BKP makes endorsement in Georgia HD7Feature News, News January 5, 2023
Many have called and texted me wondering if I was going to back someone in the runoff. I have made that decision.
The people of Georgia House District 7 need a representative that understands our North Georgia values: That is obviously not Sheree Ralston. Throughout the campaign it became clear she doesn’t have a clue about any of the issues. Remember what she said was her legislative priority, when our law enforcement responds to a call to have a clinician in the car with them. Ask your local law enforcement if they want a counselor to join them when responding to a call. Remember when she said that mental health legislation is a work in progress… but could not tell the voters what that means….
We need someone who doesn’t have to rely on someone else to write the answers to questions for them, someone who will listen and study the issues, someone who will represent the people and not Atlanta. I am endorsing Johnny Chastain for HD7. Johnny needs our vote, needs you to call your neighbors and ask them to vote and will need financial support. He is running against the establishment of a well funded machine. Let’s pull together and elect Johnny Chastain as our Rep for HD7.
Reasons Why to Vote for Brian K PritchardFeature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories January 2, 2023
Why is the News Observer trying to manipulate an election?Election, Feature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories December 30, 2022
Why is the News Observer trying to manipulate an election? Is Glenn Harbinson trying to help someone win? You don’t know me but you sure want to judge me. When I decided to run for Georgia House District 7 I knew the media would attack me. I was ready for it and I know why they don’t want the good people from the 7th district to have a real representative.
I have tried to make this campaign about the issues. It is clear I won both forums and the other candidates have a lot to learn when it comes to the issues. So if you can’t win on the issues, use the fish wrap New Observer to attack me on something that happened nearly 30 years ago.
Yes something happened in Pennsylvania that is of public record. But the Georgia Secretary of States wants you to believe that I knowingly voted while serving a felony sentence. Never happened! I did vote every time they said, but never illegally.
The News Observer and AJC fail to tell the entire story. Yes, for those who think a person charged with a felony can’t vote, wrong. First, in the state of Pennsylvania the only time you lose your voting rights is if you are incarcerated. Considering I have never spent a night in jail in my entire life…(can everyone say that) I never lost my voting rights in PA. Once your sentence has expired you can vote in the state of Georgia. Yes it’s true!
One question that no one asks, why has the Secretary of State office sat on this allegation for 7 years? Why did this suddenly come up for the Attorney General’s office on the Friday before qualifying for office on Monday. Why was this sent to the media before it was sent to me and my attorney? The answer is simple: manipulate an election.
You see I have a document which states that the case closed 5-14-1999 almost 24 years ago
While the SOS falsely claims the case was still active and didn’t close until 2010. According to my document I never knowingly voted while serving a felony sentence and the law clearly states “knowingly”.
Not long ago the Attorney General’s office offered me what I considered extortion to sign a document showing no guilt and to pay a $4000 fine and they would close this case. I said absolutely not! Why would I pay them for something when I did nothing wrong?
$4000 offer to admit I did nothing wrong
Now they want to try to manipulate an election and try to make me look like public enemy number one. They want to take me to court in Fannin county and try to fine me upwards of $30,000. All because I did nothing wrong, did not accept their $4,000 extortion, and it was very convenient timing to disparage my name. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Georgia SOS looked for real voter fraud and the Attorney General spent your tax money prosecuting gang violence and drug cases.
You know the expression, it’s as clear as the nose on my face… Glenn Harbinson with the News Observer is trying to manipulate an election. But for who? Johnny Chastain or the woman who is trying to play the poor little widow woman Sheree Ralston.
Why is Sheree paying to run this ad knowing it’s not true
The one who is paying big money running ads, ads depicting “Did Pritchard vote illegally?” Why would she run this ad knowing her late husband David Ralston knew my entire story. Don’t fall for her act.
Why isn’t fish wrap Glenn looking into why these candidates combined spending is over 150K. Why spend $150,000 to try to get a job that pays 17.5k a year? Why isn’t fish wrap Glenn asking where their money is coming from? Where is Sheree Ralston getting her money, is it from the campaign slush fund from David Ralston? If so, is that legal?
We have all heard the stories of Glenn’s backroom deals to manipulate Blue Ridge City Mayor and Council races, County Commission seats…. I don’t know this first hand but we have all heard the stories. Now what kind of deal has Glenn made to try to manipulate this election and for who?
I’m not public enemy number one. I’m 58 years old. Married to my lovely wife Lisa. Father to two great kids Brian Keith and Vanessa who have blessed me with five grandkids. I do not use any drugs and haven’t even tasted alcohol since I was nineteen. I have never spent a night in jail and I think it has been over twenty years since I’ve had a speeding ticket. My wife was born and raised here and every once in a while I hear “I’m from here.” I have been here for 21 years and we are small business owners. We own FetchYourNews.com and our number one focus for the last 12 years has been to highlight our young people in the district. Our sports department TeamFYNSports tagline is “highlighting and promoting young athletes in a positive way.”
It’s time we have a representative that is focused on keeping Atlanta drugs and crime out of our North Georgia Mountains. We need to stop drug cartels from operating in our district, protect parents rights and protect our children from this government’s “WOKE” agenda.
We must fight for kids and parents!
