County certification in ethics recognized

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County has officially been certified and recognized as an “Organization of Ethics, or “County of Ethics,” by the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).

The recognition officially came during the recent GMA Convention on June 24, 2019. According to a news release from the Association, “The City of Ethics program began in 1999 and was developed by a panel of business and government leaders to encourage cities to adopt and adhere to a set of key ethical principles and adopt a local ethics ordinance. The ordinance must contain definitions, prohibited conduct and due process for officials accused of violations in areas such as financial disclosures, conflicts of interests and outside employment. The ordinance must also contain penalties for city officials who violate the ordinance.”

The county has been working towards this title for several months now through the appointment of a Board of Ethics to judge and discern complaints brought forth and adding ordinances in the County’s Code to address the issue. Although mostly formalities, designating the board and becoming a county of ethics is something Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris wanted mostly for the symbolism as he stated in a recent meeting that he hoped the Board of Ethics is appointed and never meets.

As a entity that would only meet if problems arise and a complaint or dispute is brought forth, the lack of issues would put these positions as a mere title and nothing more. Yet, the meaning behind that would represent an ethically strong government.

The GMA’s full release is as follows:

SAVANNAH – Gilmer County Board of Commissioners was recognized as the most recently certified Organization of Ethics at the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) Annual Convention June 24. The City of Crawfordville also received the City of Ethics certification, while 36 additional cities received recertifications

The cities of Acworth, Barnesville, Brunswick, Buford, Centerville, Clarkston, Dawsonville, Donalsonville, Dublin, Dunwoody, Grantville, Helen, Hinesville, Hiram, Lakeland, Luthersville, Madison, Maysville, Meansville, Midway, Moultrie, Mount Airy, Mount Vernon, Newnan, Nicholson, Powder Springs, Reynolds, Sandersville, Savannah, Sugar Hill, Suwanee, Swainsboro, Sylvester, Tifton, Trion and Vienna.

The City of Ethics program began in 1999 and was developed by a panel of business and government leaders to encourage cities to adopt and adhere to a set of key ethical principles and adopt a local ethics ordinance. The ordinance must contain definitions, prohibited conduct and due process for officials accused of violations in areas such as financial disclosures, conflicts of interests and outside employment. The ordinance must also contain penalties for city officials who violate the ordinance.

GMA requires members with the designation to recertify for the program, ensuring that ordinances maintain the standards of the program and officials are regularly reminded of their ethical obligations as individuals and as a governing body. Each city/organization is required to apply for recertification every four years.

A panel of attorneys reviewed the ordinances to determine if they comply with the criteria set by GMA. The new members received a plaque and are now authorized by GMA to use a “Certified City and Organization of Ethics” logo on stationery, road signs, vehicles and for other uses.

Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its 538 member cities.

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Probate Court celebrates certifications

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Probate Court honored three of its clerks for their state certifications this week.

Gilmer County's Probate Judge Scott Chastain

Gilmer County’s Probate Judge Scott Chastain

A process that began with former Probate Judge Anita Mullins, these employees have served for years in the court system and have completed training programs within the system under Judge Scott Chastain.

The three ladies recognized are Jana Grno, Tracy Teague, and Lyndsay Hightower. Chastain says that recognition is given for 30 hours and 60 hours of training for the program, but he wanted to do something special as each of these women now have 90 hours, the final stage of the program and actual certification.

Jana Grno will have been with the Gilmer Probate for five years next week on April 21. Focusing on the vital records and weapons permits now, Chastain says there is very little she cannot do in the Probate Court as she also assists in traffic court. She is also the longest running employee in the Probate Office in Gilmer County.

Tracy Teague will reach her 5 years with the Probate Court this September. Chastain calls Teague a “lifesaver” as he transitioned in the office. He says she was and is constantly there every time he calls for anything the office needs.

From left to right, Lyndsay Hightower, Tracy Teague, and Jana Grno receive their state certificates in Gilmer's Probate Office.

