“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.”
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 – Meetings have completed and the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are preparing for the next steps of cuts and adjustments as they move towards a finalized budget in the coming months. With much still to come, the budget meetings now showcase each department and office’s initial proposed budget.
Each holds a meeting specifically for them to highlight requests and changes to their budgets alongside Financial Officer Sandi Holden and, this year, the two current members of the Board of Commissioners.
While the county is planning in the proposed budget for a potential eight percent increase in group insurance, they are still early in planning and may not see that large of an increase.
While much of the Sheriff’s Office budget remains similar to recent years, another increase is being proposed for a change in retirement benefits. This plan sees officers paying into the program over a minimum of 15 years of service, according to Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson. The POAB (Peace Officers Annuity and Benefits Fund) is a retirement for certified law enforcement officers. Any officer in Georgia can join. After the officer retires, a monthly payment created by the number of years your were a member multiplied by 24.
Sheriff Nicholson is asking in his budget to invoke an option for the county. As the Sheriff’s Office has been paying the $20 per month for its officers since 2014, Nicholson is requesting to budget for the option to “buy back” up to 5 years of service in the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office for officers who worked for the office before 2014. Nicholson estimates this could affect between 32 and 34 employees. Not all would be a full five years of service. It could cost an extra $175,000 or more. However, Nicholson also said the purchase could be done in increments, so as not to cost the full price at first.
If the office moves forward with this, Nicholson said that a contract with officers would be created so that should an officer leave the Sheriff’s Office to transfer to another law enforcement agency, they would pay back the money spent to buy back these years of service.
Additionally, there was a budget increase in salaries. However, Nicholson said this change comes from Administrative Salaries and includes zero pay raise. Instead, the change is to cover some oversights due to raises over recent years.
There are also capital expenditures requests including 10 vehicles and 11 portable radios including extra programming, this programming includes repeating frequencies and adaptations for multiple agency on scene situations.
Gilmer’s Fire Department is reporting that they will see some increase expected in their revenue lines. With Minor increase to line items such as contract services, vehicle repairs and maintenance, and supplies and materials, the majority of the changes in the capital budget.
Just like last year, a massive $467,809 was requested on the Capital Budget. Only Roads and Bridges compares in capital expenses at $365,000. Paris also repeated his same question from last year’s budget as he asked Fire Chief Daniel Kauffman to prioritize the items requested.
That priority came to
1. 2020 Dodge Ambulance – $236,000
2. Used Fire Engine to replace a 1976 American LaFrance – $75,000
3. Stryker Stretcher with Warranty and Maintenance – $10,844
4. Hurst Hydraulics Extrication Equipment – $32,000
5. 2 Lucas Devices for CPR compression assistance and training – $53,965
6. 2020 Ford F150 – $25,000
7. Target Solutions
8. 2020 Ford F250 – $35,000
Roads & Bridges
The county is looking at raising wages for employees who are still working at $9 per hour wages. Roads and Bridges saw a proposed increase in wages from $773,563 to $898,106. This has actually reached across multiple years and departments as the county is attempting to have increased all employees in the next few years. County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has said before that the county sees part of its turnover rate due to low pay.
Another big increase came through striping. The Road Dept is catching up through all the current paving from 2019 alongside other projects. With the budget set to go back and stripe in 2020, the Road Department budget jump[ed on this line item. In the 2019 budget, striping was budgeted at $30,000, but in 2020, the current proposal is set at $120,000. Paris noted later in the meeting that striping costs are estimated per mile at $2,500 for double-yellow lines and two edge lines. Paris stated that Eller Road and Howard Simmons Road would cost more as they use center turn lanes and intersections. Their estimate is $5,000 per mile.
On the Capital Budget, the Road Department reached $365,000. However, the majority of this request comes from two items. A Motorgrader for $240,000 and a Dump Truck for $125,000.
Just like the Road Department, proposed budgets are showing increases in salary lines to bring up those making $9 per hour to a higher wage. The increase goes from 2019’s budgeted $268,576 to 2020’s proposed $335,525.
While they don’t have a specific number yet, the department is also reporting an expected increase from Advanced Disposal for the county’s solid waste disposal. They are also still looking at the leachate issue from the landfill’s lift stations. Additional funds could be required if the situation changes.
With the Board of Assessors requesting pay increases across the department for Tax Assessors, the budget requests could meet push back as the Tax Assessors have seen increases in recent years.
Another increase comes with Contract Services. The increase for a second flight for QPublic and Change Finder program to scan for changes to properties. This program can allow the Assessors to see properties that may be blocked off or gated to where assessors may not normally be able to see the whole property. This program also automatically scans properties within the county to find details and changes that would increase property values and, therefore, revenue in the department.
With major elections coming up, the Probate Court is almost tripling their elections budget, increasing from 2019’s budgeted $65,314 to a proposed $192,304 in 2020. As expected during an election year like this, the increases are reaching to areas like advertising. Supplies and materials is over six times its 2019 budget, from $7,400 to $47,000. Additionally, their proposed budget proposes $111,092 for election workers.
Probate Judge Scott Chastain is still looking for details on operating the elections side of the office, addressing issues like poll workers payments and ballot advertising alongside Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins. As the budget moves into later stages details will become more fine tuned in the elections.
One of the major issues that is still unclear as to how it could affect the budget is the new election machines. Training and security for election ballots for the new machines are not yet fully completed as they continue to await the machines.
This includes new equipment such as required printers for the voting machines including their ink and maintenance.
Also requesting salary increases, the Animal Shelter is looking at a proposed $124,500, opposed to 2019’s budgeted $108,040.
