Kevin Johnson asks for your vote on August 11th

News, Politics

Kevin Johnson, candidate for GIlmer Magistrate Judge

Election, Election 2020
Kevin Johnson

“I’ve always enjoyed serving and I’ve always enjoyed the application of state law.” Kevin Johnson said he enjoys and looks forward to the position of Magistrate Judge if elected.

Running to transition into the Judge’s office after retiring from the Highway Patrol after seven years as post commander in Blue Ridge at the end of 2019, Johnson said he believes his experience and history will transfer easily into the office as he comes from 30 years experience in law enforcement. Transitioning between applying warrants and making arrests to approving warrants and seeking righteous cause to protect citizens will be easy as the core purposes of public service and protecting people’s rights is his focus in both.

Johnson lives in Gilmer County with his wife, Julie. With four kids in the family, he calls Gilmer his home post. The Appalachian Mountains have been home throughout his career and as a Gilmer County resident for over 25 years, he says he vested in his community, in the place where his kids grew up, where one son still lives.

A veteran of Marine Corps with six years of service, two in the corps and four in reserves, Johnson said that public service has been a part of his entire life. Service in the Marines, service as a Sheriff’s Deputy, and service as an officer in the Highway Patrol. Taking the next step is just the natural feeling as he says he closed the door on his police career with his retirement, but saw another door open with the Magistrate position.

The Magistrate’s Office is something Johnson said he has been interested in for years, and sees it as the next step in service. Dealing with the Magistrate’s Office over the years in law enforcement, the interest grew the more he interacted with them. While retiring from the State Patrol, he said he never wanted to run against Gilmer’s Magistrate Judge, but when he learned the position was coming open with the Judge retiring, he knew it was time to pursue the office that has interested him for so long. It was time to take that next step in service.

Johnson said that the bench has its differences, such as not searching for evidence but listening to it. Making those determinations based on evidence. But he said much of those changes, he has already prepared for. During his time with law enforcement, he had annual training for courtrooms including case law, arrest warrants, affidavits, and courtroom testimony. He says statutory law and writing and requesting warrants in addition to training and experience in conflict resolution means ready skills and applicable experience in the office.

“It becomes who you are, you want to serve,” said Johnson about his career so far. From military to law enforcement, “I wanted to defend those who could not defend themselves.”

He noted many times in law enforcement, an officer has to guide and mediate arguments in situations like domestic disputes, for example. He spoke about how sometimes you have to be a little bit of a counselor, that the job is not all about making arrests. Reaching a middle ground and resolving a problem, that is the feeling he wants to take from the position of officer to the position of Judge. Johnson said that was the key personality he wanted to bring to the position, a servant’s heart that wants to reach goals and solve problems.

“It’s a new chapter,” said Johnson as he explained not just a desire to to become the Magistrate Judge, but an excitement to learn new things and continue his service while enforcing the right for people to have their voices heard in the judicial system. He said he has the knowledge in the law, he has the experience, and he has the drive to become the Magistrate Judge. Combining education with experience provides the perfect balance needed for leadership and guidance in the position.

Michael Parham, Candidate for GIlmer Magistrate Judge

Election, Election 2020
Michael Parham

There is a trend in many cities now having legal experts, that is to say attorneys, in judge positions as they have the training, education, and experience readily available in the courts. Michael Parham said he believes that expertise is the key. He explained that he wants to bring a professionalism that can only come after decades of experience and immersion in the system through training and practice. He said that he thinks any of the candidates could run the office well and he is not here to challenge that credibility, instead, Parham said he is running because he wants to continue the idea of attorneys and legal experts in the office.

Parham has that expertise whereas new non-legal experts require the extra training. Each candidate can become what the county needs as they grow and progress each day. But Parham already has 20 years of experience. He said that he also will have to grow and progress in the office, learning from the public and the people. But with the training already done, he said, “If we can put someone with professional training and background in the office, why not do that.”

Michael Parham is an attorney, a pastor, a husband, and a father. His wife of 50 years, Margaret, and he has two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Living in Talking Rock in 1981 and hearing the call to minister earlier in his life, it was in 1984 that he actually moved into Gilmer County and began calling it his home. Before that, he lived closer to Atlanta and was a pastor at a church just outside the city limits as he attended law school.

Going from preacher to lawyer, in the late 70s, it was a time when several child murders had occurred near his home, but also a time of increasing interests in christian schools and other needs for church’s to have lawyers. “I wanted to be an advocate,” said Parham explaining that he has always felt a need to help people. In that time, it was an advocate for people in the christian school movement and churches in need. It appealed to him and he grew into the legal studies from there. The two run along parallel tracks in his life as he says it gives a unique background and view of people. It has never become a one or the other option as Parham later went inactive with the bar and became a minister again, but then returned to his legal career again after that.

