Protesters rally in Ellijay over Black Lives Matter movement

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Both protesters and police commented tonight with two words that many have not heard recently in news, a “peaceful protest” in Ellijay concluded despite rain and counter-protests in the area.

Authorities prepared after permits were approved yesterday, June 3, for a planned protest expecting 25 to 30 people in attendance. Even Eloisa Rafael, one of three students who were the organizers of the event along with Pedro Chavez and Nashely Hernandez, said that they were expecting around 25 people when they were planning and speaking with friends.

Instead, what the three students saw, were preliminary estimates closer to 200 people gathered in and around the roundabout in Downtown Ellijay with signs, speeches, and chants for support of the Black Lives Matter movements and for prominent names in both media and movements around the country.

All three of the organizers voiced their surprise and excitement at the larger turnout saying that they felt very encouraged by the level of community support in that way.

As protestors began the rally at 4:00 p.m., organizers called for peace and non-violence as they voiced opinions and chants, one man even stood to call for dialogue with police as he said that without dialogue, there can be no change. One of their first speakers, Pastor Robert Diaz, spoke a prayer over the gathering before offering words of encouragement for equality and rights saying, “We are going to make every effort, every day, to let our kids know, and our society know, that love shall prevail over hate, over discrimination, and whatever else.”

Diaz later said in an interview after the event that he was there to support the Black Lives Matter movement saying, “Obviously, all lives do matter, but in this instance, it is actually the black community that is actually more oppressed. We can see that all over, for decades… We are here as a nation, united, to raise our voice and to let the world know that this has to stop.”

Protesters continued under police supervision throughout their two-hour-long rally with speakers and representatives from the community including ministers and students who called for attention to social issues including the death of George Floyd and other media reports of police violence.

Protest organizer Nashely Hernandez said, “I helped organize this today because people need to stop being judge just because of the color of their skin.”

Others echoed the sentiment saying that the message of love and cooperation was central to what they wanted to convey. Local minister, Reverand Adam Bradley, of the Cherry Log Christian Church said, “Be Love” as he spoke to those gathered and offered his message of loving each other in the community.

After allowing certain community members to step forward to speak as well as prepared speakers, chants rang out through the downtown area as they continued their demonstration. Before long, a second group had formed on North Main Street counter-protesting the demonstration. Police stepped in to keep the groups separate, and while chants and rhetoric came from both sides, police and authorities maintained order in the separation of the groups throughout the rally’s length.

Police involvement stretched beyond one entity, however. The Ellijay Police Department lead permitting and planning for the event. However, authorities present at the event shared information that support and deputies came from all around the area as representatives of the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office and Fannin Sheriff’s Office along with other law enforcement officers from Whitfield and Cherokee Counties.

Protest organizer Pedro Chavez said, “We have had a good interaction with the police. We’ve had good communication. They understand what we’re here to do. They understand that we are here to protest peacefully… We appreciate their assistance, but we are here to protest against police brutality, against discrimination, against racism. But overall, we have had a good interaction with the police department.”

On the police side of the event, Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey said, “We couldn’t hope for a better event.”

He added that situations like today are always tense because of the unknown. But said, “The organizers were upfront with us and worked with us. That showed that they had a legitimate exercise of their first amendment rights.” As he addressed in an interview, one of the key points of the event was that the group pf protesters peacefully gathered and shared their message and peacefully left.

Those protesters pushed on despite counter-protests and even a bout of heavy rainfall, soaking many of those present as the stood in the center of the roundabout with only trees for cover. One protester repeatedly offered prayers throughout the event and continued his offerings through the same rainfall. He said he was protesting and stayed because “I think we all need to come together as a community, the police and the people, and put away the hate with love and prayer. Support Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter.”

Many others also offered support for both movements, including Karen Brown, who said, “There is no justice untill ALL God’s people are equal.”

Brown, a former teacher, referenced the “8 minutes 46 seconds,” a common reference to the death of George Floyd, as she too said that all lives do matter, but “right now the issue is black lives.”

As the rally concluded and protesters dispersed, many offered statements saying this is only the beginning and promises to each other that they would see them again soon. Eloisa Rafael also said she expects more, “I expect for this not to be the end of it. I expect for Ellijay to keep growing, keep changing, and understand that we are all equal.”

