“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.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Current Councilmember and candidate for re-election on the November ballot, Lynelle Reece Stewart told FYN that she will be withdrawing from the election for Ellijay City Council.
As she announced she would be removing her name from the election, Stewart said, “There have been some unexpected developments with our home and I don’t think it is fair to the citizens of Ellijay for me to run for re-election with a possibility of being unable to serve.”
Stewart was one of 11 candidates running for Ellijay City Council this November.
With possible complications to her candidacy, Stewart did say, “I will continue to support Ellijay and its citizens for as long as I live on River Street.”
The election now moves on with the remain 10 candidates and will see a forum in October.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Elections office reported a record-setting first day of early voting.
Maintaining high numbers compared to some elections, this mid-term season is shaping up to be just as important and well attended as the 2016 elections as we are already showcasing quite similarly to that year.
Out of 20,491 registered voters in the county, including those deemed inactive at this time, Gilmer has seen 6,804 people voting early either by the 6,308 who voted in person at the Registrar’s Office, 487 voters who mailed in ballots early, or the 9 electronic ballots that were mailed in.
Compare that to the 2016 election who saw 6,833 early voters in person, 660 mail-in ballots, and 30 electronic ballots. With such similar numbers, the small gap could simply be a swing towards voting on election day. However, the numbers for this year could still rise as Head of Voter Registrar’s for Gilmer, Nelda Spires says these could still come in early next week.
Comparing this year’s 6,804 total early voters to 2016’s 7,523 highlights the rising attention people have been paying to recent events and politics. As Gilmer moves into next Tuesday, election night, citizens are closely watching final tallies for both parties. Stay with FYN as we report election night totals in real time for Gilmer County
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum to meet the candidates in Gilmer’s two major elections this year.
First, the Post 2 County Commissioner race saw candidates Karleen Ferguson, Woody Janssen, and Jerry Tuso speak about Gilmer specifically and their own lives and qualifications while 7th District State Representative candidates Rick Day, David Ralston, and Margaret Williamson spoke more generally on Gilmer’s place in the state as a whole and their role as a representative.
Hosted by Gilmer Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paige Green and Board of Directors Chairman Trent Sanford, the event gave five minutes to each candidate to offer their words to citizens before allowing for time for citizens to mingle and speak face-to-face with them and ask their own questions.
The event kicked off with the candidates for Gilmer County Post 2 Commissioner.
First to speak was Jerry Tuso who offered a few words about his past as a retired air traffic controller and negotiating contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars over his 19 years in the position. As a past chairman of the Gilmer County GOP and eight years of involvement in the party, Tuso stated he has received great support throughout his time from people like Rita Otum and Stephen Aaron among many others. Tuso said he is running for Post 2 because he was raised and told that hard work and studying could make you something. Tuso continued saying, “It wasn’t enough. My father told me, ‘Son, that’s not enough. You’ve got to be a servant as well.’ So, during my entire working career, I have found ways that I can serve. And that’s why I am running, to serve Gilmer County.”
Next to speak was Karleen Ferguson. Ferguson has owned property with her husband in Gilmer County for 20 years, and in 2011, she became the Gilmer County Tourism and Events Coordinator. She noted it as the “funnest job in the world because I got to tell everyone that I knew how wonderful Gilmer County was and encourage them to come visit.” However, Ferguson said she learned in that position the impact of tourism on Gilmer’s community. She noted the Apple Festival’s economic effect on hundreds of families in the county, including the apple growers, but also the families who volunteer and work to earn extra income for their own needs. She connected this with the growing agri-tourism area alongside maximizing the natural resources the county has to offer for both citizens and businesses. Ferguson went on to note the effect that commissioners can have on the economy noting the previous board of Charlie Paris, Dallas Miller, and Travis Crouch and their efforts to replace old systems and catching up their departments to maintain the county. She stated, “We are headed in the right direction, and my intention as your county commissioner is to continue the direction that these gentlemen have been leading us in. I am naturally a problem solver … I am a great team player. I have a passion to protect the history and culture of this community as we grow in a qualitative way.”
The final candidate to speak was Woody Janssen. Living in the county for 12 years, he got out of his major corporate past in national accounts management to settle down locally in Ellijay, where he started a river tubing business. In business since 2009, Janssen said he has been affected by and benefited from what the Board of Commissioners and the Gilmer Chamber have accomplished. Growing out of the recession, he spoke about the growth of the county and his business’ successes in bringing people to the county. It was something he said he wanted to continue in the county. Being so involved in the small business market, Janssen said he hoped to deregulate the county’s small businesses to further expand their growth. Janssen said, “That’s something I’d like to see happen, and I think I can help everybody out. Everybody has done a phenomenal job here locally. I’d like to see less regulation and let’s utilize what we already have.”
With that, the night’s events turned towards the District 7 State Representative election.
