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Thunderbolts Strike at Camp Eagle 2012, Parris Island, South Carolina

by Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Adreona Simpson, Regiment Public Affairs Officer


June 30--  The Army invaded the legendary United States Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina for a short period during the week of 18-22 June 2012.

Cadet Command’s 6th Brigade, Region 9 conducted their annual junior cadet leadership camp (JCLC) during at Parris Island. “Welcome to Camp Eagle 2012” Colonel Ken Koetz, Camp Eagle Commandant said to cadets assembled in formation, during the camp’s opening ceremonies on Monday evening. “Each of you will find challenges here. Some of you came here to improve your leadership skills. Others came for the physical rigors of this camp. I know that some of you came here to discover a bit more about yourselves. You will achieve that purpose,” COL Koetz told the 200-plus cadets when he declared Camp Eagle open.

The cadets underwent a rigorous regimen of mental and physical challenges over the next five days. Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Shim stated to her fellow Thunderbolts on the. Miss Shim recalled her experiences on the Thunderbolt Facebook© page.

{mosimage}“The Thunderbolts just came back from JCLC, Camp Eagle 2012. We have been looking forward to this since last year. We started Camp Eagle really excited about the prospects contained in the Camp Eagle training plan. The training was tough; we rappelled down a 55-foot wall. Rode a zip-line from the top of a platform 55 feet high, and learned water survival skills. We jumped into a pool, inflated a pair of ACU pants into a makeshift flotation device. We learned how to navigate through the woods using only a map and lensatic compass. We learned how to construct and negotiate a one-rope bridge as a team. We literally attacked the USMC 4th Recruit Training battalion obstacle course. Lastly, we negotiated the USMC’s famous “crucible” leadership reaction and obstacle course. We returned to home station with many “battle scars”; e.g., bruises, cuts, blisters.

{mosimage}We are proud of every, bump, bruise, scrape and sore muscle we inflicted upon ourselves during this week. Most important, we came to JCLC anticipating a week of nothing more than rigorous physical training. Surprisingly we learned much more. We learned how to lead and to march formations from one point to another. We experienced the responsibilities of different leadership positions within JROTC. We found out what being a leader entails,” she wrote.

“For me,” Miss Shim stated. “The physical training was the hardest. I was not prepared for that portion of camp at all. There were times when I felt like a failure. However, thanks to my awesome friends, those who went with me from the Thunderbolts and those I met at Parris Island. I now realize that JCLC exposed me to my shortcomings, and pointed out and what I personally needed work on. A lot of things that happened at the camp motivated me to work hard to improve the things that I lack. I look forward to returning to JCLC, Camp Eagle 2013 as a “senior cadet.”

“This camp surprised me,” Cadet Colonel Mason Mitchell, the Thunderbolt Regimental Commander stated. “I know that I learned to be a much more proficient commander for this regiment in the next school tear. This experience was one of the toughest I’ve faced in my life, and I departed camp a more confident commander.”

Cadet Command Sergeant Major Joshua Spires observed, “Camp taught me to be a better leader. I enjoyed every minute of this week. I wish that JCLC was two weeks long.” Cadet Major Chanaria Fussell, Regimental Operations Officer said “The rappel tower scared me beyond belief. I did not believe that I could overcome my fear of heights until my feet touched the ground at the bottom of the wall.” Cadet Second Lieutenant Cory Moore, the Thunderbolt drill team commander remarked, “even though the zip-line was high and scary, the ride gave me quite an adrenaline rush when I cleared the platform. I could’ve done that a dozen more times!”

Cadet Scotty Brogdon, Indian Battalion Logistics Officer stated when asked “I believe this camp was a bout leadership. If we can force ourselves to overcome our own fears, then leading our subordinate cadets will be less daunting when school starts.”

219 cadets from 14 high schools in South Georgia attended JCLC.

June 29--  Investigators looking into the disappearance of a local bank's director conferred Thursday in Valdosta.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight met with detectives from the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office and agents from the FBI.

Lee Price, a member of the board of directors with Montgomery Bank and Trust, was living with his wife and four children in Valdosta until June 16th when he took a circuitious route to Key West, Florida where he boarded a ferry and left a suicide note.

Sheriff Kight believes he may still be alive and that his disappearance may be related to his investment managment company.  His company website reports he manages more than $36 million dollars in assets for high wealth individuals.

Unconfirmed reports have started surfacing that Price may have absconded with some of the funds he was managing for his clients.  Sheriff Kight says he's heard the reports and asks anyone with information to call his office in Lyons.

June 29--  A grandmother and her granddaughter were found drowned in a family pond in south Toombs County about noon Thursday.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports 52-year-old Sharon Fletcher and her four-year-old grandchild, Bailey Grace Scott, were discovered in the woman's submerged SUV by Randy Fletcher, the dead woman's ex-husband and grandfather of the little girl.

Officials say the two had been visiting at Randy Fletcher's home Wednesday night and had left to return to the woman's nearby mobile home on a dirt trail that borders the pond.  The homes are located about a mile east of Highway 15 south across from Center Hill Trailer Park.

Sheriff Kight believes she accidentally drove into the pond sometime around midnight.  He says her ex-husband went to check on her when he could not contact her Thursday morning and saw the vehicle in the pond.  

Danny Graham, Jr., the boyfriend of the dead girl's mother, Ashley Fletcher, went in the pond and removed the bodies from the vehicle.

Sheriff Kight says the preliminary investigation concludes the deaths were accidental and that autopsies will be conducted.  The GBI is assisting the Toombs County Sheriff's Office with the investigation.

June 28-- Wright McLeod, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, today released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

“The Supreme Court’s decision to preserve The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – better known as Obamacare – is a devastating one, and will ultimately hurt the people of America. The $500 billion that Obamacare raided from Medicare is now gone.

“The cost for this legislation has more than doubled since its passage in 2009.  In stark contrast to Obama’s promised $2500-per-year reduction in premiums, Americans have seen an average increase of $2,200 per year.  This is just one of the gaping flaws in the President’s health care ‘reform’.

“Obamacare requires that all Americans purchase approved insurance plans.  Beginning in 2014, American citizens who refuse to comply will be fined.  Among the millions of Americans without government-approved insurance today are those who are ‘under-insured’ – those who have opted to buy only inexpensive, catastrophic coverage. These citizens will be kicked off their current plans and forced to purchase higher-premium coverage. 

“Obamacare did not cure the problems it was created to address.  Instead of the lower costs and increased access to care that Americans were promised when the President sold Obamacare, we are spending close to $2 trillion on a ‘reform’ that has increased out-of-pocket costs. 

“We need market-based solutions that give patients more choice.  Big Government is not and will not be the answer to rising health care costs.  In Congress, I will work relentlessly to fully repeal 100% of this misguided legislation.  I will work to implement health care reforms that are efficient and affordable – the changes Americans have wanted from the start.”


June 28-- Two of the four Republican candidates running to unseat Democrat Congressman John Barrow in the 12th Congressional District have voted in Democrat primary elections in the past.
Construction executive Rick Allen earlier targeted attorney Wright McLeod for voting in five Democrat primaries since 2002.
According to the Associated Press, McLeod says he made a mistake but notes Allen voted in Democrat primaries in 1998 and 2004. 

June 28-- The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare as constitutional nearly in its entirety in a five-to-four vote. Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion says the controversial individual mandate is under Congress's domain as a tax issue and is not a commerce issue.


June 28--  A rapidly growing number of Democrats are lining up to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on Thursday for withholding documents in the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, a botched sting operation that let guns slip into the hands of drug cartels.

At least five Democrats so far have said they plan to vote to hold Holder in contempt, according to Fox News, and as many as 11 appear ready to break ranks. They include Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga, Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Jim Matheson, D-Utah; and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.

"The only way to get to the bottom of what happened is for the Department of Justice to turn over the remaining documents," said Barrow. "We can work together to ensure this tragedy never happens again."

Federal agents allowed 2,500 firearms to be illegally purchased on the Southwest border. Two of the guns were recovered when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010.

Read more on Democrats to Defect, Vote for Holder Contempt

June 28--  There's a deepening gulf between the mayor of Uvalda and the city council.

At a contentious city council meeting Monday night, councilman Lloyd Moses asked Mayor Paul Bridges to turn over computer system passwords he claims city employees need to get out city water bills.

"We requested that and we voted for that and as I understand it, that has not happened yet.  I think you said you would turn them over but you have not done so yet.  It works a great hardship.  Employees are here to serve the people of the city and I just wonder when we're going to get these passwords turned over," Moses said.

Mayor Bridges says he has been responsible for getting the water bills done since the city obtained a computer system nearly two years ago from Atlanta programmer Allen Leggett.  When the city council restricted his authority to oversee city employees last month, he ceased his involvement in the water billing including the use of his passwords to access the system.

