Toccoa Resident Recognized as Volunteer of the Year

The Georgia Downtown Association recently recognized a Toccoa resident as a top volunteer in the Northeast Georgia region.  The organization named Chuck Taylor as its District Two Volunteer of the Year for 2013.  The Toccoa Main Street program nominated Taylor for the award.  Main Street Director Connie Tabor said that Taylor helps the downtown area in many ways such as using his talents as a local musician to benefit the city.  "He has been instrumental in planning and initiating our Ida Cox Music Series event," said Tabor.  "He not only lines up the bands, but he (is master of ceremonies) for the concert and fills in as needed.  He is one of downtown's biggest promoters."  Tabor said Taylor has also played a vital role in planning special events surrounding the Schaefer Center theatre in downtown Toccoa.


Stephens County Unemployment Drops in November

Statistics released from the Georgia Department of Labor indicate that Stephens County's preliminary unemployment rate for November was 6.9 percent.  This rate is eight-tenths of a percentage point lower than the revised October rate of 7.7 percent.  Also, Stephens County's unemployment rate this November is lower than the revised November  2012 rate of 8.7 percent.


TFC Soccer Standout Named All-American

Toccoa Falls College soccer standout, Lizz Rice, has been recognized as a second team All-American by the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for her standout performances during the 2013 season.  Rice led the Lady Eagles in scoring with 17 goals and four assists.  Head Coach Jake Warren said he is very proud of Rice and all that she has accomplished this season.  Warren said her relentless work ethic and leadership ability has made a huge impact on her team and added he looks forward to seeing her continual growth as a player in the years to come.  Rice is a junior Ministry Leadership major from Inwood, West Virgina.

Draft Land Use Plan Ready to Go

Stephens County Land Use Regulations Committee spokesperson Cynthia Brown said the committee has settled on a draft land use plan that will be given to the county commission for its consideration. "The regulations are simple," said Brown.  "They are easy to understand.  There are no hidden agendas.  They cover every aspect of business, industry, agricultural, and residential issues in the community."  The committee met Tuesday and finished reviewing changes recommended by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and attorneys.  With a draft plan now ready, Stephens County Administrator Phyllis Ayers said the public will have chances to sit down and look at the plan and how it will affect their property prior to the commission taking a final vote on whether or not to adopt it. 


New Toccoa City Commissioners Sworn In

On Monday, Judge Bob Struble gave the oath of office to Commissioners-Elect Jeanette Jamieson and Evan Hellenga.  Jamieson and Hellenga are replacing outgoing commissioners Andy Pavliscsak and Ron Seib.  Mayor David Austin said Toccoa appreciates Pavliscsak's and Seib's contributions to the city.  "I have been on this commission for 14 years and worked with a lot of different commissioners and I have always said that everybody brings to the table different perspectives and unique perspectives," said Austin.  "We do not always agree on everything and this is okay.  Everybody gets their say and we come together and make decisions."  Jamieson and Hellenga begin their 4-year terms on January 1.


Stephens County Receives Clean FY 2013 Audit

Stephens County received a clean audit report for Fiscal Year 2013 from Mauldin and Jenkins of Atlanta.  County Administrator Phyllis Ayers presented the audit results to the county commissioners and said the report has a lot of positives.  "We did not have but one audit finding," said Ayers.  "It is the one we have every year, segregation of duties, because we cannot possibly hire enough people, to keep costs down and millage rate down, to segregate every duty of every financial office.  Then, there were no adjusting of entries in the county's books by the auditors.  Our finance department is very proud of that."

Stephens County to Pursue a Public Facilities Authority

Stephens County is beginning an effort to create a new authority that could potentially serve as another way for local governments to borrow money needed for projects.  Tuesday, Stephens County Commissioners unanimously approved a motion to begin the process of creating a Public Facilities Authority.  The Stephens County Development Authority brought the proposal before the commissioners.  SCDA Executive Director Tim Martin said a Public Facilities Authority would just be another "tool in the tool chest" for both local government and economic development purposes.  "This brings to the arsenal the ability to contract with the private sector on projects," said Martin.  "You could have public-private partnerships that the local authority does not have the authority to do."  Martin said the Public Facilities Authority could also be used by the county government, city government, or school system as a way to finance projects through forward funding.


