Archived News for Democrats
Commissioner Bradshaw gives update to Towns County Democrats
Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw provided an update on several county projects when he met with Towns County Democrats on Thursday, Feb. 10.
Prominent among them was upcoming renovations to the county courthouse in Hiawassee. The renovations are being funded with proceeds from a 1% Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2020. While the coronavirus pandemic and resulting supply-chain problems have delayed the project’s start, the interest accumulating on the $2.3 million now in the SPLOST account have been a silver lining in face of inflation, which has raised the courthouse project cost from $8 million to $9.5 million, Bradshaw said.
“We’re gaining interest, not paying interest” on a bond that Bradshaw said he purposefully did not secure due to the pandemic’s uncertainty. “The county is doing very well financially. We have been very frugal since COVID hit,” he said.
The courthouse renovations are expected to take 12 to 14 months to complete. County offices will vacate the building and move into the old county recreation center, where improvements to the HVAC system will begin within the next two weeks, resulting in a bonus of better air conditioning for local pickleball players when they resume rainy-day matches there. Bradshaw also reported that a new covered pavilion with restrooms and picnic tables will be built at the Towns County Pickleball Complex. He did not give a timeline for that project.
As the SPLOST is a six-year tax, Bradshaw said funds generated by it will be available to replenish the county’s “rainy-day” fund from which money may also be drawn to pay for the courthouse and other projects. “We hope to have [the courthouse project] paid for in full, with no loans and no interest due, by opening day,” he said.
In the meantime, Bradshaw said he will continue to improve county wages, which he noted have increased 50 cents per hour each year since he took office in 2017, and to upgrade all of the county’s equipment.
As the county grows, Bradshaw said “We are trying to stay ahead of the growth that we know is coming.” As a result, he said the county will be updating its ordinances and will take steps for stricter enforcement of its permitting process, particularly building permits, and enforcement of such measures as the Mountain Protection Act which limits the amount of soil, trees, and vegetation that can be removed from land above 2,200 feet in elevation.
“We’re not going to let people move up here and scalp our mountains and decrease our property values,” he said, adding that doing so would damage the very things that attract newcomers and visitors to Towns County.
Another update Bradshaw mentioned was a change at the county transfer station, i.e., the county dump, where residential and commercial garbage are now disposed of in separate and distinct areas. Anything bagged is considered residential, he said. The new system should result in a cleaner and faster experience, he said.
In response to a question about the potential for crypto-mining facilities coming to Towns County, Bradshaw said the county is looking into a 120-day moratorium which could be considered at the next commissioner’s meeting. The moratorium would be followed by an ordinance “that would make it so strict they would not want to come here,” he said.
“I still love coming to work every day,” Bradshaw concluded with obvious enthusiasm.
Towns County Democrats meet the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the county civic center in Hiawassee.
County Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski reminds voters that applications for absentee ballots for the May 24 primary will be available starting March 7 and the application period will close May 13. She emphasized that the application period is shorter this election cycle than in previous years because of Georgia’s new voting law.
Towns, Union Democrats Counties Urged to Educate Voters on New Voting Law
Democrats in Northeast Georgia need to mitigate the damage done by recent changes to Georgia’s voting laws by educating the public on how the changes will affect their right to vote, Mike Cobb, vice chair for voter protection in the Ninth district, told a gathering of Democrats from Union and Towns counties May 13.
Cobb’s job is to help individual counties assemble task forces to carry out mitigation and education efforts in the 20 counties of the ninth district. He also serves as second vice chair of the Fannin County Democratic Committee and said each county is encouraged to organize either a task force, as Fannin is doing, or subcommittee with responsibility for education efforts.
“We call ours a ‘task force’ for a reason. We plan to get things done and are action oriented,” he said.
Towns County Democratic Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski said Towns County Democrats will be participating in this statewide effort led by the Democratic Party of Georgia and will establish task forces to carry out plans to help local voters navigate this new system. Towns Democrats will meet next on Thursday, June 10.
Three areas where changes will affect local voters are in absentee voting procedures, early in person and polling day voting, and how county boards of election will be managed and overseen by the State Election Board, Cobb said.
“These are onerous and draconian provisions,” he said, describing the changes. “The Democratic Party of Georgia has scoured SB 202 and looked for ways to mitigate [its effect on voters] and mobilize registration and get out the vote efforts.”