"The integrity of the system is my concern.  The information which is on the server is people's information which should be maintained at all times and that's the purpose of the passwords.  I would be happy to train or teach anyone the programs we have.  It's worked well since we've had it, the bills have gone out on time and they've been accurate," the mayor says.

Mayor Bridges claims city employees Laura Demmer and contract employee Johnny Corley, a former mayor and current councilmember, have been provided training in the past and have adequate passwords to do their jobs.  

They told the council they need access to the system's server to do backups and to restart the system after power outages.

Mayor Bridges reported Wednesday that Leggett has agreed to provide Demmer with an administrative password and training Friday.

Meanwhile, the city council has another called meeting Monday night at seven to review the status of the current system and to consider replacing it with another system used by other towns in the area.  The council has agreed city residents will not be charged a late fee because city water bills are going out late due to the confusion at city hall.

Councilmember Elaine Manning said after last Monday's meeting she hates to spend more money for another computer program because the mayor is not cooperating.  She also claims inaction on his part could cost the city road improvements valued at $400,000 in the next ten years because he failed to submit projects for inclusion if the transportation sales tax referendum passes July 31.  She also claims he has failed to follow through on grants totaling $45,000 for the police department. 

Monday night's meeting had to be recessed for five minutes for a "cooling off period" after Mayor Bridges repeatedly banged his gavel for order and was threatened with arrest by Police Chief Lewis Smith for what the chief said was "disorderly conduct."


June 27--  High school students in Vidalia, Toombs, Treutlen and Montgomery county schools have an opportunity to learn about careers in manufacturing in a program starting next school term.  It could also put some money in their pockets.

Local manufacturers, Southeastern Early College and Career Academy (SECCA), and Southeastern Technical College (STC)have partnered to offer a new dual enrollment certification program for high school students interested in general and advanced manufacturing careers.

The Certified Manufacturing Specialist (CMS) certificate program will start in August of 2012 and end in May of 2013. The goal of this one year program is to help students develop the skills necessary to gain employment and advance in today’s highly technical manufacturing environment. 

Students who complete this program will be awarded a technical college certificate from STC, earn high school credit for their coursework, and earn the right to participate in a competitive interview process for several paid internships with local manufacturers in the Toombs County area that could lead to long-term employment opportunities.

Using a hands-on approach to learning, the content of this program covers several areas including: manufacturing processes, general plant safety, teamwork, communication, problem solving, statistical process control, Lean Manufacturing techniques, tools, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, electrical fundamentals, industrial controls, automation, applied mathematical applications, blueprint reading, powered truck operations, work ethics, and various manufacturing simulations.

Also, students will take tours of local manufacturing facilities and participate in live training activities at manufacturing sites. William Soto, Chicken of the Sea Georgia Canning’s General Manager, stated “In order for our community to grow and prosper - we want to form partnerships with our youth to help train them on job skills for a successful tomorrow."

Many local manufacturers and distributors such as Chicken of the Sea, US Pet Nutrition, Truax Veneer, Ingersoll Rand, US Energy Sciences, Vidalia Valley, Bestline Sash and Door (a division of VNS Corporation),Tumi Luggage, DOT Foods, Robin Builders, Savannah Luggage and others will be participating in this program.

Andy Kimball, owner of Truax Veneer of Lyons, stated “By working with STC and SECCA, our goal isto develop a program that will help the youth of our community learn and develop the skills necessary to gain access to and succeed in today’s highly technical manufacturing occupations.”

The field of advanced manufacturing offers multiple career opportunities for scientists, engineers, machine operators, machine programmers, skilled production workers, and welders just to name a few. This program is geared towards any student who has a desire to learn the basic skills necessary to be successful in a manufacturing environment and exposes students to local manufacturing opportunities and practices.

To participate in this program, a student must be a rising junior or senior in high school who is at least 16 years of age and meets the minimum enrollment requirements for admission into STC.

Through our SECCA partnership, this program is open to any student who meets the basic participation requirements and attends Toombs County High School, Treutlen High School, Montgomery County High School, or Vidalia Comprehensive High School.

If you would like your high school student to participate in the 2012-2013CMS program or want to participate as a business partner, please contact SECCA Director of High School Programs Ryan Flowers at 912-253-6527or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view soon as possible.

Only one cohort of students will participate in this year’s program, so applications will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.


June 26--  A board member of Montgomery Bank and Trust is missing and authorities in Georgia and Florida are investigating the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight says he was notified by bank officials on Monday, June 18th that Lee Price could not be located.  Price is a Lyons native who helped find investors who pumped $10 million into the bank in January, 2011 in order to keep it viable.  Sheriff Kight says Price was also involved in other investments running into the millions of dollars.

He reports Price sent numerous letters and emails to friends and associates regarding his situation.  Investigators believe he took a plane June 16th from Valdosta, where his wife and four children are now living, to Atlanta and then to Key West, Florida where he got on a ferry.  When the boat docked, a suicide note from Price was found on board and turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At this point, no one knows if Price jumped from the boat or used it as a diversion.  Sheriff Kight says he doubts he could have jumped from the ferry without being seen.  He says it's possible he has left the country.

The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office in Valdosta says it received a missing persons report from Price's family on June 19th.

The police department in Key West confirmed Tuesday it was assisting Georgia authorities with a missing person investigation.

The sheriff adds Price's friends "can't believe" he could be involved in such a situation and that it's completely out of character.


June 26–-  Former Tattnall County Sheriff’s Deputy Ramsey Collins Arnold, 26, of Claxton, Georgia, pled guilty last week before Senior United States District Court Judge B. Avant Edenfield to dealing methamphetamine.

            During the guilty plea hearing, the evidence showed that in 2011, while serving as a Deputy Sheriff in Tattnall County, Arnold began stealing drugs from the evidence room in the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office.  In July of 2011, Arnold stole approximately 185 grams of methamphetamine seized by law enforcement as part of a drug investigation.  Arnold later traded on the street the stolen methamphetamine for oxycodone, for his own personal use.

            United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “Police corruption, drug related or otherwise, leaves a permanent stain on the record of good works of our law enforcement community.  Defendant Arnold’s conduct was deplorable and without justification.  He stole evidence needed for the prosecutions of other defendants and then used that evidence to engage in the drug trade.  Defendants, law enforcement officers or others,  who enter into the world of drug dealing will be given sanctuary within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

            Arnold faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $1 million and at least 3 years supervised release.  A sentencing date will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a presentence investigation.   

June 25--  The Montgomery County school board expects to hear soon from a review team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) which visited the school system last week.

The school system was placed on SACS probation last year because of governance issues related to the county school board. 

A two-person SACS review team spent last Thursday interviewing representatives of the community, parents, faculty and staff, school board members, School Superintendent Randy Rodgers and school board attorney Tom Everett.

Dr. Judy Forbes told Rodgers the team's report would be filed expeditiously in order to define the school system's status when the new fiscal year starts July 1st.

If the school system is removed from probation, there will be no need for further action regarding the school board by the state Board of Education.  If not, another hearing for the local board will be held before the state board in Atlanta and it could face removal by Governor Nathan Deal.

June 25--  Incoming Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox says about a dozen people have applied for the principal's job at Vidalia High School.

Advertising for the opening started June 13th and ended June 22nd.

Dr. Wilcox says he plans to conduct interviews next week and hopes to have a recommendation ready for the Vidalia school board when it meets July 10th.

June 25--  A pedestrian was killed over the weekend in Lyons.

Police Chief Wesley Walker says a Hispanic male died when hit by a car at the intersection of Highway 292 and Hall Street about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

His identity is being withheld while police attempt to notify his family.  No charges have been filed in the case, according to Chief Walker.

June 25--  Gov. Nathan Deal today announced the appointment of the Hon. Keith R. Blackwell to the Supreme Court of Georgia, effective upon his swearing in on July 19. Blackwell will fill the vacancy left by outgoing Justice George H. Carley, whose resignation will become effective July 17. This is Deal’s first appointment to the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court will benefit from Judge Blackwell’s experience on both sides of the bench,” said Deal. “His intelligence, many years of experience and dedicated commitment to public service will serve Georgians well in his new role on our state’s highest court.”

“I am grateful to Governor Deal for his confidence in me and for this opportunity to serve the people of Georgia as a justice of the Supreme Court,” Blackwell said. “To be appointed as a justice is a humbling experience, but that is especially so when the appointment follows after a jurist as distinguished and respected as Chief Justice George Carley. I also wish to express my gratitude to the chief justice for his many years of fine service to the people of Georgia.

“I have given my word to Governor Deal, and I give my word to the citizens of this state, that every day and in every case, I will adhere to the high standards of impartiality, independence and integrity that Georgians rightfully expect of their judges; that I will faithfully apply the law as it is, not as I might wish it to be; and that I will respect the separation of powers, bearing in mind that the judicial power, though indispensible to our system of government, is a limited one.”

