Sheriff candidate responds to agency’s virus response

News
Towns County Sheriff Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In response to a report on a Tuesday meeting at the Towns County Courthouse called to bring together local leaders at the helm of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn took aim at the Towns County Sheriff’s Office for not attending the relevant conference.

“Imagine that, a National and State declared health state of emergency and the Towns County Sheriff’s Office does not believe it’s important to attend a vital county Emergency Management briefing on the COVID-19 virus,” Osborn said in part on his campaign page. “There are two candidates for the Office of Sheriff that are employed at the Sheriff’s Office, why did they not attend?”

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, along with the two city mayors and emergency officials from Towns County EMA, EMS, Fire and Rescue, Hiawassee Police Department, and Young Harris Police Department attended the briefing, contributing input on the response measures taking form. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith publicly noted the absence of the sheriff’s office while explaining what is known on their procedures, and how the city department is adapting to the virus.

Towns County COVID 19

COVID-19 response meeting at the Towns County Courthouse.

The conference, called by the commissioner, was intentionally held in the Towns County courtroom to provide social distancing between attendees.

FYN attempted to contact Towns County Chief Deputy Terry Conner, who was aware of the meeting, on Tuesday afternoon for an explanation as to why Sheriff Chris Clinton or his deputies did not represent the department. Conner replied late Wednesday afternoon, stating that the department would issue a press release on the Towns County Detention Center’s amended daily operations plan. After multiple attempts to learn why the county agency did not attend the meeting, Conner stated that the department was following health advice to avoid group gatherings.

Sheriff candidate Jim Couch, a captain with the sheriff’s office, redirected FYN to his “supervisor” on Tuesday afternoon via text. Challenger and Deputy Lisa Joseph did not respond to a request for comment.

FYN has reported Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s lack of involvement with local emergency agencies in the past,  most notably in connection with school safety. While county and city agencies attending the briefing exchanged plans to confront the potential arrival of COVID-19, providing information for the press to disseminate to the public, the sheriff’s office’s level of involvement remains unclear.

 

VIDEO: 2020 Towns County Sheriff Candidates’ Forum

Election, News
Towns county Sheriff Candidates Forum 2020

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The COVID-19 scare did not prevent a crowd of constituents from attending the 2020 Towns County Sheriff Candidates’ Forum held Saturday, March 14. Each of the five contenders were asked a series of questions in a staggered order, ranging from their plans for the sheriff’s office to how they intend on handling the law enforcement agency’s operational budget. A consistent theme throughout the forum was the contenders’ ambition to instill community policing and combat the drug problem in the area.

FYN provided a live-streamed video of the forum for viewers to watch in real-time.

The forum was hosted by the Towns County Republican Party and moderated by John Van Vliet, a professor at Young Harris College. Candidates for Towns County’s next sheriff — Jim Couch, Linda Curtis, Kenneth Henderson, Lisa Joseph, and Daren Osborn — had informational tables set up in the lobby of Towns County Schools for citizens to learn more about their campaign platforms and obtain signs or stickers of support.

Each candidate issued opening and closing statements between the multiple questions submitted by Towns County residents. A mild rift occurred when contestant Joseph stated that she was a good choice for sheriff due to her short time residing in the county and lack of kin who could be shown special treatment if a native Towns Countian was elected. Candidate Osborn, a lifelong resident of Towns County, took advantage of the time allotted for his closing statement to respond to Joseph’s statement, vowing that the insinuation would not be the case if elected.

Interestingly, the five candidates responded in limited terms when asked where their campaign contributions stemmed, with the contestants listing self-funding and “family and friends” as donors. Candidates are required to file a campaign contribution disclosure statement with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission in order to disclose the identities of financial backers. Osborn, however, divulged that his contributions have amounted to approximately $10,000 thus far.

Contender Henderson publicly canceled his March 31 “meet and greet” as a health precaution due to the coronavirus outbreak. Towns County Republican Chair Betsy Young announced at the start of the forum that no cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the Ninth District as of March 14, 2020.

New candidate for sheriff emerges as contestants take stage

Election, News
Towns County Election 2020

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County sheriff candidates and coroner contestants attended the February meeting of the Towns County Republican Party, Feb. 27. Each candidate was permitted five minutes to present an introduction speech to GOP members and visiting constituents. Newcomer to the sheriff’s race, Craig Earon, publicly announced candidacy at the Republican forum. Although present, sheriff’s contender Linda Curtis declined the invitation to address voters, explaining to FYN that she was advised against “partisan party affiliation and lobbying” by her federal employer prior to supervisory approval next week.

Tamela Cooper Towns County

Coroner challenger Tamela Cooper

Towns County coroner candidate Tamela Cooper, who holds a degree in moratory science, was first to speak. The funeral home owner-director serves as a deputy coroner under Towns County Coroner Harold Copeland. “Since my initial training in 2013, I have attended six different annual, in-service trainings, and have taken both of their specialty classes, personalized classes. in photography and blood splatter,” Cooper said in part. “I have worked over 150 cases in the Towns County coroner’s office, and I’ve cared for over 750 decedents at my funeral home.  I have worked everything from heart attacks, strokes, and car accidents, suicides, drug overdoses, and unfortunately, child fatalities. And I use the knowledge I gained in college courses and seven years I have in experience on every case I step on…If we were standing here tonight and talking about a fire chief position, you would not see me here…One of the things I do want to bring to light is that as it stands right now if we were to have a mass fatality situation, we have a fire chief and a coroner that would be working both search and rescue and fatalities. Those two positions, in my belief, need to be different. One person can’t possibly handle all of that if we were to have that situation in our town.”