In court settings, Parham said he has the understanding for precedence and proceedings. He has the knowledge to be sure that warrants are valid and viable and to speak with officers over merit. Just as lawyers have their role, a judge must know his role so as not to become an advocate or speak for either side. A judge must not impose himself or herself into the cases, but also be available to explain proceedings neutrally.

“It’s a head start.” With 14 years and 1 month in public defender office, you deal with people from the public, you are called to help people in all situations. Clients are assigned despite whether you want it, like it, or anything. Because of that, Parham said he has learned to have the the mindset of just focusing on the case at hand and putting any thoughts, biases, or personal feelings aside to focus on ‘how can I help this person in this situation.’ He explained it as “You take people as they come and you just try to serve them to the best of your ability.”

Private practice allows more selective options with cases and clients. And while he has practiced privately, Parham said that his time as a pastor bleeds through, “I love serving people.” The vast majority of his law career has been as a public defender and continuing that into a Judge’s position came because he saw no other lawyers qualifying.

He said he doesn’t want to rush in and make a bunch of changes, but rather fully immerse himself in it. A new judge will deal with things maybe differently than the previous judge, but it shouldn’t be a difficult transition. Taking the bench is a role to service and a step to provide what he believes to be a necessity for the position. Taking that transition is just another among his life as he recalls his start in legal studies.

All of his career has been in defense, Parham is already looking at this and understanding that has a different look at things than prosecutors. Looking at cases in certain ways, and looking to a new office and a new way of things, it means taking the ideas of different cases and looking at cases in different ways. It’s about resolution. A Judge’s position is about providing and guiding resolution in many ways. People have high expectations in court and you have to guide resolutions without advocating for one side over the other. 

Parham said, “Wise judges usually try to guide parties toward resolution that they have a part in bringing about.”

Taking that step is not a big step as Parham says he has learned these lessons throughout his life.

“Yes, there will be things for me to learn. I would be, certainly, remiss to think I am going to just waltz in and I got it all down. I don’t. We’re all going to be learning, any of these candidates are going to be learning, but I have a whole lot more experience to bring to that learning,” said Parham. Qualifications are not something that should be ignored. He said he is the candidate with background and education to step into the position with qualifications and experience.

He went on to note that he didn’t qualify early on in the process.  He waited to qualify until Thursday afternoon of qualifying week because, as he told his wife, if another attorney had run, that would have been fine. “I think an attorney has to be in that role.”

Kevin Johnson asks for your vote!

Community, Politics

Sharla Davis announces campaign for Tax Commissioner

Election
Sharla Davis

My name is Sharla Davis and I am campaigning for position of Tax Commissioner for Gilmer County.

Sharla DavisI have lived in Georgia for 45 of my 48 years. Five of those years have been here in Gilmer County. My husband and I consider our move here to be one of the best decisions we’ve made….besides marrying each other, of course. (haha) The area is beautiful and the people are exactly what we were looking for when we moved here…..friendly, giving, courteous, welcoming, just all-around wonderful people and neighbors. We’ve made some great friends and look forward to many more years here and more friendships made.

I have 30 years experience of Accounting, Management and Customer Service in the Automotive Industry working for 4 of the top 10 Automotive Groups in the Nation. Receiving, processing, balancing and reporting millions of dollars. I also have experience working in the Tax Commissioner’s office when I was employed, here in Gilmer County, as the accountant for your current Tax Commissioner. I am confident that my experience will facilitate a smooth transition into the Public Service position as your next Tax Commissioner.

Please vote Sharla Davis for Gilmer County Tax Commissioner!!

Candidate qualifying for Gilmer’s 2020 elections

Election
qualifying, polls

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer is moving further along the path of its 2020 elections as candidates will be qualifying this week for available positions.

According to Gilmer County Probate Court representative, the following people have qualified for these positions. FYN will update this list each day until qualifying ends later this week.

UPDATE: This is the final list as presented by the Probate Court of Gilmer County.