Hon. Keith R. Blackwell

Blackwell has served as a judge in the Georgia Court of Appeals since his appointment by former Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2010, bringing with him more than 10 years of litigation and appellate experience. Currently, he is also an adviser to the Business Courts Committee of the State Bar and chair of the Committee on Court Rules at the Court of Appeals. He practiced law as an Associate with Alston & Bird, LLP for three years, representing clients in criminal and regulatory investigations, class action lawsuits and complex commercial litigation. Blackwell then served as an Assistant District Attorney in Cobb County for two years, where he represented the state in hundreds of felony prosecutions involving murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, drug trafficking and financial crimes. In 2005, he served as an associate, and then as a partner, with Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs LLP for five years, continuing his previous practice with complex commercial litigation, including contract, real estate, insurance and business-tort cases. He also served as a law clerk for Judge J.L. Edmondson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (1999-2000).

Blackwell has been active in a number of professional and legal policy organizations. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Atlanta Chapter of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, and he previously served as the Chapter president for three years and as a member of its Executive Board. Judge Blackwell is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and its Appellate Practice Section, where he has served on the Committee on State Practice and Legislation. In addition, Judge Blackwell is a member of the Cobb Bar Association and the Atlanta Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He is also a Master of the Joseph Henry Lumpkin American Inn of Court. He previously has served as an adviser to the House Judiciary Committee in hearings on the revision of the state evidence code and as a member of the governor's Judicial Nominating Commission.

Blackwell graduated summa cum laude and first in his class from the University of Georgia’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1996 with a degree in Political Science and summa cum laude from the School of Law in 1999, also first in his class. He and his wife, Angela, along with their three daughters, reside in Smyrna.

June 25--  (Courtesy ABC News) Police officers in Arizona are allowed to check the immigration status of every person who is stopped or arrested, the Supreme Court ruled this morning.

But the court struck down other key parts of the law, signaling a victory for the federal government in its authority over immigration law.

The controversial immigration measure passed in Arizona two years ago and has been opposed by President Obama.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the policy could interfere with federal immigration law, but that the court couldn't assume that it would.

"The Federal Government has brought suit against a sovereign State to challenge the provision even before the law has gone into effect," Kennedy wrote. "There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced."

PHOTO: Jan Brewer
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The law — known as SB 1070 — was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in April 2010, but immediately challenged by the Obama administration. A lower court sided with the administration and agreed to prevent four of the most controversial provisions from going into effect.

Besides the "show me your papers" provision, another criminalizes unauthorized work, a third makes it a state crime to fail to carry immigration papers, and a fourth allows the warrantless arrests when an officer has probable cause to believe a person has committed an offense that would result in deportation.

Other measures of the law were struck down, including a provision that made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be in Arizona or seek work in the state.

In court Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that the Constitution gives the federal government authority over immigration control and that the Arizona law interfered with existing federal law.

Verrilli said that while the federal government welcomes the assistance of state officers, Arizona is trying to adopt its own immigration policy while paying no heed to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the principal federal immigration statute that establishes the scheme for the regulation of immigration.

But Paul Clement, arguing on behalf of Arizona, argued that the law was passed because states are frustrated with the federal government's efforts to curb illegal immigration. Clement said that the Arizona law was drafted to cooperate with existing federal law.

Georgia Democrats React to Ruling

House Democrats are disappointed about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “papers please” provision of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, but are pleased that federal preemption rights were upheld.


In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that Arizona can require state and local police to check the immigration status of those they have stopped.


Today’s narrow and limited ruling upheld section 2b by the thinnest of threads, and will undoubtedly be challenged as soon as law enforcement attempts to apply this ruling to the real world.


House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is particularly disturbed by the Court's tepid support of this provision and believes that the clause will invite racial profiling.


"The Supreme Court today issued a troubling ruling that encourages racial profiling, and we must remain vigilant that this does not happen in Georgia,” said Leader Abrams. “We are very disappointed by the "show your papers" provision, which returns us to a terrible time in our state's history. Human rights must be protected for all - regardless of race or status. This ruling allows racial profiling to resume in Georgia. The fact that it is now legal does not make it right, and we call upon the Governor and the GOP leadership to repeal this disturbing trend in our state's lawmaking."


“Today's Supreme Court ruling reflects the real concerns the justices have about green lighting racial profiling even as they narrowly upheld section 2b.  This isn't over in the courts by any stretch, and we'll continue fighting in Georgia to repeal HB 87,” said Representative Pedro Marin.


The Progressive States Network believes that the provision undermines public safety and results in higher costs for cash-strapped states.


“Law enforcement depends on building trust in communities,” added Progressive State’s Suman Raghunathan. “When the criminal justice system, with its limited budget and capacity, is burdened with the time and cost-intensive process of apprehending, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants, we all become less safe.”


Leader Abrams is adamant that Georgia should not follow in Arizona’s footsteps.


“The court may have left the door slightly open with today's ruling, but we in Georgia must oppose laws that hurt agriculture, stifle tourism and break up families,” said Leader Abrams.


“Our state has other pressing priorities - we need money for education and economic development - not ill-conceived immigration enforcement programs. Today's ruling reminds us of the need to make our voices heard this November at the ballot box. The only way we can win the long-term fight for working families is by engaging in democracy and in the electoral process.”


June 25--  The President of Brewton Parker College is disappointed with a decision by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to place the school on accreditation probation. 

Last year the school received a warning about its accreditation status and last week SACS extended the school's accreditation for one year versus the normal ten years and placed it on probation.

"The college remains fully accredited.  This has done nothing to detract from our educational product.  It is a process the college is going through and, by the way, it's a voluntary process," says school President Dr. Mike Simoneaux.

According to SACS, Brewton Parker failed to comply with standards for financial stability, adequate fulltime faculty and faculty competence, control of finances and federal aid programs for students.

{mosimage}Dr. Simoneaux says SACS refuses to recognize the progress that's been made in the last year and feels the probation status is unfair.

"It's important for our folks to know that over the past year we have dealt with 24 different recommendations from SACS and that only nine remain.  We've made significant progress and that's one of the issues  I have with SACS is that they don't recognize the progress we've made. I pledge to our folks that we are going to continue working through this process to the best of our ability," he said.

The President notes, "Our student enrollment looks significantly higher for the Fall, we've raised a fair amount of money this year, we're hiring new faculty to enhance our academic product and we've made progress across the board this year and I'm really disappointed that SACS has refused to partner with us on this and recognize the progress we've made," he said.

Dr. Simoneaux says the recent appointment of Dr. Tim Searcy as the new Vice President of Academic Services is expected to get the probation status lifted by June of next year. Dr. Searcy has more than a decade of experience working with SACS.

"He's is coming to be with us on July 1st and we're extremely excited about that," he notes. 


June 22--  An audit of the city of Uvalda commissioned by the city council found no discrepancies in city finances.

Results of the audit were briefed at the June city council meeting following allegations two months ago that city funds were missing.  At the time, Mayor Paul Bridges said no money was missing.  Now he's upset because he says what amounted to gossip caused the city to spend money it needs for other things.

"I know there's nothing amiss in the City of Uvalda regarding money.  The issue I have is that it was brought about by lies and gossip.  It cost the city's citizens $7,500 for that special audit and I'm angry about that," he said.

In May much of the mayor's authority to oversee city operations was delegated to Mayor Pro Tem Benny Sammons.  Even though the audit proved Mayor Bridge's right, his authority has yet to be restored, but he's okay with that.

"Unless there can be some changes in the city composition, I've worked two years really hard to get the city moving forward and to try to work and make sure the city is running effectively and efficiently.  If Benny can do a better job, I'm glad for him and I'll carry the title of mayor and be proud the city is moving forward," Mayor Bridges said.

The audit results should put to rest  a GBI investigation into Uvalda's finances, however, it still has an open investigation regarding cocaine which was allegedly planted in a truck owned by city maintenance worker Dexter Cason.

On June 11, a former city employee, Dallas Adams, was arrested on a GBI warrant for distribution of cocaine according to GBI agent Kendra Lynn.  Adams was booked at the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and released on bond says Uvalda Police Chief Lewis Smith.

June 21-- Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that Georgia successfully sold $600 million in general obligation bonds to fund construction projects, repairs and renovations throughout the state.

The state was able to secure record low rates of 2.69 percent for the tax-exempt bonds and 2.7 percent for the taxable bonds on Thursday. A day earlier, the state refinanced $146.35 million of outstanding debt at a rate of 1.98 percent, representing a present-value savings of $14.4 million.

