GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A massive turnout has come for the twin cities and surrounding area as Gilmer’s Voter Registration Office is reporting record numbers in absentee voting.
A total of 1,482 voters stopped by the office during the early voting for the primaries elections staking their votes on local, state, and national offices. Registrar Sherri Jones said that Friday, June 5, 2020, the final day of early voting,was their busiest day of the entire cycle with 161 voters casting their ballots on that day. Yet, that number pales in comparison to another.
Jones said that the state mailed absentee applications to active voters this year in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Of those applications, a record-breaking 6,117 ballots were requested. Jones said the office has been checking and making signature comparisons and following verification processes. Returning absentee ballots have piled up as they work through the response before tomorrow’s election day.
In fact, they still have not fully processed them all, Jones did confirm, however, that as of 3:00 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2020, over 4,141 absentee ballots had been received and processed. This does not count the ballots that are still coming in before the deadline and in processing.
As the final hours count down and tomorrow dawns on election day, absentee’s could make up the largest majority of votes counted against individual precincts.
For comparison, the registrar’s office confirmed that the November General Election in 2016, the presidential election, saw the office mailing 725 absentee ballots and receiving 660 ballots in.
In the November General Election of 2018, the office mailed 614 absentee ballots out and received 550 ballots in.
Gilmer has seen large swings in elections in recent years from early voting, but this could be the first time in years, if ever, that the largest swing comes from absentee ballots.
“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.
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.”
New energy. Beth Arnold, candidate for Gilmer County Coroner, says she wants to bring new energy to the office in Gilmer County. An office that she holds 11 years of experience for from funeral service as she says she has worked in Bernhardt Funeral Home. She also studied funeral services in the program at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, Georgia.
Arnold said that she decided to run for the Office of Coroner because she wants to serve the citizens of the county while taking the next step in education and public service through the career she has spent so much time in. A lifelong resident of Gilmer County except the time spent at college, Beth is the daughter of Lee and Buffy Rittenberry Holcombe. She graduated from Gilmer High School in 2010 and is married to Dusty Arnold with two daughters, Reagan and Farrah.
Relying on her family for support in her career is key as she says they have already gotten used to strange hours in her career. Continuing that support into the Coroner’s Office, she says it is her firm stance on the importance of family and her Christian beliefs that drive her.
Though not the first time she’s thought about the office, Arnold said that now, the timing is right to make that run. This is where that ‘new energy’ she talks about comes from. Arnold said she is excited to take these next steps receiving the education and training, but also to bring renewed growth and a new face to the office.
“[The Coroner’s Office] has always been there in a time of need, they’ve done well at gathering information to pass on to investigators… They have served the community well,” says Arnold who noted she wants to add new ideas to renew and revitalize the position. She pointed out she didn’t have major issues she wants to change, but rather just improve upon with a fresh face.
The Coroner’s investigations and correspondence with those involved in the investigations are a key point in the office. Being a part of the community in service is another. But with separation from personal businesses, she wants to isolate the office in that area. She asserted this point saying that she wanted to separate the office from her own personal business included. Work at a funeral home is service to that business, but working in a public office is service to every citizen in the county.
Arnold said that she wanted to be “Beth Arnold, Gilmer Coroner” in those times. To be a coroner serving the community with dignity and respect is the goal she wants to achieve.
Arnold said that her career is a calling that isn’t for everybody. But setting to join funeral services in her career, she knew that. Being a blessing for people in a time of need, guiding them, and being a blessing for them as well. In funeral service, Arnold says that she wants to encourage people where she can.
The next step of running for Coroner, she says, is just an extension of that. Having that passion for helping people and the interest in funeral services, she wants to continue serving in a new role, a new capacity. Taking on the challenges of education and administrative responsibilities with that position, challenges like maintaining the budget and growing inside that budget, are all challenges to overcome in that service.