Board of Commissioners Post 1

Hubert Parker (R)

Board of Education Post 1

Thomas Ocobock (Non-partisan)

Michael Parks (Non-partisan)

Board of Education Post 2

James E. Parmer (Non-partisan)

Joseph Pfluger (Non-partisan)

Board of Education Post 3

Douglas R. Pritchett (Non-partisan)

Chief Magistrate Judge

Ken Roberts (R)

Kevin Johnson (R)

Michael Parham (R)

Reagan G. Pritchett (R)

Norman Edward Gibbs III (R)

Clerk of Superior Court

Amy E. Johnson (R)

Coroner

Jerry Hensley (R)
Beth Arnold (R)

Probate Judge

Scott C. Chastain (R)

Sheriff

Stacy Nicholson (R)

County Surveyor

Jeffery Vick

Tax Commissioner

Rebecca Marshall (R)

Sharla Davis (R)

Penney Andruski (R)

STATE Qualifying

District 7 State Representative

David Ralston (Incumbent – R)

Rick Day (Democrat)

State Senate District 51

Steve Gooch (Incumbent – R)

June Krise (D)

Public Service Commission District 4

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. (Incumbent – R)

Nathan Wilson (L)

Daniel Blackman (D)

John Noel (D)

Judge of Superior Court Appalachian Circuit

Brenda Weaver (Incumbent – Non-partisan)

District Attorney Appalachian 

B. Alison Sosebee (Incumbent – R)

FEDERAL Qualifying

Ninth District U.S. Congress

Michael Boggus (R)

Andrew Clyde (R)

Matt Gurtler (R)

Maria Strickland (R)

Kevin Tanner (R)

Ethan Underwood (R)

Devin Pandy (D)

Paul Broun (R)

John Wilkinson (R)

Dan Wilson (D)

Kellie Weeks (R)

Siskin (D)

United States Senate – Perdue Seat

James Knox (D)

Jon Ossoff (D)

Teresa Pike Tomlinson (D)

Tricia Carpenter McCracken (D)

Sarah Riggs Amico (D)

Shane Hazel (L)

Marc Keith DeJesus (D)

Maya Dillard Smith (D)

David Perdue (Incumbent – R)

United States Senate – Loeffler Seat (Special Election in November) 

Kelly Loeffler (Incumbent – R)

Doug Collins (R)

A. Wayne Johnson (R)

Kandiss Taylor (R)

Tamara Johnson-Shealey (D)

Matt Lieberman (D)

Joy Felicia Shade (D)

Ed Tarver (D)

Richard Dien Winfield (D)

Al Bartell (I)

Allen Buckley (I)

Brian Slowinski (L)

Derrick E. Grayson (R)

Rod Mack (Write-In)

Qualifying for the presidential preference primary election occurred in Dec. 2019 and will take place on March 24, but the general primary for the state is on May 19, 2020. For the general primary, early voting begins on April 27.

Norman Gibbs III announces his candidacy for Chief Magistrate of Gilmer

Election
Norman Gibbs III

Hi everyone, My name is Norman Gibbs III. I would like to let everyone know that I am running for Chief Magistrate Judge of Gilmer County. I am married to Ginger Logan Gibbs. We have two sons, two daughter-in-laws and 5 grandchildren. I have lived in Gilmer County for over 45 years. My wife has lived here all of her life. We are proud and very thankful to live in this wonderful county.

Over the years this nation has significantly changed, but Gilmer County has continued to be a great place to raise a family. I have decided to run for Chief Magistrate because I enjoy making decisions based on the facts using the law and because it gives me an opportunity to use my experience for the good of our county. I want Gilmer County to maintain that safe hometown feel that will allow my grandchildren and future generations to enjoy it.

I worked in Ellijay at Blue Ridge Carpet Mills for 31 years. The last 20 years I served as Vice-President of Operations and Vice President of Logistics. My responsibilities included complete control of the manufacturing operation as well as inventory control, customer service, production planning and scheduling. There were over 100 employees involved in the operation. Important decisions had to be made on a daily basis. I also learned throughout my career the importance of dealing with all situations in the correct manner. This gives me the experience needed to carry out the responsibilities of this office.

As an ordained Baptist minister for 29 years I know the importance of having integrity, honesty and treating all people equally. All people are special and should be treated as such (for we all have a soul).

I sincerely ask for you to vote for me in the upcoming Primary on May 19, 2020. Your vote will be greatly appreciated! Thank you and may God bless the United States of America!!

Michael Parham Announces His Candidacy for Chief Magistrate of Gilmer County

Election
Michael Parham

Michael Parham, Former Circuit Public Defender for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, Announces His Candidacy for Chief Magistrate of Gilmer County.

