GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – FYN has learned today that Gilmer Chamber President and CEO Paige Green has officially tendered her resignation to the Board of Directors.
Green has worked in Gilmer’s Chamber for over 12 years and has worked in tourism for even longer since becoming Tourism Director in Eufaula, Alabama.
According to a release given to FYN since the announcement, Green is returning to her home-state for family including both her husband and parents. Her parents have always played a major part in her life. Hutto explained as much in a featured interview with FYN as she celebrated her 10-year anniversary with the Chamber.
Now, returning to her home state, coworkers are already beginning to speak about the loss that will be felt. However, Hutto will remain with the Chamber for the foreseeable future as the Board of Directors pairs with the Chason Group to find a replacement.
The full press release follows:
Following almost 12 years of service in which she helped build the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce to over 630 members, President and CEO Paige Green Hutto has submitted her resignation to the Board of Directors.
Hutto is making the change to join her new husband in Alabama and take the next step in her life with her new family.
“My love for this community and organization is only usurped by the love of my new husband and family in Alabama and it is time for that life to be whole,” she said. “It is because of that love that I tender my resignation with bittersweet feelings and a somewhat heavy heart.”
In her time at the Chamber, Hutto has presided over a period of exponential tourism growth in Gilmer County and an almost doubling of the organization’s membership. Her leadership has also been instrumental in the formation of the JDA, the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation and CORE- which grew out of a chamber-led trip to a business incubator in Carrollton.
“I hope above all that I will be remembered as someone who gave 100 percent and loved this community and organization and always worked for the betterment of both,” said Hutto.
Board Chair Chris Wang said Hutto will be missed.
“The Gilmer Chamber Board of Directors could not be more thankful of the extraordinary job President Paige Green Hutto has done these last 12 years,” he said. “Every chairperson has been able to walk in to a stronger organization year after year because of the tireless effort she contributed to this Chamber. Personally, Paige is one of the smartest and wisest leaders I have ever worked with. She will be missed greatly by this community and by those who worked beside her.”
Gilmer Chamber’s Board of Directors will work with The Chason Group to conduct a thorough executive search for the next leader of the organization. Hutto has agreed to remain during the search to enable a smooth transition.
“The incoming president not only has fashionable shoes to fill, but a highly competent mind to match. We wish nothing but the absolute best for Paige during this next chapter of her life,” said Wang.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Chamber President/CEO Paige Hutto (formerly Paige Green) spoke with Ellijay City Council Members this week about details that many citizens are seeking regarding the upcoming 4th of July Celebration including the parade and fireworks.
She confirmed that there will not be a parade, but the Chamber will be spending this week in talks with Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey for details about safety, social distancing, and options for citizens to view the display. She confirmed with FYN that the fireworks will be launched from the area behind Ellijay Elementary School as normal. However, she mentioned thoughts about finding a way for citizens to view them like a “drive-in” movie theater, staying in vehicles or the bed of a truck to watch.
However, the thought was merely a preliminary thought, as she asserted that more details and discussions must be had with authorities on options and plans.
During the City Council Meeting, Hutto explained that they would be addressing these details more over the coming week and sharing that information with the public.
During the discussion, the council questioned for details on why there would not be a parade. Hutto explained that the original decision not to have a parade was made weeks ago based on Executive Orders from the Governor and the situation at the time. However, as times have changed and more people are returning to social and normal events, there simply was not enough time to plan a parade.
The process takes, typically, four to six weeks to plan and prepare for a parade. Now, as they return to plans for the celebration, the two and a half weeks set up is not sufficient to accomplish the entire process.
In addition to preparation, there were questions of who would assume responsibility for the festivities like a parade, be it the chamber or merchant’s association or another. Ultimately, the focus moving ahead, according to Hutto, is solely focused on putting on the fireworks display for citizens and accomplishing this safely for all involved.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber is wasting no time in 2020 preparing for another “successful” year as President and CEO Paige Green called 2019.
During their annual meeting, the Chamber recounted many of their successes and honored members with the annual awards before looking to the future with induction of new ambassadors, the passing of the chairman’s gavel, and the new board.
The Chamber did have plenty to celebrate in 2019 according to, now Past-Chair, John Marshall who noted two major projects completed in 2019 when the Chamber cut the ribbon on their Downtown Welcome Center on the square in downtown Ellijay in March and also cut the ribbon on the new CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility in July.
Both of these ventures have already seen large numbers of support and activity in 2019 alone with more than 5,500 people visiting the Welcome Center. Additionally, the CORE Facility caught support and acknowledgement from the state the same day it cut the ribbon as they were awarded $425,000 grant for future operation of the facility.
However, these were not the only projects and ribbon cuttings in the year. Marshall went on to note the Chamber cut the ribbon and celebrated the opening of 28 new businesses and welcomed 110 new members to the Chamber.
Also recognizing the successes of 2019, the Chamber awarded several awards including a brand new award that saw its first recipient ever at the banquet meeting.