We are tired of self-serving politicians. You know the ones that get elected and are only worth around 200k and come back worth millions. Serving the people should never be a million dollar open door to corruption. Look at all the candidates and ask yourself why they are running for this office and then take a look at me and know I am running for no other reason than to serve the people.
Do not let Atlanta pick your Representative watch the forums Click here to watch the forums
Don’t let media like the News Observer and AJC lie and try to manipulate an election. Trust the only candidate in the race who reads the bills and knows the issues.
God Bless America, God Bless Georgia and God Bless the good people of the seventh district.
P.S. Go DAWGS
My name is Brian K. Pritchard and I ask for your vote on January 3rd.
Brian K. Pritchard announces candidacy for State House District 7News, Politics November 28, 2022
Georgia- Brian K. Pritchard (BKP) announces his candidacy for State House District 7. A special election will be held on January 3rd 2023.
“I’m excited to announce today that I am running for Georgia State House District 7. Unfortunately this election will run through the Christmas and New Year holiday. Governor Brian Kemp has called for a special election January 3rd.”
“BKP” Brian K. Pritchard
On November 16th a giant tree fell in the North Georgia mountains. The second longest-serving State House Speaker, David Ralston died. Although I considered him a close friend, I never called him David. I always addressed him as “Mr. Speaker.” Speaker Ralston loved the people of the 7th District where he called home from the time of his birth. He also loved the State of Georgia and being House Speaker. I asked him if he would ever run for congress or senate and both times he answered with a firm, “NO, if I did that they wouldn’t let me be speaker.”
We knew him as Speaker Of the House but we can’t forget he was Georgia State Representative District 7, elected to the office in 2003. You can’t go anywhere in the district that you don’t see the fruits of him being our Representative.The hard reality is the 7th District is no longer represented by the Speaker of the House, it’s like we have hit the reset button. This is not the time to take any chances. We need to elect someone ready to serve on day one. We can’t afford for our district to go backwards, we must be prepared to go forward. That is why I’m announcing that I’m running for Georgia State House District 7.
We the People …. Our Founding Fathers intended for us to have a representative government of the PEOPLE and By The People, not corporations, special interests or lobbyists. The only reason you run for office should be to serve the people of the district. We are tired of self-serving politicians in this country. The people, businesses and organizations in the 7th District will be my special interest group.
This Special Election is what they call a jungle primary meaning there is no party primary and then a general election. This is a nonpartisan election. Candidates don’t have to identify a political party on the ballot.
But, I am a Republican, and I am a Christian first. Nothing comes before God and family. I am a Constitutional compassionate conservative. I believe in loving and caring for my fellow man. A political party should never be the determination on how we care for people less fortunate than ourselves. I support and will uphold the great documents of our US and State Constitutions. I am a fiscal conservative. I believe the state can provide services needed to operate with a little less money from the taxpayers. The people pay the bills and the government should be good stewards of the taxpayers money. We The People are overtaxed and need a representative that is beholden to the people. I believe in limited government and it’s time we get the government out of our pockets. I will be a representative for all the people in the 7th District.
- We must protect our environment and preserve our beautiful lakes, rivers and forests.
- We must protect our children from a “WOKE” government agenda and preserve parental rights.
- I will work with the county and city governments to find a balanced way to continue growth in the district while maintaining the rural look and feel that we love.
- I have and will always support our teachers and our local educational system and the University system in our district. The children are our future and we need to provide them every opportunity possible for them to be successful. This will help attract well paying jobs to our district.
- I have and will always support our law enforcement. The safety and well-being of our citizens will alway be a top priority of mine. Drug cartels are not welcome and I will help our great men and women in law enforcement get the resources they need to keep us safe. Keep Atlanta crime out of our mountains!
- I have and will always support our accountability courts.
- As your Representative I will do everything I can to eradicate the drug problem in our community. We need to restore families. This is a must to protect our children from this evil.
- I am pro second amendment and believe in the sanctity of life.
I look at everything with a positive view and I know together we can accomplish our goals. I am a husband, father, and grandfather and protecting this district will have my entire focus and attention. Look for my upcoming campaign videos where I will go into greater detail on all the issues.
In the coming days of the campaign I will release short videos highlighting my dedication to the 7th District over the past 20 years and how I plan to represent the district. Visit our website BKP4GA.com and follow our social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BKP4GA.
If you have any questions do hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call me 706-889-9700.
I look forward to the opportunity to speak about the issues with any group or even a living room coffee talk.
I humbly ask for your vote to be your next District 7 State Representative.
“BKP” Brian K. Pritchard
Fall Festival Saturday October 1st at Epworth Community Club with Speaker of the House Rep David Ralston and US Senate Candidate Herschel WalkerNews September 25, 2022
Gilmer County Election Results for Post 2 Commissioner Run-Off – FINALElection June 21, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s election polls have closed and results are being tallied in the Probate Court Office of the Gilmer Courthouse. Polls closed at 7:00 p.m. and results are currently being tallied with Gilmer focused on the runoff for its Post 2 Commissioner position.
With only one local race remaining on the ballot. Citizens spent last week on early voting and today at the precinct locations. FYN will be updating this article as the night progresses and new results are collected. When concluded, the article will be updated with “FINAL” in the title.
