Country swears in Board of Voter Registration


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Three oaths were taken today, officially swearing in the new Board of Voter Registration. The Board has been operating in partial capacity since June when former Chief Registrar Nelda Spires resignation.

Tammy Watkins takes her Oath of Officer for the Board of Voter Registration on August 9, 2019.

Today, though, marks the official oaths of the new Board including Tammy Watkins, Mark Holden, and Sherri Jones. Watkins also has officially been sworn into the Chief Registrar position. Each of the three received their oaths from Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain.

However, Watkins tells FYN that not much will change in the coming days as the three have been working together for a while now. Holden has been with the Registrar’s Office for just over two years. Jones has worked with the Registrar’s Office since August 2019, but worked in May 2019 as a poll worker. Watkins has spent time in Elections under former Probate Judge Anita Mullins and current Judge Scott Chastain as well as the Registrar’s Office under former Chief Registrars Jim Fredrickson and Nelda Spires.

Watkins said she is nervous about the new title but “ready to go to work.” Facing challenges with new voting machines and training poll workers, she said she is confident in her position after she has worked all of 2019 in training under Spires and slowly working into the position. Lacking a sudden shift and receiving the guidance from the former Chief Registrar has made the change easy and smooth.

Sherri Jones takes her Oath of Office for her first ever term on the Board of Voter Registration on August 9, 2019.

It’s a feeling shared by her fellow board members as Jones said she has been working hard under Spires and feeling like she belonged in the Registrars Office. Being so new to the board and newer to Registrar’s Office, she is excited and says she will adapt quickly and easy to the office and the changes coming. Jones said about her fellow board members, “They are my rock! Especially Tammy because she gets to see all the sides of the elections.”

Holden echoed the sentiments saying, “We’ve all worked closely together. We’ve got a good working relationship. We don’t always agree on everything as any board doesn’t, but I feel good about the future of the office.”

Looking ahead each of the board members said the biggest challenge ahead is coming with adjusting to the new voting machines to be used and getting Gilmer County Citizens acclimated to them. Watkins said as Cheif Registrar, she is looking at how to handle the new systems and the publicity they have already seen in the media. While the others are more focused on getting citizens into the office to see and become familiar with them.

Jones added that she hopes to have a test machine in soon that citizens could “play” with in order to prepare before their official use in coming elections.

Mark Holden takes his oath of office for his first full term on the Board of Voter Registration on August 9, 2019.

Former Chief Registrar Nelda Spires said she has filled in for the Board in certain needs, but after her official retirement, they haven’t needed her much. She calls it a good thing as it means, “I’ve trained them well.”

She sees strength in the board now, she said, “[Watkins] has got more experience with this office than I had because she’s worked both the elections side and the registration side… [Sherri] has a good personality. They work well with the public. They are very fast learners, both of them. [Holden] is very diplomatic and I’ve enjoyed working with him. He’ll continue to be a good asset as well.”

As the office welcomes Jones as a new member, Holden in his first full term as he filled a remainder of a term in recent years, and Watkins as a Veteran of the office, voters in Gilmer County are encouraged to visit the Registrar’s Office to see the new board that Spires calls, “battle-trained.”


Probate Court celebrates certifications

Featured Stories

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

Gilmer County's Probate Judge Scott Chastain

Gilmer County’s Probate Judge Scott Chastain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

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

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

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


Chastain looks to shed Elections from Probate Office

News, Police & Government, Politics

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.”


Probate Court Announces New Website


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,, 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.


Chastain Opens Up as New Probate Judge

Police & Government

January marks a major change in Gilmer County’s Probate Court. After 12 years, a new Judge has taken office.

Probate Judge Scott Chastain has completed his first week in office. As FYN sat down to talk about his first week, he spoke about the challenges he’s faced in catching up to the level of work required. He lauded his staff as one of the greatest strengths of the office with specific emphasis on their experience and familiarity being key in helping to ease his transition.

