Homeward Bound Pet of the Week: Gordy

Fast & Furriest

Meet Gordy, a 6# chi who was born in July, 2021. He was surrendered along with 2 other chi’s who were living outside. Gordy is a loving little boy, very active and playful. He is getting along well with the fosters’ 2 male dogs. Because of his size and age, we would not recommend little children. Gordy is in a foster home where he is being house trained. He loves to take leash walks and snuggling in a blanket.
For more information about the Homeward Bound Pet Rescue pets, check out our website and apply online: www.hbpr.org. We are always looking for volunteers to foster and help with socializing our cats and dogs. We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet of the Week: Micah

Fast & Furriest

Meet Micah, an 8 month old, 20 lb. lab/flat coat mix. Micah has had a tough life in such a short time. He’s recently been rescued from a hoarding situation with 25+ dogs. He has had limited experience with the human touch until he got to Homeward Bound. We are socializing him with the volunteers and other dogs. He is learning to trust. Micah has never been house trained and we are working on that but it takes consistency that only a home where someone can supervise regularly. He’s catching on and connecting the dots about what to do when he’s out walking. He’s an eager student and am sure he’ll do well.
For more information about the Homeward Bound Pet Rescue pets, check out our website and apply online: www.hbpr.org. We are always looking for volunteers to foster and help with socializing our cats and dogs. We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.


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Chamber cancels Taste of Ellijay


The Gilmer Chamber has confirmed cancellation of the May “Taste of Ellijay” event this week after an email was sent out with information on the decision.

According to the Chamber, “This was not a quick or easy decision to make. Taste of Ellijay is a favorite event for locals, visitors, and restaurants alike.”

Statewide staffing issues and problems in labor have attributed to major issues across the state with numerous reports on the COVID crisis, unemployment, and other issues as contributing factors.

The Chamber said that they have tried to make the event work in many ways, pursuing efforts across the county and with individual business owners.

They said, “ We spoke with, emailed, and visited several restaurants to see what assistance the Chamber could offer in helping make their participation possible and one theme was clear: the current staffing crisis has hit our restaurants especially hard.”

It is because of this that the official cancellation came saying, “We cannot in good conscience hold Taste of Ellijay knowing that less than a quarter of the regular vendors would be able to participate, nor can we ask our restaurants to stretch themselves even thinner.”

Citizens are not happy with the cancellation, voicing opinions on the current situation. Citizens like Eric Ward who said it is a “sad state we’re in,” when speaking on staffing crisis and the effects it has.

Messages of support for both the Chamber and Gilmer restaurants are also coming as some are referencing the shutdown and saying the community will adjust again.

President and CEO of the Chamber, Jennifer Grimmer just started her position this year in February and has already taken on challenges from events planning and cancellation, severe storm damage to the Chamber building, and economic and developmental shortcomings in the economy.

In early April, the successes and efforts paid off with the announcement and permit approval for the Taste of Ellijay event. Grimmer said in a Board of Commissioners meeting that Taste of Ellijay, along with the Apple Festival, would be making their anticipated return this year after suffering cancellations from the COVID-19 outbreak last year.

Now, another crisis arises, another roadblock in the path of returning to life as it was.

This has not stopped the Chamber from its job, however. They offered another comment in their statement. Supporting a community is part of what a Chamber does and their statement continues that saying, “If you love events like Taste of Ellijay, we ask that you show that love to our local restaurants. Please extend our servers, chefs, restaurant owners and support staff kindness next time you go out to eat and remember that they are facing staffing shortages, supply chain shortages, and other challenges as we approach our busy Summer season.”

BOE names Kim Cagle as Interim Superintendent

delay, Cagle

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the Board begins its search for a new Superintendent, they officially named Kim Cagle as the county’s Interim Superintendent.


Interim Superintendent Kim Cagle

Cagle is currently Assistant Superintendent for Student Services in Gilmer Schools. She will step into the role of Interim Superintendent on May 28, 2021, the final day for current Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs. This will also be when the board transitions from accepting applications to actively pursuing its new Superintendent through interviews.