Stephens County Graduation Rate at All Time High

The graduation rates released Wednesday by the Georgia Department of Education show that the Stephens County School System had a graduation rate of 90.8 percent in 2013.  This rate is an increase of nearly 3.50 percentage points from the 2012 graduation rate of 87.33 percent.  Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said that is is very exciting news to not only increase the graduation rate yet again this year but also to cross the 90 percent mark for the first time ever as a school system.  "It has increased and it continues to increase," said Whiten.  "We have come a long way.  Years ago, it was 61 percent back around 2003.  We are extremely proud of the hard work our teachers and students do to make sure everyone stays on track."  Whiten said that the Kids Count Data Center ranks the Stephens County School System 14th in the state for graduating students on time.  Georgia DOE numbers also show that Stephens County is well above the state graduation rate of 71.5 percent in 2013.

Toccoa Hosting Free Concert at Schaefer Center

Toccoa Main Street is sponsoring a concert from the Piatigorsky Foundation at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Toccoa.  The foundation is focused on artistic excellence and public outreach.   Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said this foundation contacted the city about having a show here this year.  "Their mission is to bring classical music to everyday people and everyday life," said Crosby.  "It is very important to them to come to smaller communities that may not have an opportunity for performances at this level and so we gladly agreed to have the performance there."  Pianist Doris Stevenson will be performing and will play a variety of songs, both classical and holiday, during the concert.  She has soloed with the Boston Pops, played at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  The concert is Friday, December 13 at 7 p.m. and is free to attend.   

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Stephens County Residents Complete Economic Development Training

Five Stephens County residents recently graduated from the Georgia Academy for Economic Development's 2013 Region 2 Multi-Day Training Program.  Participants represented a number of professional and non-professional economic development fields, including elected officials, public servants, business leaders, educators, and social service providers from 11 counties in Region 2 Georgia.  Stephens County graduates are County Commissioner Stanley London, County Commissioner Dennis Bell, former State Representative Michael Harden, Georgia Power Local Manager Nick Martin, and CB&T Senior Financial Sales Representative Stacy Miller (not pictured). The Academy provided each of the graduates an opportunity to gain a unique understanding of the complexities of economic development and community development on the local, regional and state levels.  The Mult-Day program includes training in the basics of economic and community development, plus specialized segments on business recruitment and retention, tourism product development, downtown development, planning, and other essentials for community success.  The curriculum also features specific leadership skills such as consensus building, ethics in public service, collaborative leadership and other segments needed for effective leadership in economic development.

Busy Holiday Weekend in Toccoa

Downtown Toccoa will host its annual "Christmas Fest" and activities begin tonight from 5 to 8 p.m.  Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said this year's "Christmas Fest" will have many things to do for all ages.  "We will have carriage rides," said Crosby.  "We invite everybody to come.  It is a beautiful ride through the downtown (area).  Santa will be there for the children."  Other festivities will include an inspirational drama from St. Matthias Episcopal Church of Toccoa, a play in the historic courthouse at 6 p.m., Papa's Little Choo Choo, entertainment from the SCHS chorus and The Dance Studio plus the lighting of the Christmas tree at 8 p.m.  Christmas Sage Market will be open on Friday and Saturday and will have decorations and gifts from local artists and crafters.  In addition to the Christmas Fest activities, the Festival of Trees will be on display in the historic Courthouse.  "There will be several charities and non-profits represented," said Crosby.  "We invite everyone to come and vote for their favorites tree and all of the proceeds will go to that charity(they vote for)."  The tree with the most votes gets and additional $500 for their charity. "It is an easy way for us to be able to help out at this time of the year," said Crosby.  The annual Christmas parade begins Saturday at 4 p.m. in downtown Toccoa plus Truckers for Kids will hold its annual toy run at Stephens County High School.  Christmas Fest concludes Sunday at 4 p.m. with the annual Toccoa Symphony Christmas Concert at Georgia Baptist Conference Center. 

SCDA December Newsletter

The State of Stephens monthly newsletter is now posted on the SCDA website.  Click below to read the recent development activities in Stephens County, Georgia.

