Kenneth “Ode” Henderson is the new sheriff in Town

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Henderson Sheriff

HIAWASSEE, Ga – 40 votes that’s all that separated the two sheriff candidates and sealed a victory for Kenneth “Ode” Henderson in Tuesday night’s runoff election.

Out of 3,720 votes cast, Henderson received 1,880, and his competition Daren “Bear” Osborn garnered 1,840.  He was officially declared the winner before 9:30 p.m.

Henderson carried two of the three Towns County Precincts – Young Harris and Hiawassee. Osborn won Macedonia.

The newly elected Sheriff faces zero democratic competition in November and will be sworn into office in January 2021. He will be replacing current Sheriff Chris Clinton, who decided not to run for reelection in 2019.

Currently, Henderson serves as the Chief of Police at Young Harris College and an officer for the city of McCaysville, Ga. He grew up in Towns County and campaigned on Second Amendment Rights, drug rehabilitation programs, ending the drug trade, community policing, training, law enforcement visibility, and availability.

Henderson said the following concerning his win on Facebook,

“I am absolutely so honored and humbled to be elected as your Towns County Sheriff! I so greatly appreciate the support, encouragement, endorsements, donations, all the hard work from my campaign team, and most importantly all of YOU for getting out and making your voice heard! To anything and anybody else that made this possible, a huge THANK YOU!!
As I’ve vowed from the beginning of my campaign, I will strive to do my very BEST to serve and protect this wonderful county with honesty, integrity and determination! Don’t hesitate to contact me for anything, and again THANK YOU TOWNS COUNTY for electing me your Sheriff! I won’t let you down!”

State Senate District 50

In another tight race that is still too close to call as of 11:52 p.m. on Tuesday Habersham Commissioner Stacy Hall and lawyer Bo Hatchett are separated by just 34 votes with 100 percent of the precincts reporting. Earlier in the night, Hall led Hatchett by 64 votes. Hall is committed to an election review of the race with several absentee and overseas ballots outstanding.

House of Representatives Ninth District

When it came down to two choices, the people of the Ninth District clearly chose Andrew Clyde over Ga-8 Rep. Matt Gurtler. Clyde received 56.28 percent of the vote with 95 percent reporting. Gurtler won 43.72 percent. Gurtler did carry Towns and Union County, his strongholds, but Clyde earned the majority of votes in at least 15 of the 20 Ninth District counties.

Clyde will now go on to face Democrat Devin Pandy in the November General Election. Pandy also won his runoff against Brooke Siskin with 68.38 percent of the vote.

To see vote totals by precinct, click here.

Feature image courtesy of Henderson for Sheriff Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Andrew Clyde declares victory in Georgia’s Ninth District

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Clyde victory Ninth District

NORTH GEORGIA – Earlier tonight, Andrew Clyde said, “I’m declaring victory tonight” to a room full of supporters in Commerce, Ga. after he clinched the GOP nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives Ninth District seat.

The night ended fairly early for gun shop owner and Navy Veteran with the race being called before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11. Clyde won 55.96 percent of the vote with 85 percent reporting. Gurtler received 44.04 percent of the vote. He carried at least 15 of the 20 counties in the Ninth District. Gilmer County was still out at the time this article was published.

President Donald Trump has already called Clyde to congratulate him on winning a hard-fought race.

Clyde at his victory party in Commerce. Ga.

Now that the runoff is over, Clyde and company will turn their eyes to November. The Republican candidate will face Democrat Devin Pandy, who also won his runoff tonight.

Whoever wins on November 3rd will take Representative Doug Collins (R) seat in the House of Representatives. Collins is currently in a race for Kelly Loeffler’s (R) senate seat.

Clyde will be appearing on FYNTV.com with Brian Pritchard on Thursday at 8.am.

See how all the statewide races in FYN’s coverage area turned out, here.

Interested in viewing local races? Visit the specific county to see who won their runoffs.

Towns County August 11 runoff election returns

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General Primary runoff election

TOWNS COUNTY, Ga – The polls have closed for the August 11 runoff election. To review the unofficial election returns for your local, state, and federal races, check out the list below. Please remember all the results are unofficial until certified by the Secretary of State.