“These are historically low rates that translate into savings for Georgians,” said Deal. “Leveraging our AAA bond rating, we can continue to invest in infrastructure around the state in a fiscally responsible manner. With this coveted status, Georgia once again has an attractive spot on the map.”

Agencies benefiting from the bond proceeds include $336.6 million for Board of Regents, $21.7 million for Technical College System of Georgia and $60 million for the Ports Authority. Projects range from educational buildings to public safety facilities and include the harbor-deepening project in Savannah.

The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission approved the bond sale at its meeting today. This week's sale was sold on a competitive basis with institutional investors showing solid demand for Georgia's high-grade bonds.

Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's assigned the triple-A bond rating with a stable outlook to the state's General Obligation Bonds last week. The rating firms' individual ratings are Aaa, AAA and AAA, respectively. The triple-A ratings reflect the highest rating available to government issuers and demonstrate what a great value Georgia municipal bonds are to investors.

“Earning the top bond ratings during the current economic climate illustrates Georgia’s commitment to sound fiscal management,” said Deal.

The Bond Ratings

“The highest-quality rating is supported by Georgia’s conservative fiscal management, moderate debt burden and relatively well-funded pensions,” reported Moody’s. “Budgetary reserves that were largely used up by the end of FY 2010 are slowing being rebuilt. The outlook for the state’s debt … is stable based on our expectation Georgia will take appropriate steps to restore balanced financial operations and replenish reserves as the economy recovers.”

Fitch’s report recognized Georgia’s sound fiscal management practices. “The longstanding ‘AAA’ rating and Stable Outlook on Georgia’s GO bonds reflect its conservative debt management, a proven willingness and ability to support fiscal balance and a diversified economy,” said the Fitch report. “The state took repeated action during the last recession to maintain fiscal balance through steep spending cuts, use of federal stimulus and draws from its rainy day fund, the revenue shortfall reserve. The state’s debt profile is conservative and its debt burden is moderate as a percentage of personal income, with rapid amortization of principal.”

Standard & Poor’s also reported on the state’s management practices. The report said the ratings reflected the agency’s assessment of the state’s well-diversified economy, history of making difficult decisions to restore fiscal balance, strong financial monitoring and oversight and a growing revenue shortfall reserve.


June 20 – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., this week sent a letter to President Obama questioning his recent directive to grant certain illegal immigrants immunity from deportation. The senators described their frustration that the President “intentionally bypassed Congress and the American people” in issuing the directive, and they questioned the impact of allowing work authorizations for illegal immigrants when young Americans face record-high unemployment rates.

Isakson and Chambliss, joined by 18 of their Senate colleagues on the letter, asked for written responses to a list of detailed questions by July 3, 2012, and a briefing from the administration officials who will be responsible for the program. Among the questions, the senators asked for the president to justify his legal authority to issue such a directive, to explain how the executive action will be implemented and administered, and to outline the cost of the directive for taxpayers.

In addition to Isakson and Chambliss, the letter was signed by Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, James Risch, R-Idaho, John Boozman, R-Ark., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., David Vitter, R-La., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., James Inhofe, R-Okla., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

The full text of the letter is below.

June 19, 2012

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

 Dear President Obama:

 We are extremely concerned by your announcement last week that the Department of Homeland Security plans to implement a program that grants deferred action to an untold number of illegal immigrants in the United States, and to allow them to receive work authorization during this time of record unemployment.  Not only do we question your legal authority to act unilaterally in this regard, we are frustrated that you have intentionally bypassed Congress and the American people.

 As President, you swore to uphold and defend the Constitution and enforce the laws.  Your recently announced directive runs contrary to that responsibility.  Not only is your directive an affront to our system of representative government and the legislative process, but it is an inappropriate use of Executive power. 

 Your position on whether you have the legal authority to act unilaterally has changed dramatically.  Just last year, you personally disputed the notion that the Executive Branch could act on its own and grant benefits to a certain class of illegal immigrants.  Specifically, you stated,

"This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true.  The fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce.  And I think there's been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It's just not true.  We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it."

  • Why has your position on the legal authority of the Executive Branch changed?
  • Did you consult with attorneys prior to the announcement about your legal authority to grant deferred action and work authorizations to a specific class of illegal immigrants?
  • Did you obtain a legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel or anyone else in the administration about your legal authority to implement such a program? 
  • Please provide copies of any documentation, including any and all legal opinions, memoranda, and emails, that discusses any authority you have or do not have to undertake this immigration directive.     

We are also concerned that the directive being implemented allows individuals under the age of 30 to obtain a work authorization.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for young adults aged 16-24 has been nearly 17% for the last year.  According to a Gallup poll conducted in April of this year, 32% of 18 to 29 year-olds in the U.S. workforce were underemployed.  Your directive runs contrary to the premise that American workers must come before foreign nationals.  It is astonishing that your administration would grant work authorizations to illegal immigrants during this time of record unemployment.  Your directive will only increase competition for American students and workers who struggle to find employment in today’s economy.  Moreover, under current law, some foreign students and other legal visa holders are prohibited from obtaining work authorizations, giving illegal immigrants an advantage over those who play by the rules. 

The implementation of your directive raises several serious questions. 

  • What will happen if your directive is challenged in court? 
  • Will individuals who have applied for deferred action be required to leave the U.S. if such a challenge is upheld? 
  • How will the administration handle family members, specifically the parents who violated federal immigration law? 
  • Will individuals who entered the U.S. on their own volition – either by crossing the border illegally or overstaying a visa – be eligible for deferred action? 
  • Why does the directive allow individuals up to age 30 to benefit from deferred action if the directive is aimed at helping young people and students? 
  • How will federal officials who process the applications ensure that information provided by the individual is accurate and how will they verify that one truly entered the country before the age of 16 or are currently under the age of 30? 
  • Will evidence submitted in support of deferred action applications be limited to independently verifiable government-issued documents (e.g., school records, W-2s, tax returns)?  If not, why not?  If affidavits will be accepted, will they be required to be made under penalty of perjury?  If not, why not?
  • Will illegal immigrants be required to appear in person for an interview by the federal government before deferred action is granted?
  • How will the agency implementing the program ensure that fraud and abuse is prevented? 
  • What will the consequences be for individuals who intentionally defraud the government? 
  • Which databases will be used and how will background checks be conducted to ensure that individuals do not have a criminal history or pose a threat to public safety?
  • What would constitute a “significant” misdemeanor offense, which is one of the criteria for eligibility for deferred status?
  • Will individuals with final orders of removal be eligible for deferred action?
  • What action will the administration take if an individual is denied deferred action? 
  • What action will be taken if an individual is granted deferred action, but subsequently abuses that grant, is arrested, is found to be a member of a criminal gang, or does not actually attend school?
  • Absent congressional action, what will happen in two years to the individuals who are granted deferred action? 
  • Will recipients of deferred action be eligible for receipt of advance parole?
  • What criteria will be used to decide who gets work authorizations and who does not?
  • Which other departments and agencies will be consulted and will work with the Department of Homeland Security on the implementation of this directive?

We also believe that taxpayers deserve to know how this program will be funded. 

  • Can you assure us that the total implementation cost of the program will be paid for by the individuals seeking to benefit, or will U.S. taxpayers subsidize any part of the program?
  • How much, if anything, will an illegal immigrant be required to pay in order to obtain deferred action? 
  • What legal authority does the Executive Branch have to mandate a fee for this service? We understand that the Department has never previously charged a fee for the processing of a request for deferred action. 
  • Do you plan to reprogram funds at the Department of Homeland Security or any other Executive Branch agency to help fund the implementation of the directive? 
  • If you plan to use funds that already have been appropriated or other funds from the Department, please explain which programs will be reduced in order to cover the costs associated with the directive. 
  • If USCIS adjudications staff will be diverted from their normal duties to handle the millions of potential deferred action applications, what will be the impact on other USCIS programs?

Given that this directive is effective immediately and that many questions remain unanswered, we ask that you immediately make available Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Alejandro Mayorkas to respond to our concerns.  We would appreciate responses to our questions, including any relevant documentation related to this directive, no later than July 3, 2012.


June 20-- Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) released the following statement today after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate with the investigation of the controversial “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation. 

“The full House has no choice but to move forward with a vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress.  The Attorney General has repeatedly ignored calls from Members of Congress to cooperate with a joint investigation into reckless conduct during this botched operation.  And, only after a vote to hold him in contempt was scheduled, did Mr. Holder engage in a last-ditch effort to find a political way to avoid the committee’s contempt vote.  It was too little, too late.  If Mr. Holder won’t do his job and report the information on Fast and Furious voluntarily, Congress must force him to answer to the American people.”

The “Fast and Furious” program oversaw sales of nearly 2,000 firearms to suspected Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to trace gun trafficking.  But, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered only 567 of the guns.  Many of the guns were found at violent crime scenes, including at the shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. 

