ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Probate Court honored three of its clerks for their state certifications this week.
A process that began with former Probate Judge Anita Mullins, these employees have served for years in the court system and have completed training programs within the system under Judge Scott Chastain.
The three ladies recognized are Jana Grno, Tracy Teague, and Lyndsay Hightower. Chastain says that recognition is given for 30 hours and 60 hours of training for the program, but he wanted to do something special as each of these women now have 90 hours, the final stage of the program and actual certification.
Jana Grno will have been with the Gilmer Probate for five years next week on April 21. Focusing on the vital records and weapons permits now, Chastain says there is very little she cannot do in the Probate Court as she also assists in traffic court. She is also the longest running employee in the Probate Office in Gilmer County.
Tracy Teague will reach her 5 years with the Probate Court this September. Chastain calls Teague a “lifesaver” as he transitioned in the office. He says she was and is constantly there every time he calls for anything the office needs.
Teague has recently been announced as Judge Chastain’s Chief Clerk. Teague had already served as Chief Clerk under Judge Mullins and continues this service now that Chastain has asked her as well. She handles much of the requirements in traffic court, and Chastain says he uses her as Chief Clerk for certain administration needs when he is out of the office.
Lyndsay Hightower was hired into the Probate Court on August 30, 2016. She serves in the front window of the Probate Office, she is the main probate clerk of the office according to Chastain. He noted that he has basically asked her to take on the work of two clerks and she continues to work hard under the stress. With previous experience in law enforcement, he says Hightower brings a different view to the office alongside her coworkers.
Mullins was also present at the celebration for her former employees. She offered a few words on the occasion as she stated, “They worked so hard for me. They were such a blessing because I was going through, at the end, a lot of family issues with my parents. If it hadn’t have been for these girls, I don’t know what I would have done. They are so smart, and they are so capable. I know that they are going to continue on and do great things.”
Both Mullins and Chastain made comments about how little the public gets to see just how much work goes on in the office behind the public sight. Accomplishing the vast amount of work necessary for the office to operate efficiently is next to impossible without the proper staff.
Chastain went on to say that with two other employees in the office, he hopes to become one of the few Probate Offices in the state of Georgia with every clerk state certified in the coming years.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Probate Judge Scott Chastain met with the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners in October to speak about the county budget in the Probate Office.
Chastain spoke to Commissioners about budget increases to appoint a Clerk as Chief Clerk and providing her with a raise and additional traveling to training classes with Judge Chastain in order to be able to fill in certain duties when the Judge is away for training or something requiring him to be out of the office. While she would only fill in for administrative issues, not court or similar duties. Also on his proposed budget, he spoke with the Commissioners about pay increases for the clerks as well.
Among other details including travel expenses and certifications for the clerks in the office, Chastain began a conversation with the Board saying he does not want to have Elections in his office anymore. Despite saying he just wanted to have a conversation about the issue and understanding that it would cost the County more to have an Elections Board than to keep elections under the Probate Office, Chastain pushed on the issue saying that many of the other surrounding counties have already separated the two.
Midway through the meeting, the Gilmer County Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller began speaking about the condition of some of the counties precincts. Chastain noted that the county has four precincts within a mile of each other and he was looking at holding town hall meetings next year to consider consolidating precincts together to save some money. He assured the board that he didn’t want to change any of the outlying precincts, but instead wanted to look at those “in town.”
As the conversation progressed, Chastain said, “After the nightmare, in my opinion, or the may have been hiccup in some people’s eyes, the Danny Hall situation from last year… I went through and listed the counties that currently have the Probate Judge as the Election Superintendent. At the time I did this, we have 38 counties in the state of Georgia that was still doing elections through the Probate Office.” (34:24 in video)
Chastain went on to note that the yearly supplement he gets as Probate Judge for also being the Election Superintendent is $3,800. He said, “When nothing’s going on, that’s probably not a bad gig, but when it’s full-blown election season and all that was going on, that was a drop in the bucket.”