A fresh new role for her to fill, a fresh new face for the county. New energy to drive it into the future. Arnold says she will be there, any time of day, to provide in a time that people need to be treated with dignity and respect. There is no inconvenient time in this position and she wants that to be known saying, “It’s a position of service for those in the county and I want to serve you in that manner.”
Twenty-nine years of service since 1991. Jerry Hensley, candidate and incumbent for Gilmer County Coroner has been serving the citizens in his position for nearly three decades.
Studying the mortuary science in Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science, now Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service, Hensley graduated and, later, began licensed embalming and funeral services since 1975.
Since becoming Coroner, Hensley has undergone over 700 hours of training and classes for death investigations, family services, and law. With such a long history, he says much of the job has become muscle memory, but while practices and procedures don’t often change, laws and jurisdiction do. Hensley has worked alongside Sheriffs, city police, and even the Georgia Bureau of Investigation during his time with the county as he said he gets calls in all hours to support these investigations.
He has been married to Debbie Morrow Hensley for 44 years. They have two sons, Bryan and Nathan, and four grandchildren. Hensley is a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church. A 1973 graduate of Gilmer High School, Hensley has lived in Gilmer most of his life, save for attending school. He’s never felt a need or draw to leave the county saying, “I love the mountains, and I love Gilmer County and have always loved the people. I am comfortable here.”
So connected to several areas of the community, from the office to friends, family, and church, Hensley said he has never felt comfortable in other places the way he does with Gilmer.
Much the same way as setting roots in Gilmer, Hensley set roots into funeral service as he had in interest in it when younger. As things tend to go, one thing leads to another, and a student that studies that which interests him finds work in it. Hensley continued that study and work into services and a position at Logan’s Funeral Home.
Since 1991 and taking the Office of Coroner, Hensley said he is most proud of reaching close to 95% of all his calls. He said, “The people of Gilmer County elected me as their Coroner and I try my best to do my job.”
Helping in that office though, Hensley said he could not ask for two better deputies. He and his two certified deputy coroners, Melissa Waddell and Brian Nealey, have a combined 49 years of death investigation experience. All three coroners maintain their certification by receiving the state-mandated 24 hours of continuing education annually.
He went on to note that multiple calls or busier periods that require multiple responses require a deputy coroner to fill in with full authority of the Coroner’s Office saying, “That’s why I am proud to have two good Deputy Coroners. Because I can comfortably send them out on a call knowing they have got full power of the Coroner, and they are the Coroner when they are there. Everything’s going to be run like it’s supposed to.”
Having those deputies helps, but doesn’t always make the job easier in the one area that Hensley says is the single hardest part of his position. Notifying families. “It is always sad,” he said about the necessity of this service.
That necessary part comes with great balance to maintain professionalism while also being compassionate to the families. Hensley said it is what he has always strived for, compassion and courtesy amidst a professional, efficient office.
He wants his record to speak for him in this election as he said he hopes to continue serving the county just as he has for so many years. Furthermore, he asserted a need for citizens and encouraged all to get out and vote in the coming primary as many of Gilmer’s offices will be decided at that stage.
“I saw the need, I heard the need,” says Penney Andruski about her run for Tax Commissioner of Gilmer County. She went on to say that rather than just complaining or bypassing what she feels is a need in the county, she wanted to jump in and do something about the issue.
Andruski worked in the courthouse for two years under the State of Georgia with the Department of Community Supervision. She says she saw a lot in her time there and learned how important the office and staff is to the county. She has had 28 years of business experience and management. She has also spent 10 years in Gilmer’s community with the Mountain Ridge Garden Shop. She has spent 23 years in Gilmer and is engaged. Unfortunately, with the virus outbreak, she has had to put things on hold there but wanted to push ahead with her candidacy for the office.
Being a public servant is hard, she said, but researching the position before she announced her candidacy, Andruski said she is the right person for it. The experience she has gained and diversity through everything from entry-level to executive positions, from mom-and-pop-businesses to high-end styles. Budgets, board meetings, committees, law, these are all things that Andruski specifically pointed to as she says she is ready for the challenge.