It will now be up to the full House to vote on whether the Attorney General should be held in contempt.  The committee’s vote came on the heels of President Obama’s decision to grant the Attorney General’s 11th hour request to exert executive privilege over “Fast and Furious” documents. Rep. Graves co-sponsored H.R. 490 earlier this year, which expressed no confidence in Holder’s leadership of the Justice Department.  Rep. Graves also signed a letter sent to President Obama in 2011, urging the President to hold Mr. Holder accountable for Fast and Furious – and to ask for his resignation.

June 20--  An emergency siren network to alert residents in four counties around Plant Hatch is delayed because the sirens are not loud enough.

Emergency management officials from southest Georgia met in Vidalia Wednesday and learned the 80 sirens installed in Toombs, Jeff Davis, Tattnall and Appling counties by the Southern Company need to be upgraded and tested, according to Toombs County EMA Director Lynn Moore.

"When the sirens were manufactured they didn't meet the specs to make an audible sound.  FEMA tested them over in Plant Farley which has the same sirens as Plant Hatch and they failed.  The manufacturer is in the process of re-doing the driver which will make the siren louder.  It's going to be at least next year and we have to go through the testing process so it could be two years down the road before they are used," he says.

Once installed, Moore says the sirens will become the primary alert in case of a nuclear emergency at Plant Hatch. "If you hear that siren go off, other than when you are notified about a test, something has happened which is strictly a nuclear incident." 

Emergency officials also heard from the director of the Disability Resource Group who reminded them to remember disabled and special needs people when disaster strikes.  Nancy Duncan, who is blind, advises disabled citizens to make their own plans about what to do in case of an emergency.

"You have to take responsibility for yourself.  There are 1.5 million Georgians with disabilities and we don't have enough emergency people or first responders to go around," she says.

Duncan recommends three websites for planning purposes including; and

June 20--  The Georgia Department of Education continues to withhold money from area schools systems and the impact in the coming school year is the loss of jobs in the Vidalia school system.

This is the final budget retiring  School Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith will prepare and years of shortfalls from the state are finally forcing him to let people go in the schools.

"This is the first year we've had to send people home.  It's not the first year we didn't replace positions because we've let attrition help us with budget problems, but this year we actually sent people home, we fired them because we don't have the money to pay them.  In 2003 they took $220,000 up until 2012 when they took $1.7 million and who knows what they're going to withhold next year," Dr. Smith says.

The tentative budget takes 16.5 positions off the payroll.

"We're not going to be able to provide jobs to para-pros and next year we'll be operating a school without a counselor and another without a librarian," he notes.

In the last nine years, the state has withheld $8.5 million from the Vidalia school system and caused officials to draw from local reserve funds which are down from $3 million in 2003 to about $900,000 at the end of next year.

"We've had to balance the budget by using part of our reserves.  Now we've used two-thirds of those reserves and I don't see any increase in funding," says Dr. Smith who dreads the decisions his successor, Dr. Garrett Wilcox, will be facing.

"That man will have to make some decisions nobody will like and they will be based purely on finances," he says.

Dr. Smith says if a constitutional amendment passes allowing the state to fund charter schools, the public schools will get even less funding and their programs will have to be cut.

June 19--  At their monthly meeting, the Toombs County Board of Education reviewed a presentation from architect Karen Schmidt of John A. Tuten and Associates Architects of Brunswick, Georgia regarding the initial design plans for the new Toombs County High School.   

The initial design is for an approximately 210,000 square foot facility which will include a competition gym as well an auditorium.   Rough cost estimates are in the neighborhood of 26 million dollars, however those are only preliminary at this time.  Funding estimates would be approximately 4.2 million dollars from the state with the remaining balance of around 22 million from existing and future SPLOST funds.   

The board and superintendent are currently reviewing the plans and will make a decision at a called board meeting on July 12th at 5 p.m.  The architectural plans are available for viewing at the board of education office or on their website 


June 18--  Three people wanted in connection with a killing in Laurens County were arrested Friday in Toombs County.

According to the Laurens County Sheriff's Office, 37-year-old Dawn Hammond was fatally shot and 20-year-old Gerald Clark was wounded in a shooting at a Laurens County residence early Friday morning.

Investigators tracked three people to the Yorke Motel in Lyons where the Toombs County Sheriff's Office and the Lyons Police Department assisted in the arrest of 38-year-old Laurie Johnson, 29-year-old Joe Jones and 21-year-old Jonathon Cook.  Officers said the woman and Jones had a recent dispute with Clark who is the woman's son.   The dead woman and Clark were living in his grandmother's home at 2251 Buie Road where the shooting occurred.

Joseph Mack Jones {mosimage}

Deron Laurie Johnson {mosimage}

Jonathon Michael Cook {mosimage}



June 18--  A Toombs County native died in a Jacksonville traffic accident.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's office, 44-year-old Wyatt Tomlin was killed about five a.m. Sunday when his motorcyle struck a raised median on a city street.  He was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene on Devan Lee Drive, North.

June 18--  The cost of housing non-violent prisoners has become so high that state lawmakers passed a law this year giving judges more latitude in passing sentences.  Here's an explanation of Accountability Courts from State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville.


Across the country, states are grappling with the increasing costs of housing prisoners as well as struggling with how to rehabilitate offenders.  Many times, prisons have become revolving doors for offenders and consequently eat into funds that could be spent on more important programs.  In response to this costly cycle, states have been increasing the number of accountability courts and the State of Georgia is moving in that direction. Studies have indicated that accountability courts are a cost effective alternative to sentencing and, in certain cases, have produced better results when compared to traditional sentencing options (such as incarceration and probation).


The Accountability Court Funding committee was just recently created on May 24th and will guide funding and standards for accountability courts statewide.  This board will be composed of appointments from the Governor and the Chief Justice.  These appointments are expected to be announced soon.



The term "accountability courts" is a bit misleading because it implies that participants go through a separate process for determining innocence or guilt. Participants go through an adjudication process as any other defendant. The difference in the program occurs after conviction. Instead of sentencing offenders to a state prison or other residential correctional center, local judges and a team of professionals create a program where the offender can receive treatment while being supervised in the community. Take for example cases involving a drug user. As part of the accountability court program, the offender typically reports to regularly scheduled hearings with a judge in order to discuss their progress. Although programs vary based on the type of drug addiction or criminal offense, there are universally consistent practices. The program provides therapy within his or her community through evidence-based substance abuse treatment, case management, drug testing, and community supervision. If an offender breaks a rule of the program, such as testing positive for drugs, missing a meeting with a judge or not completing a therapy assignment, consequences are imposed. These consequences range from a warning to spending a few days in jail. Repeated rule violations are not tolerated.  Offenders know that if they do not follow the program strictly, they will be sent to prison to serve a traditional sentence.  .


The possibility of serving a traditional sentence is a good motivator for accountability court participants. Thanks to the combination of judicial monitoring and constant interaction with participants, graduates of the accountability courts program have proven less likely to repeat their offenses. 


Accountability courts are unique in that they are programs started voluntarily by judges, and treatment is overseen in a courtroom rather than a correctional facility. Various types of accountability courts have been set up throughout the state in order to address different offenses. These include adult felony and juvenile drug courts, DUI courts, mental health courts, veteran's courts, and family dependency treatment courts. Eligibility of an offender for an accountability court is determined by the local district attorney. Since the program is voluntary for the offender, traditional sentencing options are then determined by the presiding judge if the offender does not successfully complete the program.



A Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts analysis, dated September 14, 2010, found that accountability courts are more cost effective than traditional sentencing options, and are also more likely to reduce the possibility of recidivism, or the rate at which an offender repeats a criminal offense. In a cost comparison, the Department of Audits and Accounts found that state prisons cost on average $49 per day per prisoner while adult felony drug courts, average $14 per day per participant.  In terms of recidivism, drug courts only average a 7% recidivism rate by offenders within the first two years of completion.  Comparably, a two-year average recidivism rate for offenders in state prison is 29%.


It was because of these compelling figures that the Senate initiated the expansion of accountability courts in the FY2012 budget.  In the FY2013 budget, the Senate joined the House and the Governor in the addition of $10 million to not only support the local programs already in existence, but also financially assist the creation of new accountability courts.  With the Department of Correction's budget hovering near $1 billion, hopefully other alternatives will require less resources for traditional incarceration.


Of course, probation is also an alternative sentence that includes probation substance abuse treatment centers and probation detention centers.  Basic probation is the most common and cheapest option, but those in basic probation do not receive treatment and are more likely to repeat their offenses or substance abuse.




June 18--  In a hearing conducted by Montgomery County Elections Superintendent Ruby Nell Sanders, it was ruled there was insufficient evidence that Uvalda Commissioner John Carpenter was not qualified to hold his office of Montgomery County Commissioner or to qualify for reelection to the position.   

