollars should be treated as sacred. You are getting money from the sweat off of people’s backs. I think there is a lot to be said for those people paying their taxes. I think politicians need to be very, very careful how that is spent.”
As he went through these situations, he noted that he has concerns over these issues, but he felt running for the position was his way to do something. Though he is currently a concerned citizen, he didn’t want to be someone who complained about an issue but didn’t do anything about it. Finding issues is the first step, researching solutions is another.
Sometimes these issues require strange answers. Biggs recalled how he came in for tag renewal one day to find the tag office closed at lunch. He spoke about citizens who work daily and take their lunch hour to try and comply with something the government said they have to do. Whether its opening over different hours or opening Saturdays instead of another day, the compromise between the county and citizens is the key to operating the county in favor of the citizens who fund and own it.
Communication, honesty, and transparency, these three keys to any relationship are what Candidate Jason Biggs says he can bring to the Post 1 Commissioner position. When the open conversation stops, that is when the problems begins. It’s the point of involving the people of the county to include new ideas from every walk of life. This allows the board to prioritize and maximize their spending.
However, learning more about the county is more than just listening to citizens in the board room. He wants to go further in learning the ins and outs of the county. He pointed to opportunities such as possible ride-alongs with Sheriff’s Deputies to becoming more involved with Team Cartecay, the mountain biking team that his son rides with.
“Being able to look back and say, ‘Hey, I made a positive impact on something that I was involved with would be the reward, Biggs said as he spoke about the county that has welcomed him. Fostering the growth and cooperation continues through partnerships. He pointed to the work the Gilmer Chamber and their work with local business. Small business in the county is a key part of the county. Being pro-business also helps to alleviate some of the tax burden to the citizens.
Just like speaking with citizens, local business is a relationship to work alongside in pursuit of an agreed upon goal. But maintaining Gilmer’s identity, especially in areas like agricultural success, has to be protected in the growth that continues. Looking at the county as a whole has to be part of the commissioners’ jobs as they move forward with the different entities within the county, including the cities and the Chamber.
He noted the recent budget sessions the county has gone through. Watching the videos on those sessions gave some insight into the county’s needs and what each department wants. It returns to the same process as the Sheriff asks for support in their retirement plans or Public Safety in their capital requests. He said, “When you start looking at the safety and security of taxpayers, that should be paramount.” But he fell back to the details of these requests and looking at the “to the penny” costs and how they fit into the limited funds of the county.
Hearing the opinions of the people, and balancing the costs of the county, Jason Biggs said this is the job he wants to take on. Running for Post 1 Commissioner is his way to step up and face the concerns he has seen. But, he said, “If you’re looking for somebody to go along to get along, I’m not the guy. I am going to do what I feel is the best for the taxpayer’s dollars and I am going to be the voice of the people of this county because I don’t think everyone has an equal voice, and I feel like they should.”
Stability and unification, these are tenets that Al Cash said he wants to see moving forward in Gilmer County. Though he did not plan to run in the Post 1 Commissioner Race, Cash says he was approached by others who urged him to run due to his “life experiences and the integrity I have based my entire life on.”
Like many of the candidates, Cash said one of the concerns he sees and hears from citizens is the unstoppable growth the county has seen over recent years. Cash said that the growth is there, it is the job of the Board of Commissioners to control that growth and mold the county into what the citizens want for their future.
President of the Firefighters Auxiliary and volunteer for the EMA staff, Cash is also the webmaster for the Fire Department. Under the Auxiliary, he seeks additionally funding outside of the county budget for the department, manages many of the events like Kids Christmas. They seek fundraising opportunities for additional training and equipment as well.
Cash has also worked 30 years for State Farm where he worked as an adjuster and in third party litigation for 15 years and IT work for 15 years. He has lived in Gilmer County with his wife since 2012. He has one son and four daughters.
Originally having bought a house here in 2006, his family planned to retire here. He says it was definitely the people that drew him here, saying “I hear this all the time, and it’s absolutely true. It’s the people. The people are so incredibly nice… It was strange. It’s a whole different culture, and we fell in love with it.”
