State Senator John Wilkinson announces for Congress

Politics, Press Release
John Wilkinson

GEORGIA NINTH DISTRICT – State Senator John Wilkinson announced today that he plans to run for the Ninth District Congressional seat. This election will be to replace Congressman Doug Collins, who has announced that he will be running for a seat in the United States Senate. Senator Wilkinson, who was elected to the State Senate in a special election in 2011 and has been re-elected to 4 additional terms, was raised on a small farm in Stephens County.  Working with projects in 4-H and FFA, he learned the value of hard work, cooperation, and responsibility at an early age. Those values have stayed with him during his career in agriculture, education and politics. He has not missed a day of work during his eight years of service in the Senate.

“This is a critical time for our country, and we need an experienced, conservative voice willing to stand up for the values that residents of North Georgia hold dear”, said Wilkinson. “For the past eight years in Atlanta, I have fought to eliminate useless red tape and regulation of business, defended the sanctity of all life, and fought for our constitutional rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.  I look forward to continuing that fight in Washington.”

A native of Toccoa and graduate of Stephens County High School, Wilkinson earned degrees in agriculture and education from the University of Georgia. He has experience as a classroom teacher and served on the State Agricultural Education staff for 26 years. He has served as State Advisor to the Georgia FFA Association, as well as the Georgia Young Farmer Association.  He was recognized as the Outstanding Member of the National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education in 2006. He and his wife Debbie have two children and five grandchildren. John and Debbie are active members of Tates Creek Baptist Church.

Senator Wilkinson has served as Chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee in the Senate for the past eight years.  He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee, as well as a member of the Natural Resources and the Environment, Appropriations and Rules Committees. He has served as Secretary of the Senate Majority Caucus for the past 6 years.

The Ninth Congressional District includes all of Banks, Dawson, Elbert, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, White and parts of Clarke, Forsyth and Pickens counties. To learn more about Senator John Wilkinson, please visit

Sen. Wilkinson named ‘Legislator of the Year’ by Rural Jobs Coalition

sen john wilkinson

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia State Senator John Wilkinson, the representative for District 50, was recently selected in Atlanta as Legislator of the Year by the Rural Jobs Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that supports small, rural businesses and advocates around the nation for policies that benefit rural economic growth.

“Born and raised in rural Georgia, I know firsthand the struggle of our small businesses to access affordable capital in their rural communities in order to grow operations and hire and retain workforce,” Wilkinson said. “The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act (GARJA) is one of many programs that I have supported that provides growth opportunities for our rural businesses. Georgia is a national leader in the effort to rebuild our rural areas, I am proud to be a part of that passionate movement.”

Sen. Wilkinson was chosen as Legislator of the Year as a result of his support of agribusiness and policies that assist in job creation, revitalization of small businesses, and economic opportunities for small, rural communities throughout Georgia.

Wilkinson represents Towns, Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens, and portions of Hall and Jackson counties. Wilkinson, a Republican from Toccoa, was first elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2011 during a special election and was re-elected to serve District 50 in three subsequent elections. In 2014, the senator was elected by his colleagues to serve as the Majority Caucus Secretary. Wilkinson additionally serves as the Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and as Vice-Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee.

Furthermore, Wilkinson is a member of the Committee on Assignments and the Administrative Affairs Committee, as well as a member of the Appropriations and Natural Resources and the Environment Committees. The senator is an Ex-Officio member of the Rules Committee and was appointed to serve on the COPS task force in 2017.

State Senators Wilkinson and Gooch address Towns County Republican Party

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia State Senators John Wilkinson and Steve Gooch were invited to address the Towns County Republican Party Thursday, Aug. 15, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee. The evening began with acoustic entertainment by student Summer Rahn, who later led the National Anthem. followed by a well-received rendition of two classic county songs. Student Gabe Moody delivered a powerful speech on the importance of gratefulness in America, speaking favorably toward President Donald Trump and the sacrifice of the U.S. military. Chrissy Figg informed the community on the benefits of the local 4-H extension program, and student Samatha Church proudly introduced the state senators.