 

 

See more coverage on the event with FYN’s videos on our YouTube Channel, photos of the event on our Facebook Album, and coverage including interviews on our Livestream.

Optimists show signs of care for Gilmer Graduates

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s 2020 graduates have had more than a few setbacks in their senior year due to COVID-19, from missing half a semester, one quarter of their entire  senior year, to cancellations of their graduation and prom before rescheduling.

Many school districts in Georgia are trying their best to provide a little extra recognition for their graduates this year due to quarantining practices shutting down the entire state’s school system.

Gilmer is no different as the Board has rescheduled both prom and graduation in addition to providing a digital graduation this Friday. But the community of the county still didn’t think this was enough to make up for months of separation and a lack of closure to the grade school lives.

The Gilmer County Optimist Club pushed forward with a new project this week, and if you’ve driven down Industrial Blvd. this week, you’ve seen the roadside parade of handmade signs that the club has donated and erected to honor these students.

Also recognized at this weeks BOE meeting, the project is getting great appreciation from both the school board and community driving past with honks of appreciation as the project was completed.

Honoring GHS Class of 2020!

Posted by Gilmer County Optimist Club on Sunday, May 17, 2020

The project lead, Lisa Salman, who is also Tourism Director for the Gilmer Chamber, said the idea came together through watching other counties and districts through social media and listening to our own community.

All in the span of about two weeks, Salman pitched the idea to Superintendent Shanna Downs and received approval from the city for a sign permit, then gathered volunteers and donations to buy the materials and hand craft the signs you see on the road. Early Saturday morning, May 16, 2020, volunteers gathered before noon to put up the completed signs. This is the original planned week of graduation.

Graduates each have their own sign recognizing their work and efforts. Salman said that she knew the school was doing things, but said their was meaning in people doing something by hand for the extra recognition. Different volunteers have painted and created different signs, so not all the signs are the same either.

This project is not completed however. Maintenance continues through the week as heavy winds and passing cars have seen a few signs blow down. Salman said they are continue during the week to repair and maintain the project through graduation day.

When asked about the importance of projects like this, Salman said, “We’re friends of youth. Children are so important and I want them to be recognized… I want to make sure they are recognized and t hey could see their name as people drive by and honk.”

The project went up this week to the surprise of all the students as Salman said they spoke with Downs and the City privately to keep this as a Graduation week surprise for the students.

The project saw donations from 35 people and time from 7 volunteers to complete the designs, construction, and finally completion of putting the signs up on the road.

 

(Photo and video provided by th Gilmer County Optimist Club.)

18 GA Sheriffs Endorse Doug Collins for Senate

Press Release, State & National
Windstream georgia sheriffs

GAINESVILLE, GA – 18 Georgia Sheriffs today became the charter members of the “Law Enforcement for Doug Collins” leadership team. The team is being led by former GA Department of Public Safety Commissioner and State Patrol head Mark W. McDonough.

“Public safety professionals stand in the gap every day protecting their communities,” McDonough said. “There is no better example of this than your Sheriff.  They know what their communities need and the things that concern their citizens.  One of those concerns is strong, demonstrated leadership in Washington, D.C.  Doug Collins supports the law enforcement community and we strongly endorse him as our next U.S. Senator.”

The 18 Sheriffs who endorsed are:

  • Gerald Couch – Hall County
  • Chad Nichols – Rabun County
  • Dane Kirby – Fannin County
  • Carlton Speed – Banks County
  • Craig Nobles – Long County
  • Gene Scarbrough – Tift County
  • Frank Reynolds – Cherokee County
  • Doyle Wooten – Coffee County
  • Steve Thomas – Franklin County
  • Stacey Nichols – Gilmer County
  • Mitch Ralston – Gordon County
  • Billy Hancock – Crisp County
  • Joey Terrell – Habersham County
  • Janis Mangum – Jackson County
  • Carlton Powell – Thomas County
  • Don Whitaker – Worth County
  • Darren Mitchum – Twiggs County
  • Stacy Jarrard – Lumpkin County

“Growing up as the son of a Georgia State Trooper, our law enforcement officers were always my biggest heroes and a part of my family,” Doug said. “These men and women put their lives on the line to serve and protect each and every day, and now they’re putting their names and reputations on the line for me. To say I’m humbled is an understatement.”