Standing up to run for the position of Post 1 Commissioner, Cash said it is the intangibles that set him apart for the position. From his life experiences to knowledge and organization, these are part of the skill set that he brings to a county with the unique setting and trials that Gilmer County faces.
“I see a lot of flux,” says Cash as he explained that he sees some citizens wanting to revert to the small town that has been here in the past and some wanting to embrace and grow into a larger town or city. Calling himself a traditionalist, Cash has seen both large cities and tiny towns. Balancing the growth and tradition is key in Gilmer as it moves forward. But Cash says the balance cannot be a general blanket answer. It’s a department level issue as he says each area requires its own answers and its own type of that balance.
“That’s just a lot of math and analysis, trying to figure out what is the best way to spend the money that are available. How to balance that between other departments and what’s happening in the community, it always has to be what’s best for the community as a whole,” says Cash.
With two major issues in the recent months of the county, many citizens are looking for views on the pool and Carter’s Lake.
Cash asserted that he understood that a new pool is necessary and desired by a large portion of the county. But he wants to learn more about the other questions as he asked what is the real cost? He said he wants to learn more about the details, including operations, maintenance, costs, and the viability for the community. He said, “I’m a research king. I need all the facts.”
Some of those details include the deep end addition with diving boards. Cash said he has concerns for the insurance and liability side of it as well as the additional costs.
Again with the Carter’s Lake issue as Cash said he feels many of the citizens are still unaware of the details more than just the three options available.
Details on these subjects, however, are not just for himself as Cash says the county needs stability and unification moving forward. He points out that it doesn’t mean everyone agreeing on everything, but about bringing the government and citizens closer together with more information and communication. Cash said he has even considered things like starting a blog if he becomes Post 1 Commissioner. The core of the idea is increasing connection and interaction.
On top of improving the relationship with citizens, Cash also wants to see the relations continue improving within the county. Noting the comprehensive plan as the first step in this. Cash said these entities in the county, as a whole, benefit from each other in a “scratch each other’s back” situation. Cash noted that though the cities are their own entities, the Board of Education is its own entity, and the Board of Commissioners is its own entity, it is still all inside of Gilmer County. He said, “I would like to establish as much of a working relationship with them as we can… I’d like to be part of that getting better.”
Cash also noted new ventures such as CORE joining these entities throughout the county through projects like their mentor program. The Joint Development Authority is another branch of this connection.
Continuing along the campaign trail, Cash urges citizens to get out and vote in the election. As he looks to the Post 1 Commissioner position, Cash said he is excited to be a part of the county’s forward momentum. “I would love to get in there and be a part of where we are now and moving forward. I’ve always been that way. I’ve loved getting in on the ground floor… I love building it, and making it happen. Making positive things happen.”
Committing to the position is all about “Service above Self” according to candidate Al Cash. Committing to the county in this position is, as he says, all about the Facts, Finances, and Future.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Qualifying ended this week in Ellijay with 11 candidates on the ballot for the coming City Council Elections.
While the position of Mayor saw no competition against incumbent Al Hoyle, the positions for council members have become highly contested for the three positions up for election.
According to the official release from the City of Ellijay, those who have qualified include:
AL FULLER (INCUMBENT)
291 Westwood Dr., Ellijay, GA 30540
KATIE LANCEY (INCUMBENT)
86 Oakland Ct., Ellijay, GA 30540
LYNELLE REECE STEWART (INCUMBENT)
85 River St., Ellijay, GA 30540
62 Pine Street, Ellijay, GA 30540
KEVIN DOUGLAS PRITCHETT
342 The Oaks Dr., Ellijay, GA 30540
205 Kell St., Ellijay, GA 30540
SANDY D. OTT
387 Old Tails Creek Rd., Ellijay, GA 30540
WILLIAM JERRY BAXTER
260 Gartrell St., Ellijay, GA 30540
118 North Ave., Ellijay, GA 30540
40 River St., Ste. C, Ellijay, GA 30540
95 Lucille Ave., Ellijay, GA 30540
City elections hold no partisanship and will be set for November 5, 2019, as election day. According to a recent release from the city, “If there is a need for a runoff election, the date of this election will be December 3, 2019.”