Towns County GOP

(L-R) Speakers Senator John Wilkinson, Samantha Church, Senator Steve Gooch, Chrissy Figg, Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and Gabe Moody

Senator Steve Gooch was the initial keynote speaker, touching on numerous topics of interest, including strong support for the enacted “heartbeat bill” which prohibits abortion in Georgia once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, the need for broadband internet options, the ongoing process of medical marijuana cultivation, and the upcoming change in voting machine procedures. Senator Gooch was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2010. Gooch is a Republican representing the 51st District, which includes Fannin, Union, Gilmer, Lumpkin, White, Dawson and parts of Pickens and Forsyth counties. Gooch was elected as the Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus in 2014. The senator spoke on the importance of voting in upcoming elections in order to keep Republicans in office, not only on a national level, but state and local as well. Gooch warned that the State House could lose its majority if Republicans fail to vote. “If the Democrats take the House, game over,” Gooch said.

Senator Steve Gooch

State Senator Steve Gooch

Senator John Wilkinson mirrored Gooch’s position on the heartbeat bill, medical marijuana, and support for voter turnout at the polls. Wilkinson spoke with pride on the state’s decision to award individual Georgia schools with $30,000 funding for upgraded security, and favorably of Georgia’s $2.5 billion reserve and Triple A bond rating. Senator Wilkinson, a Republican from Toccoa, was first elected to the State Senate for Georgia’s 50th District during a special election in 2011 and has been reelected to serve in three subsequent elections. Senator Wilkinson represents Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Towns, Stephens and portions of Hall and Jackson counties.

Ninth District Republican Chairwoman Rebecca Yardley additionally stressed the importance of voting in local elections, stating that 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has specifically targeted the highly-conservative Ninth District in an attempt to flip it from a Republican to Democratic hold.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw delivered the invocation at the beginning of the program, speaking briefly on the positive state of the county as the forum commenced. Towns County Republican Chairwoman Betsy Young led the meeting’s agenda. Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell and Towns County Fire Chief-Coroner Harold Copeland attended the popular event.

Towns County Republican Party is scheduled to meet Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 pm at the Towns County Civic Center. Meetings are open to the public.

Feature Image: State Senators Steve Gooch (left) and John Wilkinson speak with Towns County citizens.

Upcoming event:

Towns County GOP announces “Let Freedom Ring” art contest

Towns County participates in National Day of Prayer

Towns County prayer

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Towns County Recreation and Conference Center was the site of the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 2.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw spoke at the event, with the commissioner offering history prior to an invocation. The National Day of Prayer (NDP) was established as an annual event in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. The observance of the National Day of Prayer is founded on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion and can be celebrated by all Americans.

Commissioner Towns County

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw recites information during the service

Days of prayer have been called for since 1775, when the Continental Congress designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln called for such a day. Officially, the NDP was established as an annual event by an act of Congress in 1952 and was signed into law by President Truman. President Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the NDP.

The most visible gathering has been held historically at the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. on the first Thursday of May. The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are represented, as well as the military. In addition, Christian leaders address the current year’s theme and other areas of interest (i.e. education, youth, families, etc.). Every year, tens of thousands of events are held nationwide. Local volunteers hold a variety of activities ranging from prayer breakfasts, Bible reading marathons, concerts of prayer, rallies, church prayer vigils, student flagpole gatherings and observances held in sports stadiums.

Towns County’s National Day of Prayer was sponsored by several area churches.

Towns County GOP welcomes “troika” speakers aboard 2020 Trump Train

News, Politics
Towns County Republicans

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Republican Party is fast tracking into 2020 on the “Towns County Express Trump Train” and Towns GOP Chairwoman Betsy Young invited a “troika” of speakers aboard the August locomotion.