Until then, county officials are continuing to work to complete the election night proceedings. Judge Scott Chastain has announced the results of early voting in-person and no precincts. Current results are as follows:
Post 2 Commissioner – 4,559 total votes
John Marshall – 3,028 votes / 66 %
Tom Whatley – 1,531 votes / 33 %
Whatley has offered his congratulations to Marshall in the Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner election. He offered a statement saying, “It was hard fought and I think this county is now awake with regard to what they want for housing. I think the county is awake and going to pay more attention to Planning and Zoning meetings as well as Board of Commissioner meetings. I hope my supporters stay active and engaged. I hope every thing goes well.”
Post 2 Commissioner Elect John Marshall also offered a statement at the end of the night saying, “I am humbled at the outcome and highly grateful to everyone who supported us. Everyone has worked hard and been kind. I look forward to being able to serve the citizens of Gilmer County in the next four years.”
Gilmer’s Chief Registrar extends voting hours this weekElection, News June 13, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Citizens are getting a little extra time to vote in this single early voting week before the primary runoff thanks to a decision by the Gilmer Registrar Office. Almost all of Gilmer is focused in on its Post 2 Commissioner election with the runoff between John Marshall and Tom Whatley.
The runoff election day will be on June 21, 2022. To be eligible to vote in this election you must have been registered on or before April 25, 2022. However, the registrars office did make special note on the county website answering citizens questions on if they’d be eligible in specific situations. The county noted that if you voted Democratic or Republican in the May 24, 2022, General Primary/General Nonpartisan you are eligible to vote in the Runoff. If you voted Nonpartisan, you are eligible to vote in the Runoff. If you did not vote in the General Primary/General Nonpartisan, you are eligible to vote in the Runoff.
And now, for those who were concerned about making time to vote in the day, Advanced voting has been extended in this one week. Normally ending at 5:00 p.m. during early voting such as it did for the primary elections on May 24, 2022, this week will see advanced voting extended by one hour each day, going from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. An extra hour for citizens who work till 5 p.m. or for those who work odd shifts.
When asked why she extended the hours, Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins said, “We just felt that since there was only one week of early voting that giving an extra hour for voters to get off work at five and be able to vote would be good.”
With the other local races decided already, there is only the Post 2 Commissioner race and some state democrat positions on the ballot. Early voting occurs at the Gilmer County Board of Registrar, 1 Broad Street, Suite 107, Ellijay, GA. For those voting on election day, normal precincts will be open.
Post 2 candidates speak on runoff election in GilmerElection May 27, 2022
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Two candidates remain in Gilmer’s Post 2 Commissioner Election that will be once again asking for votes in the June. Candidates John Marshall and Tom Whatley remain on the campaign trail and took a moment to speak with FYN about Tuesday’s results and the coming month.
All three candidates have been thanking their supporters since Tuesday. Continuing to field calls and meet with citizens, it has been a busy week in the Gilmer’s local election cycle. Both remaining candidates have said they are looking ahead and were prepared for the possibility.
Candidate Tom Whatley said that it is a tall order not only to encourage people to vote for him, but even to get citizens to return to the polls on June 21, 2022. This sentiment was echoed by Candidate John Marshall who said that it is very important to get new supporters and to get those who did vote for him back out for the runoff election.
Many of those new supporters could be coming from the 1,346 votes for third candidate Gary Engel who will not be in the runoff election.
Whatley said he is working hard to show his values and to reach out to citizens who voted for Engel saying, “Gary and I were not that far apart in our ideals as far the administration of this county.”
Historically, runoff elections do no get as many voters in the runoff election, especially when only a single office remains on the ballot.
Marshall, too, is pushing to reach voters as he said he wanted any and all voters to come to the polls. Marshall said, “We’re going to convince as many people as we can that we’re the right choice for this seat.”
Even Gary Engel is urging citizens to return to the polls in June as he said the citizens need to informed about the candidates and to definitely vote again in June. Engel declined to endorse either of the remaining candidates but stressed the importance of citizens to exercise their vote as they select the next Post 2 Commissioner.
Engel stated, “The folks that voted for me are quite capable of making the determination of which one they want to vote for based on the positions of those two candidates. I don’t think I have that much influence.”
Engel offered his thanks to all his voters as he asked them to continue being informed and be engaged in the process.
The next step for the two remaining candidates doesn’t have a set debate or major event before June as of now. However, both candidates are strongly pushing in their own campaigns and said they weren’t going to be shifting their efforts or methods into the last leg of the primary election.
When asked about the runoff, Marshall stated, “We’re very excited about it. We’re not coming from behind. We’re focusing on getting our voters to return to the polls on June 21. Hopefully, we’ll be able to garner some of the votes of our opponents.”
When asked about the runoff, Whatley stated, “I’m going to stand by Keeping Gilmer Rural. I don’t want to shut down all of the growth but we need to get control of the growth.”
With no democrat having qualified, June 21 is likely to be the deciding election for Gilmer County in the Post 2 Commissioner race. The difference between the two candidates was 581 votes with John Marshall at 3,419 votes and Tom Whatley at 2,838 votes.
Election Results for Gilmer’s County Offices – May 24 PrimaryElection, News May 24, 2022
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – FINAL RESULTS: With election night completed, Gilmer will be going into a June runoff for the County Post 2 Commissioner position.