December 2013 Newsletter 

Toys for Tots Campaign Underway

Toys for Tots, the annual holiday program to help collect toys for families and children in need during the Christmas season is underway in Stephens County.  Don Alexander is the Toys for Tots Coordinator for Stephens, Franklin, Hart and Elbert counties and said collection boxes for new, unwrapped toys are set up throughout the community.  "We get a lot of Tonka toys," said Alexander.  "They are sturdy and good for the 8, 10, and 12-year-old boys."  He said that they do not need a lot of stuffed toys and Toys for Tots also accepts monetary donations.  "That money in the jars that they donate to us, we spend that right in this county," said Alexander.  Donations will be accepted through December 18.

Discussions Underway on New Toccoa City Pool

At a work session Monday, City Manager Bill Morse updated city commissioners regarding plans for the new city pool.  Morse said that he, City Commissioners Fail Fry and Terry Carter, and Toccoa Planning and Main Street Director Connie Tabor have met with numerous pool professionals about formulating a possible plan for moving forward.  "It is probably going to be best if we demolish the existing pool and bring in a new pool," said Morse.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Fry said that the new pool would be smaller than the one that the city has now.  "It will be basically three areas, the deep end, the 'lap pool,' and an area for handicapped and younger children," said Fry, who added the shallow end will be able to be entered without steps to make it easier.  Toccoa has budgeted up to one million dollars out of SPLOST VI for improvements and renovations at the Doyle Street pool.  Voters approved SPLOST VI in November and collections will start next year. 


Stephens County Hospital Love Light Campaign Underway

The 32nd annual Love Light fundraising campaign is underway at Stephens County Hospital and is organized by the Stephens County Hospital Auxiliary.  This year also marks the first year of the merging between the Hospital Auxiliary and the Stephens County Hospital Foundation.  "The managers of all the departments in the hospital have the opportunity to submit Love Light requests to us," said Foundation Director Pamela Jones.  "What we do is we have a campaign and we raise money for (purchasing) the equipment in the hospital."  The goal this year is $12,000.  The Love Light campaign culminates every year with the annual Love Light Tree Ceremony, where Stephens County Hospital lights a large Christmas tree with all of the lights on the tree representing family members or friends that are being honored or memorialized.  This year's Love Light Tree Ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 5 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Stephens County Hospital and is open to the public.  Envelopes to make a donation to this year's Love Light campaign are available at Stephens County Hospital or an envelope can be requested by calling the Stephens County Hospital Foundation office at 706-282-4254.  All donations to the Love Light campaign are tax-deductible.

Stephens County “Stuffing the Bus”

The Stephens County High School Interact Club is working to "Stuff the Bus" for its 3rd annual food drive this Thanksgiving.  During the drive, the club attempts to stuff a bus full of non-perishable food items in an effort to help the hungry.  SCHS Interact Club Faculty Advisor Derek Demmler said the club has also teamed with the Toccoa Rotary Club to host a 5K race and fun run this Saturday morning in conjunction with the food drive.  The 5K race will start at 9 a.m. and the fun run begins at 8:30 a.m., rain or shine, at the football stadium.  Runners can register online at and searching for "Stuff the Bus 5K" or register Saturday morning at 7:30 at the high school.  Many local businesses also have registration forms plus runners can bring a maximum of 10 pounds of food for a discount off of their registration fee.  The public can also donate non-perishable food items to the high school or bring them to the race event Saturday morning.  Demmler said all of the food will remain in Stephens County.

Stephens County Names Teacher of the Year

School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten and other staff surprised April LaHayne of Toccoa Elementary in her classroom Tuesday to present her with the honor of the system-wide Teacher of the Year award.  LaHayne teaches second grade at Toccoa Elementary and said it is an extraordinary feeling to receive this honor.  "Never in a million years would I have thought that six years into my teaching that this would be something that I have accomplished," said LaHayne.  "Teaching is my passion and I feel truly blessed to be here."