Changes to absentee voting will reduce the time voters have to apply for an absentee ballot to a narrow window beginning 78 days and ending 11 days before an election, he said. Voters are used to the application period opening 180 days before an election and may not realize the earlier closing date means they can no longer apply for an absentee ballot as late as the Friday before an election.
Also, voters will have to include either a driver’s license number or a Georgia voter identification card number on the application. In the past the voter’s signature was sufficient. Voters without these forms of identification will have to submit a photocopy of one of the other authorized forms of photo identification specified in the law.
For Union and Towns counties which only had one absentee ballot drop box new restrictions on the availability of drop boxes will have little effect. However, the drop boxes will not be as convenient since they can no longer be located outside and thus available when convenient for the voter. Instead, the boxes must be inside a polling place or government building, be monitored, and will only be available during business hours.
“Drop box availability will be a huge issue,” he said, since it will affect the ability of people who work during the day to turn in their absentee ballot. Additionally, a third party can no longer legally drop off an absentee voter’s ballot, Cobb said.
One offset to the restrictions imposed by SB 202 is expansion of early in-person voting, he said. Voters will have two mandatory Saturday voting hours and election boards have the option to have polls open for two Sundays.
However, voters who go to the wrong precinct will no longer be able to cast a provisional ballot unless they show up after 5 p.m. on polling day. This will affect the ability of people to vote. “Polling places change, and voters may not realize their precinct polling place is different. We have to educate voters, so they know where to vote,” Cobb said.
SB 202 hands the Republican controlled legislature control over the State Election Board, he said. The State Election Board now has the power to suspend up to four county election officials and take over the local election.
“What are the four counties you’re going to do this to?” he asked and then answered his own question, “Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett and DeKalb.” The four counties have large minority populations and voted overwhelmingly for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
John Andrews, Chair of the Democratic Party of Union County, in introducing Cobb said changes to the State Election Board worried him. “It gives power to the legislature, the people whom we pay, but they don’t listen to us,” he said. “We need to learn how to work within [SB] 202 to turn people out [to vote].”
Two provisions of SB 202 that Cobb said are unlikely to survive court challenges are the change to the Federal election runoff schedule and the voter fraud hotline to the attorney general. Changing the schedule for federal runoffs from nine weeks after the election to 28 days will prove unconstitutional, he said. This is because it does not provide enough time to send and allow return of absentee ballots to military overseas voters and, therefore, creates two classes of voters who are treated differently.
He also does not expect the hotline to be implemented because the Attorney General’s office does not have the manpower to screen every complaint. The State Board of Elections already has a hotline and most of the calls it receives are dismissed with only a few being substantive enough to be forwarded to the Attorney General for further investigation.
Attorney General Candidate Speaks to Towns County Democrats
Trial attorney and former Fulton County prosecutor Charlie Bailey was guest speaker when the Towns County Democrats gathered April 8 at Mayor’s Park in Young Harris for their monthly meeting. His brief address to the group focused on values he said Georgians share: respect, fairness, protection of civil and voting rights, affordable health care, and safety.
Bailey noted the lack of both a civil rights division and an organized crime division in the Georgia attorney general’s office, which he said he believes should serve as the people’s lawyer and advocate for the citizens of Georgia against such practices as predatory debt collection, corporate pollution, and pharmaceutical price-fixing. With a civil rights division, the AG office could focus on unfairness in housing and rogue police departments, he said, and an organized crime division could focus on more than just gangs and instead go after the leaders of crime syndicates. Bailey said he agrees with the nation’s FBI director that domestic terrorism is the greatest threat today to public safety.
In coming months, Towns County Democrats will focus on the impact of the state election bill recently signed into law by the governor, said county Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski. She noted several areas of emphasis that the voting public will need to understand prior to 2022 statewide elections, including changes in identification requirements, out-of-precinct voting, early voting hours, absentee voting, ballot drop boxes, and others
Towns County Democrats meet the second Thursday of each month. Time and location of the May 13 meeting will be announced.
Towns County resident representing 9th District at Democratic National Convention
Hiawassee resident Jim Powell is one of four elected delegates representing the Ninth Congressional District this week at the all-virtual Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee where former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California will be formally nominated Thursday as the party’s presidential/vice presidential ticket for the Nov. 3 general election. Powell is participating as a Biden delegate.