Kenneth Henderson won by 40 votes over Daren Osborn. Gurtler carried Towns in the District Nine race and Hall carried Towns in 1,872. In the Democratic Primary Runoff, Devin Pandy won with 239 votes.

Precincts: 5 reporting

COUNTY TOTAL

Sheriff

Republican

Kenneth “Ode” Henderson – 1,880

Daren “Bear” Osborn – 1,840

Senate District 50

Republican

Stacy Hall – 1,872

Bo Hatchett – 1, 678

U.S. House of Representatives District 9 

Republican

Andrew Clyde – 1,589

Matt Gurtler – 2,032

Democrat

Devin Pandy – 239

Brooke Siskin – 129

PRECINCT TOTALS

YOUNG HARRIS

Kenneth “Ode” Henderson – 679

Daren “Bear” Osborn – 458

MACEDONIA

Kenneth “Ode” Henderson – 569

Daren “Bear” Osborn – 807

HIAWASSEE

Kenneth “Ode” Henderson – 632

Daren “Bear” Osborn – 575

To see the state election returns, click here. This article contains the overall race winner and identified runoffs for State House, State Senate, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate in FYN’s coverage area.

The General Election is scheduled for November 3 as well as the jungle primary for Senator Kelly Loeffler’s seat.

VIDEO: 2020 Towns County Sheriff Candidates’ Forum

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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.

16 Towns County candidates qualify for 2020 election

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Towns County 2020 qualifying

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- The qualifying period for multiple Towns County offices began Monday, March 2, with seven candidates filing the first day. Qualifying ended at noon, Friday, March 6, with a total of 16 candidates officially entering the county races.

The voter registration deadline to cast a ballot in the General Primary is April 20, 2020.

Click here to register to vote

The earliest date for voters to submit an absentee ballot in the General Primary is March 31, 2020.

Advanced-in-Person Early Voting begins on April 27, 2020.

The General Primary Election will take place on May 19, 2020.

A countywide SPLOST referendum and Hiawassee fluoride referendum for voters to decide will appear on the ballot.

Towns County Candidates:

COUNTY Qualifying

Towns County Office of Commissioner

Cliff Bradshaw (Incumbent – Republican)

Sheriff

Daren Osborn (Republican)

Kenneth Henderson (Republican)

Jim Couch (Republican)

Lisa Joseph (Republican)

Linda Curtis (Republican)

Towns County Office of Tax Commissioner

Bruce Rogers (Incumbent – Democrat)

J.C. Berrong (Republican)

Towns County Office of Coroner

Harold Copeland (Incumbent – Republican)

Tamela Cooper (Republican)

Towns County Clerk of Superior Court

Cecil Dye (Incumbent – Republican)

Towns County Magistrate/Probate Judge

David Rogers (Incumbent – Republican)

Towns County Board of Education

Post 1 – Macedonia

Brandon Grimsley (Non-Partisan)

Post 4 – At Large

Stephanie McConnell (Non-Partisan)

Post 5 – At Large

Stephen Green (Non-Partisan)

Caroleen Woods (Non-Partisan)

STATE Qualifying

District 8 State Representative

Stan Gunter (Republican)

Steve Townsend (Republican)

Dave Cooper (Democrat)

State Senate District 50

Andy Garrison (Republican)

Stacy Hall (Republican)

Bo Hatchett (Republican)

Tricia Lyne Hise (Republican)

Dee Daley (Democrat)

Dan Gasaway (Republican)

Public Service Commission District 4

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. (Incumbent – Republican)

Nathan Wilson (Libertarian)

Daniel Blackman (Democrat)

John Noel (Democrat)

Judge of Superior Court Enotah Circuit

Joy R. Parks (Incumbent – Non-partisan)

FEDERAL Qualifying

Ninth District U.S. Congress

Michael Boggus (Republican)

Andrew Clyde (Republican)

Matt Gurtler (Republican)

Maria Strickland (Republican)

Kevin Tanner (Republican)

Ethan Underwood (Republican)

Devin Pandy (Democrat)

Paul Broun (Republican)

John Wilkinson (Republican)

Dan Wilson (Democrat)

Kellie Weeks (Republican)

Siskin (Democrat)

United States Senate – Perdue Seat

James Knox (Democrat)

Jon Ossoff (Democrat)

Teresa Pike Tomlinson (Democrat)

