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.
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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.
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
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw announced the qualifying fees for candidates in the 2020 election, Jan. 21. The fees are calculated at 3-percent of the elected official’s salary, based on the previous year. Qualification will take place the first week in March, with the primary election for six county offices held on Tuesday, May 19.
The qualifying fees for the open Towns County offices are as follows:
Sole Commissioner: $1,407.54
Tax Commissioner: $1.229.04
Clerk of Court: $1,229.04
Probate Judge: $1,578.31
Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia and Elections Director Rachel Edwards attended the public meeting, explaining the updated voting process while displaying the newly-introduced ballot machines. A total of 42 voting machines are expected to debut at the three assigned precincts, Olivia said.
A touchscreen device will record the elector’s vote, printing a ballot for accuracy review. The ballot is then fed into a scanning device which records the vote.
“If you recall when you voted in the past, you go in and our managers have to look up your name…,” Olivia said, explaining that the voting process should be quicker. “The new poll pads have a scanner on them.” The updated device scans the barcode on the voter’s driver’s license or identification card.
Senior citizens and disabled voters will be assisted by poll workers to the head of the line, Olivia said.
Concern regarding the small print on the printed ballots was raised by a citizen in attendance. Olivia said that reading magnifiers may be introduced at the voting precincts to aid electors with limited vision.
During the demonstration, Olivia announced that the election office is launching a Facebook page to keep the public informed. Towns County Board of Elections and Registration is located at 67 Lakeview Circle, Suite A, in Hiawassee. For additional information, dial 706-896-4353.
Feature Image: Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN sat down with Linda J. Curtis, candidate for Towns County sheriff, Jan. 7, to disseminate the retired law enforcement officer’s plans if elected to office in November. Curtis served a total of 17 years as a police officer in Florida prior to relocating to Towns County. Curtis intends to run on the Republican Party ticket, stating that she has been a Republican for the past 35 years.
“The first thing that I want to do is move this agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said. “You know that old cliche, ‘if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on keeping what you’ve always gotten?’ It seems like every candidate that runs, runs on the same thing. Drugs are important here. They’re a problem in this county, but they’re a problem in every county…But there’s a lot of other problems here than just focusing on drugs. We need to give drugs 100-percent attention, no doubt, but we also have about 15 other problems that need attention also. Every candidate seems to be saying the same thing. Drugs are a problem here. They are, but what about all of the other problems that we have?” Curtis continued, explaining that an “administrative foundation” is needed within the sheriff’s office. “And we need to start caring about each other as a community.”
When asked what is working well within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, and what could benefit from improvement, Curtis said that deputies are “on top” of the drug problem. “I think they’re taking the trash out. I think they are maintaining. I think the deputies are probably doing the best they can with the tools that they’re given right now,” the sheriff’s candidate explained. “When (retiring Sheriff) Chris (Clinton) came in, he started the CLEA. He kind of got community policing going. He went after the drugs. But we never really moved forward from that. If we keep electing the same mentality we’ll be right back here in four years because we have to work on everything. We have to work on community policing. We have to work on investigations.”
Curtis stated that if elected, she plans to build upon the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) program, additionally implementing a student police academy for 5th and 6th-grade students if the funding is available. More so, the sheriff’s contender listed better communication between the sheriff’s office and Towns County 911 dispatch as an area in need of improvement, as well as advanced training for emergency dispatchers.
FYN asked Curtis, who ran as an Independent sheriff’s candidate due to her residency status in 2016, her current thoughts on accepting a controversial endorsement from the Victory Fund four years prior. The Victory Fund strives to elect openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender candidates to political offices throughout America. Curtis called the endorsement the nail in her 2016 campaign coffin, adding that she is not a gay activist as accused by the then-GOP county chairman. “I would definitely want to move the agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said, however. “I don’t know if I would quite use the word progressive, but we have to move it forward.” In a region that undeniably leans toward conservatism, the sheriff’s contestant claimed that she faced harassment during the 2016 election cycle due to her orientation.
Presumingly referencing fellow candidate Daren Osborn, who has publicly vowed to serve as a “working sheriff” if elected, Curtis stated that the community deserves more.
“It’s not throwing on a gold badge and riding around in a patrol car. That’s not what being sheriff means to me. And I know this is probably going to upset people, but any monkey can be a working sheriff. Any monkey can jump off the road and say we’re going to work on drugs. But we’ve got so many other problems there,” Curtis said. “A working sheriff is great, but we need better than a working sheriff. We need an everything sheriff. We need to be good at admin, community policing, investigations, and we need to get out from behind the desk. We need to be in good physical condition. If my deputies are going to get out there and run a mile, by God, I need to run a mile too.”
Curtis said that her 11 years serving with Altamonte Police Department provided her with the training and experience to take office as Towns County’s next sheriff, describing the Florida agency as “very busy with high crime and high pressure.”
“As far as being a candidate for sheriff, does it make me a better cop? Not necessarily,” Curtis said. “Does it make me better able to handle a crisis? Absolutely because I’ve been in it.”
The sheriff’s candidate listed volunteer work with the local Lions Club, VFW, and the Lake Chatuge clean-up project as community service endeavors, encouraging other candidates to likewise “show what they’ve done to make the county better.”
Curtis resides in Hiawassee with partner, Debbie. The recently-wedded couple relocated to the area in 2010, becoming full-time residents in 2014.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Board of Elections and Registration will set aside time at its regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. to hear from any elector who wishes to challenge a voter registration, following regular board business.