“Your staff is the face of you,” she said. “When you’re a good leader, and you have good leadership skills, that reflects out that you have a balance in that office because that is a work-family…”
Andruski said she wants to be pro-active and engaging to the public. Utilizing things like digital media and web-based information, the goal is to become pro-active in providing an expedient, professional, and engaging service to citizens so that they know all they need to.
“Information is critical,” said Andruski.
The office has been great at collections according to Andruski who says the next step is better connections. Whether a staff member is answering a phone or signing a legal document as a judge, the elected officials and employees of the courthouse serve the community and should strive to offer the very best work possible.
She said even amidst the virus, she has noticed the great works of entities like the Chamber who has kept people’s spirits up, but also kept the flow of information up. She said she wants to be just as good in engagement areas like that telling people about extensions and requirements and new updates. She doesn’t want surprises.
The more information that citizens and residents have, the better they will feel. She wants to improve upon the successes the office has made, but fill in the areas she says has needs.
Organization is a key point for Ansruski’s personality as she said she loves the details of operations. The reason behind her passion in this office specifically comes from the details of everything, details like the numbers, accounting, collections, citizens, law, and the ways to engage all of these together.
For citizens, she says, it is all about the experience and the service and participation of the commissioner translates through the staff and provides that service. When it all comes together, we will continue to grow, all of the dollars, the people, and the budgets have to balance to achieve these common goals.
One challenge she says she sees ahead is transitioning. The first year is key as, if elected, she operates off a budget she did not create, but also in meshing with the staff and bringing a welcoming environment to carry on to achieve the goals.
Andruski said being a good public servant is being the face of the office for the public. Open door policies are a given without a need to say such things. Andruski said that as a candidate for the Tax Commissioners office, she wants to be the breath of fresh air that leads to a more engaging office for citizens.
Though being elected for two terms and having almost eight years of experience in the position, Becky Marshall has been in the office of the Tax Commissioner for 16 years.
Married to Danny Marshall with two daughters and five grandchildren, Rebecca “Becky” Marshall has lived in Gilmer County for just under 24 years.
“I feel like I have made a big improvement to the Tax Commissioners office. I feel like I have worked well with the citizens of Gilmer County. I love what I do. I am passionate about what I do. And I want to continue to be available for all the taxpayers if they need me,” says Marshall.
Marshall offered a few of the accomplishments made over the years, but as she listed them, she noted that ‘we’ have done things. She said, “We have gotten the delinquencies caught up. We have been maintaining almost a 99 percent collection rate with all the tax bills… We have cross-trained all staff members so all staff members work in the motor vehicle division and in the property tax division.”
She noted improvements to PC’s over terminals and email contacts for employees, training and improving in customer service and decreasing wait times for citizens, and improving information for citizens to come in and get the information that they need.
Even in the current crisis, simple measures like adding a dropbox outside have made improvements for citizens wishing to maintain little to no contact. Marshall added that past improvements have helped as well like putting services online and allowing citizens to pay bills and attend to things that way have allowed people to stay home. She noted that even those coming in have needed adaptation as she has even said some have phoned and the office has offered curbside service to them.
Marshall said that the office needs to be flexible in these times saying, “It’s going to be a struggle for a lot of people. So, we want to be firm and we want to be strong, but we also want to be compassionate and understanding.”
Even now, Marshall says she wants to keep improving the office, growing with the times. Even though she says that she, personally, isn’t the best at upgrading and using social media, she wants the office to be better in that regard and has been working towards expansions into these realms for some time.
Reaching out is the next step, says Marshall. While some older generations may not use or need the digital upgrades, reaching out to younger generations and incorporating the citizens’ wants and interactions is a part of that step. She said she has considered options like self-service kiosks and convenience for people who work full-time, more open information through social media, and website improvements.