Tricia Carpenter McCracken (Democrat)

Sarah Riggs Amico (Democrat)

Shane Hazel (Libertarian)

Marc Keith DeJesus (Democrat)

Maya Dillard Smith (Democrat)

David Perdue (Incumbent – Republican)

United States Senate – Loeffler Seat (Special Election in November) 

Kelly Loeffler (Incumbent – Republican)

Doug Collins (Republican)

A. Wayne Johnson (Republican)

Kandiss Taylor (Republican)

Tamara Johnson-Shealey (Democrat)

Matt Lieberman (Democrat)

Joy Felicia Shade (Democrat)

Ed Tarver (Democrat)

Richard Dien Winfield (Democrat)

Al Bartell (Independent)

Allen Buckley (Independent)

Brian Slowinski (Libertarian)

Derrick E. Grayson (Republican)

Rod Mack (Write-In)

Annette Jackson (Republican)

Deborah Jackson (Democrat)

Jamesia James (Democrat)

Raphael Warnock (Democrat)

Michael Todd Green (Independent)

Valencia Stovall (Independent)

John “Green” Fortuin (Green)

The Presidential Preference Primary takes place on March 24, 2020, and early voting opened on March 2. The mandatory Saturday voting will be held on March 14.

Here’s a list of all the federal and state races that are qualifying in 2020. If needed, a General Primary run-off will take place on July 21, 2020.

Fetch Your News will keep updating this article as more candidates qualify.

 

Continue to follow FYN for up-to-date campaign coverage as the 2020 election cycle advances.

 

UPDATED: Towns County candidates qualify for 2020 election

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Towns County GA election

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- The qualifying period for multiple Towns County offices began Monday, March 2, with seven candidates officially filing the first day. Qualifying ends at noon, Friday, March 6.

According to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, as of March 2, no Democratic or Independent candidates had yet qualified.

FYN will update the list of candidates in the upcoming election daily as additional candidates join the race.

The General Primary election will take place on May 19, 2020.

 

Towns County Candidates:

 

Towns County Office of Commissioner:

Incumbent – Cliff Bradshaw (R)

 

Towns County Office of Sheriff:

Daren Osborn (R)

Kenneth Henderson (R)

Jim Couch (R)

Lisa Joseph (R)

Linda Curtis (R)

 

Towns County Office of Tax Commissioner:

Incumbent – Bruce Rogers (D)

J.C. Berrong (R)

 

Towns County Office of Coroner:

Incumbent – Harold Copeland (R)

Tamela Cooper (R)

 

Towns County Clerk of Superior Court:

Incumbent – Cecil Dye (R)

 

Towns County Magistrate/Probate Judge:

Incumbent- David Rogers (R)

 

Towns County Board of Education:

(Non-Partisan)

Post 1 – Macedonia

Brandon Grimsley

Post 4 – At Large

Stephanie McConnell

Post 5 – At Large

Stephen Green

Caroleen Woods

 

Information for voters and qualifying Towns County candidates

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Towns County GA elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia released the following information for candidates intending to seek office in the 2020 election:

In accordance with O.C.G.A. § 21-2-153(c)(2), notice is hereby given that the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration will be conducting qualifying of candidates for public office in the 2020 elections on behalf of the Democratic Party in Towns County. Qualifying will commence at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, March 02, 2020 and conclude at 12:00 p.m. (noon) on Friday, March 06, 2020. Qualifying will be conducted at the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration Office located at 67 Lakeview Circle; Suite A; Hiawassee, Georgia 30546.  The Towns County Board of Elections will also conduct qualifying for nonpartisan and independent candidates for the 2020 elections. Republican Party candidates qualifying for public office in Towns County will submit the appropriate documentation through their designated party representative(s). 

Although the Towns County Board of Elections office opens at 8:30 am, qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 2 – the time prescribed by state law – and runs throughout the week, Olivia explained.

Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young informed FYN that qualifying for Republican candidates will take place at the Towns County Courthouse in the Jury Room on the upper level. The hours scheduled are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from March 2 through March 5, and from 9 a.m. until noon sharp on Friday, March 6. “We will have some board members helping at different times,” Young added.

The General Primary will be held Tuesday, May 19. The voter registration deadline to cast a General Primary ballot is April 20, 2020.