Powell and three others were elected by Ninth District Democrats in May through an online voting process Powell has been active in Georgia Democratic activities for many years. He was the statewide Democratic candidate for the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2008, when he was the top performing statewide Democratic candidate in the primary, general, and runoff elections. He works at the grassroots level in support of Georgia Democrats in a variety of statewide, regional, and local elections. He previously served on the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration.
Georgia is allocated 129 convention delegates, nine of whom are alternates. Powell is one of 68 district-level delegates and the only delegate from Towns County. The other Ninth District delegates are Virginia Webb of Clarksville, Wilson Golden of Gainesville and Terry Franzen of Jasper.
Powell retired from the federal government in 2007 after a 35-year career. He was a member of the Senior Executive Service with the U.S. Department of Energy where he served as the national program manager in the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Office, managing a number of initiatives and a budget of more than $300 million. He served honorably in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1972.
In 2013, President Barak Obama appointed Powell to serve as the federal representative to the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB). In this role, he served as the official liaison between the SSEB members and all federal agencies. SSEB is a non-profit interstate compact created in 1960 with a mission to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the South through innovations in energy and environmental policies, programs, and technologies. Sixteen Southern states and two U.S. territories comprise the membership of SSEB, and each jurisdiction is represented by the governor and a legislator from the U.S. House and Senate
A small business owner, Powell currently works as an independent energy efficiency and renewable energy consultant to states, local governments, and industry. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 49 years and have lived in Hiawassee since 2006.
County Party Leaders Offer Suggestions for Smart Voting
While Towns County’s two major political party leaders may not agree on the preferred outcome of the 2020 elections, they absolutely agree that every vote should count. Consequently, Republican Party Chair Betsy Young and Democratic Committee Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski are takings steps to get the public educated about the electoral process to help ensure the Aug. 11 primary runoffs go smoothly.
For a smoother election process, we wish for everyone to understand the procedures,” Sleczkowski said during a recent working session between the county’s two political party chairs. Their efforts focused on lessons learned during the June 9 Republican and Democratic primaries in Georgia, with particular attention on the absentee ballot process.
Quoting the late Louis Brandeis, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Young noted of the electoral process: “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of a private citizen.”
First off, Young and Sleczkowski noted that if a registered voter did not vote in the June primary, they may still vote in the Aug 11 runoff. The August runoff is open to all registered voters.
Voter registration for the Aug. 11 runoff ended July 13 in Georgia but is open through Oct. 5 for the Nov. 3 general election. Early voting in Towns County for the Aug. 11 primary runoff began Monday, July 20, and will continue through Friday, Aug. 7, at the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration office, at 67 Lakeview Circle in Hiawassee, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. No Saturday voting for the runoff is scheduled.
Voting absentee technically is considered early voting. Both Young and Sleczkowski stressed that voting absentee is a two-step process: first, requesting an application for an absentee ballot, and second, casting the ballot.
Voters who are disabled or elderly (65 and older) and who asked to receive an absentee ballot for the remainder of the 2020 election cycle (by indicating so on their original absentee ballot application) will be sent an absentee ballot automatically for the Aug. 11 runoff and subsequent elections in the 2020 election cycle. These voters should be receiving their runoff ballots in the mail any day now. In other words, if you are elderly or disabled and requested an absentee ballot for the remainder of the 2020 election cycle, you do not need to reapply for an absentee ballot for the Aug. 11 runoff, the party leaders said.
However, for all other registered voters who desire to vote by absentee ballot in the Aug. 11 runoff, you must request an absentee ballot by contacting the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration or by obtaining an absentee ballot application online via the Georgia Secretary of State's website (www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP). Absentee ballot request applications are available in the outside lobby of the county Board of Elections and Registration office. The absentee ballot application can then be returned by the voter to the local Board of Elections office either in person or by mail, facsimile (fax) or electronic transmission (email).
Because of the time needed to process the absentee ballot application, including mail delivery, Young and Sleczkowski strongly suggested that registered voters who wish to apply for an absentee ballot for the Aug. 11 runoff do so no later than Aug. 1 – or at least 10 days before the runoff, to be safe. The absentee ballot itself cannot be picked up in person at the county Board of Elections and Registration office, they noted; the ballot itself will be mailed to the voter.