Harold Copeland Towns County

Coroner incumbent Harold Copeland

Towns County Coroner Harold “H” Copeland followed. Copeland ran unopposed in 2016, securing the seat without competition. The fire chief stated that he initially decided to run for office based on past wait time for a coroner to arrive on the scene.  “The coroner business is a brutal business,” Copeland said. “It’s like (Cooper) said when we come to your house; I’ve worked four cases this month, that’s four cases too many. And it’s not fun when we come to your house because somebody’s grandpa, somebody’s mama, somebody’s child is there. So I believe in getting in there and treating the family with respect, moving on about what has to be done, and calling Cochran’s or Banister’s which leads me to another deal,” Copeland said, falling short of alleging that Cooper’s position as a funeral home director may constitute a conflict of interest.

Click to read: Cooper addresses ‘conflict of interest’ in coroner’s race

Jim Couch Towns County

Sheriff candidate Jim Couch

Towns County sheriff candidates next addressed the full house.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jim Couch alphabetically led the preliminary forum. Couch began by recounting his law enforcement experience which began in 1978, including success with youth cadet involvement. “Here, I’d love to start that same program. It’s real easy to do…,” Couch said. “Now I’m with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. I’m a captain. Right now I supervise 18 personnel. That’s patrol, investigations, school resource officers, court services. All those personnel, I do supervise. Four more are part-timers. Before that in White County, I supervised up to 30 personnel. I know how to supervise folks.” Couch, who announced candidacy following Sheriff Chris Clinton’s withdraw from re-election, said that officers enjoy working under his leadership because he does not “yell” at them. “I support my people, and I’ll do what I need to help those people advance in their career to meet their goal.” Couch concluded by stating that he is not looking inside the sheriff’s office, rather, he is within the sheriff’s office looking forward.

Craig Earon Towns County

Sheriff candidate Craig Earon

Craig Earon, the newest sheriff’s candidate, followed Couch. “Five years ago my wife and I moved here to Hiawassee from Gainesville, GA. We found this location to be paradise,” Earon began. “I’ve been retired for seven years and, of course, I get underfoot at the house and my wife wanted me to find something else to do, and I am running for sheriff.  I have a background working with most of the federal agencies; FBI, NSA, the U.S. Patent Trade Office, primarily security stuff for their systems. I’ve always enjoyed my work with long hours and never afraid to put in the extra hours necessary.” Earon said that his work history includes Fortune 500 employment, and explained that his law enforcement experience consisted of assisting an officer with warrant delivery in Norcross, GA. “I’m a quick learner. I do not have a law enforcement background, but I can tell you, I’m a quick study and I’m willing to put the hours in to get it done…When I heard that Chris Clinton was leaving, I wanted to at least throw my hat in to try to fill the void, and I believe I can do that.” Earon closed with a Ronald Reagan quote on law enforcement.

Ken Ode Henderson Towns County

Sheriff candidate Kenneth Henderson

Next up was sheriff’s contender Kenneth “Ode” Henderson. “If I’m elected your sheriff, I want to make sure that our officers are getting at least 40 hours of training each year,” Henderson said. “Now, Georgia only mandates that we do 20 hours, but I want to make sure we do at least 40. I hope that we can do more than that.” The Young Harris College police chief noted implementing “community-orientated type training,” along with the continuation of CLEA. Henderson stated that he plans to work in cooperation with local and surrounding law enforcement agencies, and intends to maintain state accreditation. The sheriff’s candidate spoke on creating a local, anonymous drug hotline and applying funds from seizures as reward incentives. Henderson reiterated wanting to change the pattern of current patrol cars to black-and-white to increase visibility and the value of a cadet program. “I want to reach out to our young folks. I want to work with them. I’ve done that for 38 years and have wonderful rapport with our students in working with them and want to do that in Towns County with ours. I want to keep drugs away from them, and we’re going to hire professional drug agents…If you’re selling drugs in Towns County, Towns County Sheriff’s Office is coming for you, and I promise you that. That will be our number one priority.”  Henderson assured that he will enact an open-door policy if elected.

Lisa Joseph Towns County

Sheriff candidate Lisa Joseph

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Lisa Joseph addressed constituents. “I do not bring as many years of experience to the road as some of my opponents,” Joseph explained. “What I do bring to the table is I have two Master’s degrees. I have a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Education, and you may ask yourself, what does that mean to you? What it should mean to you is that I can teach law enforcement as it applies today.” Joseph claimed that if law enforcement is conducted the way it was in past decades, it could lead to “lawsuits or jail time,” adding that a “fresh” approach is needed. “Law enforcement changed and we have to be able to change with it.” The patrol deputy said that animal control is an issue raised regularly in the community. “That’s a simple issue that all of us, including the commissioner’s office, can work together to have animal control,” Joseph said, moving on to say that she intends to retain the “high standards” within the sheriff’s office, including state accreditation.