“The last date in which an individual can register and be eligible to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary, Special Election, and Special Election Runoff is February 24, 2020,” Olivia said. “Advance (Early) Voting begins on March 02, 2020, and ends on March 20, 2020. Advance Voting will be held at the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration located at 76 Lakeview Circle; Suite A in Hiawassee, Georgia from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including one Saturday, March 14, 2020.”

Click to register to vote online

Click to view full election calendar

The earliest date for voters to submit an absentee ballot for the General Primary Election is March 31. Advanced in Person Early Voting begins on April 27, 2020.

Continue to follow FYN for information as the 2020 election cycle progresses.

 

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

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Rep. Gurtler on decision to seek U.S. Congressional seat

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FYNTV - Matt Gurtler

ELLIJAY, Ga. – State House Representative Matt Gurtler spoke with FYN CEO Brian Pritchard in a live FYNTV interview, Feb.13, on the state budget cuts, related HB 4, and his announcement to run for the 9th Congressional District seat vacated by U.S. Senate-seeking Representative Doug Collins.

Gurtler, who is running on a platform of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty, said that the decision to run for U.S. Congress did not come lightly, and reached through deliberation and prayer. “We looked at the State Senate seat, we looked at the Congressional seat and had an opportunity to go up to Washington D.C. to meet with the conservative leaders in the House and also the Senate, and theses individuals and individuals reaching out to me across the District really encouraged me to run,” Gurtler said. “They’ve been watching me, and that I’ve been standing up to the powers that be, and the insiders in Atlanta and the special interests and the bloated budgets, and so it was sort of flattering that they noticed me there. And so we came back, and me and my family prayed, and we made the decision for Congress. We feel that we have a lot of support around the District. We’re going to work our tail off. We’re going to put tens of thousands of miles on the car again and wear the soles out on our feet and just bring the message of limited government to a wider audience, and a national audience if we are elected, so that we can really educate people.”

Gurtler said that members of the House and Senate voiced a need for “revolutionaries” to educate people on a national level, specifically against socialism. The State House Representative, who was in Washington D.C. during the telephone interview, divulged that he met with the Young Americans for Liberty, Freedom Caucus, and Club for Growth – an organization that is spending millions to fight Congressman Doug Collins in the U.S. Senate race.

Gurtler added that he received an endorsement from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

The 8th District representative later shared his support for the Second Amendment in a social media post. “Our founders understood the right of self-defense is a natural and God-given right,” Gurtler wrote. “Red Flag laws and gun confiscation legislation like we see in Virginia, are dangerous to the principles of a free society and go against our constitutional rights. I will stand up for our 2nd Amendment rights in Washington DC just as I have done from day one at the State Capitol these past 4 years.”

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

 

 

 

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

SPLOST to fund $8M courthouse renovation

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Towns County SPLOST

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SLOST) decision is set to appear before the Towns County voters on the May 19 general primary ballot. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced plans for the “conservative figure” of $12 million in anticipated revenue, generated over six years, should the SPLOST referendum pass.

Click to read: SPLOST to appear on spring ballot

Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN on Feb. 10, that $8 million of the SPLOST revenue will be applied toward the renovation of the Towns County Courthouse. Bradshaw said that he consulted with several architects before deciding on the firm, Clark Patterson Lee, a New York-based company with offices located throughout the southeast. The firm was selected to draft a “concept drawing” to present to the citizens in a series of upcoming Town Hall meetings. Contracting the company into the construction management stage, however, will not take place before the passage of May’s vote. Should the plan progress, Bradshaw said that the construction process itself would be put out for bid. Qualification will be the premier consideration, followed by cost.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

Bradshaw is scheduled to meet with the architectural firm on Thursday, Feb. 13, when surveyors visit the courthouse to take measurements and photographs of the aged structure.

“I spoke with all of the judges and elected officials in the courthouse and asked them to put into writing their suggestions,” Bradshaw told FYN, Feb. 10. “All of the suggestions were the same; a holding cell for court prisoners, an additional, smaller courtroom, handicap-accessible restrooms, a family restroom, and a secure hall for the judges to enter and exit the building.”

