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

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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

Author

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

Author

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.

Author

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.

 

Author

TSPLOST vote will be on ballot in 2020

News
Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement

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…”

Author

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.

Author

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.”

Author

Jason Biggs, Post 1 Commissioner Candidate

Election
Jason Biggs

Priorities. Post 1 Commissioner Candidate Jason Biggs says he realizes that certain things need prioritization over others. Balancing those priorities and being successful in the position requires details and research, two points that he says are a large part of his life and skills.

Though visiting family and the county for 20 years, Jason Biggs has lived in Gilmer County with his wife for the last five-and-a-half years. With two sons and one daughter, he says his family has been a family of farmers and ranchers. Today, he proudly states his grandson is a native of Gilmer County.

Currently working as a Regional Security Manager, Biggs oversees properties to maintain security and safety on a daily basis. Also retired law enforcement, he is no stranger to analysis, research, risk, and budgeting as he says he operates daily on a number of properties within his given budget. He notes that as he continues studying the changing landscape of his business to continue new initiatives that he must research and implement in his business.

However, he also states he is no stranger to staying busy and working hard in his life. When he was a full-time police officer, he also worked full-time at a store-front business for screen-printing and embroidery for over three years.

Living in Gilmer County now, it has been astonishing, Biggs said, at how easily and readily he has been accepted into the county. It is the community that has welcomed him and his family and made this place a home.

Now, as the position of Post 1 Commissioner has opened and his current job schedule has become more flexible, Biggs has become concerned with what he sees in the county that is his home. He said, “The thing that concerns me the most is that we have a debt in excess of $4,000,000 that we have to service annually for a courthouse. That was supposed to paid by sales tax… It’s very hard for me to look 20 years into the future and say, ‘Sales Tax will be able to pay for this.’ At some point, you have to realize that there is a risk of that debt coming back on the taxpayer. And I am afraid that that might happen again if we’re not careful.”

Biggs said he wants to support the recreational sides of the county, but he also knows that to enjoy these projects, people have to be able to get to the pool. he said specifically that he is for constructing a new pool, but he wants to dig deeper to find “real costs” in the project including maintenance and operations for the larger size and a second pool.

Similarly, he addressed concern over Carters Lake as the county moves into a reactionary stance to this need. Touching on the possibilities at the lake, he questioned how the county would respond if they did create a new department. What would the staff costs including benefits and salary? What would the legal fees be for contracts be? What would operations include?

Biggs said, “As a taxpayer, I want to know, it is going to cost ‘X’ amount of dollars, to the penny…If I am elected to this position, that is something I want to start doing.”

Also looking at the roads in the county, continuing the improvements and continuing to “grow intelligently” requires the priority on this infrastructure to continue its prioritization. Biggs said the infrastructure has to be top priority.

He went on to say, “Tax payer dollars should be treated as sacred. You are getting money from the sweat off of people’s backs. I think there is a lot to be said for those people paying their taxes. I think politicians need to be very, very careful how that is spent.”

As he went through these situations, he noted that he has concerns over these issues, but he felt running for the position was his way to do something. Though he is currently a concerned citizen, he didn’t want to be someone who complained about an issue but didn’t do anything about it. Finding issues is the first step, researching solutions is another.

Sometimes these issues require strange answers. Biggs recalled how he came in for tag renewal one day to find the tag office closed at lunch. He spoke about citizens who work daily and take their lunch hour to try and comply with something the government said they have to do. Whether its opening over different hours or opening Saturdays instead of another day, the compromise between the county and citizens is the key to operating the county in favor of the citizens who fund and own it.

Communication, honesty, and transparency, these three keys to any relationship are what Candidate Jason Biggs says he can bring to the Post 1 Commissioner position. When the open conversation stops, that is when the problems begins. It’s the point of involving the people of the county to include new ideas from every walk of life. This allows the board to prioritize and maximize their spending.

However, learning more about the county is more than just listening to citizens in the board room. He wants to go further in learning the ins and outs of the county. He pointed to opportunities such as possible ride-alongs with Sheriff’s Deputies to becoming more involved with Team Cartecay, the mountain biking team that his son rides with.

“Being able to look back and say, ‘Hey, I made a positive impact on something that I was involved with would be the reward, Biggs said as he spoke about the county that has welcomed him. Fostering the growth and cooperation continues through partnerships. He pointed to the work the Gilmer Chamber and their work with local business. Small business in the county is a key part of the county. Being pro-business also helps to alleviate some of the tax burden to the citizens.

Just like speaking with citizens, local business is a relationship to work alongside in pursuit of an agreed upon goal. But maintaining Gilmer’s identity, especially in areas like agricultural success, has to be protected in the growth that continues. Looking at the county as a whole has to be part of the commissioners’ jobs as they move forward with the different entities within the county, including the cities and the Chamber.

He noted the recent budget sessions the county has gone through. Watching the videos on those sessions gave some insight into the county’s needs and what each department wants. It returns to the same process as the Sheriff asks for support in their retirement plans or Public Safety in their capital requests. He said, “When you start looking at the safety and security of taxpayers, that should be paramount.” But he fell back to the details of these requests and looking at the “to the penny” costs and how they fit into the limited funds of the county.

Hearing the opinions of the people, and balancing the costs of the county, Jason Biggs said this is the job he wants to take on. Running for Post 1 Commissioner is his way to step up and face the concerns he has seen. But, he said, “If you’re looking for somebody to go along to get along, I’m not the guy. I am going to do what I feel is the best for the taxpayer’s dollars and I am going to be the voice of the people of this county because I don’t think everyone has an equal voice, and I feel like they should.”

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