Michael and Margaret have lived in Gilmer County since 1984. After graduating from law school while serving as an assistant minister at an Atlanta area church, Michael was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1979. Since that time, he has alternated between those roles; serving as a pastor for over 20 years and actively practicing law for more than 20 years. During the early years of his law practice, Michael practiced primarily in federal courts and among other matters, was sole or lead counsel in criminal jury trials in federal district courts including Atlanta, Chattanooga, Charlotte, Birmingham, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Ft. Worth. Michael has been admitted to the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Appeals for seven of the 12 regional circuits, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

During the years devoted primarily to ministry, in addition to serving as a pastor Michael was actively involved in foreign missions. Sometimes teaching mission and ministry staff and at other times leading teams of young people, he has ministered in over 2 dozen countries and currently serves on the board of 2 mission-related 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Locally, Michael was a founding participant in Covenant Community of Ellijay.

Returning to the practice of law locally in 2002, Michael was the Circuit (Chief) Public Defender for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit from July 2004 until August 2018, leading a diverse staff of 15 with offices in each of the 3 counties of the circuit (Gilmer, Pickens, and Fannin counties) representing the indigent criminally accused. That office routinely handles well over 80% of all adult criminal cases in the circuit as well as a majority of juvenile delinquency matters. As chief public defender, Michael was part of the Accountability Court Team and was directly responsible for the representation of participants in the Accountability Courts (Veterans Court, Drug Court, HELP Court). Michael Parham’s wide range of legal experience with many aspects of criminal and civil law combined with his ministry experience will allow him to make educated, compassionate and unbiased decisions that best serve the great residents of our local community.

Michael is the Charter President of the Gilmer County Optimist Club. He and Margaret have two adult sons, 4 adult grandchildren, and 2 (very young) wonderful great-granddaughters.

See mgparham.com or email parhamformagistrate@mgparham.com for updates or more information.

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson announces for re-election

Election
Stacy Nicholson

Sheriff Stacy Nicholson announces he will seek re-election this year.

Sheriff Nicholson and his wife, Stacie, live in the City of Ellijay. They are both members and regularly attend Friendship #3 Baptist Church in McCaysville.

The Sheriff is 48 years old and will begin his 30th year of law enforcement with Gilmer Sheriff’s Office in March of 2020. He was first elected as Sheriff in 2004.

Sheriff Nicholson states, “I have devoted my entire adult life to serving and protecting the citizens of Gilmer County. I have never had the desire to pursue ANY job opportunity, professional or financial, that would take me away from serving the community in which I live. Instead, I developed the desire and vision of molding and leading this Sheriff’s Office to an agency that is second to none. In that, I have a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ invested. We’re not perfect by any means, but we strive daily to provide Gilmer County citizens with the best Sheriff’s Office they can ask for. I have an excellent group of deputies and staff that have bought into my vision, and they work hard every day for us.”

On day one as Sheriff, Nicholson began working on building strong relationships with the police chiefs of Ellijay and East Ellijay. The Sheriff states, “Our agencies are small, respectively speaking. We all sometimes need each other for assistance. Cooperation starts at the top. If the Sheriff and Chiefs get along and are on the ‘same page,’ then the troops out there doing the job will typically.” Sixteen years later, the working relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Police Departments is strong.

In highlighting just a few of the agency’s accomplishments under Sheriff Nicholson, the Sheriff’s Office received its State Certification in 2008, becoming only the 12th Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to achieve this “voluntary” distinction. The Sheriff’s Office is in its ninth year of offering a “totally transparent” view of their operation through their Citizens’ Law Enforcement Academy program. The Office has a strong in-house training unit, as well as outside the agency training opportunities, focusing heavily on active shooter response and crisis intervention training. Lastly, the Sheriff’s Office has just begun offering active shooter response for citizens, specifically focusing on churches.

In highlighting some recent professional recognition and accomplishments, Sheriff Nicholson was elected by the Sheriffs of the State of Georgia to serve as President of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association for 2018-2019. Prior to that, he served for six years as Regional Vice President of the Association. Most recently, he has been appointed as a District Director for the Constitutional Officers’ Association of Georgia, representing a 14-county area of Clerk of Superior Courts, Probate Judges, Tax Commissioners and Sheriffs. Sheriff Nicholson states, “It is a huge honor to be respected by my elected peers to represent them in our Associations second ONLY to the honor of being able to serve the citizens of Gilmer County as YOUR Sheriff.

Sheriff Nicholson concludes, “today’s law enforcement is ever changing, under scrutiny and sometimes even under attack. Leading a Sheriff’s Office is not for the ‘faint of heart.’ It is a fast-paced, stressful job with a lot of moving parts with 100-plus employees. I assure you that I am physically, mentally, and health consciously ready to lead this team that I have assembled for whatever comes our way.”