“Any elector who has received a letter indicating that his or her voter status has changed but would like to appeal the findings may attend the meeting,” Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia said. “No prior notice of appearance is required. If you have been convicted of a felony but are no longer serving your sentence and the sentence is therefore completed, you can vote in Georgia. If you have received a letter indicating you are a convicted felon and cannot vote but you have actually completed your sentence, please contact our office or attend the hearings with official paperwork to verify your sentence completion.”
Any person 17.5 years of age who will be age 18 by election day can register to vote, Oliva added.
“Also, we are still seeking poll workers to serve in all elections,” Olivia said. “Poll workers receive compensation through the county for serving, in addition to enjoying the fellowship of other public servants in the community. We encourage students who are 16 years of age and older to become poll workers. Serving as a poll worker affords school students an opportunity to learn more about local government and the democratic voting process.”
For additional information, contact the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration at 706-896-3453.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Republican Chairwoman Betsy Young warned Sunday, Oct. 20, of Democratic plans to flip the 9th Congressional District from red to blue in the 2020 election.
“Rural, mountain counties be aware of the ‘play book’ of the far left,” Young cautioned. “They know they have the city votes so they will concentrate on the outer areas, trying to change the minds of the more conservative voters or moderate leaning voters. These communities, like ours, Union, Rabun are targets. The 9th Congressional District is a target so we must prepare.”
Young offered the following tips to conservative voters:
- Register every Republican to vote.
- Check to see if you are registered, especially if it was done through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- If registered years ago, make sure your signature has not changed or it can be challenged.
- Bring friends to the polls who can’t get there on their own.
- Be an “informed” voter. Know facts, not innuendo.
“I am sure there are other important things and we will remind you as we go forward to 2020,” Young said.
Georgia’s 9th Congressional District is located in the northeastern portion of the state and includes Banks, Dawson, Elbert, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White counties. Parts of Clarke, Forsyth, and Pickens counties lie within the district.
Georgia’s 9th Congressional District is represented by Republican Doug Collins..
Antwon Stephens, a bisexual Democrat, plans to challenge Collins in 2020. “Stephens, 23, said his deep roots in rural Georgia make him want to run against U.S. House Rep. Doug Collins. He would become — at 25 — the youngest member of the U.S. House ever if he were to win. He would also be Georgia’s first-ever LGBTQ member of the U.S. House,” Project Q Atlanta, “queer Atlanta’s most-visited destinations for LGBTQ, gay and lesbian news,” reported earlier this year.
“Stephens needs your help to oust radical religious extremist Doug Collins from office and turn Georgia’s 9th Congressional District Blue. Flipping one of America’s reddest districts won’t be easy,” the Democratic challenger’s fundraising website states.
The primary election is scheduled for May 19, 2020. The general election will be held on November 3, 2020. The filing deadline for candidates is March 6, 2020.
In 2016, nearly 80 percent of Towns County’s registered voters cast ballots in the general 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.
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.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County Elections Director Tonya Nichols officially resigned from office Wednesday, Oct. 2, leaving the position vacant as of next week. Nichols duties included administering and supervising the conduct of elections, the registering of electors for Towns County, directing and controling election and voter registration staff and volunteers while serving at the pleasure of the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration Board.
The Board assigns work in terms of general instructions requiring the use of judgment. The work is reviewed through observation of elections for the nature of the final results. It is a full-time position requiring analytical challenges per the guidance of the Georgia Secretary of State.
Individuals interested in filling the position should possess a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Business Management or related field preferred, or equivalent work experience. Preference is given to candidates with prior experience in Elections and Registration or County/State Government administrative or clerical positions.
Interested applicants should e-mail a resume with a cover letter to Janet Oliva, Chairperson, Towns County Board of Elections & Registration, at [email protected].
General questions should be directed to Janet Oliva by telephone at 404-277-2918.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As Hiawassee City Council’s three-of-five seats election approaches in November, and national, state, and county offices loom the following year, Towns County Board of Elections may have to scramble to put new procedures into place due to potential changes in voting laws
“We are panicking,” Towns County Elections Director Tonya Nichols told FYN, June 10. “We are hearing nothing about the training or the bidding process. The clock is ticking. It’s disheartening. We don’t know where we stand or what to do.”
Hand-marked ballots could become a reality if challengers of the electronic system succeed in the continuation of the “Fair Fight Action” lawsuit, initiated upon the defeat of 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams. In recent weeks, a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the use of touchscreen voting terminals was denied by a federal judge. Attorneys for the State of Georgia argued that the lawsuit should be dropped as the Secretary of State’s Office is in the process of selecting a new vendor for voting machines, and widespread changes to election laws were implemented, including a bill signed by Governor Brian Kemp that calls for new voting machines that print paper ballots, extends the time period before registrations are canceled, and places limitations on the closure of voting precincts. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg countered that “rapidly evolving cybertechnology changes and challenges have altered the reality now facing electorial voting systems and Georgia’s system in particular,” adding that the motion to dismiss the lawsuit disregarded that fact.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, should hand-marked ballots become the future of the voting process, the cost to Georgia taxpayers is estimated in the multimillions. “Implementing hand-marked paper ballots would cost our state more than the estimated $224 million, since that number does not include the costs of staff, training, and other items related to election systems,” Georgia Secretary of State Director of Elections Chris Harvey concluded. “A hand-marked paper ballot system would also dramatically shift costs onto local governments – placing a heavy burden on local taxpayers and drawing a stark distinction between this and other options designed to prioritize taxpayer savings.”
While the Towns County Elections Office anticipates potential reformation, elections’ employees are faced with a host of responsibilties, including processing voter registration applications, preparing advertisements of qualifying requirements, updating voters’ card files, and performing municiple street maintenance, which ensures software data correctly corresponds with the location of voters’ residences, among other duties. “We stay busy as we wait in limbo for what’s to come,” Nichols said.