Daren Bear Osborn Towns County

Sheriff candidate Daren Osborn

Lastly, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn took the podium. “I’ve lived here in Towns County my entire life, born and raised here. I’ve been in law enforcement for 33 years,” Osborn began, listing experience serving with several departments and education in management and supervisor training. “I know why many of you moved here…We, as citizens of Towns County, want to keep our county safe, do we not? That’s why we moved here, and I am running for sheriff to keep this county safe. We have crime. It’s no secret. We have crime everywhere, and we’re going to attend to that problem. Drugs are our number one problem here in the county, and when you have drugs, you have thefts and burglaries. I’m an investigator in Union County at this time, lieutenant over property crimes,” Osborn said. “You have it in Towns County, you have it in Union County. I am, when elected sheriff, going to get back into the drug task force, actively. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and let drugs take over this beautiful community.” Osborn acknowledged that opponent Henderson is equally passionate on the subject of drug enforcement. “Either one of us are going after the drugs. I guarantee you.” Osborn shared that his brother was killed in a car accident, the result of a driver being under the influence of drugs. “You can say it’s personal. Yeah, it’s personal. I don’t like drugs. I don’t like drivers that’s on the road drinking. I’m not going to tolerate that.” Osborn added that our youth is our future, and vowed to work “day and night” to “stop the problem we have here.”

Betsy Young Towns County

Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young led the meeting.

Retiring Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton did not attend the meeting.

All contenders plan to run on the Republican ticket in the General Primary, May 19.

A sheriff candidates’ forum is scheduled Saturday, March 14, at 6 p.m. at Towns County Schools. Doors open at 5 p.m. Official qualification takes place the week of March 2, 2020.

Related Archive:

UPDATED: Towns County Sheriff Candidates’ Forum planned for mid-March

 

 

 

 

Sheriff’s candidate strives for ‘open dialogue’ with citizens

Election, News
Daren Bear Osborn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A clear line of communication between law enforcement officers and the citizens that they serve is an integral component of effective policing, and it is a topic that Towns County sheriff’s candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn chose to publicly address Feb. 11.

“I believe that the best way to protect our citizens is to be informed about current issues, problems, and public safety needs in our county,” Osborn stated. “I believe that a strong partnership between law enforcement and local citizens through community policing and information sharing will serve our county well. Many problems can easily be solved through clear communication, open dialogue, and complete transparency. I believe a strong sheriff can lead and serve humanely and compassionately without adversity. A sheriff’s ability to enforce the law without conflict or aggression speaks to his character.”

According to FYN’s research, the U.S. Department of Justice agrees. “Transparency is essential to positive police-community relationships,” the national agency explained. “Strong relationships of mutual trust between police agencies and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Police officials rely on the cooperation of community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods, and to work with the police to devise solutions to crime and disorder problems. Similarly, community members’ willingness to trust the police depends on whether they believe that police actions reflect community values and incorporate the principles of procedural justice and legitimacy.”

Osborn, an active member in the Towns County community long before election season officially began, has spent a vast amount of time practicing what he preached in the form of public outreach. The sheriff’s candidate has met one-on-one with countless residents thus far, gaining a deeper insight into citizens’ concerns.

Osborn said, as sheriff, he will continue encouraging Towns County citizens to bring problems to the attention of law enforcement. “Together, we can accomplish all our goals in making Towns County a safe, pleasant, and respected county in which to live,” Osborn concluded.

Continue to follow FYN for local, state, and national campaign coverage as the May 19 primary election approaches.

FetchYourNews.com attracts over 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month with a 60,000 Facebook page reach. Approximately 15,000 viewers visit FYNTV.com – If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of our counties of coverage, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

Sheriff candidates sound off on future 2A sanctuary

News
Towns County Sheriffs Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Two of the five contenders in the Towns County sheriff’s race have taken bold postures on the popular pro-Second Amendment Sanctuary County movement sweeping Georgia. Sheriff candidates Daren “Bear” Osborn and Linda J. Curtis made their positions clear on social media following FYN’s publication of Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw’s support on the action.

Commissioner Bradshaw stated on Jan. 22 that he is delaying the measure prior to the election of Towns County’s future sheriff later this year. “We’ll obviously need the support of the sheriff’s office to move forward,” Bradshaw told FYN, referencing the upcoming retirement of current Sheriff Chris Clinton. The commissioner’s response to the issue drew ample approval from grateful Towns County residents.

“Again, as sheriff, I will fully support any and all state and local officials in making Towns County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County,” Osborn reiterated on Jan. 23.

Towns County sheriff Election

Daren “Bear” Osborn began speaking out on the issue prior to the commissioner’s public support.

Curtis followed suit two days later. “I stand behind our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms,” Curtis vowed in a written statement. “They will have to physically remove me from office before I would hurt the residents of Towns County with an unconstitutional order to remove our guns. Not on my watch…EVER!” Curtis has been active in condoning the hot topic in a newly-formed Facebook group, Georgia 2A Sanctuary Counties.

Linda Curtis - Towns County sheriffs election

Linda Curtis, candidate for Towns County sheriff

The pro-Second Amendment group has grown to include over 23,000 members in a mere week’s time. Candidate Kenneth “Ode” Henderson, in addition to contender Jim Couch, has joined the viral group of gun rights supporters, although neither contestant has publicly voiced their personal positions on the matter. Couch, however, shared earlier this month on his social media page that he stands “with the position of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association regarding our Second Amendment rights.”

The fifth candidate to enter the Towns County sheriff’s race, Lisa Joseph, has remained silent pertaining to the matter thus far.

The Second Amendment Sanctuary County movement gained swift traction in Georgia following the widely controversial “red flag” law recently introduced in Virginia. The purpose of a sanctuary county is to ensure that a locality will not use law enforcement resources to execute proposed antigun laws.