The record of the Sheriff’s Office, under MY watch, I think speaks for itself. Our goal is to address serious crime in a manner that might be a deterrent, using proactive versus reactive policing methods; but at the same time maintaining our small town approach to interactions with our good citizens, both young and old.

I would be honored to be YOUR Sheriff for the next four years and I humbly ask for your vote on May 19th.

Current Magistrate Judge Ken Roberts Announces Candidacy for Gilmer County Chief Magistrate

News
Current Magistrate Judge Ken Roberts Announces Candidacy for Gilmer County Chief Magistrate

Ken and his wife, Karen, have called the Coosawattee neighborhood home for thirteen years and describe Gilmer County in one sentence: “Friendship with a sense of community.”

Ken’s public service career began with a five-year tour in the United States Air Force, followed by a fire service career in Central Florida, where he retired as Assistant Fire Chief after 25 years.

His public service career continued with the Seminole County Department of Public Safety, serving first as the Public Information Officer, then as County Emergency Management Director, and retiring as the Director of Public Safety. All of these positions involved coordination with county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the navigation of county-level government operations.

Ken currently serve as a Magistrate Judge for Gilmer County. He has served the Magistrate Court – which is often referred to as “the People’s Court” – with one simple philosophy: Do the right thing, always. This approach has served Gilmer County well, earned him the respect of the local law-enforcement community, and proven to be especially valuable when dealing with citizens coming to court for the first time.

Ken is running for Chief Magistrate in order to continue applying his philosophy of fairness, respect, and always doing the right thing; and would appreciate your vote.

For more information, visit electkenroberts.com

Reagan Griggs Pritchett announces candidacy for Magistrate Judge of Gilmer County

News
Reagan Griggs Pritchett

To the citizens of Gilmer County:

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Reagan Griggs Pritchett and I am running for Chief Magistrate. A multigeneration citizen and native of Gilmer County, I am the daughter of Maynard and Denise Griggs. I am married to Kevin Pritchett. The son of Doug and Lynne Pritchett, he is also a lifelong resident and now a member of the Ellijay City Council. A member since childhood, we attend the First United Methodist Church of Ellijay.

I am an honor graduate of Gilmer High School. I also graduated with honors from the University of North Georgia. I went on to get a Masters in Political Science from Georgia State University. I am currently a PhD candidate at Georgia State. My PhD is in political science with a concentration in public law. I also currently teach American Government undergraduate courses at Georgia State University. Government and the law are both my knowledge and my passion.

I am choosing to run for Magistrate because I want to help make a difference in the county that helped raise and mold me into the person I am today. My father is a retired Post Commander of the Georgia State Patrol. Before pursuing a passion for teaching, my mother was a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Being the daughter of both a law enforcement officer and a teacher taught me the importance of the intersectionality of toughness, fairness, and compassion. I want to build on the legacy and foundation left by those who have held the office previously. I believe that I have the honesty, integrity, and solid work ethic that will be required by this position. As a lifelong native, I am fully invested in Gilmer County. This is my home and my community and I wish to be an active member of its future as your future Magistrate. I humbly ask for your prayers, support, and your vote in the Republican Primary on May 19, 2020. If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email at: reagangpritchettformagistrate@gmail.com.

You can also find more information on www.facebook.com/reagangpritchett

Thank you and God Bless our great county,
Reagan Griggs Pritchett

Stop talking like it’s over in Gilmer

Opinion
Gilmer TSPLOST

Much debate has been put forth on the topic of the TSPLOST tax in Gilmer County. And, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective and opinion, there is still much to come. Yet, it seems much of the arguments swirling over the topic center on the idea that its already done, and that’s just not true.

The Board of Commissioners has voted and approved the TSPLOST to appear on the ballot. That does not mean that this tax is already a done deal. There is a vote, there is a chance, there are weeks of opportunity. If you have any opinion on whether or not there is to be an extra penny on your sales tax in this county, if you have any thoughts on this topic, then there is a chance to make your choice. Even if you have never voted in an election before, even if you think it doesn’t matter who sits in a seat on congress 65 miles away in Atlanta or 650 miles away in Washington D.C., this is the time to directly influence one tax that directly affects you.

There is no reason we should be treating this TSPLOST like its already passed. Even members of the board themselves have at least said they don’t care if it passes or not. The topic at hand is if you want to pay more now to accomplish something quicker. Sooner or Later?

There has been a mass of information offered on the subject from its official inception at a town hall meeting to debates on the efficacy to negotiations with the city to plans for the road department. While they continue to deliberate the deeper details defining this discretional tax, you as a citizen are the one who definitively determines the destiny of this decision. Do not take this as done deal.

