County backs off from creating Board of Elections

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting, Board

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Once again returning to conversations of an election board in Gilmer County, the Board of Commissioners is putting the agenda item to create a board on hold.

According to Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, the BOC will not host the agenda item on every meeting as previously planned. The decision came among the board’s agreement after Paris reported that he thought it best to seek an alternative path due to his investigations and considerations of the board’s make-up.

Paris said, “When I got to looking around some at Elections Boards, what I found is that yeah almost all counties have them, but a lot of counties are having a lot of problems with them.”

Paris noted Fulton County specifically whose election board is denying legal requests for documents. He also noted reported problems in Fannin County where board members won’t speak to each other.

Paris said, “I don’t believe the two parties can hold civil conversation between themselves nowadays.” Though he noted that he previously believed Gilmer might be one of the few places it could occur, he no longer felt that way.

Acknowledging that elections have grown, Paris said he understood that elections are so minutely watched and that the work is substantially larger than it used to be.

The discussion continued with Post Commissioner Hubert Parker saying he agreed with not moving forward on an election board until the alternative has been studied.

Scott Chastain, Elections,

Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain

That alternative that the Board of Commissioners agreed to pursue and the Probate Judge Scott Chastain is currently looking into, involves reconfiguring the Probate Office to possibly include some extra staff to “offload” some of that work.

What the Probate Office would use this staff for in off years without elections is yet to be discussed. However, the concept is in very early stages as both entities continue to look for a path forward.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “I think that’s fantastic because that group has done a fantastic job with our elections.”

Paris echoed the sentiment saying Gilmer is among the few counties, in his opinion, that had a flawless election.

With a solid path forward for the commissioners, Paris made a final note that he told Judge Chastain that if there was a push in state legislation to force a Board of Elections, Gilmer would “fight it tooth and nail.”

However, Paris was also quick to note that while he shared this with Judge Chastain, it was not as a threat. Rather he wanted him to know the county’s stance. Paris said the conversation was “not contentious.” He went on to add that Chastain has been very civil in all conversations considering the county’s path forward for elections.

Ingram may have threatened more than courthouse

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Earlier this week, a threat was reported and dealt with regarding the Gilmer County Courthouse on the night of January 5, 2021.

The reported threat allegedly came from Travis Webb Ingram, 44. Ingram was arrested by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office the same day. Facing a felony charge of Terroristic Threats and Actions according to the Sheriff’s Booking Report, Ingram allegedly made threats on social media about going to the courthouse with a bomb. The report indicates as much, stating the offense location as cyberspace.

Travis Webb Ingram

Travis Webb Ingram

However, according to the Sheriff’s report, the courthouse may not have been the only threat issued or the only charge possibly brought against Ingram.

The report indicates possible drug involvement in the incident. Reports indicate a suspicion of use or involvement of methamphetamines. While the investigation continues, new charges could be brought up, but for now, the only noted charge remains Terroristic threats.

In addition to the threat of a bomb against the courthouse, there was alleged reports noted in the incident report that Ingram was “extremely angry” and posed threats “against law enforcement and his ex-girlfriend’s life.”

The Sheriff’s Office dispatched several units to locations in response to the threat including the courthouse and to Ingram’s address. After arrest, Ingram was taken to the Gilmer County Detention Center for processing.

All of these new details including the allegations of drug use with methamphetamines, threats against the additional female, and threats against police are coming from the Sheriff’s Office on incident report. Yet, no additional charges were noted on the arrest record. FYN will continue to add new updates to this story as Sheriff Stacy Nicholson releases additional details.

Gilmer Probate recognizes Clerks state certification

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Probate Office has recognized achievements for two of its clerks as they have reached 90 hours of state training to become “Certified Probate Clerks.”

Probate Clerk Jennifer West, right, receives her certification from Gilmer Probate Judge Scott Chastain, left.

Probate Judge Scott Chastain presented both Jennifer Carney and Jennifer West with certificates for their state certification at a ceremony this week.

Chastain said, “Carney is a deputy probate clerk who focuses most of her time on probate matters, but is also very capable of doing just about anything that needs to be done in the office. West is a deputy probate clerk who focuses most of her time assisting citizens with general questions, marriage licenses, weapon carry licenses, paying traffic citations, death and birth certificates and many other duties at the front window.”