Additional SPLOST revenue will be divided as follows:

  • Roads/Bridges: $600,000
  • Towns County Fire & Rescue: $500,000
  • Parks/Recreation: $140,000

Funds allocated for the fire department will be used primarily to update emergency vehicles, Bradshaw said, and the amount budgeted for roads and bridges will provide necessary equipment for the road department. Upgrades and repairs, such as fencing material, may be needed for local parks and recreation.

The cities of Hiawassee and Young Harris, who have opted to benefit from the special-purpose tax, will each receive an estimated one million, eighty thousand dollars in revenue over the six-year course if the voters pass the May 19 referendum.

SPLOST is an optional one-percent sales tax levied by a county to fund the construction of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities.

 

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Cooper addresses ‘conflict of interest’ in coroner’s race

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Tamela Cooper - coroner race

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Tamela Cooper, a challenging candidate in the Towns County coroner’s race, responded to a public “hidden agenda” inquiry from a supporter of the incumbent, calling into question whether it may be a conflict of interest for a funeral director to jointly serve as a county coroner. Cooper, the co-owner of Banister-Cooper Funeral Home in Hiawassee, has served as a Towns County deputy coroner since 2013. Cooper will face first-term Coroner Harold Copeland in the May 19 general primary on the Republican ticket. Copeland, who ran unopposed in 2016, simultaneously serves as Towns County’s fire chief.

“Of the 154 Coroners in Georgia, almost half are funeral directors (48%). In addition to these 74 elected coroners that are funeral directors, many more deputy coroners that are hired by the Coroners are directors,” Cooper explained. “A few examples around us where Coroners are also funeral directors include White, Rabun and Habersham Counties. The truth is, the link between funeral directors and Coroners is pretty simple. Funeral directors are accustomed to being woken in the middle of the night, supporting grieving families and a high attention to detail. One thing the best funeral directors have in common is that attention to detail; we want everything perfect no matter how small it may seem to someone else and, even if the extra step goes unnoticed, we simply want things as perfect as possible. Maybe that means carefully placing 5 long stem roses evenly along the cap panel of a casket for a family or maybe it’s a director standing in the same spot for 8 years watching every movement inside their chapel. The point is, we look for the smallest of details and plan for action before it is an issue, the things I often call our ‘just in case.’ That attention to detail is a major asset when given the investigation side of being a coroner. We have the desire to get things right and close to perfect because of our natural attention to the smallest of details. People who select to care for decedents and grieving families do not wake up one morning and just decide this is what they want to do. Honestly most of us push off fulfilling our calling just to make certain we are positive we are being led into a heartbreaking career that often involves middle of the night calls, extremely early mornings, tears and many deep breathes before walking into a home where we know we are about to hurt along with a long served family.”

Over the course of several conversations, Cooper told FYN that her empathy and compassion sets her apart in the contested race.

“I’ve never questioned my career choice, not even when a very helpful paramedic was ripping a sticky fly trap out of my hair on a scene,” Cooper continued. “Even then, I pulled it together and completed my work before tending to that extremely sticky substance in my hair. I wake every day and know I may face losing my shoes in a lake bank, dodging chickens on a chicken farm, or wiping tears from a mother’s cheeks. We are born to serve in the death care field, so it makes perfect sense that we would be naturally drawn to the coroner job. Having been a deputy coroner for 7 years, I have served over 150 families via the coroner’s office and can assure you that no matter what funeral home a family selected, I placed that family into another professional’s hands just as professionally as when I placed them into my staff’s hands. If you give me the honor of being Towns County’s next Coroner, I can assure you that not only will I take care of your loved ones, but also I will never push or even suggest that anyone use my funeral home; that is a choice that the family makes and I respect. More often than not, unless the family knows exactly who I am, they never know I am a funeral director. Of the many scenes that I have been on and the hundreds of first responders and family members that were on those scenes, any of them can attest to the fact that I have never promoted my funeral home.”

Cooper added that out of the 155 deaths that she has responded to since 2013, over half of the decedent’s final plans were handled by funeral homes other than Banister-Cooper.