From left to right, Lyndsay Hightower, Tracy Teague, and Jana Grno receive their state certificates in Gilmer’s Probate Office.

Teague has recently been announced as Judge Chastain’s Chief Clerk. Teague had already served as Chief Clerk under Judge Mullins and continues this service now that Chastain has asked her as well. She handles much of the requirements in traffic court, and Chastain says he uses her as Chief Clerk for certain administration needs when he is out of the office.

Lyndsay Hightower was hired into the Probate Court on August 30, 2016. She serves in the front window of the Probate Office, she is the main probate clerk of the office according to Chastain. He noted that he has basically asked her to take on the work of two clerks and she continues to work hard under the stress. With previous experience in law enforcement, he says Hightower brings a different view to the office alongside her coworkers.

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

Mullins was also present at the celebration for her former employees. She offered a few words on the occasion as she stated, “They worked so hard for me. They were such a blessing because I was going through, at the end, a lot of family issues with my parents. If it hadn’t have been for these girls, I don’t know what I would have done. They are so smart, and they are so capable. I know that they are going to continue on and do great things.”

Both Mullins and Chastain made comments about how little the public gets to see just how much work goes on in the office behind the public sight. Accomplishing the vast amount of work necessary for the office to operate efficiently is next to impossible without the proper staff.

Chastain went on to say that with two other employees in the office, he hopes to become one of the few Probate Offices in the state of Georgia with every clerk state certified in the coming years.

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JDA Announces New Executive Director

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EAST ELLIJAY, GA – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) has officially announced their new Executive Director.

Kent Sanford, currently with Park Sterling Bank, is beginning a transition as he will officially take the office in November. Sanford holds previous experience with positions on the Ellijay Downtown Development Authority (DDA), President of the Chamber Board, community boards, and over 38 years of experience with small and medium businesses.

Officially accepting the position, Sanford said,

“I am pleased to announce, on November 1st I will officially begin work with our Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority as the Executive Director. Over the next six weeks, I will be closing the door on 38 years of community banking. With great excitement and anticipation, I look forward to being part of the team which seeks to open the door to our community for new businesses and assists existing companies with growth plans.”

JDA Chairman Travis Crouch tells FYN he expects a faster beginning to Sanford’s career as he “already has the knowledge and is respected in the community.” As a citizen who has spent much of his life in the county, Sanford already knows many of our local business owners as well as our history and culture.

Sanford himself stated he felt there would be a lower learning curve, but wants to focus on certain certifications and training sessions in his early days in the office. Some of the certifications are similar to those held by previous Executive Directors as Sanford doesn’t want the JDA to lose anything that they have had previously.

The JDA Board is also looking to have Sanford move through the county visiting existing businesses to familiarize himself with them. More than that, though, is the Boards dedication not only to new businesses, but continued growth and stability for those existing businesses already here.

Kent Sanford signs off on a resolution during his time as an officer on the DDA.

Kent Sanford signs off on a resolution during his time as an officer on the DDA.

Additionally, Chairman Crouch tells FYN he hopes to see networking on a state level increase with Sanford. “As a volunteer board, we don’t have the time to dedicate necessary for the growth we want.” Crouch has been filling duties in the absence of a full Executive Director. However, these duties stack atop running his own business, duties as the JDA Board Chairman, and duties as one of Gilmer County’s two Post Commissioners.

When asked why he accepted the position, Sanford told FYN it was the opportunity to dedicate more time to his community and service therein.”I’m at the point in my life when I want to try and give back a little more.” Sanford told FYN that while on the DDA and other Boards, a member may only be able to dedicate two or three hours to a project a month as they juggle their own lives and careers alongside volunteering for those Boards.

The attraction of the Executive Director position came to Sanford in the form of combining a career and community service while utilizing his experience in business to better cooperate with all entities involved.

Looking further into the future of the JDA with its newest Executive Director, indications have been made that Sanford could also be looking into education in the county as a partnership to grow Gilmer’s future workforce alongside its businesses, though no definitive plans have been confirmed yet.

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