Public Safety opens shelter amid storm

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Ravaged by a storm across North Georgia, counties across the region are responding tonight to provide for citizens as best as possible.

The Gilmer County Public Safety Department has enacted plans late this evening due to the storm.

A shelter has been opened for anyone displaced from their home, or otherwise needing a place to stay. The shelter is located at the Civic Center, 1561 S Main St.

Much of Gilmer County suffered high winds and heavy rainfall throughout the night. Outages for Amicalola alone reached a total outages number between 11,000 and 12,000. The vast majority of those were in Gilmer County, reading 7,210 just before 3:00 a.m. according to their site.

Families sheltered in bathrooms and safe zones just after 1:00 a.m. as emergency warnings and tv weather reports urged immediate action with a tornado warning.

While downed trees, power lines, and other wind damage have already been reported from the storm, no reports on any extreme damage have been seen yet.

North Georgia Chairmen urge Kemp to close State Parks

Community, News
Georgia, North Georgia, Governor, Brian Kemp, State Parks, Close, Shut Down, Letter, Chairmen, Habersham, Rabun, Franklin, Towns, White, Gilmer, Dade, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, Stephens, Banks, Travis Turner, Tim Stamey, Greg James

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Twelve Commission Chairmen from North Georgia counties have joined together and signed a letter asking Governor Brian Kemp to shut down the State Parks.

“It appears that these nonresidents believe our area is a safe haven because of its rural nature. To the contrary, the influx of people into our communities has had a staggering detrimental effect on our resources,” the letter to Kemp read in part.

Georgia, North Georgia, Governor, Brian Kemp, State Parks, Close, Shut Down, Letter, Chairmen, Habersham, Rabun, Franklin, Towns, White, Gilmer, Dade, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, Stephens, Banks, Travis Turner, Tim Stamey, Greg James

Habersham County Commissioner District 5 Tim Stamey

The letter goes on to outline the resources in our area that have been affected by the out-of-towners looking to seclude themselves, including in these resources are food, dry goods and fuel.

It goes on to inform Kemp that our area is not equipped medically: “Our communities simply do not have enough hospital beds or medical personnel to care for the inflated population.”

Though only serving as a commissioner for a little over three months, Habersham County Commissioner District 5 Tim Stamey felt he needed to be proactive in bringing a solution to this problem: “I am a retired special operator and we don’t sit around talking about things, we get it done.”

Stamey who sits on the County Health Board said, “I’m on the County Health Board and talk to Healthcare workers in my county on a daily basis. They are the heros/heroines in all this. This virus does not spread itself on the wind.”

Moccasin Creek State Park, situated just North of Unicoi State park has been “crazy, 4th of July crazy” for the past three weekends according to Stamey, who has witnessed the impact on his county first hand.

Stamey initially contacted Rabun County Chairman Greg James and White County Chairman Travis Turner.

“I started this by just trying to get border counties on board,” Stamey said and added, “Then Chairmen were like well, did you call such and such, I know they feel the same way. It just kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Stamey said that all Commission Chairmen were helpful, on board, and taking the matter seriously: “I talked to most of them several times and for up to an hour each time.”

Stamey, along with the 12 county chairmen and many residents, is hoping that this letter will get the attention of Kemp. The letter in closing states: “On behalf of the many citizens that live in North Georgia who entrust us as County Commissioners to represent their interests, we respectfully ask you to close all of the state parks located in our area immediately.”

Georgia, North Georgia, Governor, Brian Kemp, State Parks, Close, Shut Down, Letter, Chairmen, Habersham, Rabun, Franklin, Towns, White, Gilmer, Dade, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, Stephens, Banks, Travis Turner, Tim Stamey, Greg James

Georgia, North Georgia, Governor, Brian Kemp, State Parks, Close, Shut Down, Letter, Chairmen, Habersham, Rabun, Franklin, Towns, White, Gilmer, Dade, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, Stephens, Banks, Travis Turner, Tim Stamey, Greg James

 

Click Here to read about National Park Closures in our area

Gilmer BOC will hold April Regular meeting in person

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Meeting

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Both cities and counties carry on amid the shutdown, and Gilmer is also moving forward in this time with their April meeting, but with a few changes.