Carpenter’s opponent in the upcoming July 31st primary, Sharon Strickland, filed the challenge to his eligibility on June 6th with Montgomery County election superintendent Ruby Nell Sanders.  Strickland filed the challenge because county records show that Carpenter has federal and state tax liens that total over $355,000 and that taxes were owed when he took office in back in 2008.   

In the ruling issued by Sanders, there was no evidence that a court ruled that Carpenter owed the taxes listed in the objection by Strickland.  Without a court ruling that Carpenter owed the taxes, he could not be disqualified from his position or from qualifying for reelection.  Strickland can appeal the decision to superior court within 10 days but immediately following the ruling she was unsure if she would file the appeal. 


June 15--  The court date to settle the dispute between the Toombs County Commission and the county’s municipalities regarding the distribution of local sales tax revenue has been set for Friday, July 20th at 10 a.m. at the Toombs County Courthouse.  Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, chief judge in the Dublin Judicial Circuit, will hear the case.   

Toombs County attorney Howard Kaufold filed the petition on May 10th asking that a judge from outside the Middle Judicial Circuit hear the case and make the final decision on how the money should be split. 

Toombs County is seeking an increase in their share of sales tax revenue and has been unable to reach an agreement in previous meetings with the towns involved. 



June14--  Regional President Lawton E. Bassett announced long‐time Georgia banker, John Tyson, will return to Ameris Bank assuming the role of Market President in the Vidalia market. Mr. Tyson will be responsible for all core banking activities in Vidalia and the surrounding area. Tyson is a long‐time Georgia resident and he will maintain his office at the Ameris Bank Vidalia location on East First Street. 

Since January 2011, Mr. Tyson worked at Montgomery Bank & Trust as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to Montgomery Bank & Trust, Tyson was a member of the Ameris Bank Acquisition Transition Team formed after the Ameris Bank acquisition of Darby Bank & Trust, Co. For nearly 20 years Tyson worked at Darby Bank & Trust, Co., most recently serving as a Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In making this announcement, Bassett stated, “John will be an outstanding leader in the Vidalia market. His knowledge of the local market and extensive banking background willhelp us to continue to build our Company in the area.” Tyson received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Georgia and graduated from the Georgia Bankers Association Banking School. Bassett further commented, “John is an exceptional banker. His valuable experience both with Ameris Bank and in the Vidalia market will help us continue to develop and grow banking relationships.” 

Tyson stated, “I am excited about my new role on the Ameris Bank Team and helping to further build the franchise in Vidalia. The ‘community banking’ culture at Ameris Bank matches very well with the banking needs and opportunities in our unique Vidalia market.” 

Tyson and his family reside in Vidalia, GA where he is actively involved in both his hometown community and the surrounding communities. He is currently on the Georgia Bankers Association Operations and Technology School Advisory Board and is the Vice Chair of the Finance Committee at Vidalia First United Methodist Church. He was a member of the 1995 Charter Class of Leadership Toombs and was a past member of the United Way campaign, Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club where he served as President.Additionally, Tyson previously served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Ameris Bank is headquartered in Moultrie, Georgia, and has locations in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. The parent company, Ameris Bancorp is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol ABCB. For more information about Ameris Bank, please visit us on the web at

June11--  Each year the National Trust Main Street Center and its partners announce the list of accredited Main Street programs that have built strong revitalization organizations in their towns.  Lyons Better Hometown has recently received this honor.   

Alexa Britton of Lyons Better Hometown stated “We follow the Four-Point Approach that is the framework for the Main Street program and is set by the National Trust.  Each year there are 8 minimum standards and 10 national standards that must be met to keep the accreditation.” 

“The accreditation really shows outsiders coming in that you are interested in making sure that you have a strong downtown and to business and property owners, it means that the community is engaged,” she says. 

Britton also stated that local government and businesses have been extremely supportive as well through funding and support of their two main fundraising events, Tales from the Altamaha and the Real Squeal.


June 11--  A lifelong Republican who almost won the state Insurance Commissioner's job in 2010 is now running for Congress in the 12th Congressional District.

Maria Sheffield now calls Dublin home and told the Vidalia area Republican debate earlier this month that one thing liberals fear is a strong, conservative woman.

"This whole time my opponent in this race has been Congressman John Barrow who has said he is working hand in hand with President Obama.  If you want someone to work hand in hand with you, I ask you to support my campaign.  I guarantee that the thing a liberal man fears most is a conservative woman and I will take this fight directly to John Barrow in November and you will have a conservative representing Georgia 12 in Congress," she said.

Sheffield came in second in a nine-person field when she ran for Insurance Commissioner and lost in the 2010 General Election Primary by about one percent to Ralph Hudgens.  She won all of the counties which now comprise the 12th District.

"You know President Obama is looking for people to say yes, but we need someone in Washington who will say no.  The attacks on our beliefs and culture is wrong.  I'm not giving up hope on this country and that's what I'm going to Washington, DC to fight for," she promised.

June 8--  Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that he will stop an increase in the motor fuel tax scheduled to go into effect on July 1. Using the formula established in state law, the Department of Revenue determined that average gas prices over the past six months call for the motor fuel tax to rise to 12.9 cents per gallon from 12.1 cents per gallon.

“Today, I signed an executive order that will prevent the motor fuel tax increase set for next month,” Deal said. “We’re seeing a slow and steady rebound in Georgia’s economy, with our unemployment rate going down and state revenues heading up, but Georgians are still paying gas prices that are high by historical standards. The state should not add to that burden at this juncture.”

Every six months, at the start of January and July, the Department of Revenue sets the motor fuel tax based on an average of prices. Prices over the past six months had called for a slight increase. Major fluctuations in the price of gas can trigger an increase or decrease within those six month periods, but this increase is part of the regular six-month schedule set in law.

The governor of Georgia has the power to suspend collection of a tax, but the action requires ratification from the General Assembly.


June 8--  A Georgia company knows one thing about teaching young people, i.e., you've got to speak their language.


Members of the Vidalia Rotary got a 3-D demo at their Tuesday meeting. 

ViziTech USA is the brainchild of retired Army General Stewart Rodeheaver and it's using 3-D video to exploit the fact that today's generation spends seven hours a day in front of some type of screen:  TV, computer or Smart Phone.

{mosimage}Rodeheaver says students in 30 Georgia schools are improving retention of what they learn with 3-D.

"I would ask them what they learned in class yesterday and they would tell me about ten percent of what they learned.  I then said tell me what you last saw that you can remember the most and they would tell me about the last time they went to Disneyworld and they could tell me about scenes from Avatar, so we decided virtual 3-D was the way to go," he said.

"The teachers love it because it helps them compete with what the students bring to the classroom.  If a teacher has to stand up and teach from an outdated system and the student goes home and turns on a computer, they learn and see things in much higher resolution.  So this helps the teacher compete with what the child brings to school," he notes.

The company has a variety of programs in math and science which teach state-approved curriculum and is developing more.  

Based in Eatonton, ViziTech is the winner of "The Coolest Technology Company in Georgia" award in the annual Spirit of Endeavor competition.


June 7--  A Superior Court judge has been named to hear the dispute between the Toombs County Commission and the county's municipalities regarding the distribution of local sales tax revenue.

The chief judge in the Dublin Judicial Circuit, Judge H. Gibbs Flanders, will hear the case on a date to be determined.

Toombs County officials want a larger share of the one percent sales tax collections while city officials want to maintain the same formula that has been used since 2002.  

Judge Flanders will decide how the money will be divided for the next ten years starting in January.


Clearing a path to more open government - by Hyde Post, President of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, June 6, 2012


    Today, Georgians legally have more power than ever to examine and review the records and meetings of their local and state governments.


    The Legislature’s 2012 rewrite of Georgia’s open government laws, on paper, should help make government more transparent. The challenge will come in how the new provisions are interpreted by the courts and public officials — and how citizens use the tools the law provides to engage with — and keep an eye on — their government.


    Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who championed changing the law and played a critical role in making sure citizen access was strengthened in its language, has pledged his office will be aggressive in supporting the citizen empowerment intended by the changes.


    But it’s also a given that there will be some public officials who won’t comply. They will simply ignore or actively resist the parts they don’t like. It has always been that way.


    Those officials could face harsher penalties for a lack of compliance. Strengthened penalties for violating open government laws tended to receive the lion’s share of press attention about the legislative changes.


    Under the revised law, if a citizen illegally is denied access to a public record or a meeting, the violator could face misdemeanor criminal charges and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first violation and $2,500 for a subsequent offense. It used to be a $100 fine.