AS the Interim Superintendent, she will be guiding the board over the summer during the selection process as she was approved as Interim Superintendent from from June 1 until August 31, 2021.

Cagle has operated alongside Downs during her time as Superintendent, bringing experience in the position, the board’s ongoing tasks and operations, and the community.

Official approval for Cagle came after an executive session during April’s regular meeting. There were no other recommendations made and she was unanimously approved.


Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs

Dr. Shanna Downs later stated in a press release, “I believe the Board’s selection of Mrs. Kim Cagle as Interim Superintendent will allow for a very smooth transition and help the district maintain continuity of progress and programs. I feel very comforted to know that I am leaving the district in such capable hands.”

Cagle will be working with the board and alongside King-Cooper and Associates during the search. While the board hopes to review applications and conduct interviews in late May and early June and to select the next Superintendent by July, the board’s approval is effective until the end of August should any delays arise.

Gilmer BOE takes first steps in new Superintendent Search


EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With official approval having come on April 15, 2021, in their monthly meeting, the Gilmer County Board of Education has begun its search for the next Superintendent with King-Cooper and Associates search firm.

With a press release, Gilmer Schools made a statement about the search saying that they would accept applications for the position until May 21, 2021. They stated, “The vacancy will be advertised by electronic postings on the school system web site, the search firm’s web site, and on the web sites of the Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Georgia School Boards Association.”

King-Cooper an d Associates was approved as the firm by a memorandum of understanding during the board’s April regular meeting. They are a small search firm based in Thomaston, Georgia. According to their release, “King-Cooper and Associates specializes in customized and affordable superintendent searches for small and medium size school systems. The firm assisted the Board in their last search in 2015 and has conducted over 65 successful superintendent searches in Georgia.”

Because they will accept application until late May, this date falls in conjunction with the previously reported final day of current Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs on May 28, 2021. In the time after, Gilmer’s Board of Education named Ms. Kim Cagle to serve as Interim Superintendent.

Steps of the search will include advertising the position, receiving and processing applications, verifying reference and background information, sorting applications based on the Board’s selection criteria, and the scheduling and facilitation of interviews. Dr. Sandy Addis will serve as the lead facilitator of the search.

“Our job is to secure a strong pool of applicants and to assist the Board to select the very best superintendent for Gilmer County,” Addis said. “We handle the details of the search and provide the best possible information for the Board to make a good choice but we don’t tell the board who to hire,” Addis stated. “There will be strong interest in the position because of the positive reputation of the school system, the community, and the Board. Gilmer County is one of Georgia’s most desirable and attractive school systems.”

According to their press release, the Board hopes to review applications and conduct interviews in late May and early June and to select the next Superintendent by July. During April, the Board will conduct surveys to determine what characteristics and qualifications the community and school system employees think are most important in the selection process. A survey for parents, students, and community members will be posted on the system web site at www.gilmerschools.com. A similar survey will be emailed to all school system employees.

They stated, “The Board will utilize survey results in the interview and selection process to employ a superintendent that meets the needs and expectations of the community.”

Million dollar donation has county looking at Animal Shelter


ELLIJAY, Ga. – An announcement today from Gilmer Chairman Charlie Paris informed the public of an additional large donation to the Gilmer County Animal Shelter.

The announcement came amid a special called meeting, but it is the first mention of the donation in public as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said it happened yesterday, February 23, 2021. Paris said that the county is receiving $1 million in a donation to expand and improve the county’s Animal Shelter.

The county has received other donations recently. Two separate donations of $200,000 each set the county to expect to add in $100,000 in county funds to improve the Animal Shelter. Paris noted then and reiterated today that the county is looking at an increased need in the department.

Gilmer Animal Shelter Director Daniel Laukka works with all kinds of organizations like Be-Paws We Care to find homes for animals in local counties or in other states.
(Photo by Pickens’ Be-Paws We Care, Inc.)

These previous donations, when made, pushed the county to look at the shelter and the use for that money in improving and addressing the needs that were coming.