Gilmer has already made changes over March as meetings saw a distancing line in the meeting room, and all meetings have been held in the Jury Assembly Room in the Gilmer County Courthouse. However, this month will see another change as the Board is only sending one agenda. Gilmer’s BOC will still meet is person, as of now, but will not be holding their usual work session.

Gilmer is continuing monitor situations during the shutdown and two agenda items stick out among the agenda as potential ramifications of the nations current situation.

Among the items is listed “Discussion and possible action to grant authority to the Tax Commissioner to waive Interest and Penalties” and “Discussion and possible action regarding the upcoming May General and Presidential Primaries.”

Elections have been a growing topic as we draw closer to May during a Presidential Election year which has, historically, been one of the highest turnout years for elections.

Not holding a work session, the public will be hearing discussion and votes in the same day for April. The rest of the meeting is set to proceed as normal with usual items like Citizens wishing to speak and the financial statement. The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2020, at 6 p.m., in the Jury Assembly Room of the Courthouse.

Meeting

Meeting

 

 

Gilmer BOE approves 2020-2021 calendar

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2020-2021 Calendar

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Official approval has come for the Gilmer Board of Education and the Gilmer County Schools’ 2020-2021 Calendar for the school year.

From late July for teachers, the approved calendar will have students returning to class on August 3, 2020, and going all the way to the final day, a 2 hour early release for students, on May 28, 2021. Teachers would have have Professional Learning Days on June 1 and 2 of 2021.

The 2020-2021 calendar also hosts five long breaks encompassing 6 full weeks.

The board presented a survey they undertook returning 1,538 responses. Those results showed 60.60% of the vote supporting this calendar over 28.74% for Calendar 2 and 10.66% for Calendar 3. The board also changed this year as they specifically emailed parents, students, and staff of the School System with a one-time use link to the survey. Their release stated that

Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs stated that Calendar 1 incorporated more frequent breaks, Calendar 2 was more similar to previous Gilmer Calendars, and Calendar 3 was more similar to Fannin County’s school calendar.

Board member Ronald Watkins questioned some of the changes about the 2020-2021 calendar’s dates and relation to summer. They also discussed Murray County’s calendar. Going with the majority, the board officially approved Calendar 1 during their regular meeting with the vote 4-1 with Ronald Watkins in opposition.

 

BOC Meeting called two days before Christmas

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are calling for one last meeting in 2019.

Next week will see a special called meeting for the board, but it will come two days before Christmas Day. The schedule sets the meeting to begin at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of December 23, 2019.

While the meeting agenda is set with only three items, it almost got bigger last week with the Board of Commissioners looking to add a few items tabled from their regular meeting.

With Public Works Director Jim Smith returning to the meetings after taking personal time, the Commissioners had originally tabled the Concrete Bid agenda item from November. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asked to table the bid again until this meeting on December 23 to give Smith more time to analyze the bids. However, taking time as the meeting progressed Smith worked on the bid submissions to make sure to give the board an answer. The board wound up awarding the bid in the meeting and cancelling its addition to this meeting.

However, the meetings’ second addition did not get canceled as new information is arising from the agenda item to consider possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission. The board is taking extra time to investigate issues with the Forestry Commission’s previous rental space in Pickens and agreement details.

The meeting will go forward with three agenda items;
1.Discussion and possible action to rent Airport space to the Georgia Forestry Commission
2. Discussion and possible action on approval of an MOU with SORBA/IMBA
3. Resolution to Adopt the 2020 Budget.

 

Gilmer readies to “Stuff the Bus” for school

Community

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – This weekend, citizens will find the Optimist Club and their school bus in front of Wal-Mart in East Ellijay as they collect final donations and celebrate the county’s return to the school year.

The Gilmer County Optimist Club’s 7th Annual school supply drive still has collection boxes located throughout the county in several businesses. However, for those last minute shoppers, financial donations, and collection box turn ins, this event will host volunteers and club members ready to accept those donations.