The training is administered and approved by the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education and the Council of Probate Judges. Chastain noted last year that these programs offer a recognition for 30 hours and 60 hours of training for the program.

Speaking to both Carney and West, Chastain said, “I am extremely proud of these ladies and their tremendous accomplishment.”

Clerks

Probate Clerk Jennifer Carney, right, receives her certification from Gilmer Probate Judge Scott Chastain, left.

While this week celebrated and recognized these two clerks for their accomplishments, this day also represents another step for the Probate Office. In April 2019, Judge Chastain stated a goal that he wanted to have all five staff members state certified.

Now, with the completion of the 90-hour certification program, Gilmer County now has all five of the probate clerks state certified. This is includes Jennifer Carney, Jana Grno, Lyndsay Hightower, Tracy Teague, and Jennifer West. The previous three, Jana Grno, Tracy Teague, and Lyndsay Hightower, were recognized last April.

With this, according to Chastain, there are currently 12 Probate Offices in the state of Georgia that have all of their clerk’s state certified. However, Chastain added, “I believe Gilmer County is the only county in Georgia that has a staff of five and all of them are certified.”

Gilmer amid statewide recount and audit of elections

Election 2020, Feature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories, News
recount

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County and its Probate Court are deep amid recounting ballots today as they join in what Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins is calling both an audit and a recount for the Presidential Election of 2020.

recount

With employees from the Probate Office, Registrars, and some other volunteers, officials are fully confident in finishing the counting by Tuesday night.

A major stress on certain county offices, this major process has drawn in employees from both the Probate Office and Registrar’s Office to undertake recounting every one of the 16,576 ballots cast in Gilmer County, according to viewers and officials present at the recount.

Begun on Friday, November 14, 2o20, the process is being undertaken in the Jury Assembly Room of the Gilmer County Courthouse. Gilmer Probate Judge Scott Chastain said they used the Jury Assembly Room to allow public access and viewing of the audit, as required by law. However, he said the room also allowed for social distancing between tables and for space so that one table would not accidentally hear someone from the next table over possibly causing some confusion.

Chastain told FYN that the process was going well on Friday, and they have been looking at the progress daily. Scheduled to count through today and ending tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17, 2020, they actually have until midnight on Wednesday to finish the count. This means that if something happens, the county does have a buffer of one extra day just in case.

recount

Registrar Sherri Jones, left, helps alongside Gary Watkins, right, in the 2020 recount and audit of the Presidential Election on November 13, 2020.

Nearly twenty people at some times helping the process with including some floating staff that comes and goes, Chastain said that eleven core people including the elections review board are constantly working through the process.

Chastain and Watkins are both confident in the speed they have been accomplishing the task and are both fully confident in finishing in the scheduled time.

One of the major points of note in this process, those involved in recounting the ballots are only counting the presidential election. Chastain said this was a concern of his in the beginning. He worried that they would be needing to recount every vote in every race. Instead, focusing only on the presidential race is also helping in accomplishing the recount and audit with speed.

Moving forward, two very different outcomes could mean two very different futures for Georgia. Should the audit come up with different numbers than what the computers accounted for, Chastain said, “When we’re finished statewide, my hope is what the machines said is what we come up with. Because if we have different numbers than the machines, it’s not going to be a good situation statewide.”

recount

A part of the statewide audit and recount, Gilmer County is going through 16,576 ballots through day-of, in-person-early, and absentee voting.

Chief Registrar Tammy Watkins echoed a similar thought saying that the recount could prove to be a test for the election equipment statewide. Watkins has also voiced, in previous interviews, her faith in Gilmer’s elections staff and poll workers and has been happy with the efforts that Gilmer has put forth in elections.

This specific election has seen records broken in terms of those visiting in early voting as well as absentee ballots. Yet, this phrase is beginning to lose some of its impact as Gilmer has repeatedly increased in the numbers this year in each of the election days throughout local, state, and federal offices.

Regardless of what the audit comes up with, some are still concerned that hand counts could become a common thing in future elections with parties constantly claiming instances of voter fraud and suppression as well as other things. However, nothing concrete has been reported yet.

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.

Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

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Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

News

Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

 

Hunter Hill visits Ellijay

Election 2018

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Continuing his campaign for Governor, Hunter Hill made a stop in Ellijay on May 2 to speak with local citizens about his plans for the office if elected.

Hill spoke to local citizens over breakfast at Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant on Highway 282.

Arriving at 8 a.m., Governor Candidate Hunter Hill steps off his bus to meet citizens at Mike's Ellijay Restaurant.

Arriving at 8 a.m., Governor Candidate Hunter Hill steps off his bus to meet citizens at Mike’s Ellijay Restaurant.

Hill is a former Army Ranger who has been in the State Senate for five years now. After resigning his seat in August to run for Governor, Hill has been focusing on his vision for Georgia and spreading that message to rally voters. Today, he spoke with citizens in Ellijay about the ideals for “less government, less taxes, and more freedom.”

With “career politicians,” as Hill noted, in office, it is an undermining of our values as a nation. He called out those politicians saying they were not even willing to risk their next election to uphold their oath.

Focusing more specifically on the recent issue of sanctuary cities. Adamantly against the topic, Hill said, “If a city or county in this state were to claim itself a sanctuary city, they would not receive a nickel of state funding.”

After his speech, Hunter Hill paused to answer questions from citizens attending his breakfast meet and greet.

After his speech, Hunter Hill paused to answer questions from citizens attending his breakfast meet and greet.

His second point on his vision for the office reiterated his opinions and intention to eliminate the state income tax. With bordering states already without an income tax, the competitive disadvantage is hurting our state, according to Hill. He went on to say replacing the income tax with a consumption tax setup would alleviate the tax burden from honest Georgians and redistribute that to everyone including visitors to the state and even those making money in illegal ways. Hill stated, “A broad-based consumption tax allows us to have more people that we’re bringing money in from, which allows us to do so at lower rates.”

On a personal note, Hill mentioned his faith pushed him to focus not only on the points of pro-life, pro-second amendment, and also religious liberty. FYN asked Hill if he would be seeking a “Faith Restoration Act” in his first year to which he replied, “Very good chance of that, yeah.”

Hill did confirm that he wanted to pursue faith-based adoption as a part of it saying, “We’ve got to protect our faith-based adoption agencies. We’ve just got to do it. A lot of the reasons that faith-based adoption agencies get involved is to be helpful in congruence with their faith. If you don’t protect their ability to do it in congruence with their faith, then they will just stop doing it altogether.”

 

Meeting with Gilmer residents for breakfast allowed Hunter Hill a chance to meet and speak with local citizens about issues and his vision for the Governor's Office.

Meeting with Gilmer residents for breakfast allowed Hunter Hill a chance to meet and speak with local citizens about issues and his vision for the Governor’s Office.

Protecting people of faith and their ability to live and work based on that faith was a focus of Hill’s speech about the governor’s office, but also on his words about his future view of the state. He noted after winning on key policy issues aligned with our values and principals, he wanted to remind senators and house members of the values and principals that they were elected for, providing a singular vision to move forward under.

 

“Fighting for the people of Georgia” is what he says his focus is as Hill says he sees polls with him ahead of Kemp and closing in on Cagle. Separating himself, Hill says he’s not the career politician like Cagle and is very different than Kemp on issues like the income tax and limited government. But when comparing, Hill said he wanted to focus on his campaign and his vision to protect liberties and endorsements like the Georgia Right to Life to be a different candidate.

While most of those present were already Hill supporters like retired Gilmer county citizen, George Winn, who said he’s been a Hill supporter “all the way.” Based upon his stances as a military, Christian conservative who is a believable and trustworthy conservative.

Others like Ken Bailey find themselves supporting Hill as the best candidate. Following the campaign because “Hunter is not a politician. He is a fresh, young face and not a part of the established system, which needs to be broken up I think. I think he’s got good ideas. We don’t need to have a state income tax, that puts a handicap on us.” Bailey went on to say that he liked some of the other candidates and even knew some personally, but felt Hill was the best choice.

He also commented his appreciation of the choice in the election. With fine candidates available, Bailey said its great to not have to pick the best of a bad selection.

Hill continues his bus tour across Georgia with his final stop at the Cobb GOP Headquarters in Marietta on Saturday afternoon, May 2.

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