“Fortunately, most of the people of Towns County will probably never have to deal with a Coroner and that leaves a little bit of mystery about what the experience is like,” Cooper said. “Coroners are not usually involved with hospice, nursing home, and in-patient hospital deaths. We do not come out in a hearse with a funeral home name or dressed with funeral home identification. We usually come out in a personal vehicle and introduce ourself with our name and title of Coroner or deputy coroner. When it comes time to ask for a funeral home, we ask an open-ended question such as, ‘What funeral home would you like for me to contact?’ Once a funeral home is chosen, we call the chosen funeral home and have them send a hearse; if the chosen funeral home happens to be mine, I call another staff member to come.”

Qualification for Towns County’s elections, including that of coroner, begins March 2. 2020.

Featured Image: Provided by Tamela Cooper.

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If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of our counties of coverage, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

Towns County Democrats encourage younger voter turnout

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Towns County Democrats

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Members of the Towns County Democratic Party visited the local high school for three days last week, encouraging students nearing voting age to register to cast their ballots in future elections.

“Students who are age 17 ½ may register for the 2020 election cycle,” Vickie Plunkett explained. “Voters in Georgia do not register by Party but will declare their Party affiliation during Georgia’s presidential preference primary on March 24.”

According to the U.S. Census, voting rates have historically varied according to age, with older Americans generally voting at higher rates than younger Americans. In 2016, this was once again the case, as citizens, 65 years and older, reported higher turnout (70.9 percent) than 45- to 64-year-olds (66.6 percent), 30- to 44-year-olds (58.7 percent) and 18- to 29-year-olds (46.1 percent). However, in 2016, young voters ages 18 to 29 were the only age group to report increased turnout compared to 2012, with a reported turnout increase of 1.1 percent. All older age groups either reported small yet statistically significant turnout decreases (45- to 64-year-olds and those age 65 and older) or turnout rates not statistically different from 2012 (30- to 44-year-olds).

In any given presidential election, the number of reported voters typically increases relative to the previous presidential election, largely as a product of increases in the size of the citizen voting-age population. Data shows changes in both the number of reported voters and the citizen voting-age population between 2012 and 2016. Overall, in 2016, there were about 4.6 million more reported voters than in 2012. A majority of these additional voters (3.7 million) were 65 years and older. However, despite these additionally reported voters, the overall voting rate was not statistically different between the two elections.

Towns County Democrats will hold their next monthly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee, Plunkett said.  A pot-luck meal begins at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.

Featured Image: Towns County Democrats David and Vickie Plunkett, seated, provide voter information to Towns County High School student Gage Denton during a voter registration effort conducted in late January at the school.

Updated link:

https://towns.fetchyournews.com/2020/02/11/towns-gop-shares-mission-statement-belief-list-with-school/

Election Board explains political affiliation process for primaries

Election, News
Towns County GA elections

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As the 2020 elections approach, the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration wants to ensure that area voters understand the ballot process.

“During the Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) and the General Primary, you may select either party ballot of your choice, regardless of your political party affiliation,” Towns County Elections Chair Janet Olivia explained.  “However, should a runoff follow the election, you will be required to select that same party ballot. The party ballot you select for one election will not dictate the party ballot you must select for the next election. For example, if you select a Democratic party ballot at the PPP in March, you can choose a Republican party ballot at the General Primary in May or vice versa. The only instance in which you must maintain the same ballot choice is during an election runoff.”

The general primary will take place on May 19, 2020.

Georgia left the group of states that vote on Super Tuesday, opting to hold its presidential primary in late March. The primary has been set for March 24, three weeks after Super Tuesday, which Georgia has joined in past election cycles. Critics of the date change say that last year’s announcement by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could relegate Georgia voters to a weakened influential position in choosing each party’s nominee. Proponents of the date change, however, cited that the delay would allow ample time for the updated voting machines to be delivered and introduced to precincts.

The Republican Party will select its presidential nominee at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Ballotpedia, the convention will be held from August 24-27, 2020. Prior to the national convention, individual state caucuses and primaries are held to allocate convention delegates. Georgia will have an estimated 76 delegates. Delegate allocation is a hybrid system. These delegates vote at the convention to select the nominee.  Delegate allocation is proportional. Incumbent President Donald Trump (R) filed for re-election on January 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration. George H.W. Bush (R) was the last incumbent to face a serious primary challenge, defeating political commentator Pat Buchanan in 1992. He was also the last president to lose his re-election campaign. Franklin Pierce (D) was the first and only elected president to lose his party’s nomination in 1856.