UPDATE: Georgia 2A Sanctuary Counties has since renamed itself Georgia Citizen Defense League Group

 

 

Interview with Osborn, candidate for Towns County’s next sheriff

Election, News
Daren Bear Osborn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN interviewed Towns County sheriff’s candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn last week, peering into the contender’s plans if elected to office in 2020. Osborn was the first challenger to enter the sheriff’s race, a month prior to Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton’s retraction to seek a fourth term. Osborn released a lengthy list of goals and objectives Oct. 16, five days after his candidacy announcement. The sheriff’s candidate has undoubtedly put into action his promise to become “a working sheriff,” regularly attending political engagements and volunteering at community events with wife, Missy, long before his campaign officially launched. Osborn had since taken to visiting Towns County constituents in a door-to-door approach, seeking future votes of confidence.

FYN opened the interview by reviewing Osborn’s qualifications, along with what sets the contender apart from the two candidates who have since entered the race. The 33-year career law enforcement officer recalled his years of serving as police chief of Hiawassee Police Department, police chief of Baldwin, GA, and time spent within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I’m a lifelong resident of Towns County. My family has always been here. I love these mountains and the people,” Osborn said. “Experience counts. I’ve worked all levels of crimes, on scene, from murders to thefts to misdemeanors.” Osborn stated that he had completed each of the three tiers of Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) training, including law enforcement supervision and management.
When asked what Osborn believes is working well within the present-day sheriff’s office, and what could benefit from improvement, Osborn touched upon several subjects. “There’s a strong deputy effort to stop drugs, but that ends after the arrests,” Osborn explained. “Investigations should be continued, leading to high-level dealers rather than ending with small-time users.” The sheriff’s contestant stated that if elected, a drug task force will be formulated, with an “in-house” narcotic agent brought on board. Osborn cited drugs as the most pressing issue that he plans to tackle. When asked which commonly abused drug poses the highest risk to the community – methamphetamine or opioids – Osborn quickly responded, “both,” adding that marijuana is equally destructive. “I classify all drugs in the same category. Marijuana is a gateway drug, and all drugs lead to distribution. It starts with marijuana. These vaping cartridges, for example, some contain 98-percent THC. It’s killing these kids, and it’s all marijuana-related. Once they get on something, they can’t get off, and people start ‘going big’ with drugs.” Osborn included that drug use often translates to an uptick in property crimes.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office investigator elaborated that he intends to initiate a drug intervention program similar to that of Rock Bottom Recovery and Support in Clay County, NC. Rock Bottom Recovery visits inmates incarcerated on drug-related charges. “For lack a better term, Rock Bottom witnesses to the inmates,” Osborn said. “They’re educated on what drugs can do, and taught that there’s a better way of life.” Osborn confided that he would seek advisement from those who have battled an addiction to address the prevalent problem adequately.
Moreover, Osborn stated that additional patrol deputies are justified in Towns County, an issue that Sheriff Clinton publicly raised following his retirement rescript. Towns County Sheriff’s Office currently employs two patrol deputies per shift, assigned to eastern and western zones. Osborn confided that he is confident that he can operate within a budget set forth by the commissioner’s office. The candidate reiterated the importance of deputy training, adding that while the State of Georgia requires 20 hours of instruction annually, as sheriff, Osborn intends to aim for a minimum of 40 hours of advanced training within the department.
FYN dug into Osborn’s constitutional position, precisely his views on the 2nd and 4th Amendments. Osborn established that he is “definitely pro-gun” and compliant toward the 4th Amendment – the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. “People will be safe in their homes,” Osborn responded. “All procedures will be played according to law, done right, and if they aren’t breaking the law, there won’t be any problem.”
The interview concluded with FYN questioning whether Osborn had received political backlash on his transition from running on the 2012 Democratic Party’s ticket to that of the Republican Party’s ballot in 2020. Osborn claimed that inquiries have been minimal. “I changed Parties because of my moral stance, and people seem to understand that,” Osborn divulged. “I’ve always been a conservative, and the views of the current Democratic Party are at odds with my beliefs.” The candidate went on to describe himself as a “Zell Miller” policy proponent. Osborn currently serves the Towns County Republican Party as the delegate chairman of the Macedonia district.
Osborn, a lieutenant deputy with Union County Sheriff’s Office, resides in the Bugscuffle community of Hiawassee with his wife, Missy, of 29 years. Osborn is the father of two grown children, Kayla and Tyler,  and a member of Macedonia Baptist Church.
FYN has scheduled a post-holiday interview with Towns County sheriff’s candidate Linda J. Curtis, who entered the race last Thursday. Candidate Kenneth Henderson declined an interview with FYN, offering a future press release, prior to qualification in early March.

2020 candidates attend opening of Republican headquarters

News, Politics
Towns County Republican Party
Stan Gunter

District 8 State House challenger Stan Gunter

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Towns County Republican Party celebrated the opening of its local GOP headquarters Saturday, Nov. 16, during an open house invite for candidates and constituents. Several contenders for Towns County elected seats attended the event, including District 8 State House challenger Stan Gunter, Towns County sheriff challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn, and Towns County Clerk of Court Cecil Dye.

FYN spoke with Dye, the incumbent elected to office in 1984, regarding his decision toward a re-election bid. “I enjoy the job,” Dye said. “I enjoy helping people, and if you like it, you just keep doing it.”

Towns County Clerk of Court

Towns County Clerk of Court incumbent Cecil Dye

Towns County Coroner Harold Copeland, who has not officially announced intent to seek re-election, was in attendance. Family members representing District 8 State House incumbent Matt Gurtler, and U.S. Congressman Doug Collins’ field representative were on site.