NGTC Board and Chair Recognized

The Georgia Technical College Directors Association recently recognized North Georgia Technical College's board for maintaining 100 percent board certification at its recently held annual conference.  The Technical College Directors' Association of Georgia was formed in 1991 as an educational non profit organization.  It is the arm of the Technical College System of Georgia that provides training workshops and a certification process for local technical college board members.  The TCDA said it supports the technical colleges in having board members who are knowledgeable about the operations of the technical college system and are "work-ready."  North Georgia Technical College said all members of its Board of Directors completed individual board member certification training last year and are fully certified board members and this year's award confirmed NGTC's membership in the 100 percent club.  Meanwhile, Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Chan Caudell, who is also the Charis of the North Georgia TEchnical College Board of Directors, was elected as a member-at-large of the Georgia Technical College Directors Association Board at the TCDA and the Technical College Foundation Association's recent joint annual conference in Savannah.

Eastanollee Elementary Named State “Reward School”

The Georgia Department of Education announced that Eastanollee Elementary School was a "Reward School" in the state and recognized as a "highest-performing" school.  A "highest-performing" school is a Title I school among the five percent of Title I schools in Georgia that has the highest absolute performance over three years for the "all students" group on the statewide assessments.  Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said the school system is very proud of Eastanollee Elementary for achieving this benchmark and the school is one of about 80 schools to receive this honor from the state.


School System Offers Annual Report

Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten presented the annual Stephens County School System report on Tuesday at the Gate Cottage on the campus of Toccoa Falls College.  Whiten said she wants people to be able to see from the report some of the positive things taking place in the school system, like the increasing graduation rate.  "Our graduation rate has increased significantly and if I can say any one things that is the best thing for our students, that is it, the graduation rate, because they have to have a high school diploma and a plan for the future," said Whiten.  "Hopefully, that is what we are getting across to our kids."  This year's report highlighted the school system's 87.33 percent graduation rate,  reviewed the CRCT and EOCT scores for each of the schools in the system, and covered the new College and Career Ready Performance Index.


Stephens County Holds Veterans’ Day Observance

veterans day
The annual Veterans' Day observance took place Monday morning on the historic Stephens County Courthouse lawn in downtown Toccoa.  Keynote speaker the Rev. Scott Borderud of First Alliance Church in Toccoa called on those in attendance to always remember to express thanks to all veteran for their service.  "Express your gratitude to them for serving our nation, both at war and in peace, and ask those veterans what might you do to lessen their burdens they have carried with them as they return back to civilian life," said the Rev. Borderud.  The American Legion Post 104, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4346, and Marine Corps League Detachment 1303 sponsored Monday's observance. 


SCDA November Newsletter

The State of Stephens monthly newsletter is now posted on the SCDA website.  Click below to read the recent development activities in Stephens County, Georgia.
 November 2013 Newsletter

SPLOST VI Passes, Foster Re-elected Martin Mayor

Stephens County voters say yes to SPLOST VI.  According to final unofficial results Tuesday night, 1001 voters cast ballots in favor of SPLOST VI, while 384 voted against the SPLOST.  With a 3-to-1 margin in favor of SPLOST VI, the one-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will continue after the current SPLOST ends on June 30, 2014.  Meanwhile, incumbent Martin Mayor Don Foster won re-election to another term.  Martin council members Roger Looney and Sandi Stovall ran unopposed.  Toccoa did not have a municipal election as Jeanette Jamieson and Evan Hellenga were unopposed in the two open seats on the Toccoa City Commission and all incumbents in Avalon were also unopposed.  Turnout was light for the election, with just over 11 percent of voters casting ballots.


Collins, Black at Farm City Week Banquet

Monday, the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College hosted the annual Toccoa-Stephens County Farm City Week Banquet where leaders from the state and federal level discussed agriculture and other issues.  This year's attendees included 9th District U.S. Representative Doug Collins and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.  Collins talked about the budget battles and the government shutdown in Washington.  "The problems overall is we have lost sight of a good Northeast Georgia, biblical word called stewardship," said Collins.  "We have lost track of what it means to take care of what we have got.  We have lost track of what it means to simply say "Here is what we have been given and here is what we give to the next generation'."  State Agriculture Commissioner Black talked about how important it is for the agriculture industry to work on reaching out to the modern consumer.  "We have got to continue our great traditions of agriculture that are so very important, but we have to learn another language if we are going to connect with the 21st century consumer," said Black.  "We have to speak the language of food."
Also during the banquet, the Stephens County Farm Bureau awarded several honors.  At the top of the list was the induction of the late Willie Sheriff into the Stephens County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame.  50th District State Senator John Wilkinson called Sheriff a man of vision, integrity, and wisdom, as well as a steward of the land.  Sheriff's son, Leonard Sheriff, was named the 2013 Stephens County Cattleman of the Year.  Other awards from the banquet went to James Whiten as this year's Friend of Agriculture and the Steve Cothran family as this year's Farm Family of the Year.