With 39.49 percent of Gilmer’s registered voters voting in the primary, the Gilmer Probate office issued the unofficial results of the 8,743 ballots cast.
Charlie Paris – 6,664 votes – 100%
BOC Post 2 Commissioner
Gary Engel – 1,346 votes – 17.70%
John Marshall – 3,419 votes – 44.97%
Tom Whatley – 2,838 votes -37.33%
BOE Post 4
Michael Bramlett (I) – 4,089 votes – 50.82%
Michele Penland – 3,957 votes – 49.18%
BOE Post 5
Jacob Callihan – 4,728 votes – 59.83%
Sam Snider – 3,174 votes – 40.17%
Governor Kemp visits BJ Reece Apple Orchard on campaign trailElection, News May 15, 2022
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With election day for the primaries less than two weeks away, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp visited Ellijay to speak to supporters about the election and his campaign as the incumbent. Kemp visited BJ Reece Apple Orchard on May 12, 2022.
Kemps stated that his campaign is a fight for the soul of Georgia. His daily mission on the campaign is to “make sure Stacey Abrams is not our governor or our next president.”
Local members of Gilmer’s government were on hand to listen to the governor speak including Sheriff Nicholson, Probate Judge Scott Chastain, Post Commissioner Hubert Parker, BOC Candidate John Marshall, and many others. Many noted that they were anxious to listen to the Governor and hear what he had to say while not offering opinions for or against but John Reece of BJ Reece Orchards firmly stated his support for Kemp saying, “I’m thankful he ain’t closed churches, he’s not closed schools down, and he’s not closed our businesses down.” This, according to Reece, was the difference between paying your bills and not paying them.
Others also offered support for Kemp and his campaign like Kent Sanford who stated, “I like Governor Kemp because he’s got a proven record. His handling of the pandemic along with Speaker Ralston and other state leadership made a real difference for Georgia. You’ve got to recognize that and give the man credit for what he did.”
Kemp spoke about the state’s progress over recent years through major events like the pandemic and his support of businesses and people’s freedoms to make their own choices in the crisis. He pushed back against chastisements from political opponents like Abrams as Kemp said she criticized Georgia’s response as “too fast and too early.”
Kemp compared Georgia to other states saying where some told citizens it was okay to go gambling in a casino, but not to go to church on Sunday. Church is something Kemp said will never be shut down in Georgia as long as he is Governor.
He also noted how much he didn’t get to weigh in on due to the pandemic, such as elections. Kemp talked about Senate Bill 202 and its efforts to increase security between voter ids, rules against out of state money, ballot drop boxes, and increasing opportunities to vote in early voting.
In addition to the struggles and protections, Kemp spoke about what he called Georgia’s successes in economy and government. Kemp said that Georgia’s economy left extra money in the budget that he said he wants to send your money back to you instead of making up new projects.
He spoke on legislation passed for constitutional carry and Georgia’s record for the lowest unemployment in years. He also noted a temporary suspension of gas tax to help citizens “fight a 40-year high Biden inflation.”
He spoke about his future plans as well, including looking at military retirees tax cut and continue supporting teachers through projects like increasing teacher pay. He wants to continue progress on education protections like recent legislation against classroom indoctrination, a term many use for critical race theory. Kemp stated, “We want them taught the truth, not somebody’s ideology. That’s the way it should be in our state. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
The pandemic was on a lot of minds at the event both before and after as many supporters noted Georgia’s path through the crisis as part of their reasons for supporting Kemp. Penelope Marshall said, “What I appreciated most was the honesty and how much he really thinks about the people of Georgia.”
Stacey Fields said, “I fully support him. I voted for him before, I’ll vote for him again… I have two children, one is in law enforcement and one is a teacher. He’s supported both fields.”
Kemp noted that he is focused on continuing work for Georgia and returning to the office of Governor. He spoke about the democrats and the struggle against democrats like Abrams, but also noted that the here and now is a primary and the first step to re-election. Only one week of early voting remains before the primary election day takes place May 24, 2022.
Gilmer elections breaks 1,000 in early votingElection May 10, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A little over a week has passed since the beginning of early voting in Gilmer County. The Election have already seen its first of two Saturdays available for early voting as well.
In this time, Gilmer has broken past the 1,000 voters mark. While not nearly a comparison to the 2020 presidential election in November when early voting saw 470 on the first day alone, Chief Registrar and Elections Manager Tammy Watkins said that numbers are up from the 2018 Primaries as the last major non-presidential election year.
The totals for this year’s election primaries as of Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. were 1,191 early voters who voted in-person at the courthouse and 258 mail-in ballots requested. Those numbers included the 75 voters who voted on the first Saturday for early voting.
The election has also received 108 of its requested mail-in ballots back. This week also sees a major deadline for the election as Friday, May 13, 2022, is the last day citizens can request mail-in ballots for absentee voting. Though the office will accept ballots back after that date, they will not be mailing those requested ballots unless they are requested by then.
This Saturday, May 14, 2022, will also be the last Saturday for in-person Early Voting. Opening at 9 a.m. citizens will have until 5 p.m. to vote. After that, early voting will only be open one more week, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., until May 20, 2022.