Director Daniel Laukka is also looking to begin accruing a type of contingency on the capital budget fund as he looks to needs for repairs and eventual replacement of the shelter’s transport van. Paris noted that he believes the shelter is going to eventually need to look at possibly hiring another animal control officer, but said that 2020 probably wouldn’t be that time.
Code and Regulatory Department
A major increase in group insurance saw this department go from 2019’s budgeted $613 to the 2020 proposal of $12,500. Another increase in advertising came from “blue cards” advertising.
Recreation and Parks Department
While much of the Recreation and Parks Department budget remains the same, a decrease in Civic Center utilities shows the drop in costs as the pool pumps will no longer run. However, certain items are still in place, such as gate revenue and concessions costs still indicate plans to move forward with the pool construction. However, now, even Chairman Paris said he is starting to doubt whether the county will meet the goal of Memorial Day.
The coroner’s office is requesting an increase in budget for an additional deputy coroner.
The Magistrate Court’s budget shows little change with only slight increases to line items like Insurance and Bonds and Group Insurance. Judge Kincaid is requesting a small increase for clerk training and education as well.
Clerk of Court
A decrease in administration salary was noted as the county switches Clerks of Court after the retirement of Glenda Sue Johnson. However, the nearly $16,000 decrease was offset by a $22,000 increase in group insurance.
Last year’s approval for a pre-trial and probation program shows under Superior Courts budget as $27,509. Though not originally budget for the 2019 budget, discussion is underway whether to keep this line item under Superior Court or move it to Probation department. Additionally, Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver is asking for $3,000 increase in Mental Health Court Program. With increasing numbers of help needed for those with mental issues, Judge Weaver said the money they are receiving is not enough to meet match numbers for state grants.
Planning and Zoning
Planning and Zoning is looking at a few increases in areas such as advertising and insurance, their overall budget is actually decreasing in proposal by just over $2,000.
Minor increases in communications and professional services, with a larger increase to supplies and materials.
Increases to Salary and Wages include and additional run-off election next year that the office is planning for. However, plans could change with coming changes to voting machines. Involving early voting and election night voting, an additional person may be needed to monitor the new machines printed ballots and to direct those who may need guidance on the process of submitting the paper ballots.
Maintenance Department is also looking to increase pay wages in the proposed budget.
The proposed budget for the Chamber highlighted requested features from the BOC including planned audits and reports. The Chamber is also planning to see a slight increase to collections based on years of growth. In the next year, President and CEO of the Chamber, Paige Green indicated they could be looking to improve some cycling capabilities to revisit the idea of becoming an IMBA Ride Center.
In other changes, they are looking for directional signage, maps, other downtown improvements.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Before his final meeting with the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners, former Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller spoke with FYN to elaborate on his letter of resignation and the timing of his departure from the county.
Miller reiterated his feelings he expressed in his letter saying, “Given my circumstances right now, I am not able or willing to devote the kind of time this position needs and what the people elected me to do.”
Miller did add that his plan was to finish the term originally. But with his house getting an offer and plans to move closer to family, he will be moving sooner than expected.
Miller did elaborate that he has been living with kidney failure since 2008. Being pretty advanced in nature, Miller said Doctors have advised him that the issue cannot continue without more attention. Citing factors like stress and high blood pressure, he said that the Commissioner position is not helping the condition.
However, there is much more to this decision than just health issues. Miller went on to add that his son, who has been overseas for 15 years, is finally home. As his son owns a home in Georgia, the former commissioner said he wanted to be closer to his family to allow time to catch up on his private life.
He added, “I literally put my private life on hold for six years while I’ve been a commissioner, and I need to get some of that back.”
Adding that he wanted people to know it wasn’t a sudden decision, the desire was to finish out the term and proceed with plans then. However, due to the acceleration of plans, he will be moving by the end of September.
Looking back on his time as a Commissioner, Miller said, “It’s been a great community to live in. It’s been great citizens to work with and work for. We will miss all of that. We will miss all the friends, all of the people, all of the good things we’ve had here…”
Leaving the position behind, he said he hopes Gilmer continues being financially conservative and protects the rural nature. Miller also said he hopes the commissioners continue to be open to disagreements saying, “That is a big, big positive… That ability to balance things and look at alternatives and look at different approaches. It’s valuable. It’s hugely valuable, and I hope that continues.”
There is always going to be a process, according to Miller. This position grows more complex every year and the “business” environment is continuing to become a larger and larger part of it. “Politics always enters in,” Miller said as he spoke about the neverending work that Commissioners undertake. You always strive to improve and adapt, continuing to reach for the balance for the citizens.
Especially at this time of year, when the board enters budget meetings. He said, “They are so important because they set the whole tone of what you can do and what you can’t do, or what you won’t do. You set the priorities for the county that way. It’s really one of the most important things that, particularly, post commissioners do because we don’t deal with day-to-day stuff so much.”
While Miller said he wouldn’t miss the budget meeting process, the way he speaks on the process and the importance he continued to stress on the issue seems as if the sentiment belies a regretfulness that he steps down before the meetings.
He pointed out some concerns about issues the county faces in the future, but then said,
Having been a part of so many decisions for the county over the years, Miller pointed to involvement in general as one of the biggest parts of the job that he takes with him. He said, “It’s a pleasure and it’s a gratification to know that you have been involved. Just being involved, whether you win, whether you lose, whether you agree or disagree, being involved in your community…It is so gratifying to be able to say I have spent some time working for other people, working for the citizens that elected me and those that didn’t vote for me to try and make life better. That is the reward of being in public service.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to a release from the office of the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners, Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller is resigning from his position with the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners.
Miller not only resigns from the BOC, but also his position as an appointed member on the Building Authority Board.
Stay with FYN as we reach out to Miller to comment on his resignation and to see how the county will respond and move forward with this vacancy.