Toccoa Hosting Harvest Festival this Weekend

The 37th annual Toccoa Harvest Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday in downtown Toccoa.  Organizers said that the festival will include more than 160 craft and food vendors this year.  As always, the emphasis is on homemade, handmade, home bakes, or home grown items at the Harvest Festival and Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said there will be some unquie items as always.  "One of the things that I think a lot of people will be interested in is (that) we will be having a glass blowing demonstration and that is a little bit new," said Crosby.  "They are from Georgia Southwestern State University and they will be coming up and doing demonstrations throughout the weekend."  Not only does the Harvest Festival include lots of food and crafts to enjoy, but two stages will also be set up for entertainment throughout the festival.  Hours for the Toccoa Harvest Festival are Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Toccoa Hosts Costume Parade Today

An annual Halloween tradition, the Childrens Costume Parade, took place this morning in downtown Toccoa.  Hundreds of children donned creative, clever costumes along the Doyle Street parade route.  "Every year, it just seems like the moms try to outdo themselves because the costumes are just so creative," said Toccoa Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby.  Judges announced the winners in each age category after the parade and the "cabbage patch" won Best Original/Handmade/Creative costume this year!

Patterson Pump Observes Anniversary of Purchase

Patterson Pump President Al Huber (left),
Gorman Rupp President Jim Gorman and CEO Jeff Gorman

Last week, Patterson Pump observed the 25th anniversary of the date when the business was purchased by the industrial giant Gorman-Rupp Company. Patterson Pump president Albert Huber recalled the time of the sale, in the fall of 1988.  "We didn't have much of anything," Huber said.  "It wasn't what we had, it was the people."  Since that time, the company has grown in size and production.  Patterson Pump was recently awarded a $70 million contract in New Orleans to provide equipment to construct pumps that would move water out of the city during floods.  Currently, Patterson Pump employs 365 people and Human Resources Director Charles Craig said that employees are moved to different areas within the company as necessary during slow time to avoid terminations.  "We look at laying people off as a management failure," said Craig.  Toccoa's Patterson Pump has more than 350,000 square feet of manufacturing space.  The company produces pumps for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, water pumps for irrigation, flood prevention and wastewater treatment and for industries to transfer liquids and process heating or cooling needs.

Martin Fall Festival Saturday

An annual autumn tradition returns Saturday for the 21st annual Martin Fall Festival.  The Martin Woman's Club organizes this event each year and Mary McNeff, with the Martin Woman's Club, said they are looking forward to a great day featuring a lot of different activities.  "We do have quite a few different vendors this year, some things we have not had in the past," said McNeff.  There will be food and craft vendors, music, livestock, and children's activities.  In addition, McNeff said the festival will include an event during the afternoon to get everyone, especially children, in the Halloween spirit.  "At 2 p.m., we are having a costume contest for the children," said McNeff.  There will be cash prizes in different categories.  "We are hoping to have a lot of children participate," said McNeff.

Annual Toccoa Harvest Festival Set for November

It is time for the 37th Annual Toccoa Harvest Festival!  This year it will be held November 2 - 3, 2013, in historic downtown Toccoa. Enjoy music and dancing while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of fall mingling with roasting peanuts, mulling spices, and regional and international foods There will be more than 150 craft and food vendors. All crafts will be "homemade, home baked, or home grown", plus enjoy a wide range of mouth-watering foods including homemade cakes and fried pies, funnel cakes, peanuts, Asian, Greek, and Cajun style entrees, Bar-B-Q and all American offerings as well!  The Chattahoochee Chain Gang and Georgia Highlanders will provide musical entertainment throughout the festival.  The Toccoa Harvest Festival is from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and opens at 10:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Don't miss the fall fun at Toccoa Harvest Festival!  For more information call the Toccoa Main Street office at 706-282-3309.