State Senator John Wilkinson, Chair of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, and State Senator Steve Gooch, Majority Whip of the State Senate, will accompany Towns County’s “fearless and hardworking” Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw as represented speakers Thursday, Aug. 15, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee.  Towns County GOP

“One definition of the word ‘troika’ is three people working together for the betterment in an administrative or managerial capacity,” Young explained. “These three men certainly fit that definition as they all work hard at doing the best for their constituents and the State of Georgia.”

Opening exercises will feature Towns County student Gabe Moody, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and Samantha Church, who will introduce Senator Gooch. “The youth of our county is the lifeline of our Party,” Young said. The public is welcome to arrive early to enjoy a “rib night” buffet dinner at the local restaurant. Doors open Aug. 15 at 5 pm, followed by the meeting at 6 pm. Attendees will receive a ticket for a free door prize drawing. Raffle tickets for a “special item” will be available for purchase, along with an assortment of political-themed items.

“Invite your friends and neighbors,” Young encouraged. “It will be an exciting and spirited evening that you won’t want to miss; fun, food, and fellowship all in one place.” Meetings are open to the public.

For additional information, contact Betsy Young at 904-382-1912 or [email protected]

Feature Photo: Towns County Republican Party Member Donna Barrow (left) with Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young at the June meeting.

Towns County awarded grant to improve roadways

Towns County SPLOST

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced at his monthly meeting Feb. 19 that the county was awarded a grant in the amount of $160,727 to improve area roadways. “We learned of this last year and I couldn’t wait to announce it,” Bradshaw said.  The commissioner read aloud a portion of a letter received from the Georgia Department of Transportation, informing that last year saw the first increase in roadway fatalities in a decade, with 45 percent of the fatalities occurring on county roads. State Senator John Wilkinson worked at securing the grant, Bradshaw said. The funds will be used to restripe county roadways, provide needed signage, and install speed bumps where necessary.

Emily Williams Towns County

Towns County High School Senior Emily Williams

Commissioner Bradshaw reported that Towns County is to receive three quotes from roofing companies to repair the flat-portion of the “old” recreation center roof due to continued leaking into the area where the Towns County Historical Society meets. The initial quote returned was $78,000, and Bradshaw said that he intends to comparison shop. The commissioner announced that Towns County Recreation Center recently profited $2,300 from gate and concession sales, a result of the 12U basketball tournament.

JC Berrong

“Clean Sweep” Organizer J.C. Berrong

During the meeting, Commissioner Bradshaw updated the county’s work safety and seatbelt policy while updating the county’s record retention policy. Towns County High School Senior Emily Williams presented a speech on the importance of confidence and the goals of the Future Business Leaders of America. Williams has competed in public speaking for the past three years. Towns County Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Board Member Haley Burch displayed the CVB’s new logo, accompanied by the art designer winner, Shelby Lawrence of Young Harris College. J.C. Berrong stressed the importance of community participation in the county’s two week “Clean Sweep” litter clean-up initiative in April. Towns County High School student Summer Rahn closed the meeting with a singing rendition of “God Bless America.”

Commissioner Bradshaw will hold the next county meeting Tuesday, March 19 at 5:30 in the Towns County Courthouse. Meetings are open to the public. Questions and comments are accepted at each session.

State Senator John Wilkinson updates Towns County GOP

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Republican Party hosted two guest speakers Thursday, May 16, at their monthly meeting at the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee. Georgia State Senator John Wilkinson addressed the “Good, Bad, and Ugly of the 2019 Session” and Dr. Gerry Chotiner spoke on subject of political correctness, “To Be or Not to be PC.”

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw opened the meeting with quotes by former President Ronald Reagan. Top of Georgia Speech Training contest winner Gabe Moody spoke on the importance of the American flag before leading the group in the Pledge of Allegience. Students Summer Rahn performed the National Anthem, and Samantha Church introduced Senator Wilkinson.