However, Chastain says he’s been working for the position since the day he qualified.  Through training and classes, “I have found out that we {Probate Judges} are a family… I am finding out that to be remarkably true.”

His assigned mentor, Judge David Lindsey of Pickens County, as well as Gilmer’s former Probate Judge Anita Mullins, offered help since March of last year for Chastain to attend Court Sessions and certain Probate sessions to provide what he calls the “foundation” for his job now.

Though that’s not all as Judge Chastain spoke as well about his time as a Pastor and how his faith has “molded me for these situations.” Though he stated a position like his cannot offer advice on proceedings and cases, “sometimes it’s just listening… to care and then to act compassionately,” a sentiment many will recall was also spoken of by Judge Mullins as she announced her retirement last year.

But there is more than just compassion needed in Probate offices. Judges face daily issues that test and stress burdens upon those in the court. While the Judge continues his education both formally and informally as he studies the handbooks, bench books, and Code Books available. It is motivation, he offered, that is his key to a good start to his time in office.

“Currently, I feel the urgency of trying to get things going.” says Chastain who feels his self-motivation will aid him in expediting his growth in position as well as daily cases and work. “I don’t want folks out in the community waiting for Scott to get motivated enough to go through their file. I want to go through it, make a decision, get it signed, and get it back with the petitioner or attorney.”

Chastain spoke of a desire to establish a system for himself to streamline his process to get to a specific situation, be decisive, and move forward while also stressing the importance of his mentor’s advice that he will continue learning things no matter how long he holds office.

One such decision, he has already made. Stating he will not be performing marriages, Chastain said it is something that Judge Mullins stopped 3 years ago, and he sees no need to start it back up again.

The rhythm he is hoping to achieve will not come easy, however. Chastain admits to already having spent a few late nights at the office in spite of a specific piece of advice that former Judge Mullins gave to him, “Don’t let the job consume you.”

Though he feels he needs to catch up and get the work done that the county needs, he still sees his family as a priority.

“For now, I feel like it’s important for me to get off to a good start and spend some time down here to get that done… I’ve actually had the luxury of spending time with my kids before getting here.” Chastain still looks to his own future as he mentioned hopes for more family and grand-kids as a possibility someday,  but wants to be available to the people of the county when they need him as well.

As he continues his transition into office, Judge Scott Chastain stated, “The honor to be elected by the people is overwhelming… It was very emotional for me to know that the people of Gilmer County had enough confidence in me to vote for me. Second, the Swearing In, to have the amount of people that showed up that day that wanted to be there and witness that was overwhelming.” Not only mentioning other Judges and family who attended the event, Chastain said it was also the people of the community in attendance that meant so much to him.

A smiled crept across the Judges face when asked about donning his black robes for the first time, saying, “It was somewhat weird… When you put that robe on, it is a tremendous responsibility. It is a respected position, a serious position. I guess trying to get used to that has really not sunk all the way in just yet.”


Judge Mullins Holds Final Preparations Meeting for Election

Election, News

With Election Day fast approaching, Gilmer County is following the State and National trends by setting records for early voting.

dsc08398As for the current votes, Gilmer has already hosted 4,909 early voters as of noon Monday, October 31. Monday itself saw 217 early voters before noon despite being a holiday. However, Probate Judge and Election Superintendent Anita Mullins says this is not an indication that our actual Election Day will be slower. In fact, she expects one of the busiest elections ever. Many topics from the Presidential Election to the much debated Amendment 1 (Opportunity School Districts) will be drawing voters out in ever increasing numbers.

dsc08433Judge Mullins held her final meeting for preparations for the poll workers in Gilmer County on Saturday, October 22. Going into detail on what the workers could expect and how to handle situations, the meetings are set to prepare these volunteers for the single day that Gilmer County comes out to voice it’s choice on these topics.