Paris suggested that the coming need to increase staff at the location is likely inevitable as he said that Gilmer’s Shelter is gaining a statewide reputation for its operations. The Director of the Animal Shelter is Daniel Laukka. Laukka has been praised numerous times through the community and through the county’s government during specific meetings addressing the department such as budget meetings.

The shelter has made allies both in and outside the county, working with other shelters to find homes for pets. Some of their efforts outside of the county include transporting animals north for support outside of the state of Georgia. These animals that have not found homes here in Gilmer are given more opportunities elsewhere. Just this week, the Animal Shelter posted information about transporting pets to Illinois.

However, these programs are made possible by community support and aid. One of the most well known partnerships comes from working with the public through the community driven support program, “Friends of Gilmer Animal Shelter” (FOGAS).

According to their page, FOGAS is a Georgia, non-profit, tax exempt, 501(C)3, all volunteer organization that raises funds to save homeless pets at Gilmer County Animal Shelter.

The now $1.5 million project to expand the shelter is facing two separate issues that the county is discussing. The first being that such an expansion will undoubtedly increase expenses for the Animal Shelter, a department that is one of the county’s smaller budgets according to the board. Post Commissioner Hubert Parker urged the board as a whole to consider the increase that this project will bring, not only though increasing required staff for operations but also for the increase in utilities and supplies. Paris said at one point that he expects a need for one or two additional personal even before looking at plans to expand the facility.

The second issue comes not from the shelter itself, but rather from today’s economy. With the effects of the COVID-19 virus still being felt, Paris noted that building supplies and costs are still increasing. Though the county had an architect look at plans and consider the project last year, Paris said in today’s meeting, “What I was anticipating that we could get for that half million dollars, turns out, in today’s environment, to be just about what we can for that million-and-a-half dollars.”

Paris said that a lot of the increase seems to be coming from the COVID virus through materials and shortages.

The Board of Commissioners is taking extra time on the project. Considering the new donation, changes are coming to increase the plans and to address the new donation. One idea to address came in today’s discussion as Parker asked if the board might consider asking the donor if part of the funds might be set aside for operations. Parker explained that the concept might include setting aside $200,000 or $300,000 and to use the earnings off of that to help support the animal shelter operations. However, he offered the thoughts as an example that the county could discuss with those who gave the donation.

Paris did note that any project or plan for the facility still has a lot of unanswered questions. Having just received the donation, the county is looking at possibilities and their impacts on the county and the Shelter going forward.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week: Cheyenne

Fast & Furriest

This smile is genuine!  Meet Cheyenne, a 7 year old terrier mix, who is a little Miss Snugglebug.  She is currently on a weight management and regular exercise program.  Cheyenne was one of 7 dogs who were surrendered to animal control after their parents passed away.  Cheyenne now loves to walk on a leash and wants to keep going.  She is also getting used to a healthy dog food; not just canned and treats.  Cheyenne is now completely vetted; dental and all!  


For more information about Homeward Bound Pet Rescue, check out our website and apply online:  www.hbpr.org.  We are always looking for volunteers to foster and help with socializing our cats and dogs.  We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week: Katie!

Fast & Furriest

Meet Katie, a 6 ½-year-old terrier mix who was adopted from HBPR 3 years ago.  It appears that her owners turned her out and let her fend for herself.  Katie and 2 other dogs relied on the kindness of strangers until animal control was called.  She is chipped, so they traced her back to us.  Katie is now safe with HBPR until we find her a real forever home.  Katie is around 33 lbs., house trained, well mannered, does not expect much, and is grateful for everything.  Sound like your kind of girl?

Apply online:  www.hbpr.org   We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week: Twix

Fast & Furriest

Meet Twix, a 3 year old mix breed, who is shy at first but then wants to dazzle you with his figure 8 zoomies and plays hide and go seek in our fenced agility pen.  He will chase a ball but is not quite sure what do  with it once he has it. Twix appears to be ok with other dogs; cats are an unknown.  He is going to be a good dog for someone who can give him the love and confidence he needs.