There is time as the Commissioners finalize the ballot question and projects attached to it for citizens to continue speaking for or against the TSPLOST. There is time to consider the benefits of it as well as the costs. But this is coming to the ballot and being voted on. Not offering your vote is simply a statement that you do not care. You do not care about your money. And it’s not a statement to the government, it is not a statement to the Board of Commissioners that you don’t care. It is a statement to yourself, that you are passive. You are a sheep, and you will allow these people to impose anything they want on you.

If you support it and you want to see progress sooner and are willing to pay for it, then vote that way. If you are against it, and you see it as impatience of those unwilling to wait for it, then vote that way. More importantly, discuss it, talk with people. Share your thoughts and ideas. Debate and convince each other. Do not let anger overtake the debate, but instead understand and counterpoint. And stop talking like this topic is already closed.

Further details on the 2020 TSPLOST vote

News

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – With some citizens’ concerns rising over the coming vote for the 2020 TSPLOST, more details are emerging about the tax, what it will be used for, and what items will bear the tax.

According to the Single County TSPLOST Guide document posted by the ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia), there are six items that are exempt from taxation on the law. (See O.C.G.A 48-8-269)

• The sale or use of any type of fuel used for off-road heavy-duty equipment, off-road farm or agricultural
equipment, or locomotives;
• The sale or use of jet fuel to or by a qualifying airline at a qualifying airport;
• The sale or use of fuel that is used for propulsion of motor vehicles on the public highways*;
• The sale or use of energy used in the manufacturing or processing of tangible goods primarily for resale;
• The sale or use of motor fuel for public mass transit; or
• The purchase or lease of any motor vehicle

As stated in their website, “ACCG is a nonprofit instrumentality of Georgia’s county governments. Formed in 1914 with 19 charter county members, today ACCG serves as the consensus building, training, and legislative organization for all 159 county governments in the state.”

So while vehicle purchases and most fuel purchases are exempt from the sales tax, it seems that all other purchases are included. It is our understanding that this does also include basic bills like groceries, water, propane fuel, electricity, and even cable and internet as they are not listed in the exemptions.

Furthermore, Gilmer Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris offered a few more insights as FYN received answers to a few questions after a Special Called Meeting in January.

Paris has noted across several meetings the progress the road department has made in recent years and the progress still needed to be in the shape he wants them to be. He has also stated that he doesn’t personally mind if the 2020 TSPLOST passes or not as he sees that progress continuing in that department. Rather, Paris has stated that he feels the TSPLOST is an answer to a rising issue as people are wanting to see more immediate results and progress. The TSPLOST, according to Paris, can accomplish in 5 years what will happen over the next 25 years.

This time, Paris offers a few more details as he says the county will be looking to pave gravel roads with the TSPLOST, thereby reducing the costs of maintaining these gravel roads. Paris said, “The end objective is, at the end of that 5 years, to have a road system that is in good enough shape and requires little enough maintenance that we can maintain it properly with the resources that we have.”

2020 TSPLOSTMany times he has noted how heavy rains devastate some of the gravel roads in the county which adversely affects the Road Department’s efforts and schedule to maintain all 500 miles of roads in the county.

The main focus of this TSPLOST is actually becoming clearer to transform the Road Department. Paris says that by paving the gravel roads, they would change from having motor-graders to pothole patchers, from attempting to do everything for roads to contracting asphalt paving and focusing the Road Department on tar and chip paving, and from one central road department to quadrant bases focused on their sections of the county.

On that last point, Paris said, “Ideally, what I would like to have, would be a base in all four quadrants of the county and have that base work exclusively within that quadrant… We can’t do that right now. We don’t have the resources to set up those bases. We don’t have the equipment to man four bases.”

Paris went on to say that an option with the 2020 TSPLOST could help set up those bases if they decide to take that direction. However, the idea is unfeasible currently as the county would need the workers and a lot more equipment to spread around the county than it currently possesses. Paris did call this option an ideal situation and something to work towards.

 

TSPLOST vote will be on ballot in 2020

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unanimous vote this week from the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave final approval to put a new tax of TSPLOST to public vote in the new year as they prepare to address Roads and Bridges issues.

The new tax will be a TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) specifically designed to bring in new funding to address the 501 miles of paved roads within Gilmer County that the county is responsible for paving and maintaining.

Citizens have been debating this issue in earnest since November 13 when a Roads and Bridges town hall meeting turned to a TSPLOST discussion after Commission Chairman Charlie Paris put the idea forth saying he could not find any alternative to address the issues as quickly as people have been wanting. However, the discussion has been going in the BOC since budget sessions and talks of shrinking the contingency fund in late October and early November.