One important distinction should be noted, said Young and Sleczkowski: If a voter requested an absentee ballot for the June 9 primary but did not receive one, or chose to vote in person instead, the voter will need to submit a new absentee ballot application for the Aug. 11 runoff. Again, the status of the original application can be viewed at the My Voter Page, www.mvpsosga.gov/MVP.
The second step in the absentee voting process is casting the absentee ballot. Voters can mark and cast their absentee ballot any time after receiving it, but they must be cast – that is, received at the office of the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration – no later than 7 p.m. on Aug. 11, the day of the primary runoff. Sleczkowski and Young stressed the importance of the absentee ballot being received by that time and date, NOT postmarked. Completed absentee ballots can be mailed to or hand-delivered to the drop box outside the county Board of Elections and Registration office, which is located in the same building as the Civic Center in Hiawassee. Sufficient postage is required if the ballot is mailed.
In-person voting in the Aug. 11 runoff begins at 7 a.m., with the polls closing at 7 p.m. Anyone in line at the three voting precincts – Hiawassee, Young Harris, and Macedonia – will be allowed to vote. Unlike during the June 9 primary, all three of Towns County’s voting precincts will be open on Aug. 11, according to the county Board of Elections and Registration.
One significant lesson learned from the June 9 primary, Young and Sleczkowski said, is that the oval next to the candidate’s name on the absentee ballot must be filled in completely using a black or blue pen (not pencil) – and NOT checked or marked with an X – so that it can be successfully scanned electronically. Ballots not marked appropriately may be considered invalid and not counted, they stressed.
If the absentee ballot is defaced due to error or spillage or by any other means, the voter should immediately contact the county Board of Elections and Registration to receive a replacement ballot, again allowing sufficient time for processing and mailing. However, Sleczkowski and Young noted that a replacement ballot cannot be mailed on the day prior to the runoff, which would be Aug. 10.
Voters who successfully cast absentee ballots prior to Aug. 11 do not need to – and should not – show up for in-person voting on election day. However, if a voter who applied to vote absentee did not receive a ballot, or if a voter cannot confirm via the My Voter Page that their absentee ballot was successfully cast, Young and Sleczkowski said they should go to their polling place on election day so that county election officials can resolve the ballot issue.
Because the Aug. 11 election is a party primary runoff, voters will be required to state their party preference to receive a ballot. If the voter requested a Democratic ballot in June, they must again ask for a Democratic ballot in August, and the same applies for Republican ballots. However, if the voter requested a non-partisan ballot in June, they may ask for either a Democratic or Republican ballot for the Aug. 11 runoff.
Republican voters on Aug. 11 will choose nominees for the Nov. 3 general election by voting for primary candidates for U.S. representative in the 117th Congress from the 9th Congressional District of Georgia, for state senator from the 50th District, and for Towns County sheriff. Democratic voters will choose between candidates for the 9th Congressional District only.
Towns County Census response expected to be high
Towns County’s response rate to the 2020 Census could exceed 95 percent, Towns County Democrats heard Thursday night.
Pat Malone, chairman of the Governor’s Complete Count Committee for Towns and Union Counties said he bases that estimation on Towns’ 88 percent response in 2010, the highest response rate among Georgia’s 159 counties. He also said the county’s current population of approximately 12,000 is expected to be higher as a result of the decennial count.
The constitutionally required Census starts in earnest on April 1. Malone stated its purpose is to create an historical record of the nation’s population and form the basis for apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the state legislatures, along with the allocation of federal funds. The first U.S. Census occurred in 1790.
The 2010 Census resulted in an additional seat for Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives: the 9th Congressional District which includes Towns and 19 other north Georgia counties. Census officials anticipate the 2020 count will result in 10 states losing one House seat and seven states gaining seats, including as many as three for Florida and two for Texas.
Based on its population in 2016, Malone said Georgia gets back some $2,000 per person in federal funds and another $1.4 billion through rural assistance programs. Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps), Medicare Part B, and highway planning and construction are just some of the 82 federal programs whose funds are distributed to states based on their population, he said.
The Census will be conducted online for the first time this year. For those without access to a computer or Internet service, paper and telephone versions are available, according to Malone. Additionally, all Towns County public libraries will have dedicated Census computers available.