Towns County sheriff election

Towns County sheriff’s challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn

The Towns County Republican Party encouraged candidates to leave information, business cards, and campaign signs at the headquarters for area voters.

The Towns County GOP office will be open weekdays beginning Dec. 19, GOP Chair Betsy Young said, from 10 am – 3 pm. After Jan. 1, the hours will increase from 10 am – 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

“During the 72-hour push, the office will be open from 8:30 am until 9 pm,” Young explained. “And we are looking for volunteers who are willing to help man the office throughout the season.”

Six Towns County offices are open for election in 2020:

  • County commissioner
  • Tax commissioner
  • Sheriff
  • Coroner
  • Clerk of Court
  • Probate Judge
Towns County Republican Party headquarters is located at 3921 Highway 76, Unit 8, east of Young Harris.
For additional information, contact GOP Chair Betsy Young at 904-382-1912 or TCGOPChair@gmail.com

 

 

Sheriff’s wife publicly names challenging candidate as rumor source

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Words can lead to dire consequences, and that may prove to be the case for Crystal Clinton, wife of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton. In response to a social media post dated Oct. 20, Ms. Clinton fired online allegations at 2020 sheriff’s challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn, accusing the candidate of starting a pervasive rumor that Sheriff Clinton sought treatment for drug addiction. Ms. Clinton publicly claimed that she learned the source of the widespread rumor through an estranged relative who supervises Osborn’s law enforcement division in a neighboring county.

FetchYourNews (FYN) met with Osborn and his supervisor Nov. 1, both of whom adamantly denied Ms. Clinton’s allegations. “I did not start the rumor,” Osborn asserted. Osborn’s supervisor explained that she, like many in the community, heard talk of the sheriff’s alleged stint at a rehabilitation facility long before the topic was broached by Osborn, and attempted to learn firsthand whether the hearsay held weight through the Clinton clan.

FYN followed a similar course of action in late February, offering Sheriff Clinton an opportunity to address the rampant rumor of addiction after inquiries on his whereabouts poured into FYN from dozens of concerned citizens. Sheriff Clinton ceased communication with FYN at that time.

Crystal Clinton

A controversial screenshot posted to the Facebook group, “Make Towns County Great Again, vote out Chris Clinton.”

The sheriff’s spouse continued on in reference to Towns County’s “safety officer,” Emergency Management Agency-Homeland Security Director Brandon Walls, publicly alleging that the appointed official is a “convicted felon” and insinuating that Walls should not be trusted to hold the county position. “The only statement I will make at this time is that her accusation is false,” Walls said.

Developments are expected as a result of what the parties involved consider defamation.

Ms. Clinton did not respond to FYN’s request for comment, issued via email through Sheriff Clinton, prior to publication.

 

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Osborn releases platform as Towns County sheriff’s race begins

News, Politics
Towns County Sheriff Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Daren “Bear” Osborn, a challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race, took to social media Oct. 16, sharing his logic for seeking office in the 2020 election. Osborn listed multiple goals and objectives, including advanced training within the law enforcement agency, the importance of cooperation between the sheriff’s office and local emergency departments, school safety improvements, and developing a community-oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse.

“Towns County deserves a working sheriff, one who will actively serve the community in uniform, and I hope to fulfill that position,” Osborn told FYN. The Republican candidate added that he intends to be a “visible” sheriff, and plans to continue his involvement in the community if elected.

While Osborn did not mention incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton, the sheriff’s candidate expressed platform-related concerns in the past. Osborn gained publicity earlier this year in connection to a highly-controversial fatal accident that many, including Osborn, believe could have been prevented by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office through proper training.

Daren Bear Osborn

Daren “Bear” Osborn

FYN later reported that Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies declined participation in two training seminars held within the county: ARIDE training – an acronym for Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement – which was offered in Hiawassee, and school security training held in Young Harris. Sheriff Clinton was extended an invitation to speak at the security event, hosted by Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, yet he did not make an appearance at the state course. Osborn previously labeled the “missed opportunities” as such.

Furthermore, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton drew negative publicity in 2018, following what many in the community considered a botched Towns County Schools active shooter drill. Dozens of first responders from Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Fire and Rescue, Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Emergency Management Agency expressed disapproval – based on exclusion from participation in the campus drill – describing Clinton’s approach as a habitual, “lone ranger” tactic. “This is not the way training should be done,” Osborn remarked last year on social media. “You have to work together as a team or the mission will not be accomplished.” Towns County first responders, including department heads, continue to note a general lack of communication and poor cooperation from Sheriff Clinton with local emergency agencies, an issue that Osborn promised to remedy if elected.

Osborn listed the following goals and objectives as his campaign platform:

– Be a full-time “Working Sheriff” in a Class A uniform.
– Drive a marked patrol vehicle to be highly visible to the public.
– Develop a community oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse. Good people can get addicted. We want to save these people.
– Establish a strong relationship with our Homeowner Associations, encouraging neighborhood watch programs. Provide security check lists for homeowners and security checks.
– Re-establish strong working relationships with all surrounding law enforcement agencies, as well as the fire department, EMS, and 911 center.
– Establish regularly scheduled training with outside law enforcement agencies and public safety, such as SWAT training, active shooter, and felony warrant service.
– Provide additional training for all deputies for job specific assignments, patrol investigations, courthouse, and school resource officers.
– Implement a minimum annual training level which exceeds the current Georgia mandated training of 20 hours per year.
– Deputies will receive training from POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training) certified instructors, NOT online webinars!
– Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for all deputies – to help those suffering from mental health issues which law enforcement commonly encounters.
– Host regional law enforcement training for all agencies.
– Work with school officials to ensure the safety of our children and staff, as well as visitors to our schools.
– Work with commissioner to establish and fund an animal control deputy.