Chastain admitted that moving the elections to a board of its own would cost the county more money and said his understanding is that other counties have had to add a couple of full-time employees to their payroll for the department.
He noted, “I don’t want to be the Probate Judge that comes in and gets rid of elections because we’ve always had it in the Probate Court, but, for the life of me, I cannot understand how it’s still there.”
Though he did say that he was, at this time, just wanting it “out there” for discussion, he did make special note that 2020 is a big election, suggesting that he wanted to have a final decision by then. He added that if the commissioners decided it is best for him to keep it, he would not “pitch a fit,” but if it is better to separate it, “then I definitely want to look at that option.”
Written by: Probate Judge Scott Chastain
The end of August marked the completion of the first eight months in office as the Probate Judge here in Gilmer County.
It’s hard to believe that the first year is going by so fast. As I sit here thinking back on the last several months, it has become apparent to me that I should try and share with the community what we do in the Probate Office. After discussing this with some of my family and friends, I have decided to publish an article from time to time in an attempt to keep the community involved and up to date on things happening in our office, as well as other interesting things associated with all the services we provide to you.
This first article will be more of an announcement but after this one, I will focus on specific topics that I hope you find helpful.
It is with great excitement and appreciation that I announce the return of Vital Records to the Probate Office. During my campaign, I made a promise to you that I would try my best to work with Donna Moore, the State Registrar and Director of Vital Records, to once again house the Vital Records in the Probate Office.
In a letter dated August 16, 2017, I was notified that I was to be appointed as the Local Registrar and Custodian of Vital Records for Gilmer County. The appointment will be effective on October 1, 2017. Starting Monday, October 2, you will be able to get copies of Birth and Death Certificates in the Probate Office located on the second floor of the Gilmer County Courthouse.
I would like to thank Donna Moore for her willingness to meet with me, and to have a conversation about the return of Vital Records. Without her support, this would not have been possible. I would also like to thank the elected officials, particularly Speaker David Ralston for his support and others that played a part in this process.
My staff and I look forward to adding this as another service we provide to you from the Probate Office here in Gilmer County. The office is open from 8:30-5:00 Monday-Friday and we do not close for lunch.
ELLIJAY, GA – Scott C. Chastain, Probate Judge of Gilmer County, is pleased to announce the release of a new website, which will give the public greater access to Probate Court’s public records.
The website, www.georgiaprobaterecords.com, gives the public the ability to search probate records and initiate some processes securely online. For example, you can go to the website and begin the application process for marriage licenses and weapons carry licenses.
You will still need to come in to the office to complete the application, but, by starting the application online, it will reduce your time spent at the Probate Office. The website was developed through a partnership with the Probate Court’s software vendor at no charge to the county.
It will help the Probate Court stay on the cutting edge of technology as more and more things move toward web platforms. It is user friendly and safe, having the same level of data encryption and security as online banking. While Judge Chastain assures that the Probate Court is always happy to see you in person, “We want to offer this option in an effort to expand our service to the community.”
In an effort to further serve our community, Probate Judge Scott C. Chastain and his staff are pleased to announce that the Probate Court of Gilmer County is now accepting Visa and Mastercard credit card or debit card payments.
A driver’s license, along with the card, will need to be presented to verify the cardholder. A small convenience fee will be added to the court fees or fines if you choose to use a card. Also, you now have the ability to pay your traffic citation in the courtroom during traffic court. The process is quick, easy, and convenient. This service is provided by EZCourtPay, LLC.
Monday, December 19, saw Judge Brenda Weaver appearing in Gilmer County’s Courthouse to swear in newly elected and returning officials for their offices in our county.
The day began with Probate Judge elect Scott Chastain taking his oath in his soon to be courtroom before officially donning is black robe for the first time.
Be sure to follow those sworn in and also watch the oaths below.
Scott Chastain Sworn in as Probate Judge.