Watkins stated that much of the process has been uneventful. A definite positive for Gilmer after many Georgia County’s experienced so many issues in the 2020 election. However, Gilmer has been praised in the last two years from local and state officials as one of the best run elections for that cycle. This included no issues on the recounts or audits of that election.
Candidates meet and greet at River ParkElection May 5, 2022
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Statewide elections candidates are returning to Gilmer County for voters in the final weeks up to the May 24 primary. Candidate for Secretary of State TJ Hudson, candidate for Lieutenant Governor Jeanne Seaver, and candidate for Attorney General John Gordon visited River Park yesterday, May 4, 2022, for a meet and greet event with citizens.
Hosted by Gilmer County’s Lady Patriots, the event was held at 5 p.m. The Lady Patriots is a group of politically active women in Ellijay. Not officially an organization tied to a political party, they stated that the event was to show their support and endorsements for the three specific candidates. A member of the Lady Patriots, Margaret Williamson said that one thing she loved about these three was that they haven’t run for office before.
When asked about small smaller or auxiliary groups like the Lady Patriots, Gilmer County Republican Party Chairman Richie Stone stated, “The more, the merrier.”
He added that organization is the key at this time to support groups all the way from the “macro” to the “micro.” Stone said that having people in the game at all levels helps the party and the candidates. Though he said that there was a little confusion as smaller groups gained popularity, now its a refreshing aid in the efforts of the party. Stone said, “After 2020, they’re off the sidelines, they’re all in.”
Running for Georgia’s Attorney General office, John Gordon spoke about election integrity and his push for prosecution for election fraud in past elections. He stated, “There have been 63 cases around the nation. The mainstream media says they have all been dismissed with no finding of fraud. Well, of course there is no finding of fraud. You have to look for the fraud to find the fraud. If you don’t look, you’re never going to find fraud.” He added there hasn’t been any evidentiary hearings so far.
Gordon spoke about the destruction of the republic and the need for someone to stand up and not cave to the liberals push. He added that he couldn’t understand why constitutional officers aren’t standing up for the people.
Gordon said he will be prosecuting rioters, protect the citizens, protect students and schools against Critical Race Theory, and work with police to set a plan in motion to halt the flow of Fentanyl into Georgia.
Running for Georgia’s Secretary of State office, TJ Hudson spoke about his experience in elections, Magistrate Office, and Probate office. He stated he has served as President of Georgia’s Probate Judges and President of Georgia’s Magistrate Judges. Serving through numerous different election systems.
Hudson stated, “We, as Georgians, have always said ‘Experience matters.’ I have done it for nearly two decades. The other candidates running for Secretary of State have only been candidates on a ballot. I’ve actually run elections. I’ve trained poll workers. I was there with election officials on November of 2020.”
He went on to say that he knows what to do on the ground level of elections and can take that experience into the Secretary of State’s Office. Instead of sitting in the office awaiting results on election night, he would be “boots on the ground” going from county to county making sure its done right. He also promised prosecution saying, “If you cheat under my watch, I guarantee your going to jail.”
Running for Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor office, Jeanne Seaver spoke about state taxes and the Fair Tax, consumption tax, and eliminating state income tax. She said this kind of change means everyone pays their fair share. She added that many people in Washington are following and putting forth ideas that she come up with. She also spoke about gambling in the state and her opposition to it. She warned of the lobbyists pushing to legalize these “resorts.”
Seaver stated, “It’s the highest addiction in the nation. One out five attempt suicide. And its targeting our children.”
She went on to speak about service for veterans. Seaver stated that the first person she wants to hire as Lieutenant Governor is a specifically designated position to serve veterans and their families. Seaver said it is because of veterans service that we lay our children’s heads on their pillows at night.
All three candidates also spoke to citizens before and after the event answering questions. Hudson was also in Gilmer on April 23, 2022, for a Secretary of State Debate for the Republican Candidates. Events like these are becoming more popular and groups of all levels are requesting candidates to visit events or even party meetings. Stone said that while he wasn’t at the meet and greet event for one candidate, he attends many events like it to listen to the candidates messages as he always finds it exciting to see statewide candidates visiting Gilmer County.
515 Republicans The Power of 5 present Georgia Secretary of State Debate April 23rdFeature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories, News April 15, 2022
515 Republicans The Power of 5 present Georgia Secretary of State Debate April 23rd. Doors open at 3pm for live audience at White Path Creek Farms located at 1121 Old Northcut Rd, Ellijay, GA. Event will be broadcast LIVE on FYNTv.com with Moderator Brian K. Pritchard.
An introductory interview with Post 2 Candidate Gary EngelElection April 3, 2022
A 12-year resident of Gilmer County, Retired Army Colonel Gary Engel looks to his experiences, expertise, and the community for the Board of Commissioners and his campaign towards that office. That concept of that campaign is planning.
A graduate of the University of South Alabama and the ROTC program there, he later got a Master’s Degree from the United States Naval War College with a focus in National Security and Strategic Studies. He served as a Chief Operating Officer for all logistical operations while in Iraq and also served three years on the Army Science Board. In total, Engel served for 28 years in the Army.