He said residents will be asked how many people live at the residence and whether the residence is owned or rented. Individuals will be asked to provide their name, gender, age, date of birth, race, whether they live at the residence or somewhere else, and their relationship to the head of the household.
Towns Countians should begin receiving in the mail on March 12 a postcard reminder about the upcoming Census which will include the website address. Reminder letters will be mailed between March 26 and April 3. Those who have not completed the online process between April 8 and 26 will be mailed a paper form to complete, with a final reminder arriving between April 20 and 27.
Malone said Census enumerators will make personal visits to households who have not responded by the end of May, with enumerators going out “six different times, six different days of the week, and six different times of the day.” He estimated some 180 people are needed to serve as enumerators for Towns County, and applications are still being taken at 2020census.gov/jobs. Enumerators are paid $17 an hour and mileage, he said. Training will be conducted in mid-March.
Census material will be available in 17 different languages with 40 additional language translators available if needed. Students living on campus and those living in assisted living or nursing homes or other group settings will be reported by the facilities’ administrators. Enumerators will seek out homeless citizens as well.
Also at Thursday’s monthly meeting, Towns Democrats selected David Plunkett of Young Harris to fill a party vacancy on the bipartisan county Board of Elections and Registration. He would replace Jim Powell of Hiawassee whose term has expired.
Democrats also heard from David Cooper of Rabun County, a candidate for Georgia State House District 8 which includes Towns, Union, Rabun and White counties.
Along with Towns County Republicans, Towns Democrats are presently assisting with training for the annual Top of Georgia Student Public Speaking Contest which is scheduled for March 10 at 6 p.m. at the county Civic Center in Hiawassee. The public is invited and admission is free.
Towns County Democrats meet the second Thursday of each month at the civic center. A pot-luck meal at 6 p.m. is followed by the meeting at 6:30. For more information about local Democratic activities, visit www.townsdemocrats.com or contact them at email@example.com.
Training Begins for Top of Georgia Speech Contest Set for March 10
Six weeks of training began yesterday, Jan. 21, at the Towns County Senior Center for the 12th annual Top of Georgia Student Public Speaking Contest, which is scheduled for March 10.
The Top of Georgia Student Development Organization is sponsoring the 2020 contest. The program welcomes all students in grades 6 through 12, including Towns County public- and private-school students as well as local students who are home schooled. Samantha Church, last year’s winner who is homeschooled and dual enrolled at Young Harris College and North Georgia Technical College, is the lead organizer for this year’s contest.
“I remember the first time I went to the public speaking training program. My knees were shaking and I was very nervous to simply introduce myself in front of everyone, Miss Church said. “Being involved with the program for the past three years has given me confidence in my public speaking skills and has positively impacted my life and the way I communicate with others.”
Application forms are available in local stores as well as the Towns County Public Library in Hiawassee and the Mountain Regional Library in Young Harris. Interested students may also obtain applications from their teachers. The completed form must be returned to one of the contacts listed on the form.
The contest committee and trainers have been diligently working for several weeks to make this year’s contest the best yet. They are developing and simplifying the judging criteria. Trainers represent local business men and women and educators and leaders in the community who have experience in public speaking and a passion for investing the younger generation, including trainers from both the Towns County Republican and Democratic committees who are working with contest in a joint venture.
Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw attended a couple of organizing meetings and is very supportive of the program, saying he is enthusiastic about what this endeavor will promote within the next generation and within the community.
Student speakers may choose their own topic and must present a speech of at least three minutes and no longer than six minutes. Prizes are $400 for first place, $300 for second place, $200 for third place, and $100 for fourth place. Prize amounts are the same for the high-school and middle-school divisions. Contest winners are subsequently invited to present their speeches to local civic and governmental organizations in order to give the speakers and the program visibility in the community as well as to educate more people on their chosen topic.
“This county-wide event is extremely powerful and invests in the lives of students in the community every year,” Miss Church stated. “This is an opportunity that no one should pass up as it could change their lives and give them opportunities they would not have had otherwise.”
Speeches will be presented judged at a public event on March 10, beginning at 6 p.m., at the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee. Admission is free. The contest could continue on additional nights if student participation warrants multiple judging events.
For further information, contact Sam Fullerton at 706-994-4658.