    In practice, though, for a public official to be charged with a criminal offense, a prosecutor (the solicitor, district attorney or the attorney general) would have to be able to prove the public official “knowingly and willfully” violated the law. That is the same high standard of proof that was in the law before, and the number of successful prosecutions of public officials for violating it over the past 30 years can be counted on half of one hand.


    The revised law does lower the civil standard and says that if a citizen sues a public official or government for non-compliance with the law, and the court concludes the government was negligent, the court can impose a fine of up to $1,000, or $2,500 for a subsequent violations. Before, there were no fines for civil violations.


    However, litigating against local government still can require deep pockets. Remember, the other side isn’t using their money to pay for their defense; they’re using your tax dollars. If you win what often can be a drawn-out battle to get access to a police report or government contract or whatever, recovery of your attorney’s fees is allowed, but not required. And, historically, judges in Georgia have rarely forced local governments to pay anything close to the full price if they lose.


    In essence, it is probably fair to say the amended laws now have baby teeth to help punish open government sinners.


    But the value of the legislative changes is actually found elsewhere.


    The real benefits for citizens include reduced copying fees for public records, down from a quarter per page to a dime, and strengthened language on electronic records that can take additional cost out of a records request. The open meetings law has been strengthened to insist that all final votes, including votes on settlement negotiations and real estate acquisitions, must be taken in public and that minutes of executive sessions must be kept in case someone later challenges whether a closed meeting was legal.


    Moreover, the new open records law now has a preamble which may be its greatest strength. It states that the “General Assembly finds and declares that the strong public policy of this state is in favor of open government; that open government is essential to a free, open, and democratic society; and that public access to public records should be encouraged to foster confidence in government and so that the public can evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the efficient and proper functioning of its institutions.”


    The key is in that last part. People are more likely to trust government they can see. If you have a concern about local government, or a distrust of it, don’t take the view that you can’t fight City Hall. And don’t defer to the opinions of talking heads (including this one). The Legislature has improved the path for citizen access to their government. But Georgians will need to use it, or it will grow over.

{mosimage}June 7-- Ron Salter (left) is presented his 10 year Faithful Service Award by Will Murphy, District Construction Engineer.

Ron Salter has been with the Georgia Department of Transportation in the Construction Division for 10 years. He is a Construction Project Engineer and works out of the Area 1 Office in Baxley which covers Appling, Jeff Davis, Telfair, Wheeler and Montgomery Counties. He is a resident of Toombs County.

June 6--  The eligibility of a Montgomery County commissioner to hold office and to seek re-election is being challenged.

Uvalda Commissioner John Carpenter has federal and state tax liens which have been in place on taxes owed as far back as 1993.

{mosimage}His challenger in the July 31st Democrat Primary, Sharon Strickland, filed a challenge to his eligibility Wednesday with county Election Supervisor Ruby Nell Sanders.

"I'm filing a challenge to Mr. John Carpenter for some state and federal liens he has against him.  I read the Constitution and it looks to me like if you owe any debts you're not eligible to run for election in this county," Strickland said.

The Georgia Constitution prohibits anyone who has defaulted on their taxes to run for office.  According to Strickland, county records show that Carpenter has federal tax liens amounting to $281,673.95 and state liens totaling $55,497.10 and that he owed taxes in 2008 when he took the oath of office.

The Constitution contains a provision that a candidate's ineligibility may be removed if the back taxes are paid or if a payment plan is in place.

{mosimage}Carpenter says he's expecting a settlement on his taxes "at any date."

"I'd just like to say I appreciate the opportunity to serve and this was a problem four years ago and nobody challenged it.  I don't see where my personal business has anything to do with how I conduct business for the county," he said.

Strickland is asking the Election Supervisor to disqualify Carpenter.  Sanders is required by law to hold a hearing on the challenge and says she plans to do so after consulting with county attorney Mackey Bryant.

"I've never had to do this before and I want to make sure it's done right," Sanders said.

June 6--  A Toombs County grand jury has returned 28 indictments including two for vehicular homicide.

Marcus Toby was indicted in connection with the accident which killed Keneisha Simmons on Halloween, 2010.  He allegedly was driving under the influence of alcohol when his speeding vehicle ran off the C.V. Mosley Road and hit an utility pole.  Simmons died when she was thrown from the vehicle.

In the second case, Carlos Williamson was allegedly under the influence of drugs on June 25, 2011 when his pickup truck overturned on the Durham Mosley Road and ejected his wife, Jessica Marie Durden, who was killed.  Williamson's drivers license had been suspended prior to the accident.

The grand jury indicted 20 people on drug-related charges.  They are James and Miranda Campbell, Alexander Worthy, Sherod Cook, Susan Mendoza, Stephen McKee, Tiffany Hunt, Wilbert Baldwin, Jose Pacheco, Ronald Craig, Stephen Jones, Antonio Mayweather, Samantha Deen, Cynthia Babcock, Thomas Seagraves, Brandon Scott, Marylyn Fulmer, Sharon Bolton, Christa Choate, Shonda Spann and Tyrone Stafford, Jr.

Indicted for sexual offenses are Ricky Edwards for incest and statutory rape and Robert Powell for rape and aggravated sodomy.

In other cases, James Campbell was indicted for burglary; Brandon Hamilton, Michael Evers and Eric McGahee face theft by taking indictments; Tyrone Stafford, Jr. for theft by deception; Diana McCoy for credit card fraud; and William Robinson, III for shoplifting. 

Reginald Morris, Jr. was indicted for arson, terroristic threats and stalking.

The grand jury also appointed Jiles McNatt (Mac) Barfield to the Board of Equalization as an alternate member to replace George Chapman, Sr. at the end of his term.


June 5-- Fashion capitals like Milan, New York, and Paris are a long way from Southeastern Technical College, but every spring, their runways stretch into Anna Kate Willoughby’s classroom.

The STC cosmetology instructor’s spring project for her students asks that they research and apply designs fresh from the world’s trendiest fashion houses.

{mosimage}“I wanted students to enhance their own skills by using current as well as up-and-coming trends in our industry,” said Willoughby. “It’s really important for students to step out of the box and tap into their creative side.”

Creative is the key word. Though some looks may rely on the subtlety of shifting shades of color, others have sea shells wound into hair or elaborate sequin designs contoured around a model’s eyes.

“Not many people would actually go out in public with sequins attached to their face, but sequins as a ‘texture’ are a trend for spring,” said Willoughby. “And through styling, makeup applications, hair color, chemical textures, and so on, these students are building new skills and enhancing the ones they have learned.”

Trends from New York Fashion Week and Harper’s Bazaar may seem out of reach for southeast Georgia, but Willoughby knows that staying state-of-the-art is not just necessary—it’s attainable.

“Students need to understand that these looks are achievable even in rural areas,” said Willoughby. “In such an evolving industry where trends are constantly changing, changes need to be embraced.”


May 5--  Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) announced Monday he will relinquish his role as President Pro Tempore next year and not seek re-election for a leadership position.  Sen. Williams made the announcement via a letter (included below) to the Senate Republican Caucus on Monday.


It is a very difficult decision for one to give up a position of political power. Often it takes a lost election or scandalous event for one to part with the notoriety of a higher position.  While I've been affected by neither loss nor scandal, I can say that conceding a place of leadership over such a fine group of men and women is not easy.

I mentioned to several of you last session that I would not run for PPT again.  I believe that leadership positions as well as major chairmanships should be rotated or term limited in order to gain from the talents of many and allow other members the opportunity to serve in higher positions.  History proves that corruption can occur when one is too closely connected to lobbyists and has forgotten that the people, not lobbying groups, are who we represent.  I have had many opportunities to take on lobbyists and special interest groups when their requests were not in the best interest of the people, and I can tell you it helps one to be a better leader if he or she is not overly concerned about re-election. Additionally, members that have consolidated powers as leaders or major chairmen over time find themselves tempted to look to their powerful positions as a way to create income for themselves or to protect their corporate contributors.  This temptation is especially acute in Georgia, where the general assembly has the lowest salaries in the country. 

I feel strongly that the powers that reside with the Senate should remain with the Senate as the legislative branch. I believe that the majority of you support this, yet agree that the LG, as the presiding officer, should be included and engaged in day-to-day operations of the Senate. Hopefully, going forward, we can agree on rules that will allow the Senate to remain autonomous while still engaging the LG directly in the daily workings and decisions of the Senate.

For the last 14 years, I have served the people of 21 different counties across south Georgia.  As one of the first rural republicans, I had to endure ridiculous democrat-drawn maps that drew my district in Cobb County forcing me to run in an incumbent democrat district. I began serving as Vice-Chairman of the caucus at the beginning of my second term.  My job was to recruit republican candidates, which was not easy back then in rural Georgia. We worked hard, raised lots of money for our candidates, and, in 2002, with the help of Sonny Perdue and some switchers like Jack Hill, we won the majority. What a happy day that was.