This week, the Chairman said that the recent Post 1 Commissioner campaign really “stirred the pot.” The campaign highlighted an issue that many people understood that progress was being made slowly. Now, people are getting more vocal about the issues. Paris said, “And they’re right. We need to do something about this.”

The board appears to agree that raising the millage rate to fund the roads is completely out of the question. Instead of raising the taxes of the millage rate, a new TSPLOST tax is coming forward to be voted on by the public.

As discussion from the work session continued on the TSPLOST, the commissioners discussed the difference between the TSPLOST and continuing as-is. The major note came to be speed. Paris has stated several times since November that he believes the progress will continue as they strengthen the road department. Paris said this week that a TSPLOST will allow us to accomplish over the next 5 years what we will accomplish over the next 25 years.

Also mentioned in the meeting, Paris said he believes the option of bonding the TSPLOST is out. He explained that if approved the county will pursue rights of way, begin collections that are allocated quarterly, and citizens would really see a big effort increase in the Road Department by Spring of 2021. In fact, Paris said later in the meeting, “If these folks approve this TSPLOST, I am going to be paving in the Spring of 2021.”

This discussion also restated Paris’ desire to switch future projects in the county to start bidding out asphalt paving projects across LMIG and new projects and having the Road Department continue with tar and chip and other roads.

County Attorney David Clark urged the commissioners to continue talks in the coming months to focus and list all possible projects for the TSPLOST as the discussion has ignored the bridge issues in the county, many of which have come from failures in the maintenance of those bridges

Paris clarified that while they have not been specifically mentioned, thoughts for bridges has definitely been on his mind.

Still, Clark said the board should get their projects set and details set before the county puts the option on the ballot for public vote as the public needs to know everything possible and everything being considered in a TSPLOST.

With approval to be put on the ballot done, many questions are still out there on the topic. Paris mentioned wanting more town halls on the TSPLOST for specific regions of the county to ‘go to the people.’ He explained that he wanted to make it far easier for those in the local area to attend and discuss the topic, holding four different meetings in four different sections of Gilmer.

Additionally, estimated collections are still to be calculated and details worked out for the coming vote.

Newly elected Post 1 Commissioner, Hubert Parker also spoke in the meeting saying, “You’ve identified the situation and the options. SPLOST is the only tax I know of where the voters have a direct voice rather than going through an elected representative. So, I think it’s up to them…”

Hubert Parker, Post 1 Commissioner Candidate

Election
Hubert Parker

“It appeared to be a time when my background and experience would be a help to the county,” said Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Hubert Parker when asked why he decided to run in this year’s election.

Hubert Parker has lived in Gilmer County for 15 years since he last moved here, however, he also grew up in the county before moving away. “You keep coming back,” he said as he has continued to return to the county and family who have lived here. He has been married for 55 years and has two kids, a son and a daughter.

Parker has served as a certified public accountant for three years, 33 years in University of Georgia’s Business and Financial Administration, 

Such a business background focused on banking relationships and treasury functions throughout his accounting experiences as Parker agree it is not his first time in budget processes and balancing finances. In fact, its not even the first time Parker has served in parts of Gilmer’s government. He has served on the Board of Tax Assessors and Building Authority before.

Parker said he mainly wanted to focus on roads and jobs, growing small business in the county and finding the right kind of businesses saying, “The quality of life is very important here, and we have to keep that in mind in the kind of businesses we recruit.”

Parker pointed to a lack of jobs for young people in the county as an example of this need. He said creating opportunities for people is only one step. Projects like the CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility and its mentor programs is another step.

As we continue growing and recruiting businesses, Parker said we need to recognize and appreciate the tourism as well. Looking even further out, other projects and goals for Parker include a desire to continue expanding the water system and reduce the impact of the county’s debt.

In his part to accomplish these goals, Parker said, “I want to continually seek to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of county government.”

While realizing a Post Commissioner is not as involved in the day-to-day operations, Parker said he feels that being on the board, helping to identify these opportunities and guide the board while working with the other commissioners.

When asked what he sees as some of the challenges ahead if elected, Parker noted that working towards improving roads and continuing along the budget process could present challenges as he steps into the position mid-process. But he reasserted that continuing the intergovernmental relationships was another point he wanted to focus on with their projects.

Alternatively, Parker said he has never run for public office, but the aspect has energized him as he continues to get involved and speak to people in the county. He is continuing to learn “the whole picture of the county.”

Development of the county is important to Hubert Parker as he says he wants to keep the character of the county and not change the quality of life.