Sixteen U.S. presidents—approximately one-third—have won two consecutive elections.

The Democratic Party will select its presidential nominee at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The convention is being held from July 13-16, 2020.

Georgia will have an estimated 120 delegates comprised of 105 pledged delegates and 15 superdelegates. Prior to the national convention, individual state caucuses and primaries are held to allocate convention delegates. These delegates, along with superdelegates who come from the party leadership, vote at the convention to select the nominee. In 2016, a Democratic presidential candidate needed support from at least 2,383 delegates to secure the nomination.

As of February 2020, the following 11 Democrats are running in the primary:

  • Michael Bennet
  • Joe Biden
  • Michael Bloomberg
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Deval Patrick
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Tom Steyer
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Andrew Yang

Freeport Tax Exemption to appear on May ballot

News
Freeport tax exemption

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- A referendum that could ease the tax burden for local business owners will appear on the May 19 general primary ballot. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw informed FYN last year that it was an option that he was considering in expectation of attracting economic development to the area. The formal decision to include the question on the spring ballot was announced last week during a special-called meeting. If approved by the voters, the referendum will allow business owners to store merchandise and production supplies in their shops, tax-free, for a year’s time.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, business inventory became exempt from state property taxes.  According to Georgia.org, nearly all (93 percent) of Georgia’s counties and over 140 of its cities have adopted a Level One Freeport Exemption, set at 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 percent of the inventory value.

Towns County opted for a 100-percent exemption.

A Level One Freeport Exemption may exempt the following types of tangible personal property:

  • Inventory of goods in the process of being manufactured or produced including raw materials and partly finished goods
  • Inventory of finished goods manufactured or produced in Georgia held by the manufacturer or producer for a period not to exceed 12 months
  • Inventory of finished goods on January 1 that are stored in a warehouse, dock, or wharf that are destined for shipment outside of Georgia for a period not to exceed 12 months

If approved, application for Freeport Exemption should be made with the Board of Tax Assessors within the same time period that returns are due in the county.

In addition to Freeport Exemption, Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw requested that the Board of Elections include a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum on the May ballot.

SPLOST is an optional one percent county sales tax used to fund capital outlay projects proposed by the county government and participating qualified municipal governments. In general, county and municipal governments may not use SPLOST proceeds for operating expenses or maintenance of a SPLOST project1 or any other county or municipal facility or service. SPLOST is levied in what the law refers to as a “special district,” which is comprised of the entire territory of the county calling for the SPLOST. By using special districts, the revenue of a county tax
can be constitutionally shared with participating municipalities. The tax is imposed when the board of commissioners – or in the case of Towns County, the sole commissioner – calls a local referendum (i.e., vote)  and the referendum is subsequently passed by the voters within the county.

Couch’s history surfaces as sheriff’s election heats up

Election, News
Jim Couch - Towns County sheriff electionnews

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As qualification for the Towns County sheriff’s election approaches, FYN received information on the law enforcement career of Jim Couch, a contender for Office of Sheriff, from separate opponents.

A received document contained a press release from Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Commander Capt. Keith Canup concerning an alleged mishandling of the 2015 Southern Worthersee (SoWo) car rally by former Helen Police Chief Couch. Canup stated that there was “no traffic plan in place, there was no plan to deal with the large crowds, nor was there a contingency plan to deal with civil disorder” despite the city previously hosting the popular event.

According to media coverage, over 2,800 people were “out of control,” breaking vehicle windows and attempting to overturn a rollback tow truck, while hurling rocks and bottles at officers, and committing acts of vandalism. Approximately 28,000 participants were reported as present at the rally.

“Chief Couch was told upfront that the role of GSP would be to make sure the mayhem did not spill out into the surrounding county and the Troopers would not actively patrol the town, or police his streets,” Capt. Canup said, in part, in the press release. “Our goal was to prevent the mountainous roads outside Helen from becoming race tracks, to prevent reckless conduct in general, and to apprehend drunk drivers. I felt that a lawless environment was created and allowed to exist for the sake of tourism. Had the SOWO crowd descended upon Helen uninvited GSP would have gladly taken the lead on maintaining order, but that was simply not the case…

“Had the Georgia State Patrol entered the town we could not have stood idly by and condoned the illegal and reckless activities that were being encouraged without taking enforcement action. We certainly would not have signed off on closing a state highway without the existence of an emergency circumstance warranting such action. I understand the state route was closed by Chief Couch for the purpose of allowing the SOWO cars to do burnouts. State Troopers aren’t wired to allow the law to be broken a little bit. You can’t have the presence of Troopers absence the presence of enforcement. They are one in the same.”