Towns County GOP

Flyer from the May GOP meeting

The senator praised the state’s balanced budget and AAA bond rating, noting that 90-percent of senior citizens pay no state income tax. Wilkinson informed that Georgia is considered the number one state to do business in the county, and relayed that he believes Governor Brian Kemp had “a great first session.” The state official expressed disappointment in the failure to pass the “recess bill” which would have mandated 30 minutes of recess each day for school children. Wilkinson said it was a good year for education, as teachers received pay raises, and 2,300 schools which took part in a study will each receive $30,000 to improve school safety. The senator spoke favorably on the “heartbeat bill” which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. “Georgia need to be a state that stands for life,” Senator Wilkinson said.

Dr. Chotiner spoke on the history of political correctness, providing statistics from a 2015 study conducted by Yale University. According to Chotiner, 51 percent of students favored speech codes, and 33 percent could not identify the First Amendment which protects free speech.

Towns County Republican Party recently launched a website, and GOP Chair Betsy Young displayed it on a laptop computer near the refreshment table for attendees to view. Towns County GOP meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6 pm at the civic center on the courthouse campus.


Treasurer of Towns GOP seeks to change Georgia income tax law


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Republican Party Treasurer Harvey Cohen has taken a step in a quest to change state income tax law.

Cohen, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) of 40 years who practices law tax, reached out to Georgia Senator John Wilkinson and Georgia Representative Matt Gurtler in a letter to state his case.

“Georgia individual income tax law provides for a limited standard deduction which is much smaller than the current federal standard deduction,” Cohen explained. “Georgia individual tax law limits its taxpayers to its standard deduction if that taxpayer claims the standard deduction on their federal tax return. For example, a Georgia taxpayer claiming a federal standard deduction of $24,000 (for a joint return) would be limited to a Georgia standard deduction of $6,000. The result of this tax structure of Federal verses Georgia deductions results, and will continue, in many cases, to result in Georgia taxpayers receiving Federal tax refunds, but owe Georgia income taxes.”

Cohen added that he received a call from a friend who didn’t understand why her daughter and son-in- law owe Georgia income tax, yet are receiving a federal refund.

“In past years, their itemized tax deductions were approximately $12,000 plus, and this year they are limited to the Georgia standard deduction of $6,000 because they are claiming the federal standard deduction of $24,000. The spouses, in this case, are a Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputy and she is a Cherokee County Childrens’ Advocate for the Cherokee County Court System. Neither of them are substantial income earners.”

“Another example of this unconscionable situation is my daughter,” Cohen continued. “Her earnings approximate $45,000, and she owes no Federal income tax, but owes Georgia income tax of approximately $1,800. I have talked to other Georgia CPA s and licensed tax preparers and they concur with my conclusion that Georgia’s tax law is punishing it’s citizens due to it’s individual income tax law’s standard deduction amount vis-a-vis the federal tax law’s standard deduction amount, and because Georgia’s tax law limits the use of deductions to the $6,000 standard deduction if the federal standard deduction is claimed.”

Cohen invited State Senator Wilkinson and State Representative Gurtler to contact him if inclined to discuss the matter further.

“Red Wave” rally draws solid turnout for Towns County GOP

News, Politics
Towns County Republican Party

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – While early voter turnout was especially strong in North Georgia throughout the first week of the 2018 General Election, state and local Republican leaders echoed the importance of encouraging friends and family to cast ballots during a Towns County “Get Out The Vote” rally Thursday, Oct. 18 .

A sizeable crowd of constituents attended the town hall meeting, orchestrated by Towns County GOP Chairwoman Betsy Young, and Republican member Donna Barrow.

“We all know that after watching the Kavanaugh hearings, and the things that were going on, it’s very scary, and we have to get out the vote..,” Young urged, “We’re speaking to the choir here, we know that, but we want you to reach out.”