First to speak was Rick Day. Running as a Democrat, Day said he hoped citizens were interested in finding out who he was as he came out of nowhere. Day told a story about a job he took on an oil field in central Texas. He said he showed up for work and ran into immediate troubles as the vast majority of his coworkers were Hispanic and did not speak English. Day continued his story saying he was working in his combat boots from his time in the military. The boots began melting in the chemicals. Day said he did not know what to do, feeling alone with boots melting and no way to reach out to family or friends. It was then that his coworkers bought him a new pair of boots simply saying, “Pay it forward.”
It was a touching moment, said Day, who added he rides his motorcycle through our district and sees pockets of poverty, noting 51 percent of this district is employed, meaning that 49 percent are unemployed. With one half of the district “carrying the weight” for the other half, he could only ask how it could happen. Day said, “We are supposed to have leadership in Atlanta. For 10 years, the leadership has gone unchallenged. For 27 years, one person has had the power and authority to make this the number one district in the state … As beautiful as we are, behind the beauty, behind the cake of make-up, there is poverty. There is addiction. There is a quiet desperation.”
It is the quiet desperation that Day said he wants to address. He wants to represent them and increase the economy and growth for all those in the county to answer the “quiet desperation.” Day said the way he intends to pay for that growth and that answer is by adopting the Colorado approach by legalizing cannabis. Day likened the agricultural growth in our region with vineyards to a bridge, saying the next step with cannabis is a massive economic impact and job growth waiting to happen in our region.
Second to speak was Margaret Williamson. Williamson’s background comes from engineering, marketing, and business administration. However, it was her time at home with her children and supporting her husband that Williamson said allowed her the time to become more active in volunteering in the community. This time in our community is what she said gives her the “pulse of the things that are going on in District 7.” She told a story about visiting Abby’s, a local business, for ice cream and frozen yogurt with her grandchildren. As she sat watching them pile as many sprinkles on their ice cream as they could, Williamson said she realized that was the biggest issue for them. She asked herself what their future in our district was?
She commended the Chamber of Commerce in their efforts as well as the agricultural community as the mainstays of our economy. Growing now into vineyards and tourism exemplifies the growth the community has seen. She also noted the commissioners’ efforts in controlling and growing the economy under an annual $4.4 million debt from past irresponsibilities, a debt obligation stretching to 2032. Williamson said, “Our leadership claims that we are the number one state to do business in. So, let’s capitalize on that here in our district. We have more than other parts of Georgia to offer.”
Utilizing our resources, Williamson said we have enough to attract more of smaller, low impact businesses that offer better-paying jobs with advancement. She went on to note that she is running for the position to offer real representation from someone who cares, will work for the people, and will be honest about legislation and how it will affect the people. Williamson said she wants to change the office to be more present in the district besides just for “photo ops” as well as adding a weekly event in the district during session so that citizens can speak to her about legislation and concerns in the state.
The final candidate to speak was Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston. Ralston was born and raised in Gilmer County where he graduated high school. Ralston said it was the community’s help that achieved his successes like $550,000 for the “long overdue completion” of the Clear Creek Ball Fields, $150,000 for the Gilmer County Playhouse, $310,000 for equipping the Gilmer Canning Plant, $250,000 for repairs and renovations to the Gilmer County Library, $283,000 in state funds for improvements to the River Park, and $1,2 million for expansion of the Gilmer County Water System.
Ralston went on to say, “Yes, that is your money, but it was your money that was not coming back to Gilmer County until the last few years. It was going to Atlanta, and it was going to south Georgia. And it was going all over the state, except here.” He also noted that the state has reacted to the change and growth of new industries like wine as well as responses like the hiring of a “viticulturist” so that local wineries don’t have to wait for a professional to come to Georgia from other states to “monitor the effects of weather and disease on grapes.”
Ralston also noted the recent legislative session as the most successful in recent memory. The first cut to the state income tax in history, the ending of austerity cuts to local education in Georgia, and the first reform to Georgia’s adoption law in 30 years were the major points that he utilized to exemplify that success. Ralston noted that despite the successes, there is more work to be done.
Click link for Gilmer County Election Results: Gilmer County Election Results
Polls are closed and results are in. As America goes to make their final decisions, stay up to date here for the Statewide Results.
In Gilmer County, specifically, many people are closely watching three votes; the Presidential, Senatorial, and the Educational under Amendment 1 (Opportunity School Districts).
As Gilmer pulled in tallies late into the night, past 9:00, officials released their prelimary results indicating a Presidential Victory for Trump with 4440 votes, Senate Victory for Johnny Isakson with 3990 votes, and a denial of the Opportunity School Districts Amendment 1 at 3447 votes no and 1703 votes yes.
Make sure to click on the picture below to see each individual precinct’s results and see below for totals:
|Amend 1 Yes||1703|
|Amend 1 No||3447|
|Amend 2 Yes||3979|
|Amend 2 No||1044|
|Amend 3 Yes||2668|
|Amend 3 No||1920|
|Amend 4 Yes||3642|
|Amend 4 No||1212|
Looking to see the ballot for November’s Elections before you vote?
Check out Gilmer County’s Sample Ballot below.