A second challenger, Kenneth “Ode” Henderson, entered the Towns County sheriff’s race Oct. 15.

Article archives can be found by clicking the highlighted links above.

 

Bipartisan support apparent as Osborn launches sheriff’s campaign

Opinion
Osborn vs Clinton

EDITORIAL – Daren “Bear” Osborn officially launched his campaign Oct. 11, challenging Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton in the 2020 sheriff’s election, and immediate support for the opposition candidate is proving widespread. The social media response to the veteran law enforcement officer’s announcement has revealed an outpouring of mixed approval from known Republican and Democratic constituents.

Daren Bear Osborn

Daren “Bear” Osborn

Over the weekend, several hundred supporters from both sides of the political aisle favorably reacted, commented, and eagerly shared the news of Osborn’s entry into the now-contested election through social media. Remarks ranging from simple “congratulations” to overt endorsements calling for a change in leadership have surfaced in response to the publicized announcement. When asked by FYN about the outreach of bipartisan support, Osborn said that he devoted himself to a “person to person” approach prior to Friday’s formal declaration of candidacy. “You get more honest results that way,” Osborn confided.

Osborn, who challenged Clinton via the Democratic ticket in the 2012 general election, intends to campaign and run as a Republican candidate in the May 2020 primary. Osborn explained that while he has always identified as a conservative, the views of the present-day Democratic Party have shifted significantly from his moral stance, prompting his political affiliation transition.  The sheriff’s candidate was chosen as a Towns County Republican Party district delegate for the Macedonia precinct in March 2019.

Osborn’s platform, in part, includes plans to serve Towns County as a working sheriff. “Our community deserves a working sheriff that is dedicated, fair, and will ensure quality law enforcement for Towns County citizens and visitors alike,” Osborn stated on Friday.

Osborn – a Towns County native who has served in law enforcement for 33 years – has been employed as a sheriff’s deputy and criminal investigator in neighboring Union County since 2013.

Osborn is the sole challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race at this time. According to the Towns County Board of Elections, the earliest date to qualify for candidacy is March 2, 2020.

Related Archive:

Clinton receives unfavorable response to campaign announcement

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Young Harris College police chief joins sheriff’s race

News
Ken Henderson - sheriff's candidate

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Kenneth “Ode” Henderson has officially announced intent to run on the Republican ticket in the 2020 Towns County sheriff’s election.

“I will be running in the Republican primary,” Henderson stated on social media. “I have over 35 years in law enforcement and currently serve as the chief at Young Harris College and serve as a police officer for the city of McCayesville, GA. I have also worked for Towns County Sheriff’s Office, under previous administration, and Union County Sheriff’s Office at various times throughout my career. I look forward to sharing more about my qualifications with you in the future as I work to earn your support.”

Henderson joins challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn in the race against incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton.

Image released by candidate

 

Osborn enters Towns County sheriff’s race

News
Daren Bear Osborn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Daren “Bear” Osborn officially announced intent to challenge incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton in the 2020 Towns County sheriff’s race.

“Our community deserves a working sheriff that is dedicated, fair, and will ensure quality law enforcement for Towns County citizens and visitors alike,” Osborn told FYN.

The Towns County native began his career in law enforcement in 1986, and has served as a deputy and criminal investigator with neighboring Union County Sheriff’s Office since 2013.

Osborn said that in order to be a leader, one must first be a servant, and that he strives to offer his experience and service to the citizens of Towns County. Coupled with the community support that he has received over the past several years, Osborn explained that it encouraged his decision to seek office.

Osborn, who previously ran for sheriff in the 2012 general election, presently represents the Macedonia district as a Towns County Republican Party delegate chairman.

“I will be the change you need and the voice you deserve,” Osborn publicly stated.

Osborn is the sole challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race thus far.

 

Click for Daren Osborn archives

 

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Additional Details Surrounding Silvers’ Fatal Accident Surface

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Terry Silvers fatal accident

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – New discoveries have surfaced surrounding the death of Terry Samuel Silvers, a 52 year old Hiawassee resident who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 23, in Clay County, N.C. Additional witnesses have come forth on Silvers’ behalf, attesting to Silvers’ condition on the evening preceding his death. Furthermore, FYN uncovered the circumstances surrounding the unresponsive, emergency call issued to Towns County Sheriff’s Office the following night.

FYN released information three days after Silvers’ passing, exposing that Silvers had been involved in a vehicle accident on Bugscuffle Road in Towns County, the night prior to the fatal crash. Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s accident report, which was submitted to FYN by a third-party, stated that alcohol and substance screenings were not conducted by law enforcement Feb. 22. FYN since learned that alcohol testing was, in fact, administered to Silvers by the responding deputy.

Terry Silvers was traveling south on Bugscuffle Road when his vehicle entered into the oncoming lane of traffic, colliding with a roadside fence. The accident report states that shifting firewood in the bed of Silvers’ truck contributed to the collision. FYN contacted the owner of the property damaged in the incident, Daren “Bear” Osborn, a veteran law enforcement officer from a neighboring county.