After the Army, Engel joined Anteon and became Vice President before it was bought out by General Dynamics. Continuing work under the new company. In 2007, he bought the land to start Engelheim Vineyards. In 2014, they opened their tasting room after spending the initial time growing the grapes and making the wine. Now, Engel says his vineyard has grown to the largest vineyard in the county and one of the larger vineyards in the state of Georgia. Winning numerous awards and recognitions for the wines made their, the vineyard won Winery of the Year in 2018.
Gary also has recently served on the Board of Directors for the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Gilmer County Board of Tax Assessors, Gilmer Chamber Board of Directors, President of Georgia Wine Producers, and Chairman of the Georgia Wine and Grape Commodity Commission.
Stepping out from these other boards and looking ahead, Engel said it is through these experiences that he has garnered the qualifications to help guide the planning for Gilmer’s future. Getting ahead of the issues through proper planning and preparations will allow for a better path forward. Engel stated, “Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.”
Even with the strategies in place, Engel says that his plans have to incorporate contingencies and flexibility into them. Executing is far easier with the strategy set and room for response rather than going in blind. He speaks on defining success at the beginning of an issue or a project. What is the goal? What is the definition of that which the county wants to accomplish?
He spoke of housing and industry in the county. To achieve the goal of workforce housing, the county’s plan should include what that means because some people have a different definition of affordable in their budgets. With these defined goals and the support of the community for ideas and input, the county can achieve what the community needs.
Operating alongside the board, Engel says he hopes to protect the historic beauty of the county and respect those that have lived here all their lives while supporting all of the citizens’ needs.
Engel said that in office, he is there to serve and take care of the community. Just as his vineyard when he states, “It’s not my vineyard, it’s God’s vineyard. I get to take care of it for a while.”
He spoke about listening to God, the vines, and nature in caring for the vineyard. He made this comparison to be listening to the community in service to the board stating, “I don’t always have the greatest idea.” Engel explained that having many voices to listen to would be how he could gather the best ideas to plan for the county’s future, listening to the people and to God.
Engel stated, “Success has nothing to do with me. Success has to do with the people’s lives that I can touch.”
Supporting a community means improving the community. Engel specifically states “we” need to serve. He recalled a sort of mantra in his military service, “Always improve your position.” Bringing that forward, Engel asserted that we should always be improving the position of the county. Encouraging and incentivizing the youth to grow the community, building and attracting new businesses for jobs for the citizens, and providing a hand up to people will provide a cycle of improvement from the students to the workforce to industry to housing for students and workforce.
He acknowledged the major issue in Gilmer right now saying, “Some people say we need affordable housing. I say we need reasonable housing for our workforce.”
The county has improved greatly in recent years according to Engel. That success is being seen by those in other counties. As businesses grow, and major wear on the county’s infrastructure increases, one idea Engel said he wants to explore could be business impact fees with relation to the county’s resources, be they roads or other resources. Engaging with builders, businesses, owners, and people will allow for better planning and support from them. Working together is how we find new ways to address challenges.
Engel said that the county needs to look for these new ways to overcome challenges because, in the face of more financial needs, “we can’t tax the people in Gilmer County any more. They are taxed enough already.”
Growth can pose one of the greatest threats to the county without proper planning as Engel says developing the vision to guide the county into maintaining our quality of life. This could go so far as to include reserves for another potential market correction in real estate. When asked about the possibility, he said that the county could carefully maintain through that with new revenues supporting reserves and careful cognizance of spending.
However, these plans and strategies are one part of the whole as Engel said communication is key to a board like this. Not only internally but externally. Coming to a consensus and fully explaining and exploring situations on the BOC can also be supported through better communication with not only the other government entities but the businesses and community as well. Combining these ideas like new revenues, supporting reasonable housing, and better planning are further strengthened through the continued communication from all parts of the county, even on major issues like subdivisions and zoning. Some subdivisions, Engel stated, have been done well. Looking at the successes and communicating on how they were done can provide better plans to mitigate impact on the county’s resources and infrastructure.
Some long-term goals that Engel hopes to explore includes the idea of incorporating more community expertise through panels or meetings to better provide the information, details, and specifications on projects the county undertakes. Another concept would incorporate a county manager for Gilmer separate from the Board of Commissioners. Something he said he would look at later and possibly incorporating towards the end of term, he could see the board as a more policy and guidance entity with the County Manager reporting to them on day to day operations. The board could also have direct oversight over the position should a need arise for replacement instead of citizens waiting for elections to vote someone out.
While not a singular project or idea, Engel took a moment to stress the importance of Public Safety as well including first responders, law enforcement, and fire response. Maintaining these departments is important to the county as one of the largest in the state. Especially considering services needed for a growing population and for one of the best places in Georgia to retire.
Engel said, “I’d like everybody to understand that something that is important to me is honor.” Engel said it would not only be an honor to serve, but he hopes to bring honor and integrity to his service if elected to the Board of Commissioners.
An introductory interview with Post 2 Candidate Tom WhatleyElection April 3, 2022
A 22-year veteran of law enforcement and retired Police Detective in 2006, Tom Whatley was an experienced investigator in real estate and mortgage fraud. He said that during this time, “my weapon was a calculator.”
With his experience and community involvement, Whatley served on as Vice Chair on the Budget Advisory Board for seven years for his county in Florida. During those years, Whatley became well-versed in both the budgetary process, departmental line item requests, and financial investigation for the purpose of lowering budget costs. In seven years, this culminated in a $900 million reduction to excessive spending. With a four-year degree in legal studies, specific training in government financing, and the time to dedicate, Whatley said the commissioner position would be a full-time job that he hopes to wholly dedicate himself to.