The Chamber awarded Member of the Year to Tiffany Camp Watson. The Chamber said, “Member of the Year is an award given to Chamber members who truly go above and beyond in service to our Chamber and the community as a whole. Tiffany Camp Watson with Endless Ink exemplifies this spirit wholly. Whether it is serving as a Chamber Ambassador, rallying our community to care for those in need, or advocating for causes that matter to her, Tiffany puts her everything into all she does. Congratulations to Tiffany for being named the 2019 Member of the Year!”
For 2019’s Business of the Year, the banquet saw Chattahoochee Technical College receive the award. The Chamber said, “Chattahoochee Technical College’s investment in Gilmer County and commitment to equipping Gilmer citizens to enter the workforce is something that we are so thankful for. We consider this awesome institution of energized individuals a true partner in developing Gilmer’s workforce. Congratulations to Chattahoochee Tech for being named the 2019 Business of the year!”
Awarding the Citizen of the Year award highlights one specific citizen and their accomplishments in service through the year. This year’s recpient was Merle Naylor. The Chamber said, “Congratulations to our 2019 Citizen of the Year Merle Naylor! With decades of service to Gilmer County, we can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. Thank you, Merle, for all that you have done for our county and all the children and families who call Gilmer home. Welcome to the COTY family!”
Usually, these three awards are the major awards the Chamber gives for the year. However, 2020 saw the introduction of something new. A brand new award honoring an especially dedicated community member with exceptional genorosity in their communal efforts. In it’s first year ever, the award was given to Dr. Shanna Downs, Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools. The Chamber said, “This year, we unveiled a new award: The Community Champion award. This award is intended to recognize an overall commitment to Gilmer County through collaborative efforts, philanthropy, investment or humanitarian efforts. These four categories that the Community Champion Award encompass come together in the commitment of it’s Inaugural recipient: Dr. Shanna Downs. Since becoming Superintendent of the Gilmer County Charter School System, Dr. Downs has shown an intense commitment not only to her staff and students, but also to our community at large. Thanks to Dr. Downs’ tireless work and dedication, Gilmer County will have a steady pipeline of hardworking and highly-qualified citizens who are ready to pour back into our community for years to come. Congratulations, Dr. Downs!”
Transitioning from 2019 to 2020, the Chamber introduced new Ambassador, a new board, and a new Chairman. During the meeting, Past-Chair John Marshall introduced and then officially passed the Chairman’s gavel to the new Chairman, Chris Wang, agent for State Farm Insurance. Marshall passed the gavel saying, “Chris Wang is wise beyond his years, he has a servant’s heart, and he is brimming with innovation and creative ideas to continue to move our Chamber and community forward. We are excited about the future with Chris at the helm.”
Additionally, the Chamber later took to social media welcome Wang saying, “We are so excited to have our 2020 Chairman of the Board, Chris Wang, on our team. Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does and always gives 100%. Chris has been actively involved with the Chamber since he started his business here several years ago and has been investing in our community from day one. Chris has previously participated in Leadership Gilmer, the Ambassador program, and was named the 2017 Member of the Year. Chris, we are so excited to have you on board and can’t wait to see what you do this year!”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is celebrating a five-year-long project completion today with the opening of the Downtown Welcome Center in Ellijay, Georgia.
A new branch for the Chamber and a “needed presence” downtown according to community leaders like Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Gilmer Chamber President Paige Green, this new building will work across town from the Chamber home office and welcome center on Craig Street, just off of Highway 515 between the Waffle House and Advance Auto Parts.
Today’s celebration marks the completion of the preparations and renovations, according to Green, who said the day also serves as the beginning of the Chamber’s return to downtown. A “homecoming” of sorts as the Chamber has been in the Watkins House before, located on the downtown square next to the courthouse.
Green said it wasn’t only the Chamber’s efforts, but a collective involving the Chamber, the Board of Commissioners, and State Legislative involvement from Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston. This alliance’s dedication has pushed the project across the year’s to come to today’s fruition.
While that dedication has stretched five years since conversations first began about the Chamber re-opening the Watkins House as a Welcome Center, Green noted that the Board of Directors’ recent Chairman Trent Sanford and current Chairman John Marshall have made the major push through these last two years to begin and finish the actual renovations on the building.
As a part of the Chamber’s return to downtown, Green said publicly that the Chamber is planning more downtown events through their new center and extended hours. She stated, “We do intend to be open Wednesday through Saturday. We want to be a leader in hoping that our merchants will join with us in opening until six or seven o’clock to greet our guests on the weekends as well.”
Green went on to say that the Downtown Center will also be opened for meeting space needs, or for those visitors who simply need a place to sit and rest. She wants the Downtown Welcome Center to be open in this sense for both tourists and locals.
The celebration also saw visits from each of the Gilmer County Commissioners, Chairman Charlie Paris and Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Karleen Ferguson, as well as Speaker Ralston. Paris offered his thanks to Ralston as well saying that without his help, the community might still be waiting for a downtown center.