Terry Silvers accident

Most recent social media profile photograph of Terry Silvers

Osborn told FYN that he was present when Towns County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene, and asserted that despite alcohol testing conducted on the now-deceased, Silvers, in his observation, should not have been behind the wheel Feb. 22.

“I didn’t smell alcohol, but based on my training and experience, 32 years, I recognized (Terry) was in no shape to drive due to his condition,” the off-duty deputy explained, “What strikes me as odd is that an alco sensor and HGN was done which does not indicate drug use.” Osborn described Silvers as exhibiting confused behavior while showing evident signs of impaired judgment.

“Alco sensors” are commonly known as breathalizers. HGN, horizantal gaze nystagmus, is a standardized field sobriety test for alcohol-induced impairment.

John Bagley, Osborn’s neighbor, agreed that Silvers was unfit to drive. “(Terry) wrecked right across from my house,” Bagley said. “He was in no shape to be driving. I think there should have been additional tests done. It could have saved his life.”

Throughout the week following Silvers’ death, FYN spoke with over a dozen individuals who relayed that Silvers was a known opioid user with a long history of accidents. Family, friends, and neighbors claimed that Silvers had been released by Towns County Sheriff’s Office on multiple occasions without facing charges.

Terra Silvers, the daugter of Terry Silvers, contacted FYN through our website. “My father, Terry Silvers, had to lose his life due to lack of effort on behalf of Towns County Sheriff’s Office…,” Silvers wrote, “It’s just not fair. They are to protect and serve, but instead they want to let those that are under the influence go. All I can say is I’m really going to miss my dad. He was a good man, respectful, and would help anyone with anything he could. He didn’t deserve this.”

Numerous, additional family members, citizens, and unaffiliated law enforcement officers relayed that Terry Silvers was known to suffer from addiction, with many adding that Silvers’ case was not an isolated incident. One citizen shared her thoughts in the comment section of a previous article published by FYN. “Sad, but there are so many more examples of the TCSO (Towns County Sheriff’s Office) being ‘easy’ on local addicts…,” the remark reads.

On Feb. 23, the evening following the Bugscuffle Road accident, Silvers was traveling west of Hiawassee on Highway 76, when a good samaritan placed a 911 call to Towns County emergency dispatch upon witnessing a white Toyota pickup truck driving recklessly. Heather Segars, a local resident, pursued whom she soon identified as Silvers. pleading for law enforcement to respond to the turned-fatal incident.

As Segars followed Silvers into the parking lot of Cornerstore BP, a gas station at the intersection of Highway 76 and Highway 17, a siren can be heard in the 911 audio, passing the distraught caller. FYN learned that Towns County Sheriff’s Office was responding to a possible prowler off Highway 75, the road that leads to Helen, GA. Two officers had arrived on scene at the residence on Clark Drive at the time the be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) was issued to Towns County Sheriff’s Office. The initial, responding officers cleared the residence, with no disturbance found.

After deliberation and close consultation with the Silvers’ family, along with conversations with the traumatized 911 caller, FYNTV.com released the Feb. 23 emergency audio to allow the public to hear the disturbing interaction firsthand. The Silvers’ family and good samaritan maintain that Towns County Sheriff’s Office could have prevented the Feb. 23 fatality. FYNTV attached a recording of a phone call between a Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputy and the 911 dispatcher that took place shortly after the deadly crash occurred, revealing the Towns County deputy chastising the dispatcher for issuing the BOLO.

FYN contacted Towns County Sheriff’s Office prior to the release of previous articles pertaining to Terry Silvers’ death, offering opportunity to issue a statement on behalf of the department. Towns County Sheriff’s Office has not responded to FYN’s request.

Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw honored with distinguished Republican award

News, Politics
Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

DILLARD, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw was awarded “Distinguished Local Elected Official” by the Ninth District Republican Party at a dinner ceremony at the Dillard House in Rabun County April 12. Towns County citizens submitted letters of nomination, leading to Bradshaw being selected for the recognition.

“Since Cliff was sworn in as commissioner, he has been going to available classes to help him become a better leader…,” one such letter read. “Cliff is a very high energetic young man who always states he wants our county to be successful. It’s our county not his. He is very receptive to all Towns County residents. He is transparent and accountable, especially at the third Tuesday monthly county commissioner‘s meeting. I consider it an honor to be able to nominate Cliff Bradshaw for consideration of the GOP Award for DISTINGUISHED COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIAL in recognition of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in addressing the issues of Towns County.”

Daren Osborn

(L-R) Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Congressman Doug Collins, Macedonia Chair Daren “Bear” Osborn

Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN that he was deeply honored to be nominated and recognized.

The Republican Party hosted the Ninth District convention the following day, April 13, in Dillard. Towns County Delegates representing Hiawassee are Chair Donna Barrow, Secretary Betty Phillips, GOP Chair Betsy Young, GOP First Vice Chair John Alger, Cecil Dye, and Trina Coleman. Young Harris delegates are Chair Charles “Chuck” Luca, Secretary Betty Luca, Scott Ledford, and Harvey Cohen. Delegates representing Macedonia are Chair Daren “Bear” Osborn, Secretary Todd Tibbets, Jeff Pierot, and Melissa Griggs. US Congressman Doug Collins attended the convention, addressing the delegates.

The Georgia Republican Party will hold its state convention May 16-18, 2019, at the Savannah Convention Center in Savannah, Georgia. The event is open to the public, although only delegates may participate in the business matters of the convention.