After finally relocating to Gilmer County, a place he visited constantly as a child with his family, Whatley said that even when younger, he had thoughts that someday, he would come back to live here. Yet, old habits of community involvement followed him and he soon found himself back in government meetings like the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay, county meetings, and Planning and Zoning. This time, he wasn’t on the boards, but a citizen listening, even to city councils that he couldn’t vote for.
Whatley said this was the early stages, when he spoke in meetings it would lead to others recognizing him in town. From there, it turned into full conversations and meetings with citizens, and that lead to the formation of Keep Gilmer Rural. Pushing for protections to agriculture and the rurality of the county, this became a place that he said he wanted to offer for the discourse and planning to pursue that.
As the organization has grown, Whatley said that some have gotten the idea that he is opposed to affordable housing. Whatley said he isn’t, adding that if a builder can build an affordable house, then go for it. He offered up a quick number estimation with a price per square footage anywhere from $130 to $150 per square foot, saying that would make it affordable. But the developers and builders “are not in the charity business.” Building that profit from one project funds the capital for the next project. In addition, the government can’t step in to deny certain people from purchasing homes just because they don’t live in county. He also voiced opinions against mandated Section 8 housing.
Whatley said, “Anytime the government gets involved in housing, it never turns out well. It is never utopic.”
With zoning however, he said he wants to avoid the policies of big cities and small lots or “zero lot lines” that encourage massive density. A lot of these issues come down to location and impact to your neighbors, with an idea that there are spaces for a lot of what people want. But there major exceptions to the rule like 300 houses on 200 acres, the density causes effects on neighbors, the land, the resources, and the infrastructure.
Whatley stated about the county, “I want to keep its old town charm, keep it the way it is. Slow the growth, you can’t stop the growth.” He added that as a commissioner, he wouldn’t want to alter the current residential zonings from where they are now between R1 and R5.
It’s a nationwide issue that Whatley said is highlighted right now in Gilmer. The growth, housing, zoning, and rural nature of Gilmer is the biggest issues facing that county according to Whatley. But it isn’t the only things he is looking at as he said he believes the county is likely to see another bubble pop like in 2010. Looking ahead at decreasing property values and decreasing property taxes, the quick sales and recessionary type economy, an excessive abundance in the inventory could be a possible outcome. Every county gets affected by property values. Whatley said now is the time to beef up.
That beefing up comes with squaring away certain departments. The county has been building the road department, public safety, and other areas with great needs. That is necessary, and saving reserves is necessary. Whatley noted that if the county has extra money, it doesn’t have to spend it all. The county has built reserves in recent years, something Whatley is encouraging and pushing to have in preparations for leaner years. Whatley points to his years in budgetary finances and investigations as experience in the area saying that he wants to be a stickler about financing and providing for the needs and building the county where necessary and beneficial, but also looking to be a part of the county’s efforts to prepare and budget wisely to provide for the future.
Boards are not just about one man’s experience and expertise, though, as Whatley said he sees teamwork at work in the board already. He noted the recent moratorium on housing developments. He recalled how the limit on number of houses was not originally agreed upon but the board discussed and negotiated. Whatley said that this is a simple example but shows how a board works together for better results and how important communications, negotiations, and discourse are to their operations as well as supporting the board’s final decision.
Whatley also used this example as a basis for another idea to a change in land use. He said that the massive citizen opposition to the mega developers has met a response that not every development has to even come before a board. Whatley said he would support an ordinance to have any planned development over a certain number of homes having to come before Planning and Zoning for approval.
Whatley spoke about increasing civilian committees in the county to support the board’s decisions. Whatley said, “Sometimes the county commissioners have great ideas in their head. If you look out and there is 50, 60, 100 people out there in that audience, a lot of them have some great ideas and they don’t get to express them. I would love to hear great ideas from the community on how to run this county. And that could be through different assignments, different committees, on different projects.”
Another major change he would like to see down the road is the incorporation and separation of a county manager from the Board of Commissioners. Whatley said that with the current chairman’s announcement that this would be a final term, he has done great work in what has been accomplished. Whatley said he could see the board working towards a county manager as the term concludes so that the transition could occur simultaneously with the next election. Establishing the board as the guiding force while having the manager report back to them the same as department heads currently do. Whatley said that he would want to pursue this later in the term as he has his vision set forward and hopes to see the county’s future continue improving similar to what it has seen.
If elected, Whatley said he still has a lot of people he wants to talk to about the ideas of the county both that he has thought about and that they have in mind. Continuing to attend county meetings, he said he has learned a lot in all the meetings he has attended, but has a lot more to learn about so that, if elected, he could transition into office easily and ready to hit the ground running without delay. He is excited for an opportunity to affect the county in a positive way.
Whatley said that major issues in the county are key points in his campaign for office, such as keeping Gilmer as rural as possible, protecting the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary status, and guiding “smart growth” in the coming years.