Even cooperations with other departments is improving as she states that the courts, the clerk’s office, the tax assessors office, all of these departments are crucial and communication and cooperation with them are just as crucial.
Marshall says she still has plans for the future, plans to continue improving the office past what they have already achieved. Yet, it isn’t progressing for progress’ sake that drives her. It’s the balancing and bottom lines that provide a sense of correctness and positive energy for her. Maintaining excellence is the force behind her. Continuing the effort and the payoff of her efforts for the office was why she ran eight years ago, and it is why, she says, she is running again this year.
She said, “The office belongs to Gilmer County, it doesn’t belong to me. My paycheck comes from the taxpayers. I want this office to run the way they expect it to run. I want the transparency, I want people to be able to see exactly what’s going on. There is always room for improvement. No matter what you’re doing…”
Candidate for Gilmer Tax Commissioner, Sharla Davis is a 30-year veteran of management and accounting positions with companies across Georgia.
Professionally working in accounting, management, and customer service in the Automotive Industry, Davis says she has worked for four of the top-ten Automotive Groups in the Nation. She currently works for Greenway Automotive group. Davis said she has gone through receiving, processing, balancing, and reporting for these groups including dealing with taxes, tax law, and exemptions that already start to cross over into the work as Tax Commissioner.
Two years of experience also comes from the Tax Commissioners office in Gilmer where she worked under current Commissioner Becky Marshall.
Speaking on working and living in Gilmer for five years, Davis said, “I love Gilmer County, my husband [David Hoover] and I moved up here five years ago and it has exceeded our expectations. The people, the landscape, and the area.”
She said that through his support she has gained the courage to pursue her campaign. Davis said that she loves talking with people one-on-one, but has had to rely on his encouragement for large public speaking venues. It is in those moments that little things like saying he is proud of her helps to motivate her through the process.
As Tax Commissioner, Davis said she would want to share this knowledge and training. The office has an accountant and deals with that area, but her experience also affords her management and leadership experience that she wishes to bring to bear and fill into more areas to make the office more successful.
Training and preparation are one of the curves Davis says she is excited to take on. Any new Commissioner has to go through training classes and learn the law aspects and procedures. While this is a learning curve for her, she says, it’s something she is looking forward to as she loves learning and exploring new things.
Accounting is, more so, a talent than a passion, says Davis. She went to school for teaching in Psychology. However, she was already in accounting positions as she worked. Continuing the current business after finishing school, accounting won out as she never really left it. Davis says it is the idea of having things balanced and complete that gives her satisfaction as she has honed a talent “that God blessed me with.”
Exploring those new areas means exploring the position and ways to adapt and improve while also continuing the postive practices already in place.
The Tax Commissioner can help people in the community simply by being accessible, being available. Davis said she wants to be a provider for the community just as much as the collections. Davis said she wants to improve areas of information gathering and distribution for the office. She offered ideas about improving the website and research capabilities, easing confusion of residents about the Tax Commissioners duties versus other departments, taking advantage of social media.
Even in the current situation with sheltering in place and business shutdowns, working with people is key. Adapting to the environment and being a part of the community are the ideas that Davis wants to express. Taking advantage of social media to continue easily accessed and noticeable updates.
Davis said that some of this accessibility she wants to push forward on could include adaptations like talking with the Board of Commissioners and other departments and looking at opening at least one Saturday of each month, even if only for a few hours, to be available for those who may not find the time during the week between work and their lives.
Davis said she wanted to look at options for some employees who may want to look at more part-time availability or adaptive schedules to look at employee’s choices and wants.
Having worked for two years in the office, Davis said she loved that the staff was very knowledgable and friendly. The environment is already in place that she wants to foster. Moving from a denser population towards Atlanta, she said that seeing these people in the office so helpful, kind, and informative was a very exciting change from what she was used to.
Adaptability is key, according to Davis, as she says she brings the experience of positions in need of flexibility. A leader with a positive attitude can work wonders in an office that has laws, software, programs, and needs that are constantly shifting.