Apply online:  www.hbpr.org   We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week: Lollipop

Fast & Furriest

The first thing you will notice about Lollipop is her beautiful fawn color coat and how it glistens in a sunbeam.  When Lollipop came to us a month ago, she had just given birth, had a mammary tumor and is heartworm positive.  She has now had her surgeries and is feeling much 

better.  She enjoys exercising in a fenced area and will show off her figure 8 zoomies.  HBPR will continue to pay for her HW treatment even after adoption.

Apply online:  www.hbpr.org   We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week! Easy

Community, Fast & Furriest

Say “Hello!” to Easy, a 1-year-old, 48 lb. boxer mix. Easy was rescued by someone
who witnessed the dog being thrown from a moving vehicle 2 weeks ago. In spite
of that cruelty, Easy is as sweet and loving as you’d want in a dog. He walks great

on a leash, appears to be house trained, and always has a smile on his face.
Apply online: www.hbpr.org We are located between Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Homeward Bound Pet Of The Week! Brownie

Fast & Furriest

Meet Brownie, a 25 lb., 2 year old who happens to be the owner of a gorgeous auburn colored coat that would make Lady Clairol envious!

  Brownie was surrendered due to her mother not being able to care for her any longer.  Brownie loves to walk and is a good hill climber.  She would probably be a good hiking partner.  She is good with other dogs that she has met; loves people; house trained and is definitely ready for her forever home.  

Apply online:  www.hbpr.org

Paige Hutto speaks on resignation from Chamber

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Inevitable. The decision to move home was coming sooner or later for Paige Green Hutto. The recently married President/CEO of Gilmer Chamber said she knew when she got married that she eventually wanted to move home to Alabama with her husband and family.

“Family” is more than just the husband and kids. It is parents, too. Hutto’s mother and father live in Alabama as well. Going home to that much was most definitely a major part of the decision.

From Left to Right, Lisa Salman, Paige Hutto, Ellen Grant, and Caitlin Neal pose for a photo at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Gilmer Chamber.

Yet, it wasn’t something that she has worried about and fretted over. It was a feeling that she was waiting for, a sense of “the right time.” She explains that she wasn’t looking for a sign. Instead, she knew that when the time came, she would feel it and understand in her heart that the time had come.

She wasn’t going to abandon her friends, Chamber members, and colleagues in such a rough time period with so much facing them amidst the uncertainties of the virus.

And so she worked through the time until a few weeks ago. Hutto said, “I just realized that it would be selfish of me to stay because I could not give 150 percent like I always had.”

With a divided heart between two towns and a divided schedule as well, Hutto said the community deserved better. It was a Friday that she finally decided. That Monday, she shared her decision.

She also stated that as she made her decision to go home, she was prepared that it wasn’t a quick change. She shared her decision and her resignation openly ready to stay on for the transition if the Chamber Board asked.

And they did.

Paige Hutto, left, stands with Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, right. whom she worked alongside on many projects throughout her tenure with the Gilmer Chamber.

Hutto is still in Ellijay, for now. She is still leading the Chamber, for now. It is the last responsibility she is taking on as Gilmer’s Chamber President. Transitioning to a new leader, a new President.

The process, she estimates, should take about 90 days to find that replacement, with only a few days of overlap as she hands things off to the Chamber’s new leader.

Looking at the next chapter, there isn’t exactly a lit path ahead for her. She said going home and being with family is the main focus. As for continuing in the tourism business, she said it would take the right opportunity to come along to return to the industry. Gilmer is a special place and Hutto said she has loved it here.

“I’m really looking forward to finishing out my time in Ellijay. I’m really focused on that,” said Hutto.

To accomplish that, she is working through the issues of the day as the Chamber handles all of the details of the recently cancelled Apple Festival. However, a lot of work will also involve transferring her knowledge and the accumulation of the years. Getting the staff ready and the office ready for the coming adventures.




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Gilmer will cancel the 2020 Apple Festival

Arts & Entertainment

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – An email has gone out today with an official statement from the Georgia Apple Festival Board of Directors cancelling the October event for this year, 2020.

Confirming that they will allow vendor fees to rollover to next year’s event or offer refunds upon request, the Festival will be skipped in light of CDC Guidelines and rising numbers in Coronavirus cases. Though they do say they had considered holding the event under those guidelines, the extra costs and restrictions would be too much.