An introductory interview with Post 2 Candidate John MarshallElection April 3, 2022
After attending Georgia State University in Risk Management, John Marshall went further in his education to become a Charted Property and Casualty Underwriter. He also has served on numerous boards and appointments in the county including time spent on the Gilmer Chamber Board of Directors where he also served as Chairman at one point and on the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission Council as House Speaker David Ralston’s Appointee.
Marshall said he has been attending the county’s meetings for the last five years and found the county’s proceedings very interesting. With a wealth of knowledge from his time served in several different facets of the county, he felt this is the next step to consolidate all of that experience and information to serve the county and the community in guiding its path moving forward. He added that his goal is to keep that forward motion a positive motion while protecting the county’s natural resources.
Marshall said he never had a singular moment or event that pushed him into running for Post 2 Commissioner. Instead, through his continued service to the county in several different capacities, he is simply continuing along that path with this next opportunity.
The county has been very blessed with visitors in the tourism industry. Marshall said that this is no mistake as the county has worked hard to accomplish the goal and market itself. With that success has come attention and needs. With that, one of the needs the county currently faces is housing for working people. With his current job being the operation of rental property, Marshall said he has seen, first hand, the increasing need. He noted he has about 150 calls every month from people looking for a decent, clean place to live. Marshall went on to say that multi-family housing like duplexes, triplexes, and even apartments are a need the community faces as a whole. Not just one government entity, city limit, or county limit.
Programs like the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing aid communities with information and insight on what provisions and investors are available for specific housing needs. Marshall said taking opportunities to garner information and assets is one way for the county to further explore solutions for that need.
The need reaches further as Marshall said without sufficient housing, it hinders solutions to other problems like staffing in the county. When it comes to fully staffing operations like public safety, emergency response, law enforcement, or even teachers, Marshall said, “There are people who would come here, but they can’t because there is no place here to live.”
Through other issues like pay and infrastructure, Marshall said the debt provides other challenges. Tackling challenges like this is part of the job for commissioners. Marshall said that the current board has done “an extraordinary job of managing the budgets and taking all of the requests and fulfilling them as best they can.”
Having attended all the budget sessions last year and several over the past few years, Marshall has gained some insight into that process and the work the board has done. He complimented that work and said he looks to continue that hard work if elected. He stated, “We need to continue seeking revenues that don’t directly affect the pocketbooks of Gilmer County citizens.”
Through business experience and government entities experience, Marshall has specific comprehension of budgets and the need for economic development in the county while never taking eyes off of expenditures, but also revenues.
Operating throughout the pandemic, Marshall notes that Gilmer has benefitted economically and continues to take steps to constantly improve that. Increasing the hotel/motel tax is one of those steps that will open new doors and opportunities such as tourism product development. Because of his Chamber involvement, Marshall said that he has seen the potential for what this can accomplish while still supporting the involved entities.
And those projects can also vary and benefit locals in addition to tourists through projects like recreational facilities. This is a specific area that Marshall said is another need he sees in the county for its citizens. Improved and new facilities can increase the community’s quality of life. With the transient lodging tax, an example is provided and Marshall spoke of revenues from outside of Gilmer’s citizens through targeting visitors and tourists. Expanding these revenue streams will help to diversify the economic development of the county as well.
Attracting industry and supporting projects like agritourism, agricultural development, small businesses, and industry development with projects like CORE (Collaboration at River’s Edge) become key points in that hope to diversify and expand.
Marshall stated, “Our identity as a rural area is protected in large part because roughly 75 percent of the county is either owned by the federal government, the state government, or those lands are already in conservation use, meaning they are not going to be developed immediately.”
Marshall also spoke to the topic of subdivisions saying that new developments take a very long time to develop and fill up. He noted that Walnut Mountain and Coosawattee River Resort, both developed decades ago, are still only “half full” in terms on houses built on lots. In terms of government involvement, Marshall noted that the Board of Commissioners has directed the Planning and Zoning Board to review all of the land use ordinances and to recommend any changes that may be needed. He stated, “That needs to be a very broad and deliberate and slow process to get it all because it affects, virtually, everyone in the county.”
Working together with the other board members is another key part to the county’s operations. Marshall noted that his ideas are not always the best and so he hopes to listen to the community for guidance. Marshal stated, “I want to be that commissioner that listens to everyone and treats everyone with utmost respect and kindness.”
The community involves the citizens, but also the other entities as Marhsall said it is important for all facets of the county’s governments to seek solutions together instead of in “individual silos.” He also asserted that this stretches across all general topics whether they be recreation, economy, or other.
In the community of citizens, Marshall said he hopes to build consensus and coalition among disparate groups. Through training and discourse he hopes to be the commissioner who listens in order to sees the unintended consequences that each county decision could have and understanding the impact. In serving the citizens, he says he is very much looking forward to making the business of government as efficient and effective as possible.
Maintaining the relationships from his previous service in the county and the region and stepping into county office, it will not simply bring his experience but a history of collaboration to the position.
Working on behalf of the community means balancing the tourism and development for economic drivers with non-tourism agriculture, citizens, and the future of the county. Tourism serves the county economically and the citizens support that tourism in business and service. Marshall said, “I am a fiscal conservative and have always been. I am going to be that commissioner who is constantly looking at using the taxpayer’s money wisely and prudently. I want to be that commissioner who is constantly seeking answers to the problems we have by looking at how other communities have handled similar issues.”