November 8 will open Gilmer County’s Election Polls at 7:00 am and conclude at 7:00 pm and will conclude the last election that current Judge Anita Mullins will oversee. Any possible run-offs, according to incoming Probate Judge Scott Chastain, would be held in January after Mullins leaves office. However, Scott Chastain has already begun the transition process by shadowing Mullins through both the elections and every day Probate Court activities.

dsc08457With it being the final meeting, and final election, for Judge Mullins, her Election Team decided to memorialize the occasion and presented Judge Mullins with a plaque for her many years of service to both the County and Elections. Presented by Gary Watkins, Election Supervisor, it became quite emotional as the two have served together for 23 years overall.

Mullins will officially turn over the Elections Superintendent position as a part of the duties of Probate Judge to Scott Chastain on the first of the year.

dsc08417Chastain stated at the meeting he was used to seeing the workers at his station, but had no idea the number of people needed to carry out an election like this. Still, Election services are continuing to ask for more people to volunteer in future elections as the need is always growing. While Poll Workers are provided a stipend for their work, most still call themselves volunteers for the full day of work they handle.

Mullins confirmed with FYN that the large majority of current poll workers are around mid to late 60’s. As each year sees more volunteers not returning, the need for replacements drives the constant request. Though the time has already passed for our current election, you can find more on volunteering in this process at the Courthouse in Downtown Ellijay.


County Speaks in Close Vote to Elect Chastain


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.

Scott-picture-e1455565967223When 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.”

hs-JoshTTeague-1-262x300FYN 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.

Anita-MullinsFYN 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:

Big Creek
Scott Chastain – 55
Josh Teague – 47

Scott Chastain – 49
Josh Teague – 39

Scott Chastain – 90
Josh Teague – 66

Cherry Log
Scott Chastain – 38
Josh Teague – 18

East Ellijay
Scott Chastain – 71
Josh Teague – 67

Ellijay NE
Scott Chastain – 45
Josh Teague – 41

Ellijay N
Scott Chastain – 58
Josh Teague – 63

Ellijay S
Scott Chastain – 60
Josh Teague – 69

Scott Chastain – 39
Josh Teague – 51

Mountain Town

Scott Chastain – 38
Josh Teague – 45

Tails Creek

Scott Chastain – 33
Josh Teague – 47

Town Creek
Scott Chastain – 28
Josh Teague – 41

Scott Chastain – 49
Josh Teague – 56

Scott Chastain – 60
Josh Teague – 66

Early Voting
Scott Chastain – 409
Josh Teague – 374


Election Results for Gilmer County

Election, Politics

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)







Gilmer Totals


Experience does matter and that is why you should vote Scott C. Chastain as your next Probate Judge

Election, Politics

A word to the voters from Scott Chastain (paid for by Campaign to Elect Scott Chastain)

I keep hearing “experience matters” and I agree with that. I have the experience and education necessary and will be ready on day one to do my job as your next Probate Judge. Contrary to what you have heard or been told, due to our population here in Gilmer County the state of Georgia does not require you to be an attorney in order to perform the duties of the Probate Judge. To my knowledge, Gilmer County has never had an attorney serve in this position. The Probate Judge does need to have common sense, common courtesy, respect, fairness, compassion and the ability to research. I believe my years in business dealing with the public, managing employees and preparing budgets combined with the attributes I have listed above, make me the best choice for Gilmer County’s next Probate Judge.

The definition of integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. If you haven’t watched the debate from April 11th,  click here to watch it.  Listen very closely to the questions and the answers given. I was shocked and disappointed in a few of the answers given during that debate. The Probate Judge is required by law to do several things but performing a marriage ceremony is not one of them. Those of you that know me, know that I have always tried my best to be honest even when I knew it wasn’t going to be what some wanted to hear. I have a very good friend that told me one time that “plain talk is easily understood”. I am not saying things to get your vote, I am saying them because it’s the truth. I hope that my life has been a testimony to this and that you know that when I am elected, I will treat all of you with fairness, compassion and respect. Please vote for me on May 24th and allow me to serve you as the next Gilmer County Probate Judge.