Read the Board of Directors’ full statement as follows:

It is with a heavy heart that the Georgia Apple Festival board of directors announces that the 49th annual Georgia Apple Festival Arts & Crafts show has been cancelled for October 2020. The difficult decision was made following the guidance of the local healthcare community, after consultation with local officials, and with extensive feedback from vendors, volunteers, and local citizens.

The health and well being of all concerned including our volunteers, vendors, and guests was paramount in the decision process. The board also weighed the additional costs and undertaking of trying to produce the event under the current CDC guidelines. It is our belief that the integrity and spirit of the event would suffer and not be profitable for vendors nor provide the type of experience that our guests have come to expect.

All vendors and other stakeholders will receive direct communication from the festival management in the coming days. We ask your patience and understanding as we proceed. Moving forward the board will explore various opportunities to celebrate the fall apple season and that safely enhance and promote Georgia’s apple capital.

We understand the far-reaching impact that this decision will have on the economic well being of our artists, our local businesses and community at large. The impact will also be felt by the two sponsoring agencies, the Ellijay Lions Club and the Gilmer Chamber. The Georgia Apple Festival is the largest fundraiser for both entities and the loss of revenue will be felt deeply by both in their effort to meet the charitable needs of the community supported by the Ellijay Lions Club and the needs of the Gilmer County business community supported by the Gilmer Chamber.

It is our deepest desire that the current health crisis facing our county, state, nation and world will be behind us and that you will make plans to join us October 2021 as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary Georgia Apple Festival.




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Gilmer Fire puts students to the heat

Fetching Featured

On August 1, 2020, Gilmer Fire had 7 in-training Firefighters participate in a Live Fire Exercise and Evaluation to allow trainees a hands-on experience.

According to Public Information Officer, Al Cash, “The purpose of this training is for the student to observe fire behavior – meaning its growth, spread-patterns, and heat radiation. The students also become more familiar with their turnout gear – protective clothing, backpacks, air regulators, and masks.

Cash went on to note that the more subjective part of the exercise was for the student to understand their approach to safe firefighting. “A fire can attack an individual’s mental and physical weaknesses. One must be constantly alert of their own condition, their surroundings, and that of their fellow firefighters.”

This type of training gave these fine trainees a small taste of a fire scenario and put them closer in touch with their skills, their fears, and their successes.

Cash said the event went off very well with a great job by the students, the instructors, and the safety team.

He said, “Gilmer Fire and Rescue salutes you all.”






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Up close and personal with Gilmer Fire and Rescue – Ron Cheslock

Fetching Featured

Continuing our series of posts, “up close and personal” with the finest men and women in the Fire Service – the personnel of Gilmer County Fire and Rescue. Today we’re proud to visit with a member of our Community Paramedicine Team, Firefighter/EMT Ron Cheslock…

“My EMS career started shortly after high school, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania when I signed up for a CPR and Advanced First Class with our Fire/Rescue Unit. I was immediately hooked, and volunteered with the station for a few years as a First Responder while attending college and working full time.

I joined the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman (Medic) serving over half of my 11 years in the military as an Infantry Field Medic with Marine Corps battalions and Special Operation Units. I was responsible for providing medical care to Marines and Sailors attached to our units while deployed, both on shore and at sea.

Following my military service, I continued my professional career in healthcare, working primarily in management and information technology roles both in the public and private sector. However, I always missed the “rush” and drive for going back to patient care in an emergency/austere setting.

Shortly after moving to Ellijay in 2016, I joined the department as a member of the Search & Rescue Team with Gilmer Fire/Rescue, and enrolled in the Firefighter and EMT training courses. I enjoy being back in the fast paced environment and look forward to starting Paramedic school in late summer.

I am excited to have the opportunity to come back and work in emergency care, and serve the community where I call home. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with the family, hiking and camping. I also enjoy serving our local community as Cubmaster of our scout pack and serving on the Advisory committee for Keep Gilmer Beautiful.”



(article and photos provided by the Gilmer County Public Safety)

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