“I believe in people before politics,” says Davis. This is an administrative position and the people are who we, as elected officials, serve. Davis said she wants to provide the residents of Gilmer with the most courteous, professional, and accessible service she can provide in a county that she loves.
My name is Sharla Davis and I am campaigning for position of Tax Commissioner for Gilmer County.
I 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!!
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s 2019 Election Results are rolling in tonight, November 5, 2019, as citizens elect a replacement Post 1 Commissioner for the vacancy left by Dallas Miller’s Resignation last month as well as a new Ellijay City Council.
This article will continued to be updated throughout the night until final results come in.
With 13 of the 13 voting precincts in Gilmer County reported and early votes counted, the results follow:
Post 1 Commissioner 2019 Election Results:
Jason Biggs: 227 votes
Al Cash: 249 votes
Hubert Parker: 1360 votes
Ed Stover: 206 votes
Jerry Tuso: 91 votes
Having received 63.70%, Probate Judge Scott Chastain has stated there will not be a runoff.
Hubert Parker offered a comment on the victory saying, “I’m elated at the confidence the voters expressed in me. I’ll do my best to serve all the citizens of Gilmer County.”
When asked if he was happy to not be going to a runoff. Parker said he was obviously happy to have it done now and to the county can move on with their business.
Ellijay City Council: 2019 Election Results
Charles Barclay: 71 votes
Jerry Baxter: 64 votes
Tom Crawford: 82 votes
Jerry Davis: 54 votes
Brent Defoor: 78 votes
Al Fuller (incumbent) : 110 votes
Katie Lancey (incumbent) : 81 votes
Sandy Ott: 126 votes
Kevin Pritchett: 109 votes
Brad Simmons: 74 votes
“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.
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.”
Stability and unification, these are tenets that Al Cash said he wants to see moving forward in Gilmer County. Though he did not plan to run in the Post 1 Commissioner Race, Cash says he was approached by others who urged him to run due to his “life experiences and the integrity I have based my entire life on.”
Like many of the candidates, Cash said one of the concerns he sees and hears from citizens is the unstoppable growth the county has seen over recent years. Cash said that the growth is there, it is the job of the Board of Commissioners to control that growth and mold the county into what the citizens want for their future.
President of the Firefighters Auxiliary and volunteer for the EMA staff, Cash is also the webmaster for the Fire Department. Under the Auxiliary, he seeks additionally funding outside of the county budget for the department, manages many of the events like Kids Christmas. They seek fundraising opportunities for additional training and equipment as well.
Cash has also worked 30 years for State Farm where he worked as an adjuster and in third party litigation for 15 years and IT work for 15 years. He has lived in Gilmer County with his wife since 2012. He has one son and four daughters.
Originally having bought a house here in 2006, his family planned to retire here. He says it was definitely the people that drew him here, saying “I hear this all the time, and it’s absolutely true. It’s the people. The people are so incredibly nice… It was strange. It’s a whole different culture, and we fell in love with it.”
Standing up to run for the position of Post 1 Commissioner, Cash said it is the intangibles that set him apart for the position. From his life experiences to knowledge and organization, these are part of the skill set that he brings to a county with the unique setting and trials that Gilmer County faces.
“I see a lot of flux,” says Cash as he explained that he sees some citizens wanting to revert to the small town that has been here in the past and some wanting to embrace and grow into a larger town or city. Calling himself a traditionalist, Cash has seen both large cities and tiny towns. Balancing the growth and tradition is key in Gilmer as it moves forward. But Cash says the balance cannot be a general blanket answer. It’s a department level issue as he says each area requires its own answers and its own type of that balance.
“That’s just a lot of math and analysis, trying to figure out what is the best way to spend the money that are available. How to balance that between other departments and what’s happening in the community, it always has to be what’s best for the community as a whole,” says Cash.