Paris spoke about the many “dominoes” that needed to fall in order to accomplish what they have. From relocating the Planning and Zoning Office on the other side of the square to needing help from the Department of Transportation and Ralston for logistics. Paris praised the Chamber and community volunteers and merchants who were integral in making the Welcome Center look as amazing as it does now.
Ralston also offered a few words as he congratulated the county on the facility. He spoke about the history of the Watkins House and its journey through generations and his personal memories of hanging out at the courthouse and walking past the Watkins House everyday after school. Ralston went on to note the significance of the statement the Chamber is making to the citizens of Ellijay and the investment they are making in the community.
However, the day held more meaning than most understood, as they sipped wine from local vineyards and snacked of food from local restaurants, one family shared a moment around a special picture as former Chamber Director Brenda Davis, the lady in the picture, returned to her former offices and joined the celebrations of the changes and growth the building has seen since her last days in it.
The photo, taken in the early 90’s according to Davis. She said it feels good to be back in the building as she pointed out the meetings she held in the large front room and secretary’s office in the room with her photo. She recalled how here entire family got recruited to “volunteer” for events and needs when she held the office and the Welcome Center was there. She chuckled as she pointed out she had an intern, at the time, named Sandy Ott. Now working for University of North Georgia and its expansion campus, Davis recalls her working for the Gilmer Chamber stuffing fliers and mailers for the Chamber.
Davis also recalled a special memory at the Watkins House as they prepared for the Olympics in Atlanta. Davis said it was two years prior and Gilmer was hosting visitors from all over the world. They had received one foreign visitor whose interpreter was not available. He sat on the square as C Lloyd Smith began speaking with him and trying to make him happy with his visit despite the lack of a translator. Davis recalls Smith trying so hard to make this visitor feel welcome despite the major hurdle of language.
Memories like this are built into the bricks of the Watkins House. It seems anyone who lived or worked in Ellijay at the time has some memory tied to the building. As the Chamber returns to its former home, employees, citizens, and even those who no longer live in the county, will return with them to revisit old times, old memories, and tie them together with a new gateway in our community and new visitors creating new memories.
Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber’s Board of Directors, John Marshall offered his thanks for the legacy and the generosity that the Watkins’ family showed years ago when they had donated the building for the public good. Marshall stated, “It is altogether fitting and appropriate that the formerly private residence of this pioneer and progressive family has been transformed into a place to welcome the public.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A not-unexpected turn of events saw the Board of Commissioners (BOC) strike the two items from their agenda on Thursday that involved an Audit and a Contract Termination for the Gilmer Chamber.
Despite this, it doesn’t mean the end of this issue between the two entities. With both sides having agreed that the Hotel/Motel Tax usage by the Chamber is required to have an audit, and moving forward imposing that requirement, a major issue is being resolved. However, it doesn’t mean that citizens won’t be hearing about the issue again in coming sessions.
As Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson stated in their work session, she is wanting to look deeper at the Chamber, the date of the automatic contract renewal, and the Hotel/Motel Tax split. Though most of the discussion at the work session centered on clarifying “if” and “why” a termination would be required to renegotiate the contract and look at some of the expectations from both parties, the lasting issue is still persisting.
Chamber President Paige Green provided a prepared statement on behalf of the Chamber which asked them to reconsider the termination. But much of its points also addressed the issue of changing the split. One sentence stated, “Defunded or reduced funding towards those efforts or even extended negotiation period without resolution will have immediate and long term effects on the great work that has been done to bring us to this point in time.”
Her statement also reaffirms the Chambers commitment to “an open dialogue this year and to answer any questions you have in regards to our efforts.”
The commissioners did not vote down the termination, however. As previously reported in “Chamber Contract in question at BOC,” Ferguson stated several times during the work session that she thought termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal. Instead of voting down the termination, all three commissioners unanimously approved an agenda change to remove the items from the agenda with the clarification that it was agreed that the audit was required and would start being provided.
This leaves the state of the Gilmer Chamber in a flux of moving forward with an automatic renewal schedule to take effect next week, but knowing that 2019 will be a year in review as the Commissioners look closer at the Hotel/Motel Tax and the Chamber in general.
Ferguson noted during the work session that the Gilmer Chamber holds one of the highest Hotel/Motel tax split-percentages in the state. It was also noted by several chamber members and chamber board members that the Gilmer Chamber was also noted by people across the state as one of the best and most effective chambers.
As both entities move forward in the year, the discussion of the underlying issue will arise. For now, the preamble comes to a close avoiding what Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said would have been “a very, very serious mistake for Gilmer County.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners split their opinions on an idea to alter the Chamber and County sharing of the Hotel/Motel tax during budget sessions this year.
Brought up during the Chamber’s meeting with the board by Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, the two entities delved into what it would mean to possibly shift the current 70/30 split to increase funding for the county as well as a boost in their own ambitions for increasing tourism and county draw.