Feature Photo: Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

 

Towns County Republican Party prepares for 2020, registers precinct delegates

News, Politics
Towns County GOP

HIAWASSEE. Ga. – Towns County Republican Party held their “mass” county convention at the civic center Saturday, March 9. Hiawassee, Macedonia, and Young Harris precincts were represented. A total of 13 delegates registered. A maximum of 105 delegates were allowed.

Towns County Republican

(L-R) Hiawassee Secretary Betty Phillips and Hiawassee Chair Donna Barrow

Former Towns County Secretary Scott Ledford led the meeting. “We are here, essentially, to start 2020,” Ledford began. Resolutions that will advance to the 9th District include support for House Bill 481, restricting abortion, Constitutional Carry, which would eliminate the need for gun permits, support for a study panel to assist veterans’ transitions to civilian life, support for a balanced state budget, term limits for political leaders, and “strong support” for the rights of solely United States citizens to vote. A resolution to repeal the 17th Amendment – which allows the people to elect state senators, rather than by governmental appointment – failed.

Delegates representing Hiawassee are Chair Donna Barrow, Secretary Betty Phillips, GOP Chair Betsy Young, GOP First Vice Chair John Alger, Cecil Dye, and Trina Coleman.

Chuck Luca

(L-R) Young Harris Chair Chuck Luca and Young Harris Secretary Betty Luca

(L-R) Macedonia Secretary Todd Tibbets and Macedonia Chair Daren Osborn

Delegates representing Macedonia are Chair Daren “Bear” Osborn, Secretary Todd Tibbets, Jeff Pierot, and Melissa Griggs.

Delegates representing Young Harris are Chair Charles “Chuck” Luca, Secretary Betty Luca, Scott Ledford, and Harvey Cohen.

Tate City was permitted one delegate although no residents attended.

The delegates will represent Towns County at the upcoming district and state conventions.

 

Towns County Historical Society focuses on Macedonia Baptist Church

Community, News
Macedonia Baptist Church

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Macedonia Baptist Church, a landmark sitting high on a hill along Highway 76, east of Hiawassee city limits, has a deep history that is unbeknownst to many. The story of the chapel was the focus of discussion at the Towns County Historical Society meeting on Oct. 8, 2018. The informative program was presented by Macedonia Baptist Church Deacon Roger Dyer, and lifelong member Daren “Bear” Osborn.

The room was filled to near capacity with church members and county residents, including Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and former Commissioner Bill Kendall, both instrumental in preserving the beloved history of Towns County.

Founded as Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in 1839, with the land deeded by Major Josiah Carter, the first of four eventual structures was built behind where the current church now stands. The Hiwassee River rushed along the chapel, and it was said that when the water level in Lake Chatuge sinks low, the steps leading from the original church can still be found. The river witnessed many baptisms throughout the following years, although the initial converts consisted of 11 members. Reverend Adam Corn, an Asheville, NC, transplant, born in 1782, is thought to have been Macedonia’s first preacher, initially serving as a missionary to Native Americans upon local arrival.

Major Carter was a delegate at the founding Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, GA, in 1845, along with other area preachers. The Hiawassee Baptist Association was organized in 1849, and included Macedonia Baptist beside 23 sister churches from Clay and Cherokee County, NC, and Union and Rabun County, GA.Macedonia Baptist Church

Carter, along with 27 of Macedonia Baptist Church’s first members, lies at rest in Carter Cemetery, tucked behind what is now Towns County Schools.

Macedonia was once known as Shady Grove, GA, and the land was a part of Union County until Towns County was established in 1856. The church was said to have housed soldiers during the Civil War era, although official records were stored in the Union County Courthouse which was later destroyed by fire in 1899.

In 1932, “God’s Acre Plan” was established by Reverend Frank Lloyd. Volunteer labor was used to prepare the land to plant, cultivate, and harvest crops. The farming endeavor served as revenue for Macedonia Baptist Church for years to come.

Macedonia Baptist Church Hiawassee

The second Macedonia Baptist Church – Photo courtesy of Town County Historical Society

The second church was constructed in 1942, the result of the addition of Lake Chatuge which caused a need to move Macedonia Baptist to higher ground. The congregation was urged to pray for God’s guidance, and the original chapel was deconstructed, relocated, and reassembled upon an elevated mound. The first homecoming was held in 1945, and it continues to be honored annually on May 15.

In 1957, the congregation desired to build a more modern structure. The government supplied timber from the High Shoals area, and $802 in revenue from “God’s Acre Plan” set the project into motion. The church was built by the hands of church members, with dedication taking place on April 27, 1958. The building remains standing, adjacent to the current church which was constructed in 1995. Reverend Harold Ledford served Macedonia Baptist Church for 30 years until his death on Feb. 11, 2017.  Reverend Ed Jump is serving as Macedonia’s transitional pastor at the time of publication.

Numerous historical photographs were displayed on a projector screen throughout the presentation as Dyer and Osborn offered detailed narrative, and DVDs of the monthly meetings in their entirety are available for a nominal fee through the Towns County Historical Society. Historical Society Secretary Betty Phillips opened the presentation by acknowledging the dedicated efforts of David and Myrtle Sokol in preserving the meetings through videography.

Towns County Historical Society meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the former Recreation Center at 900 north Main St. in Hiawassee.

Of note, the Old Rock Jail Museum will close between the months of November and April. Appointments to tour the historical site during the off-season can be arranged through the Towns County Historical Society.

 

Feature Photo Credit: Macedonia Baptist Church

 

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