Who will be the next Gilmer County Probate Judge? Watch the Candidates Debate

Candidates Scott Chastain, Susan Keener, Josh Teague, Andrew Lowman. Moderator CEO Brian K. Pritchard

Candidates Scott Chastain, Susan Keener, Josh Teague, Andrew Lowman. Moderator CEO Brian K. Pritchard

Members of TEA Party of Gilmer County Executive Board. Dave Meadows, Frank Oglesby, Buddy Barrett

Members of TEA Party of Gilmer County Executive Board. Dave Meadows, Frank Oglesby, Buddy BarrettW

Watch the Candidates debate in the video below.

Scott C. Chastain announces his candidacy for the Office of Gilmer County Probate Judge

Election, Politics

To the Citizens of Gilmer County:
Some people today are not proud of where they came from, but I love Gilmer County. I am a Gilmer County native and have been invested in this community my entire life. Someone asked me the other day why I was running for this office and the first answer that popped in my head was, “Because I love helping people.” I’ve spent the last twenty-three years trying my best to help people. As a preacher and a pastor, I have a desire to make a difference in people’s lives. “The Probate Judge deals with families and individuals as they enter into marriage, let go of loved ones and many other life events. As a pastor, I have been with families throughout these time and I believe these experiences will allow me to compassionately carry out my duties”. We all have trials and tribulations, but when it is your trial and your tribulation, it’s the most important thing in your life. At that time, you need someone who will truly listen to you. I believe that I am the person that will do that.
Outside of my college years, I have lived in Gilmer County my entire life. My parents are Claude and Betty Chastain, and I have two sisters, Cheryl Chastain Koller and Ginger Chastain Cantrell. I am a 1990 graduate of Gilmer High School and a 1992 graduate of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC). I have been married to Tanya Simmons Chastain for twenty-two years, and we have three daughters – Madison, Macie, and Sara. I was raised in the Cartecay community and still live there today. I am an ordained Baptist preacher, a member at Oak Grove Baptist Church, and currently serve as the Pastor at Berean Baptist Church. I am a Georgia Licensed Land Surveyor, and I am currently serving my second term as the elected Gilmer County Surveyor. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors for The Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, and the Gilmer County Park and Recreation Advisory Board. It is my honor to also serve in the role of Chaplain for the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, the Gilmer County Fire Department, and the Gilmer County Optimist Club. I am a member of the Oak Bowery Masonic Lodge, the Gilmer County Optimist Club, and an associate member of the Georgia High Country Builders Association. I believe that my background and responsibilities have uniquely qualified me to be Gilmer County’s next Probate Jude.
I truly believe the position of Probate Judge is a full-time position, and if elected, I promise that I will devote my time and my resources to this position full-time. For the past six years, I have been the owner of Chastain Land Surveying, but if elected, I will transfer daily operations to my very capable staff and step away from the day-to-day affairs of the business. I do not feel that it would be in the best interest of the taxpayers for me to attempt to have two careers at once.
I have more than a decade of experience managing employees and handling other administrative duties. State law does not require Gilmer County to have a licensed attorney serve as our Probate Judge. Although I respect the job that our attorneys do, this office needs someone that can compassionately apply the law as they listen to the citizens. I believe that I am that person.
I look forward to continuing my love for serving others as your next Probate Judge. I ask for your prayers, support, and your vote in the upcoming Republican Primary on May 24, 2016. If anyone has any questions, feel free to call me at my office number, 706-276-3057. Thank you and GOD bless you all!

FYN Business Profile: Interview with Appalachia Surveying Owner Scott Chastain

Business, Featured Stories

Businesses across Gilmer County and the city of Ellijay offer a variety of services and opportunities for those who live in the county and the areas surrounding it, giving these lucky citizens a chance to get what they need done practically in their own back yard.

This convenient and useful way of doing business can be identified in stores and offices throughout the local area, including Appalachia Land Surveying, which is owned by Scott Chastain. Chastain, who also serves as Gilmer County’s surveyor, spoke with FYN about his business and about what Appalachia Land Surveying has to offer:

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