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.