Crouch mentioned only shifting it by 10% to a 60/40 split in the Chamber’s favor. Among several ideas, the county’s recent agreement and push for better signage at the county line arose. The idea resurfaced after a recent push from citizens to claim Gilmer as the Wrestling Capital of Georgia. The county is actively seeking funding sources for the project. However, the idea of funding it through the capital budget seems less likely as the budget meetings revealed at least two departments whose request could consume the entire budget on their own.
As members of the chamber were present at the meeting, the consistent report was overwhelming support and praise for what the Chamber has accomplished saying, “I love the Chamber, they are so engaged with my needs.”
Ultimately, Crouch noted that he has enjoyed and appreciated the Chamber’s work. Instead, he noted that as a business owner he agrees, but as a Commissioner, he sees the constant people talking about road conditions and similar needs. He went on to say that the change wasn’t by any means a reflection of a poor job by the Chamber, but rather he felt at a certain point, he was seeing diminishing returns alongside greater needs elsewhere.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris disagreed with the idea saying, “My concern would be that we are talking about putting ourselves in a difficult situation in the future to have a better situation in the immediate. I think we have got to look at it long term.”
He went on to add later that he knows the county isn’t where it needs to be on roads. He related a story when he was tasked to go out to the road department and take pictures of junk equipment to be sold off or moved for disposal. Paris said, “When I got back into our meeting and I was showing the pictures, Jim Smith just about had a stroke because ‘No we use that. We use that. We use that.’ That’s what they had to work with.”
Paris noted that the last four years have seen increases from a 16 person crew to 22 people. He noted the equipment replacements including dump trucks, bulldozer, paving roller, road sweeper, and an equipment shed to prolong the life of that equipment. He made a point to note the progress the road department has made saying that the Road Department is continuing along the path of improvement. He said they will continue needing to reverse the department’s neglect for years to come, it can’t be solved in a single year.
Chamber President and CEO Paige Green noted that she expects a plateau at some point. While she agreed with the ideas like gateway signage and organic growth from the county’s location. She added that she understood the “tough decisions” that the board makes, but the hotel/motel money reinvested in an appropriate way would be the long-term solution as opposed to the short-term solution of decreasing funding.
Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller also commented saying he would look at the number if the budget absolutely demanded it.
However, as of now, no changes have been made in the proposed budgets split. The Commissioners still have their October 16 work session and October 17 regular session as well as expected special called meetings before the budget is balanced.
Celebrating ten years at a job is amazing in itself, but I recently learned that even five years at a Chamber of Commerce is not exactly common, much less ten.
As if meant to be, the Gilmer Chamber celebrates 40 years in the same month that its President and CEO, Paige Green, achieves a milestone rarely heard of in the business, ten years as President/CEO.
The business isn’t easy, according to Green, who admits the stress can be overwhelming at times. Yet, she seems to have made a life thriving on the energy as her experience in the Chamber business extends far past just ten years. Getting a chance to sit and think back over her career is not something she has done in a while as Green smiled remembering people and mentors from the past. A thought she continues to return to as she shares her story is just how much effect one person can have on another’s life.
People like Terry Exum, a high school friend who first introduced her to the life as she told her of a job in Green’s hometown. The position was Tourism Director in Eufaula, Alabama.
Having spent a year in college studying PR and Journalism before switching to and receiving a degree in Business Management from Troy State, Green had moved on to a Masters degree as well before spending her time teaching Business Education. It was 1998 and she had just finished her first year of teaching in Grady, Alabama. It was also the point where she knew she shouldn’t be teaching. The way she recalls her time there, she admits she wasn’t the best teacher. Yet, others would disagree, people like Ruth Bodine, who has worked with Green at the Gilmer Chamber since she became President ten years ago.
As a two-man team, Bodine says it was her and Paige when she became the President. Accomplishing everything from Taste of Ellijay to the Apple Festival, Bodine says she was often asked how the two of them did it? To which she replies, “I don’t know, we just did.”
She recalls how they would relieve the mental stress, days when they would start moving furniture at 4:30 in the afternoon. Even though the day ended at 5:00, they’d still be moving furniture at 7:00 p.m.
Bodine says it was Green’s teaching that kept her at the Chamber so long, and even now as she prepares to leave the Chamber, she looks back and admits she would never have stayed so long without Paige Green.
“I could have failed,” says Bodine who added that it was always Green behind her as she worked on the databases. She taught through partnership as they both agreed they didn’t like the database at the time and had Bodine research and look for a new database. She adds that it was this type of partnership and teaching that kept her working for the Chamber all this time.
Still, Green left her teaching in Grady to return home to Eufaula and take up the mantle as Tourism Director. Nostalgia surfaces as she recalls a tiny office, one belonging to the building’s postmaster in its former life as the post office. With pride in her voice, Green says she left the sign on the door. She calls it her first “real, grown-up job.”