Towns County Democratic Survey
In November 2019 Towns County Democrats were polled on their Presidential preferences and policy priorities in an unofficial survey. Elizabeth Warren received the most votes, while Healthcare was the top priority for respondents.
Every respondent committed to vote for any Democrat in the 2020 elections. The top candidates and issues were:
Presidential Primary Choices
1st place Elizabeth Warren
2nd place tie: Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden
3rd place tie: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders
1st place Healthcare,
2nd place Environment (climate)
3rd place Fair Elections,
4th place Gun Violence,
5th place Civil Rights (end discrimination),
6th place Immigration
The following priorities tied at 7th place:
Science & Technology
Jobs & Economy,
National Security, and
Write-In: defeat dishonest president trump (probably unanimous if it had been a question!)
BIG THANK YOU TO OUR FRIENDS & SUPPORTERS
North Georgia Democrats Hear from Candidates
Democrats from across seven north Georgia counties gathered Saturday afternoon, Oct. 26, at Meeks Parks in Blairsville to hear candidates for federal offices, share a meal, listen to local musicians, and learn how they can help the planet.
Hosted by the Towns and Union counties Democratic committees, Blue Fest featured U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff of Atlanta and Dan Wilson of Rabun County, prospective candidate for Georgia’s 9th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ossoff, who is seeking to replace incumbent Sen. David Perdue, is running an anti-corruption campaign in his effort to claim the party’s nomination in the March 24 Georgia primary. Ossoff set campaign fundraising records in the 2017 special election to fill Georgia’s 6th congressional district House seat. He has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation.
Wilson spoke of finding common ground between Democrats and Republicans as the means of ending today’s current political polarization, which he said is harming the country. An ordained United Methodist Church minister, Wilson is expected to make an announcement about his candidacy for the House seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins once Gov. Brian Kemp appoints the person who will serve out the remainder of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Isakson is resigning from the Senate effective Dec. 31. Collins is counted among the front-runners for the appointment.
Local Democrats also heard from a spokesman for Matt Lieberman of Atlanta, who was the first Georgia Democrat to make public his intention to run for Isakson’s seat.
Blue Fest drew Democrats from Towns, Union, Fannin, Rabun, Hall, Dawson, and White counties to Meeks Park. In addition to the candidates, they heard music by guitarist and singer Nelson Thomas, who is also chair of the Union County Democratic Committee, and keyboardist Mike Davis. Towns County Democratic Committee Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski also welcomed June Krise, 9th District Democratic chair, who emphasized ongoing voter-registration efforts throughout the state and who encouraged Democrats to identify candidates for state legislative seats and county positions.
Betty Holland, chair of the Dawson County Democratic Committee and founder of the North Georgia Conservation Coalition, presented measures Georgians can take to reduce their plastic footprint and to reduce energy costs and thereby lower carbon emissions which are contributing to global climate change.
Towns County Democrats meet the second Thursday of the month at the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee. A pot-luck meal begins at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6:30.
Towns County Democrats Hear Bradshaw's Goals, Accomplishments
Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told county Democrats last week that one of the biggest challenges facing him as commissioner is managing the county’s expected growth.
“We are going to expand, and we need to be involved with that growth because we want it to be controlled growth,” Bradshaw told the Aug. 8 monthly Democratic Party gathering at the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee. He cited an increase in tourism tax dollars from $37 million to $41 million in the past three years as evidence of a growing local economy. “The only way we are going to grow the economy here is more population, but we also have to consider how much do we want to grow and how,” he added.
Bradshaw responded to questions and spoke to the Democrats for almost an hour about accomplishments during his first three years in office as well as future goals. Clearly enthusiastic about his time in office, Bradshaw told the Democrats “I love doing this job. I work every day for the people, and I don’t know how they vote and I don’t care. My job is to be the very best commissioner I can be for Towns County. My job is to protect our mountaintops, to keep the county clean, and to keep our water clean.”
County Democratic Party Chairwoman Charlotte Sleczkowski said she appreciated Bradshaw taking the time to share his vision for the county with the group. “We want to work alongside Commissioner Bradshaw as he strives to make Towns County a great place to live and work,” she said. “Our mutual goals for the county have no political distinction.”