EAST ELLIJAY – With Qualifying finished and the names gathered, East Ellijay will officially skip the elections process once again this year.
Each member of the current council has requalified with no one running against them. With no contest, City Manager Mack Wood tells FYN that the city will not be moving forward with any of the remaining processes for voting booths, early voting, or campaigning.
The current council will remain with the following incumbents having qualified:
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Continuing his campaign for governor, Hunter Hill made a stop in Ellijay May 2 to speak with local citizens about his plans for the office if elected.
Hill spoke to local citizens over breakfast at Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant on state Route 282.
Hill is a former Army Ranger who has been in the State Senate for five years now. After resigning his seat in August to run for governor, Hill has been focusing on his vision for Georgia and spreading that message to rally voters. Today, he spoke with citizens in Ellijay about the ideals for “less government, less taxes, and more freedom.”
With “career politicians,” as Hill noted, in office, it is an undermining of our values as a nation. He called out those politicians saying they were not even willing to risk their next election to uphold their oath.
Focusing more specifically on the recent issue of sanctuary cities, Hill adamantly against the topic, stated, “If a city or county in this state were to claim itself a sanctuary city, they would not receive a nickel of state funding.”
His second point on his vision for the office reiterated his opinions and intention to eliminate the state income tax. With bordering states already without an income tax, the competitive disadvantage is hurting our state, according to Hill. He went on to say replacing the income tax with a consumption tax setup would alleviate the tax burden from honest Georgians and redistribute that to everyone including visitors to the state and even those making money in illegal ways. Hill stated, “A broad-based consumption tax allows us to have more people that we’re bringing money in from, which allows us to do so at lower rates.”
On a personal note, Hill mentioned his faith pushed him to focus not only on the points of pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and also religious liberty. FetchYourNews asked Hill if he would be seeking a “Faith Restoration Act” in his first year to which he replied, “Very good chance of that, yeah.”
Hill did confirm that he wanted to pursue faith-based adoption as a part of it saying, “We’ve got to protect our faith-based adoption agencies. We’ve just got to do it. A lot of the reasons that faith-based adoption agencies get involved is to be helpful in congruence with their faith. If you don’t protect their ability to do it in congruence with their faith, then they will just stop doing it altogether.”
Protecting people of faith and their ability to live and work based on that faith was a focus of Hill’s speech about the governor’s office, but also on his words about his future view of the state. He noted after winning on key policy issues aligned with our values and principals, he wanted to remind senators and house members of the values and principles for which they were elected, providing a singular vision to move forward under.
“Fighting for the people of Georgia” is what he says his focus is as Hill says he sees polls with him ahead of Kemp and closing in on Cagle. Separating himself, Hill says he’s not the career politician like Cagle and is very different than Kemp on issues like the income tax and limited government. However, when comparing, Hill said he wanted to focus on his campaign and his vision to protect liberties and endorsements like the Georgia Right to Life to be a different candidate.
Most of those present were already Hill supporters like retired Gilmer County citizen, George Winn, who said he’s been a Hill supporter “all the way,” based upon his stances of the military and being a Christian conservative who is a believable and trustworthy conservative.
Others like Ken Bailey find themselves supporting Hill as the best candidate. Bailey stated he is following the campaign because “Hunter is not a politician. He is a fresh, young face and not a part of the established system, which needs to be broken up, I think. I think he’s got good ideas. We don’t need to have a state income tax that puts a handicap on us.” Bailey went on to say that he liked some of the other candidates and even knew some personally, but felt Hill was the best choice.
He also commented on his appreciation of the choice in the election. With fine candidates available, Bailey said its great to not have to pick the best of a bad selection.
Hill continues his bus tour across Georgia with his final stop at the Cobb GOP Headquarters in Marietta Saturday afternoon, May 5.