Though you may not be able to notice it if you know her, Green is very introverted. She calls herself a shy girl who can’t inject herself into a conversation. After nearly 20 years of work in social situations, she may have grown out of it slightly, but she says she still retreats back into herself every day. Eufaula was the beginning of a life of going against that urge.
To say she pioneered the position in Eufaula is nothing short of an understatement. Before her, it had been a part-time position before lying vacant for a year. As she walked into her first day, the office held a legal pad, a pen, a telephone, and a typewriter.
A noticeable lack of files on anything from local businesses to statistics for recent years greeted Green as she began her five-year journey to build the tourism of the town into a flourishing economy. It took almost three years before she pitched the brain child of her and friend Ken White, a ‘fee’ added into hotels to help inject life into efforts to grow the Chamber, the tourism, and the town as a whole. Something that anyone who has been to many Board of Commissioners meetings in Gilmer will recognize as the Hotel/Motel tax.
The single change of adding the fee injected an additional $200,000 into her tourism budget. It also kickstarted a growth in fishing tournaments as she began using the funds to host larger events. What she didn’t know at the time is that it would ultimately lead to her leaving the position.
Not by any mistake or incident, but the funds and growth in the tournaments gave way to something that began the actual transition. The spark that led her away from Eufaula was a laugh.
Having worked so closely over the years with BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society), Green grew closer to those she worked alongside. She found herself joking with a college roommate one day who worked with BASS saying “It’d be kind of cool to work with you guys.”
Though they all laughed, it didn’t take long for the seriousness to surface, drawing this young lady away from her hometown to Montgomery, Alabama. Though leaving Eufaula behind, Green often thinks back to both her family and her town. Yet, when talking about switching jobs and moving around, she says, “I’ve always been fortunate that I’ve never had to leave a job. It’s always been for a better opportunity.”
Starting the job in 2003, it wasn’t long before BASS, a company owned by ESPN, had Green flying to Connecticut to visit the home office. Yet throughout her time, it became rather muddy exactly what her title was. Titles like Sponsorship Coordinator and Director’s Assistant were mentioned several times over the years. But if you outlast four bosses like she did, it might be understandable that these things change a lot.
Actually, Green shares that it seemed each new boss came with a promotion for her as her title and function changed. Working to maintain relationships with clients, sponsors, event locations, and contracts, Green says, “I got to plan all of the cool parties, I just didn’t get to go.” Some of these events are widely well known even today, events like the Bassmaster Classic.
Events like these brought out a newer side of her as she began realizing the level of stress that comes with the events. For example, she calls the Bassmaster Classic ‘Hell-Week.’ It only showcases the kind of person it takes to become an events coordinator. These people not only thrive on the stress and chaos, they become addicted to it. She didn’t explicitly admit this, but after five years with Eufaula, five years with BASS, and ten years with the Gilmer Chamber, the term adrenaline junkie gets used more freely.
Indeed, she began showing her best efforts when facing 50 anglers on a lake, 50,000 people attending a weigh-in, sponsors and anglers whose rooms didn’t get booked, and other unforeseen errors. In fact, Green has never had an event in any job that didn’t have logistical problems. It reminds you of the old phrase, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
“Anyone who ever says ‘Oh, the event went so smoothly,’ they are lying,” says Green. The difference is that where most people would be freaking out over the logistical mistakes, Green says, “That’s the cool part, is fixing the problems you didn’t know you’d have.”
Now, that’s not to say the stress doesn’t get to her. By her own admission, she has come ‘unglued’ at times. “The difference,” says Green, “is being able to stay glued in front of people, and coming unglued in your hotel room that night.”
It is in these moments that one can find the real chink in the armor of this lady. It is the less visible moment that one finds their own humanity. It came in 2005 for Green. In 2004, BASS announced they were moving their company to Orlando, Florida. Though not everyone got an offer to move with the company, she did. As she deliberated the choice of moving, the fear began to settle.
Before you can simply pass this off as a simple choice that should not have had such weight, think about a small-town girl who has never lived more than 80 miles from where she grew up. Though she had traveled, she never moved that far. Think also about a girl very close to her parents, very attached to her life. It’s like walking a tightrope without a safety net for the first time. No short ride to visit with the parents who loved and helped her through the majority of her life, indeed it was new people, a new place, a new climate, a new house, and even new changes to the job.
She had made her decision to leave the company. The only problem was that she never told the company that.
It was in early 2005 that she had decided she was going to teach again. She had full plans to work for Troy University. She was so sure, in fact, that she had the paperwork ready. She had just left the university after accepting the position. It was decided.
It was a simple moment when she pulled off the road into a McDonald’s parking lot. Pulling out her phone, she called the same man she had checked in with for her entire life, her father. It was a simple moment… which changed everything.
She didn’t pull over and call him to question anything about her decision. Yet, as they spoke, Green says she could hear something in his voice. “Do you think I’m making a mistake?” she asked.
Not being the type of father to influence her decisions, he didn’t say whether he thought it was or not. It was her decision.