The same bus that citizens saw parading through downtown during the July 4th parade will be parked in front of Walmart on August 2 and 3, 2019, as a beacon to show citizens exactly where to go to provide for the supplies drive.

According to the Optimist Club, the drive is to literally “stuff” that yellow bus full of supplies for students in the county who may not have everything they need for their studies. The drive turns in the supplies collected to the school system who, in turn, delivers the supplies as needed to the children.

Sarurday will also see Optimist Club members going through a list of needs provided by the school, and for those things they may not have as much of, they will use the financial donations given to fill in the needs that are lacking. This way, every donation goes to help the students of the county, and the club is able to spread the provisions evenly.

CORE receives grant and state office at ribbon-cutting

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “This is the kind of project that will spread prosperity throughout our entire region. It is the kind of skin-in-the-game project that deserves support…” Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston praised the CORE Facility in Ellijay who hosted their official ribbon-cutting today.

Nestled just off Maddox Drive on the banks of the Coosawattee River in Ellijay, Georgia, the CORE Facility hosts business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment.

Left to right, Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, and Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones celebrate with Greater Gilmer JDA Executive Director Kent Sanford at the CORE Facility ribbon-cutting in Ellijay, Georgia, on July 24, 2019.

However, the facility’s impact reaches so much farther than the city limits or the county’s borders. Today marked a celebration for the region and for the state. Representatives statewide joined together for this ribbon cutting including Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, State Representative of District 11 Rick Jasperse, Ellijay City Mayor Al Hoyle, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, and many representatives from the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils and Gilmer Board of Education. Efforts from many organizations have led into combined organizations such as the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) and the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.

That Foundation was the birthplace of the initiative to build CORE. According to Kent Sanford, Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA and part of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, a 14-month birth cycle has finally come to full fruition.

While the celebration was a culmination of efforts so far, it is only the beginning. It is a project that holds great impact on the future, according to Ralston who said, “It will create jobs in our area. The jobs of tomorrow will be possible because of the work that goes on in this building.”

Speaker of the House, David Ralston announces a $420,000 state grant for the CORE facility to applause from attendees at the ribbon-cutting on July 24, 2019.

Ralston also dedicated support to the facility as he announced, “Because of the local commitment to the CORE building the State of Georgia, through our OneGeorgia Authority, is awarding $420,000 to this project to be used for Facility purchase and improvement costs. This $420,000 grant is historic. both in terms of its dollar amount and the impact it will have on this project and community.”

Ralston continued speaking about the economic development and job creation in the county before offering the second announcement of the day regarding the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center.

Ralston stated at the ribbon-cutting, “I am proud to announce that the new North Georgia of the Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation will be housed right here in Ellijay in this facility. The office will be led by Janet Cochran.”

Ralston’s office later offered a full Press Release on the announcement stating the center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.

The Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, was officially announced to open a North Georgia Office at Gilmer’s CORE facility during a ribbon-cutitng on July 24, 2019.

These announcements were applauded by those present and praised by the Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber, John Marshall, who said, “Mr. Speaker, once again you have proven yourself to be the very epitome of a stalwart and faithful advocate not only to your hometown and all the other communities in these beautiful North Georgia Mountains, but to each and every corner of the state of Georgia.”

President of the Gilmer Chamber, Paige Green also praised the facility as the realization of a dream for the community that has spread to benefit not only one county but something larger that now spans the region.

Today was a celebration of completing the first steps of a larger plan for the facility. Though it is now open, it is only the first phase of that dream. Director Sanford noted last year that the hopes for the facility include two more phases.

In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger area for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.

In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to be finalized.

Ultimately, the CORE wants to continue spreading and growing this larger community where possible. Opportunities that may come have yet to be revealed, but one ribbon-cutting today, one celebration, can lead to something bigger than imagining tomorrow.

Maintenance and Land Use nearing decisions in BOC

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final decisions may be coming soon as the county considers densities and more with recent changes in Land Use Ordinances.

Having been on the agenda for several months, this item was revisited during a first reading and gone through several public hearings and adjustments from the Building Association and local builders. This month finally saw the ordinance pass a first reader. The county will revisit it next month for a second reading and final adoption to put an end to the lengthy process.