Looking specifically at recent issues the county has faced, Parker said he wants a full study on Carters Lake saying, “Let’s look at the total picture, lay everything on the table before we make a decision, and then from that, based on good information, make our decision.”

Studying financial feasibility and benefits versus costs, Parker said he wants to know what’s being offered while considering the money.

Similarly, when considering the pool, Parker said, “We need a pool, the young people need a pool, the teams need a pool. This is important. The problem as I understand it, I’ll find out more if I am elected, is where to put it.” In making these decisions, people want it to be convenient, but the county has to consider the project as a whole and locations based on financial practicality and location viability.

Some of these issues continue to focus on the natural resources the county has. In addition to the people, Parker said the rivers, the lake, the mountains, and the agricultural heart of the county are things the county holds dear. Parker said these are not resources to be exploited and taken advantage of, but they must be used and managed responsibly. 

Taking up a leadership position is nothing new to Parker, even if an elected position is. Debating and working towards solutions as part of the board is a labor of mutual respect. He said he feels strong stepping into the position, even coming amid the tail end of the county’s budget process.

“I view myself as a workhorse, not a showhorse,” Parker said as he explained an uneasiness with the public eye and media attention of his campaign. Working towards the county’s future and the goals set is what Parker says he wants to strive for.

Jerry Tuso, Post 1 Commissioner Candidate

Election
Jerry Tuso

“I feel I bring maturity and experience to the board.” In his own words, Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Jerry Tuso explains why he qualified and is running for the position.

An Air Force Veteran operating in Air Traffic Control, Jerry Tuso has also served for 21 years as an FAA Air Traffic Controller with another 20 years as a government contractor for FAA Controllers, FAA Weather Observer, and Naval Weather.

The experience he brings also comes from when he was Chairman of Planning and Zoning in Hurst, Texas for three years, a town of 50,000 population, Labor Relations Manager for Crown Cork and Seal for three years, and Senior Agent for the State of Georgia DFCS (Division of Family and Children Services) for three years.

Tuso said he wants to bring this experience forward to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners and its recent growth over the years. He explained that while growth is inevitable, it should inevitably be done correctly. Through continued oversight in the county, the citizens’ money should be protected and guarded. Tuso said, “We have to be very responsible with our debt, with the additional possible liabilities that we take over.”

Tuso said he wanted to continue to focus on roads in the county. As the more pending situation alongside the debt, these responsibilities have to be addressed before taking on extras. With proper assistance, Tuso said the county has responsible builders and the growth we see could be a win-win situation.

Addressing the specific issue of Carters Lake, Tuso said he doesn’t see additional benefit with the county paying the cost without improving recreation for the county. He said, “I think we have to be very cautious every time the federal government wants to bequeath something to you.” Tuso wants more details to find the “strings attached.”

Additionally, Tuso spoke on the pool as he said its necessary to have different types of athletics situations for the youth. The pool is such an instance, but also serves for the older population who could use it for exercise and aerobics class possibilities. He did state that he wants to look further into funding sources saying, “I would have to be convinced first that we have exhausted all the grants at the same time.” He went on to say that he is comfortable with the county continuing to set aside money each year as long as they continue exhausting the grant opportunities.

Speaking on the more day-to-day operations, he was more focused on a support role saying, “There should be more emphasis in assisting the Chairman, supporting the Chairman, than attempting to lead.” Tuso wants to focus on the most widely productive and widely used options in the county’s future. He said you can’t exclude any portion of the county, but we have to focus on projects and operations with the greatest and most widespread benefits.

Stepping into the position if elected, Jerry Tuso pointed to the community  and its attitude as his biggest excitement for the job, saying, “That’s indicative that we are doing things right, and I want to continue to do things correctly and right. I think I have a good eye for the proper growth in the county. That’s where I would like to concentrate.”

Tuso celebrated the recent expansion of the water system to more parts of the county. He wants to continue these types of expansions even further to more residential areas as well. Achieving goals like this is not something any entity can do alone. We need each other and should continue to increase our cooperation. He said he wants to consider joint meetings.  With relationships growing through the Joint Comprehensive Plan, Tuso said they should open the door to ideas like this. Continuing to improve those relationships even further in new ways that have never been done before. Connecting in these ways can only further support other needs like jobs and housing.

Growth requires insight, balance, and a tempering to the type of county you want to be. As a candidate, Jerry Tuso said he believes he has that insight. He has the experience and maturity to temper that growth and to provide the support and guidance into Gilmer County’s future. Tuso said, “People have asked me why I am running again. I am running again because I think there is more to be done.”

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