“I lost it,” says Green, “I just remember sitting in the parking lot at that McDonald’s at Troy and bawling my eyes out because I didn’t know whether to zig or to zag.”
She traveled home to her Montgomery apartment and sat staring at the wall for three hours. It wasn’t until a knock at the door finally pulled her from her trance that she got up. Answering the door, she found her parents standing there. Driving eighty miles through a storm, they had come to help her choose.
Laying everything out and discussing the options, a decision still could not be reached. Sending her parents home without a conclusion, Green says she woke up the next morning and called Troy to say she wasn’t taking the job. She was moving to Orlando.
As the years progressed, she began traveling more and more. She found herself on the road for 23 weeks out of the year saying, “I had a really nice house for my cat…” Having moved to Orlando in April of 2005, she spent the next three years with the company.
Though she enjoyed traveling and seeing the country, it was a constant suitcase being packed and unpacked. The continuous movement never really allowed roots to grow. She loved the job, but things began to add up to a need for change. It wasn’t just the constant traveling, though. Green says things began changing and people began leaving as rumors grew that the company might be sold.
Searching through options for positions with boat manufacturers to stay in the industry she knew and chamber positions to follow the what she began earlier in life, Green happened upon a posting on the internet about a position with a North Georgia county where she had visited as a child. She had found the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce.
She had, unfortunately, also found a 17-page application for the position. Something she jokes about to this day and even had in the temporary museum for the Chamber’s 40-year celebration.
Interviewing for the job proved to be far more difficult than just a 17-page application, however, as she first submitted her resume to Tim Chason, the ‘headhunter’ who was hired to find someone for the position. She then had a phone interview with him. After he approved of her as a potential candidate, he provided the 17-page application. He then narrowed down the candidates to four, including Green.
Coming in to interview with a committee meant facing eight people simultaneously. She met them in a boardroom on the second floor of New Horizons Bank, now South State Bank. To this day, she admits she refuses to sit at the head of the table as it was her spot for the interview.
In a remarkable turn, she shares a story that Melinda Hadden loves to tell. After the interview ended, Green walked out to her Toyota truck wearing a pencil skirt. Green says, “I’m a girl from South Alabama, so I yanked up my skirt to climb up into the truck.”
The catch is, the entire committee she had just interviewed with was standing at the window of the second floor watching her get into the truck. The twist came as Green shares the story saying that Hadden told the committee as soon as she saw her hike up her skirt, she knew that she was the one.
The job offer came on the very same day.
In perhaps one of the biggest ‘buts’ in Gilmer history, they hired her, but she started the job on October 1. Those of you who have lived in Ellijay know what October means. It 2008, when she was hired, October 1 fell on a Wednesday and one of the largest festivals in North Georgia fell on the following weekend, she had ten days to prepare herself for the Apple Festival.
Again, thriving on the chaos and stress, she has grown into a leader and logistical machine gathering her 20 years of experience into the position’s needs as president. It is a strength only she has access to according to Gilmer’s Tourism Director, Karla Roper.
It is her leadership that sets her apart for Roper. Another veteran of the Chamber world, Roper confesses that what ultimately drew her in with Paige Green was that “she saw me.” The faith and the encouragement is one thing, but the ability to share Roper’s vision and her support for ideas that may seem crazy was the key for Roper.
More than that, she says it is Greens experience that sets her in awe sometimes. The way she intuitively knows who to call and what to do to get things done. It is the thing she seeks on a daily basis to grow in, to gain that knowledge base and the experience that Green holds. Calling her the ‘Mama Bear’ of the Chamber, Roper notes its more than just dealing with issues, Green makes it look effortless and supporting and teaching her staff in the process.
It’s a shared feeling as both women separately noted the energy they get from each other. The growing relationship that feeds the family community is one of Roper’s favorite parts of working with Green.
With Roper echoing the point of how stressful the job has been over ten years, it becomes apparent that a desperate need to decompress is inherent with the position. Green says she has her family and friends to be with at times, but she shares a lesser known secret that is far more consistently used. A ‘quiet room’ furnished with books, comfortable chairs, and a lamp provides her solace. A literal refuge to hermit herself inside. As Green tells it, it is the one place in the world that people know, if she is there, don’t talk to her. It has no tv, she doesn’t take her cell phone there, it has no computer, it holds the world at bay for a few moments to release and simply be.
It is a blanket fort made solid.
But outside of this place, the job awaits, the complaints build, the economy shifts, and the staff rolls on. Teaching a point as President so uncommonly done, the ten-year mark has allowed a look back at how she has made it. Bodine and Roper agree it is the way she treats people that garners success, that it is her inspiration to people that has built the Chamber to what it is today.
Green, on the other hand, says it is the moments that fuel her. In a business with so many intangibilities, it is easy to get lost without something to hold onto as a goal or an achievement. The Chamber sells something that isn’t tangible. It sells memberships and the benefits involved. Likewise, when the Chamber meets a goal like a number of memberships, there is always a higher goal, more to be done.