A challenge related to growth is providing a skilled labor force to supply the needs of businesses, beyond the restaurant and service industry, that want to locate here, he said. Additional traffic comes with growth, and Bradshaw stated he will be meeting with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the state transportation director later this month regarding installing a left-turn lane on U.S. 76 West near Papa’s Pizza.
Among the accomplishments of his first term Bradshaw listed:
Remodeling the old county recreation center gym with new lighting, roofing, painting, and flooring, making it pickleball friendly.
Building a new fire station on Highway 66 in Young Harris and the addition of a helicopter landing pad there to provide a second site for medical evacuations. He also noted the fire station will contribute to lower home insurance rates for people in that part of the county.
Replacing county road equipment, particularly old dump trucks with high repair bills.
Adding a recycling station for electronics (cell phones, TVs, printers, computers, etc.) at the county dump.
Maintaining the $3.1 million financial reserve which he inherited from the previous commissioner. Any funding above that amount will be used to improve the county, Bradshaw said.
The county’s 2018 audit report also showed general revenue increases of more than $600,000 as a result of efficiency changes Bradshaw said he has instituted without any increase in taxes since 2007.
Instituting a veterans’ program that formally recognizes any veteran who has grown up in Towns County, graduated from the county high school, or who has moved into the county. The program is carried out in cooperation with the local VFW chapter and includes a suicide hotline.
Bradshaw cited as a primary goal reclaiming for the county the 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) which expires for county schools in 2020. “We want to get it for the county to remodel the courthouse. It’s time,” he said. Another fire station near the Emergency Management Services building is another goal he listed.
He also plans to renegotiate the county medical airlift contract, which he emphasized covers every fulltime homeowner in Towns County, with the county covering the fee. Bradshaw said the current contract has a cap on the price so the county doesn’t pay more if the airlift service flies out more people than in the previous year. He wants the new contract also to provide a lower cost if the service flies out fewer people than in the previous year.
Towns County Democrats will meet again on Sept. 20 at the county Civic Center. A potluck dinner will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the business meeting at 6:30.
Towns County Residents Help Launch North Georgia Young Democrats Chapter
Four Towns County residents were among those present Saturday, April 6, 2019, for the kickoff of the Northeast Georgia Young Democrats chapter. Bob and Charlotte Sleczkowski and Meredith and Sven Legg-Grady, all of Hiawassee, attended the picnic at Tallulah Gorge State Park along with some 30 other young adults and alumni from Towns, Rabun, Habersham, Hall, and Stephens counties, as well as Democrats from North Carolina.
Rachel Paule, president of the Young Democrats of Georgia, and Justin Holsomback, secretary of the Democratic Party of Georgia, made brief presentations. Also on hand was Josh McCall, Ninth District Democratic Party chairman. Chapter leaders are Trenton Hobby of Stephens County, chair; Malina Rawlins of Rabun County, vice chair, promotions; Kelsey Dillard of Habersham County, vice chair, membership; Alex Rawlins of Rabun County, secretary; and Maddie Ballentine of Rabun County, treasurer.
Towns County Chair Charlotte Sleczkowski invited all Towns County Democrats to participate in the chapter’s next monthly meeting on Thursday, May 9, 2019, which will be a joint event with Union County Democrats. Sarah Riggs Amico, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Georgia lieutenant governor, will speak. A pot-luck meal will begin at 6:00 followed by the meeting at 6:30 at the Unity Church of Blairsville, 298 School Circle.
Towns County Democrats are presently taking donations for the chapter’s scholarship fund which will benefit a Towns County student attending college locally.
Towns County Represented at Big Blue BBQ
Six local residents represented Towns County at the Rabun County Democrats’ Big Blue Barbeque in Clayton on Saturday, June 29, 2019.
County Democratic Party chair Charlotte Sleczkowski and husband Bob, county party treasurer Karen Powell and husband Jim, all of Hiawassee, and David and Vickie Plunkett of Young Harris joined some 175 Democrats from seven north Georgia counties at the second annual event held at Moonrise Distillery.
Featured speakers were Daniel Blackman, the first black person elected to office in Forsyth County, who announced at the event that he will be running for a seat in 2020 on the Georgia Public Service Commission, and Sarah Riggs Amico, who said she is “giving serious consideration” to challenging Georgia’s junior senator, David Perdue, whose U.S. Senate seat is up for election in 2020. Riggs Amico was the Democratic nominee for Georgia lieutenant governor in 2018.