Roger Kincaid sworn in as Chief Magistrate.
Glenda Sue Johnson sworn in as Clerk of Superior Court.
Stacy L. Nicholson sworn in as Sheriff.
Rebecca A. Marshall sworn in as Tax Commissioner.
Jerry B. Hensley sworn in as Coroner.
Dallas Howard Miller sworn in as County Commissioner Post 1.
Jeffery T. Vick sworn in as Surveyor.
Thomas A. Ocobock sworn in as Board of Education, Post 1.
James Parmer sworn in as Board of Education, Post 2.
Nick Weaver sworn in as Board of Education, Post 3.
Ronald Watkins sworn in as Board of Education, Post 5.
The votes tallied with an astoundingly close race. Gilmer County has elected as their new Probate Judge.
Some precincts came in as low as only 5-7% of registered voters turning out to their precinct Tuesday. At the end of the night, the votes set Scott Chastain at a grand total of 1,122 and Josh Teague at 1,090.
When asked about his victory, Probate Judge Elect Scott Chastain said, “I’m very humbled by the amount of voters who supported me.” Chastain spoke further about his transition into the office by setting his business with someone to replace his day-to-day duties, but also plans to shadow the current Judge Anita Mullins in her office in the coming months as he studies and attends the coming training sessions for the office. He went on to say, “I was very pleased with the tone of the race. I think we all four brought something good to the race… I kept hearing through the whole race that you had four good candidates and then when it went from four to two I kept hearing you got two good candidates.”
The sentiment was echoed by Chairman of the Gilmer County Republican Party Stephen Aaron, “I said it very early on that it’s rare to have so many good people running for an office, and it’s great that the voters of Gilmer County spoke.”
FYN also caught up with Josh Teague to ask about his campaign. Teague offered, “I like to thank everybody who came out to support me. We had a lot of great help, a lot of great support.” With pride in his race that his campaign ran, Teague said, “I hope Mr. Chastain succeeds and does well in office. I wish him all the best and success.”
Though both candidates showed great emotion as the results came in, it only served to mask the stress of an election that sat at a 3 vote difference when the precincts were counted, it came out that the early voting and absentee ballots set the final 32 vote difference that set Scott Chastain on top of the election.
FYN also sat down with the third party in this election. Though she didn’t run in the race, the current Judge Mullins shed tears as she said she was sad to be leaving the office, but was happy to be taking more time for herself and her family. Judge Mullins gave thanks for a smooth day with little issues in the elections systems. When asked about the final turnout of the race, Mullins stated, “I’ll keep Mr. Chastain in my prayers, that he’ll be able to do a good job and that he will enjoy the job as much as I did.”
The final tally of the precincts totaled:
Scott Chastain – 55
Josh Teague – 47
Scott Chastain – 49
Josh Teague – 39
Scott Chastain – 90
Josh Teague – 66
Scott Chastain – 38
Josh Teague – 18
Scott Chastain – 71
Josh Teague – 67
Scott Chastain – 45
Josh Teague – 41
Scott Chastain – 58
Josh Teague – 63
Scott Chastain – 60
Josh Teague – 69
Scott Chastain – 39
Josh Teague – 51
Scott Chastain – 38
Josh Teague – 45
Scott Chastain – 33
Josh Teague – 47
Scott Chastain – 28
Josh Teague – 41
Scott Chastain – 49
Josh Teague – 56
Scott Chastain – 60
Josh Teague – 66
Scott Chastain – 409
Josh Teague – 374
BKP highlights the Gilmer County Probate Court Run-Off and its Candidates.
The votes have tallied and the results delivered. While some races will receive their final decisions today, others are simply looking on to July for the next round. Meanwhile, citizens look for answers as they study tonight’s results. In a remarkably low voter turn out, many of the races received over a third of their votes from absentee and mail in votes.
Check out the precincts here and the totals below.
(Click on images to enlarge)