Such a business is more difficult to run, says Green. That’s why you hold onto the moments that happen. Moments like establishing the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority) or being nominated to the USA Today’s Nicest Places in America become the validation needed for her position.
What exactly is that position? Green says she is the ‘head cheerleader’ for the county. Understanding that every community has something great about it is the first step, but the long and arduous process of marketing and growing that community is the part that needs cheering.
While it can be frustrating as such a public position, most local people see the Chamber cut a ribbon and that’s it. They don’t see many of the posts, marketing ads, and business deals that you would only know from listening to her reports during Commissioner Work Sessions.
Accomplishing success in this kind of market requires a double-edged sword. Simultaneously a great strength and a great weakness, Green says she was told by a friend that she was never satisfied. Despite what she has accomplished, she still feels like there is more to do in Gilmer County, more she can give.
With roots set in the county, Green says she doesn’t want to leave anytime soon. However, as she looks ahead she confesses a desire that she ends where she began. With no clear plan set, she does want to return to teaching someday. Whether its at Troy or Auburn or anywhere, the draw is undeniable.
Though there is future in the Chamber as well. Green is seeking certification as a CCE (Certified Chamber Executive) and looking at the possibility of getting the Chamber accredited. With only the top 2-3% in the country reaching accredited status. Wanting the status to build trust, she wants to show how strong the Chamber and the County can be.
The funny and energetic social introvert that is Paige Green, she says her shyness only lasts so far. It’s all about home-field advantage because if you catch her in comfortable situations, in her line of work or something she is familiar with, the introversion ceases and she becomes the person she has been for ten years in the Chamber. In control, the master of her domain.
A brand new EV (Electric Vehicle) Charging Center is open and fully functional at Gilmer County’s Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center.
Members of Georgia Power along with Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim G. Echols cut the ribbon for the two stations early Friday morning, December 2. The ceremony also hosted members of the Board of Directors for the Chamber as well as Representatives from both Ellijay and East Ellijay.
The New Charging Center houses one “Level 2 Charger,” according to Brad Norman, Electric Transportation Market Specialist for Georgia Power, “which can charge an average EV in about three to four hours.” However, the second charger at the station is a 50k Watt DC Fast Charger. A newer system that can charge the same vehicle in roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Both stations will charge your vehicles on a similar cost as the DC Charger costs 25 cents a minute and the Level 2 Charger costs one dollar per hour. The level 2, Norman stated, will actually convert is costs to 10 cents a minute after the first three hours. This is set to encourage drivers not to linger at the stations so other drivers can make use of the two plugs on the station.
Additionally, a driver’s cost to “fill up” is managed through Georgia Power via a key tag drivers receive to manage and monitor their use. The tags can keep track of when and where you charge your car and deliver that information back to you, the driver, through an account set up online. This means you never even reach for your wallet as you charge your car. You simply scan your tag and leave your vehicle plugged in as you visit inside the Chamber or take the short walk to a local restaurant or shopping outlet.
While Norman chose not to comment on the exact costs of installing the two stations, he did indicate between a $50,000 and $100,000 investment made by Georgia Power enabled the stations as a part of partnering with the Gilmer Chamber. As part of the agreement, these stations are set to be 24 hour access everyday. Further, this places Gilmer County in the eye of EV Drivers across Georgia through connections such as PlugShare, a Mobile App that will locate charge stations and help travelers plan trips accordingly.
However, it is not just the initial cost that Georgia Power is investing as the power bill for the stations will also be paid by Georgia Power.
President of the Gilmer Chamber Paige Green also lauded the extra aid this will give to the Chamber as they continue to market our County stating, “It opens access to Gilmer County. There is already a community of these people who follow the announcements on new stations and the PlugShare App definitely helps.”
The addition of these charge stations not only expands access to Gilmer County for regular tourism, but makes us a part of Georgia Powers larger plan to “electrify the state” according to Norman. Georgia Power has already established 33 of the Community Charging Centers and plans on several more across Georgia to enable access through all the main corridors.
Cars like the Tesla and the Chevy Volt that were at the Stations today are just the beginning as Norman stated these stations allow and encourage what could eventually become a common option on all car models by 2020. The next step has to be making these model cars affordable to everyone, but before that is making the state accessible to these cars.
Green echoed the sentiment stating, “This trend is not going away, and this puts us in the front of it.” In fact, the stations have already been used three times in the last five days according to the PlugShare App. Green stated even on the very first day the station became active, they had a visitor come to charge up on the Fast Charger before heading to Gilmer’s Apple Houses.
Georgia Power Northwest Region Vice President Murry Weaver noted this DC Fast Charger is the first of it’s kind in Gilmer County, but also the first one on Highway 515. Weaver stated, “As we move forward, we continue to see more opportunities like this, and we think the collaborations between entities like us and the Gilmer Chamber will continue.”