However, few complaints are being heard on the time taken for this ordinance, instead, confirmations and thanks are forefront as the county did not vote to pass the reader months ago when asked by citizens and builders for more time to study and give input on changes for the ordinance.

Cleaning and maintenance for the Gilmer Courthouse is also still being debated as the Commissioners and Maintenance Director D.J. Spagnola look into options for cleaning the stained bricks on the courthouse. While pressure washing is too rough, causing damage to the stone, painting does not seem good enough to cover over the stains either. The stains come from a moss, not a mold, according to Spagnola.

Looking at proposals for cleaning, Spagnola is looking for lasting options instead of the temporary fixes the county has been using. He spoke of meeting with an architect to look at ways to seal the capstone in order to protect it from the water, moss, and stains that continue to damage the exterior.

The board officially approved Shane Bowman as a member to the Department of Family & Children’s Services Board.

The board also approved Tony Whitaker as a member to the Ellijay-Gilmer County Water & Sewerage Authority.

 

Probate Court celebrates certifications

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

Gilmer County's Probate Judge Scott Chastain

Gilmer County’s Probate Judge Scott Chastain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

Former Gilmer County Probate Judge Anita Mullins

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

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

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

Gilmer County Schools closed Friday, March 15, 2019

Announcements, Education

Ellijay, GA.- Gilmer County schools will be closed for students all day on Friday, March 15, 2019 for Professional Learning/Staff Development Day. Teachers and staff are still expected to report for work this day, however.

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2019 Night to Shine – A night unlike any other

Community

Shine Like the Stars in the Universe

There is one night a year when stars above look down in awe. Friday, February 8, 2019, was that special night.

Excitement filled the air as paparazzi and crowds gathered for the red carpet event hosted by First United Methodist Church of Union County (FUMC) in Blairsville. Honored guests from Fannin, Gilmer, and Union counties in Georgia and Cherokee County, SC, would soon arrive.

On this “Night to Shine”, 108 Kings and Queens in their finest attire were escorted through the cheering crowd by students from Young Harris College, volunteers from FUMC, and from the community. Just the beginning of a very special evening for memories to last a lifetime.

The royal guests were delighted to be pampered by hairdressers or to have their shoes shined before heading off on a thrilling ride in a stretch limousine. Then it was time for dancing, what many attendees had been looking forward to and so they danced the night away.

As the evening came to a close each King and Queen received a gift bag along with a t-shirt commemorating the event.

Former NFL quarterback, Heisman winner, and current New York Mets outfielder, Tim Tebows’ Night to Shine is now in its 5th year. According to the Tim Tebow Foundation website, this special night’s history began in 2014 with a simple vision, “work with churches around the country to provide an unforgettable prom night experience, centered on God’s love for people with special needs, ages 14 and older.”

In 2015, the first Night to Shine was held with help from 15,000 volunteers among 44 participating churches in 26 states and 3 countries to make 7,000 honored guests feel like royalty. In 2019 the event now has over 600 churches from around the world to make a memorable event for an estimated 100,000 Kings and Queens with the help of 200,000 volunteers!

This is the second year First United Methodist Church of Union County hosted the event.

Information about sponsoring a 2020 attendee, volunteering or the mission of Tim Tebow foundation can be found online: www.timtebowfoundation.org

Churches wishing to join in the “worldwide movement celebrating God’s love for people with special needs and the value of life” can find more information about hosting, fundraising and financial grants on the website.

Giggles, laughter and smiling faces beaming with pure joy were, without question no match for the heavenly stars on this “Night to Shine”.

Shine Like the Stars in the Universe
Linda Strickland on the Red Carpet
Jonathan Waters and Michelle Queen
Annette Freer on the Red Carpet
Rick Cruse and escort on the Red Carpet
Party Room
The stage is all set!
Kristell Hannah
Sonny Thomas and Shelby Bittenbinder
Amanda King wears her tiara proudly
Kari Castlen with her tiara
Rena Nelson
Eric Morris and Bailey Whitener
At 9 p.m., balloons fell on the Kings and Queens of Night To Shine ending the evenings festivities.
Gini Bell, Fannin County Special Olympics Co-ordinator

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