Click to read the full statement from Georgia State Patrol

FYN provided Couch, who hired a Gainesville public relations firm to manage his 2020 sheriff’s campaign, an opportunity to respond to the state law enforcement agency’s assessment of the situation.

“As a law enforcement professional for more than 40 years, my first and foremost priority has always been the safety of the residents of the communities I serve as well as the officers who work with me, whom I have dedicated my life to protecting,” Couch’s statement reads in full. “As anyone in this profession may understand, there are moments when one must calmly and rationally assess a situation and do what is best for the safety of all involved parties in order to keep the peace.

Jim Couch - Towns County sheriff electionnews

Jim Couch (center) with retiring Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton (left) and retiring White County Sheriff Neal Walden at Couch’s Jan. 25 campaign meet-&-greet.

“During my time as the Chief of Police in Helen, there was an occurrence that required me to put my experience in law enforcement to use. Following the 2015 Southern Worthersee event, which is a large annual gathering of car enthusiasts, some number of those gathered became unruly as the night progressed, eventually forcing one road to be closed due to their presence. I assessed the surroundings and the individuals involved and took what I believed to be the best and safest avenue for all involved by making my request for them to disperse and allowing those gathered a short time to comply with this request. As a peace officer, I believed then and still believe that it was my duty to obtain order and minimize any possibility of damage or violence toward businesses, residences or individuals in Helen.

“I believe it takes a calm and level head to maintain peace during a situation of rising tension, and I do not doubt that I did what was right in that situation at the time. I regret any miscommunication that resulted in unwarranted criticism of GSP’s role or the actions of its Troopers. I appreciate all the law enforcement officers and agencies that worked together that night to ensure this situation was handled in a way that best protected our community, its residents and those gathered. It has been and continues to be my privilege to be in a career of service, and I look forward to serving Towns County today and in the days and years to come.”

Participants described the SoWo event – which was prohibited from returning to Helen by city leaders – as chaotic and riotous. “It was a madhouse when we were there during the day,” an attendee wrote on social media shortly after the event. “I am glad we weren’t there at night.”

Couch, who currently serves as a captain with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, resigned from his position as Helen’s police chief two months after the rally took place.

 

Gurtler indecisive on which seat to seek

Election, News
Matt Gurtler

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Matt Gurtler, the 8th District State House Representative, issued a statement to FYN on Feb. 2, remaining seemingly indecisive on his next political move.

“I am considering a run and weighing my options for the 9th Congressional or the 50th State Senate seat,” Gurtler told FYN. “It is very rare for both seats to open up like this at the same time and is something we did not expect. My family and I are praying about this very important decision. Thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement these past several days. Whatever we decide to do and whatever seat I run for, I will continue to fight the establishment and defend our Constitution.”

With qualifying drawing near, Gurtler has a mere month to decide whether to attempt the retention of his 8th District seat or seek candidacy elsewhere. Qualification takes place during the first week of March, with the primary election set for Tuesday, May 19.

The 9th Congressional seat opened as a result of United States Representative Doug Collins’ aim toward the Georgia Senate. The 50th State Senate office opened following Senator John Wilkinson’s decision to seek the seat vacated by Collins.

Click to read: Who is eyeing Collins’ Congressional seat

Gurtler, the 8th District incumbent, has been challenged in the State House race by Stan Gunter. Gurtler was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2016, serving Towns, Rabun, Union, and portions of White counties. As of Wednesday, Gunter stated that he expects Gurtler to remain in the race, “anticipating (Gurtler) to qualify for (District 8) and be in the race in March.”

Gurtler declined an FYNTV.com interview prior to reaching a decision.

The 9th Congressional District consists of Banks, Dawson, Elbert, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, White and portions of Clarke, Forsyth, and Pickens counties. The 50th Senatorial District includes Habersham, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Banks, Franklin, White, and parts of Hall and Jackson counties.

Continue to follow FYN for political coverage as 2020 election developments occur.

 

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