With two major issues in the recent months of the county, many citizens are looking for views on the pool and Carter’s Lake.
Cash asserted that he understood that a new pool is necessary and desired by a large portion of the county. But he wants to learn more about the other questions as he asked what is the real cost? He said he wants to learn more about the details, including operations, maintenance, costs, and the viability for the community. He said, “I’m a research king. I need all the facts.”
Some of those details include the deep end addition with diving boards. Cash said he has concerns for the insurance and liability side of it as well as the additional costs.
Again with the Carter’s Lake issue as Cash said he feels many of the citizens are still unaware of the details more than just the three options available.
Details on these subjects, however, are not just for himself as Cash says the county needs stability and unification moving forward. He points out that it doesn’t mean everyone agreeing on everything, but about bringing the government and citizens closer together with more information and communication. Cash said he has even considered things like starting a blog if he becomes Post 1 Commissioner. The core of the idea is increasing connection and interaction.
On top of improving the relationship with citizens, Cash also wants to see the relations continue improving within the county. Noting the comprehensive plan as the first step in this. Cash said these entities in the county, as a whole, benefit from each other in a “scratch each other’s back” situation. Cash noted that though the cities are their own entities, the Board of Education is its own entity, and the Board of Commissioners is its own entity, it is still all inside of Gilmer County. He said, “I would like to establish as much of a working relationship with them as we can… I’d like to be part of that getting better.”
Cash also noted new ventures such as CORE joining these entities throughout the county through projects like their mentor program. The Joint Development Authority is another branch of this connection.
Continuing along the campaign trail, Cash urges citizens to get out and vote in the election. As he looks to the Post 1 Commissioner position, Cash said he is excited to be a part of the county’s forward momentum. “I would love to get in there and be a part of where we are now and moving forward. I’ve always been that way. I’ve loved getting in on the ground floor… I love building it, and making it happen. Making positive things happen.”
Committing to the position is all about “Service above Self” according to candidate Al Cash. Committing to the county in this position is, as he says, all about the Facts, Finances, and Future.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the final day past, the Gilmer County Probate Office has announced the five candidates who have officially qualified for the November election for Post 1 Commissioner.
Qualifying ran from Monday through noon Wednesday this week and even came with surprises for those who had previously announced their campaign but didn’t qualify by signing up with elections.
At this time, the elections office, a part of Gilmer County’s Probate Court, has confirmed these candidates: Jason Biggs, Al Cash, Hubert Parker, Ed Stover, and Jerry Tuso.
Stay with FYN as we reach out to the candidates for interviews to introduce them within their campaigns.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Probate Office of Gilmer County is adding one more item to November’s ballot in the form of a Post 1 Commissioner Election. This Special Election comes after the recent resignation of Dallas Miller.
The new election process will be abbreviated from the normal process as qualifying will go for three days next week, Monday, September 23, 2019, until noon on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. After that, the election will be held on November 5, 2019. Despite the quick turn around, this means that the two remaining commissioners will be going the the county’s budget process without a third.
The full release from Probate Judge and Election Superintendent Scott Chastain follows:
CALL FOR SPECIAL ELECTIONTo be published in a newspaper of appropriate circulation- O.C.G.A. §21-2-2(3)Notice is hereby given that, in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 21-2-540, a special election shall be held in Gilmer County to fill the vacancy in the office of County Commissioner Post 1, caused by resignation of the Honorable Dallas Miller. The special election will be held on November 5, 2019.Qualifying for the special election shall be held at the office of the Probate Judge of Gilmer County, beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, September 23, 2019 and ending at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. The qualifying fee shall be $213.76.All persons who are not registered to vote and who desire to register to vote in the special election may register to vote through the close of business on Tuesday, October 7, 2019 Early voting will begin on Tuesday October 15, 2019 and end on November 1, 2019. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.Should a runoff election be required, such runoff will be held onTuesday, December 3, 2019This 13th Day of September, 2019. Scott C. ChastainElection Superintendent