Commissioner Echols also spoke a moment about how people who live here in North Georgia can get used to the views, the streams, trees, and mountains, but these people who drive the EV cars make a sacrifice to drive them. Careful plans must be made for trips to monitor locations for recharge and those plans can sometimes limit destinations. They must accept the inconvenience that they can’t drive to places like ours, until now.
Check out more by visiting Georgia Power’s #DriveElectric Campaign, watching the speeches of Georgia Power Northwest Region Vice President Murry Weaver, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, and Gilmer Chamber President Paige Green below, or you can also read the Gilmer Chamber’s Official Statement and visit their Facebook Page for more on the EV Charging Stations:
The Gilmer Chamber is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Georgia Power Company to bring the first DC fast charger to Gilmer County and the first one along the 515 corridor. With the addition of this charger, we have extended the range for EV motorists and have made travel between the metro communities and the North Georgia mountains possible. This is an infrastructure program that Georgia Power Company has entered into and is making charging your electric vehicles easier. Guests can stop at the Gilmer Chamber and fully charge their electric vehicle in 15-30 minutes. While waiting for their vehicle to charge, guests can visit our welcome center or dine at a nearby restaurants. If you own an electric vehicle you can use the PlugShare app to find this charging station along with other charging stations throughout the United States.
As we arrive in late October, Gilmer is feeling the aftermath of the ever popular Apple Festival held over our last two weekends.
The annual event often brings in much of Gilmer County’s tourism and is widely held to be among the largest events in North Georgia. This year however brought in a few more visitors than expected along with local people visiting the fairgrounds. In fact, the first day of the festival, Saturday October 8, ended as the second largest Apple Festival day in its history according to Gilmer Chamber Director Paige Green.
Though the crowds and traffic poured into Ellijay to visit the festival, the Gilmer Chamber was a part of the coordination efforts along with the Gilmer County Charter School Systems, several members of local law enforcement and medical services, and even volunteers from local Boy Scout Troops to help with both foot traffic and vehicle traffic to maintain the status as Investigator Greg Arp said, “It’s gone very smoothly this year.”
It wasn’t just the first weekend, however, as the Apple Festival overall attracted over 60,000 people through both weekends. According to Green, this festival also boasted the largest gate admission since the 2010 Apple Festival.
With 267 booths just at the fairgrounds, the Festival utilized twelve school buses contracted the the Board of Education to further facilitate access to Ellijay’s square for more vendors and our own local shops downtown and back to the Festival grounds for one of the roughly twenty entertainment acts held on the stage over the two weekends.
Green also repeated Investigator Arp’s sentiments saying the Festival was “One of the smoothest running we’ve had.”
Karla’s April Fools Day Show!
The 2016 Gilmer Chamber Annual Meeting was held at the First Baptist Church on January 14. The member of the year passed from Barbara Barbara Simmons to Barbara Paris. Beth Bennett and Crystal Nadolski of H & R Block, recipients of the 2014 Business of the Year award, announced this year’s winner Ronnie Thompson Ford.
Ben Kiker 2014 Citizen of the Year announced this year’s Citizen of the Year, Mr. Sam Burrell.
Following the announcement of the Citizen of the Year, the Chamber’s 2015 Chairman of the Board, Dave Richey, highlighted some of the successes of 2015.
The Chamber also presented those directors leaving the board with a token of appreciation. Those board members who will be greatly missed are:
- Abby Tredway
- Jim Fox
The Chamber also recognized it’s 2016 Board of Directors:
- Chair, Alan Davenport
- Chair-elect/Vice Chair, Lex Rainey
- Past Chair, Dave Richey
- Secretary/Treasurer, Hubert Parker
- Mario Benitez
- Ellen Grant
- Sandy Ott
- Scott Chastain
- Rachel Reece
- Betsy Sheppard
- Roy Smith
- Hannah Towns
- Trent Sanford
- Penney Trentman
- Russell Williams
The board of directors then took their oath of office before Dave passed the gavel to 2016 Chair Alan Davenport who spoke about the upcoming year before adjourning the meeting.
The JDA (Joint Development Authority) met Wednesday night, June 24, to officially become a full entity. (more…)
The Georgia Department of Labor released its monthly employment report this week. (more…)
After twelve years of “temporary” homes the Gilmer County Chamber Of Commerce has found its permanent home. (more…)
Leadership is often a quality a person acquires not from study or imitation but rather by action, whether it is at home, at school, or at the office. Because leadership is often not developed by just words but more by actions, it sometimes seems as if the characteristic becomes rarer as the years go by.
While it may seem like there isn’t much that can be done in order to teach the trait of leadership to the current generation and the ones that will soon follow, there are some programs available to the public that can help with the development and understanding of what it means and takes to be a leader. One such program is Leadership Gilmer, which is offered by the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce. I sat down with Chamber of Commerce president Paige Green to learn more about Leadership Gilmer and what it has to offer to the citizens of Gilmer County.
On May 25th, many residents of Gilmer County, had a chance to sample some of the mouthwatering foods Ellijay has to offer at the 7th annual “Taste of Ellijay”.