Towns County High School Commissioner Seth Fullerton introduced Colonel Dale Sissell, an author and two-time Purple Heart recipient, to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance. Towns County High School student and vocalist Summer Rahn sang “God Bless America,” followed by the National Anthem.

Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw served as Master of Ceremonies, opening the meeting by reciting words attributed to former President Ronald Reagan.


Towns County Hosts Gratitude Luncheon for Veterans

Bud Johnson

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Local veterans from each military branch, ranging in service from World War II to Desert Storm, attended an annual luncheon sponsored by Towns County at the Foster Park Recreation and Conference Center on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.

A Towns County Fire and Rescue engine greeted guests as they arrived, the American flag flying high from the ladder’s peak. Tables were adorned in red, white and blue as patriotic music welcomed the veterans and their supporters to the festive recreation hall.

Opening words were offered by Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw. “I’m in awe to stand here before you today,” Commissioner Bradshaw conveyed in appreciation. “I thank you all so much. Freedom comes at a price. As commissioner, I will support you. Towns County will support you.”

L-R: American Legion Commander John Harkins, Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Post 23 Adjutant Mel Halfon

American Legion Commander John Harkins lead the posting of the colors by the North Georgia Honor Guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a powerful rendition of the National Anthem sung by Summer Rahn. An invocation blessing was recited by American Legion Chaplain Katie Harkins.

Guest speaker Senator John Wilkinson addressed the crowd: “I hope you’ll accept my sincere thank you.” Senator Wilkinson referred to the history of Veterans Day, once known as Armistice Day prior to 1954, and made mention of the cessation of hostilities during World War I in 1918 on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

Newly elected Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales extended words of gratitude to the group of veterans. “You are the true heroes of our nation. Your sacrifices are huge. I offer a humble thank you for your service,” Mayor Ordiales said.

Last to speak was Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton. “I’m truly honored to stand here today. I don’t feel worthy to stand before you. I thank God we live in a place where our officials and community truly honor our veterans,” Clinton said. Sheriff Clinton acknowledged his grandfather and hero, Mr. Harold Nicholson, a World War II serviceman who attended the event.


L-R: Sylvia Kelly, Errol Cone, Bob Hass, Ashford Todd and Brandy Creel of VFW Post 7807

A buffet lunch was served by members of the community, catered by Happy Hawg restaurant, while a military tribute presentation played on a large screen hung in the dining hall.

Fetch Your News (FYN) had the honor of meeting several local heroes and listening to the stories they shared.

Retired Naval Chief Petty Officer Clarence “Bud” Johnson, who served “36 years, four months, and four days,” said he enlisted at the age of 17. “I got my feet wet early, gave my life to Jesus Christ and that’s why I’m here, for We, the People. May God bless America,” Mr. Johnson affirmed, asking FYN to quote his sentiment.

Towns County’s oldest veteran, Mr. Frontz Goring, 96, a serviceman during World War II in the 2nd Air Force Training Command Division, expressed, “The Lord has blessed and saved me.” Mr. Goring recalled rendering assistance to a stranger choking on a piece of candy while living in Florida in 1975. “I had just watched a program on how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver, just before it happened. I know God put me in the right place at the right time to save the lady’s life. God is good.”

Frontz Goring

Towns County’s oldest Veteran, Mr. Frontz Goring, USAF, WW2

Friends reunited and new bonds were formed while memories of old and discussions of current events echoed throughout the hall.

“I’m privileged to host this event for our veterans,” Commissioner Bradshaw told FYN as the luncheon came to a close. “They served us and I’m deeply honored to serve them.”

A Veterans Day ceremony will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11:00 a.m. at the War Memorial, adjacent to the Towns County School, on Highway 76 East in Hiawassee.

VFW Adjutant Ashford “Ash” Todd invites the community to Post 7807, located at 1329 Sunnyside Road for a hot dog lunch following the ceremony.


Featured Image: Retired Naval Veteran Clarence “Bud” Johnson


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