Both Blackman and Amico stressed to their fellow Democrats the importance of ensuring “nothing goes unchallenged” by fielding candidates for every state, local, and congressional office (Georgia’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one seat in the U.S. Senate) on the ballot in 2020. Blackman urged voters not to get comfortable or complacent or to settle for mediocrity or simplicity from candidates. Amico also cautioned to leave nothing unsaid, urging north Georgia activists to stress values and voice the conscience of the country.
Towns County Democrats meet on the second Thursday of each month at the Towns County Civic Center, 67 Lakeview Circle, in Hiawassee. The meeting is open to the public. Meetings begin with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. followed by a business meeting at 6:30. Drinks and dinnerware will be provided.
Towns, Union Democrats Hear from 9th District Chairman Josh McCall
Ninth District Democratic Party Chairman Josh McCall told Towns and Union County Democrats on Thursday, March 14, 2019, to have hope for better things ahead and keep fighting for their neighbors.
McCall, who was the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District in 2018, cited the 55,000-plus Democratic votes cast in the 2018 race which far exceeded the 37,000 cast in 2014 as a sign the party is making progress in the Ninth District, which includes 17 counties in northeast Georgia. The 55,000 votes were in stark contrast to 2016, when there was no Democratic candidate to challenge the incumbent U.S. representative.
McCall urged local Democrats to continue fighting for their neighbors’ Medicare and Social Security which are under attack in the proposed fiscal year 2020 federal budget submitted to Congress by President Trump last week. He also noted that the family leave act introduced by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) would be paid for by transferring funds from the family member’s Social Security account.
McCall cautioned the group not to place too much hope in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and upcoming report, saying “The system is designed to be very kind and forgiving to billionaires.” The U.S. House of Representatives voted 420-0 last week to make Mueller’s report public, he noted.
Regarding the 2020 presidential race, McCall noted that Russian bot activity (phony social media accounts) in 2016 focused mostly on candidates Trump and Clinton but is now infiltrating the political left in an effort to create bitter divisions among the Democratic presidential candidates and their supporters. With such existential moral threats to the nation as immigrant children being detained in cages, McCall said Democrats cannot allow divisions to be sewn “or the next four-year presidential term will be even worse.” He added that Democratic people of faith, such as himself, should start speaking out from within their churches on such issues.
Ninth District Democratic county leaders will hold a district-wide meeting on March 23 in Dahlonega. McCall said he is developing plans for a district educational event on Medicaid eligibility as well as community-service events to aid the oppressed and marginalized residents of the district who were never covered by Roosevelt’s New Deal. He urged the local Democrats to “canvass not for a candidate but for a cause” in the Ninth District’s three regions: the foothills near South Carolina, the Georgia mountains, and the suburbs closer to Atlanta.
He characterized the proposed Green New Deal as a way of redirecting energy investments into employment in emerging energy sources such as solar, wind, and other models that work without pollution-producing coal and oil, which he stated “is not operating in a free market.” “Don’t be afraid of using the term ‘climate change,’” McCall told the group. As evidence of climate change’s impact, and the impact of tariffs, more farmers declared bankruptcy in 2018 than in the period since 2007, he said.
In closing, McCall noted the U.S. House is investigating Georgia’s voting issues, including the disenfranchisement of more than 800,000 voters prior to the 2018 election. He said H.R. 1, which would “expand Americans' access to the ballot box” (including making Election Day a federal holiday), “reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants,” will not get a vote in the U.S. Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called it a Democratic power grab. The bill passed the U.S. House 234-193 on a strict party-line vote.
McCall advocated for ending the filibuster in the U.S. Senate which he said would stop the need for a super-majority of 60 votes to advance legislation and confirmations, and allow for a simple majority of 51 votes, and for statehood for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Towns County Democrats meet on the second Thursday of each month. Their next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on April 11 in the Towns County Civic Center in Hiawassee. In May, Towns and Union Democrats will hold another joint meeting at Unity Church in Blairsville at 6 p.m. to hear from Sarah Riggs Amico, the Democratic candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor in 2018.
From left: Karen Powell, David and Vickie Plunkett, Jim Powell, and Bob and Charlotte Sleczkowski attend the June 29, 2019 Big Blue BBQ in Clayton.