I would like to remind you that we were only able to take the majority when we won the rural parts of the State.  Our caucus needs to keep a balance between rural and metro areas as we choose our leadership team and as we make policy decisions.  We have based too many of our decisions on policies that were good politically for metro Georgia but not so good for the rural parts of the state.  We can’t be a majority without our rural Senators.

In my years serving on the leadership team our numbers grew from 22 to 36. Hopefully, we will reach the goal of a constitutional majority this year.  We have never retreated in our numbers, even when the democrats drew the maps.

My decision not to seek re-election for the PPT position was prayerfully considered. In addition to my beliefs about service limits in leadership, Stephanie and I have three children, and I need and want to spend more time with them.  The movie Courageous has helped me refocus my position on fatherhood as the higher priority.  I am spending time in Atlanta that should be spent at home or in my district working with constituents.

I would like to say how grateful I am for the privilege of serving you. It has been a wonderful experience for me. Over the last two years, the struggle over who would govern the Senate has been stressful, but liberty almost always requires a struggle.  I have fought for giving the Senate the liberty to govern itself.  This has never been a personal battle. It is what I believe the Constitution declares, and we have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. Now the liberty to govern is ours to protect or surrender.

As we move forward, I would like to make some suggestions that should be considered when electing the next PPT:

1. He or she should be humble, upright, trustworthy and of good character.

2. He or she should be free of any conflict of interest and should not use the office as a means of promoting his or her livelihood.  If this is not the case, the PPT will embarrass the Senate at some point. What is done in secret will be shouted from the mountaintop. Nothing remains hidden in this business. Look to members that are not overly burdened by their private jobs. This position takes an immense amount of time. In the future, we should look at making the PPT job a salaried position at a “living” wage.

3. He or she should be faithful to his or her spouse and family. The PPT in many ways is a reflection of the Senate as a whole. If we elect a leader with wavering morals, we can all be put to shame.  We've all seen what happens in our own General Assembly when leaders cannot control themselves.

4.  He or she needs to be intelligent, patient and capable of building a consensus.

It is my hope that we can find a consensus candidate without having a fight over the position.  Ideally, one should not seek the job. The job should seek the person. I served in this position because members asked me to serve, and I was never opposed.  I believe that we can come together as a team and choose from our caucus a person that has the above listed qualities to be our next PPT without a campaign splitting the caucus. Our current Governor is a great example of one having the qualities it takes to lead at this level. Is there anyone in our caucus that would have these qualities?

Take time to think about who would be a good PPT for Senate. Forget for a moment who might be running and think about who has the virtue to lead our body. Remember, POWER IS SEDUCTIVE.  Those who are certain they can handle it, are often the first to fail.

As you look around don’t throw out the freshmen.  Pete Robinson became PPT in his in his 3rd year. We have some very wise freshmen of sound character and constitution.  Consider them for our team of leaders.

Talk with your other members and ask the question. Who is smart, humble, trustworthy, a good negotiator, not to closely tied to the lobbyist community and of excellent character? Remember the wisdom of Jesus who said, "Whosoever is chief among you let him be your servant". Look toward someone with a servant's heart. Consider your co-Senators and collectively encourage someone with these character qualities to run.

I will continue to serve the remainder of my term as PPT.  When the new leaders are elected or re-elected, I will support the team. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting back to the nitty gritty of perfecting legislation, which is why I came to the Senate in the first place. If we work together we really can continue to make this state great.

Sincerely and friendly,


P.S.  I am sending this notice to the media so that the long term member of the caucus that feels a need to leak this letter to the media, can redirect his time to concentrate on other virtues.

June 4--  The four Republican candidates for Congress in the 12th Congressional District agree it's time for a change in the U.S. Congress and they'd all like to replace Democrat Congressman John Barrow in January.

{mosimage}(L-R) Rick Allen of Augusta, Lee Anderson of Grovetown, Wright McLeod of Augusta and Maria Sheffield of Dublin answered questions in a forum at Southeastern Tech in Vidalia Monday night.

The 90-minute discussion revealed many areas of agreement among the four conservatives. 

Allen is an Augusta contractor who wants "business sense" brought to the federal government.  Anderson is a former state representative who says his experience in state government will help him with efforts to balance the federal budget.  McLeod, a former Navy fighter pilot, says he's the only candidate to have taken an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution.  Maria Sheffield noted she's a strong Tea Party advocate and that the one thing a liberal fears most is a conservative woman.

The forum was sponsored by the Toombs County Republican Party and the Vidalia Area Tea Party Patriots.

County Republican Chairman Jim Collins says a straw poll after the debate gave the edge to McLeod.  He garnered 55 votes, Maria Sheffield got 32, Lee Anderson received 11 and Allen pulled in four votes.  Collins reports more than 150 people attended the program.

Sheffield Claims Victory

After the forum, Sheffield's campaign manager Kathryn Ballou claimed her candidate got the most support if you discount candidates' staff and friends in attendance at the program.

"I am pleased to announce that Maria Sheffield earned 10 times the number of votes of the people she had in her traveling party at the debate tonight. None of her GOP challengers can say the same. Straw polls are fun, but one must discount traveling staff, family, and personal friends when looking to determine legitimate support.

Maria Sheffield is humbled to know that of the uncommitted voters in the room at the debate, she had true grassroots support.

We are thankful to everyone who joined our conservative positive policy campaign. Maria will continue to discuss issues affecting the 12th Congressional District and offer transformational solutions.

Maria Sheffield has one opponent in this race and that is Congressman John Barrow, who proudly proclaims he is working "hand-in-hand" with President Obama. Maria will work hand-in-hand with the taxpayers of GA 12 and will go to Washington to lead on conservative issues, Ballou said.

McLeod's Statement After Vidalia Forum



Many of you knew me before I ever decided to run for Congress. I appreciate your continued friendship and support as we try to do our small part to put our nation on the right track. For those that have known me, know that I'm not a politician. I have not lived my life lining up a run for political office or spent my time greasing the tracks of local political machines. I've spent my life serving our country and trying to do what's best for my family and our community.


I'm sure like me, you've been pleasantly surprised by the positive attention my candidacy has received. Recently, FreedomWorks, one of the most prominent TEA Party groups in America, endorsed my campaign. They did so after fully vetting me and declared that I am "the clear choice for voters who support free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government."


Just last night, the Republican candidates for the 12th Congressional District participated in a candidate forum in Vidalia. After a lively debate about the issues and philosophy, the audience cast their votes in a straw poll to who was their choice for Congress. I am happy to say we won overwhelmingly. 54% of the votes cast were for Wright McLeod, while the other three candidates split the remaining votes.


It seems as though voters throughout the District and national conservative leaders are tired of the same old politicians propping up the political status quo. Voters tell me they want new, bold leadership who will deliver real solutions to our nations woes. They are sick of the politics of personal attacks, character assassinations and outright lies. They are sick of politicians willing to say and do anything to get and stay elected.


The attention we've  received hasn't been all positive. When you stand up and speak your mind, you're liable to upset the apple cart. When you say you'll fight to cut the pork, special interests squeal. Needless to say, the status quo isn't happy with a candidate who doesn't play their games.


I grew up in Richmond County, Georgia. I live in Richmond County today, and I have raised a family and started a small business in the community. Much like Georgia used to be, the Democrat Machine still maintains hold over Richmond County politics. In the past, the elections that held the biggest sway over my day-to-day life were local elections. If I wanted a say in taxes, local schools and public safety, I sometimes had to choose the Democratic ballot during the July primary.


Some of my opponents are likely to use my voting history to claim I'm not a real conservative. That's flat false. Like my decision to attend the Naval Academy and serve our country, the decisions I've made were done so because I believed it was the best thing for my community, and ultimately, the right thing to do. Bottom-line, I'm not a politician. I have not lived my life lining up a run for political office or spent my time greasing the tracks of local political machines. I've spent my life serving our country and trying to do what's best for my family.


I am running for Congress, not because I want to be an elected official, but rather because our country needs leaders who can make the hard decisions. This campaign is about ensuring America remains the greatest country in the world, a place where opportunities are endless and we are free to pursue our dreams. I hope you'll join me in this quest. If I am fortunate enough to be sent to Congress to serve our community, I will always do what I think is right, and I will continue to honor the oath I took in the Navy to defend this country.


I make another promise to you today: What you see is what you get. I have been and always will be Wright McLeod. No apologies, no excuses. Just simply working hard to do what I believe is right.







June 4--  The President ProTem of the Georgia Senate is giving up his leadership role.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons says the leadership role he's held for the past four years is taking too much time away from his children and he thinks a regular change in leadership is a good thing.

{mosimage}"I've got kids who need more of my time and I'm spending a lot of time in Atlanta and not enough time in my district.  The other thing is I think these positions ought to be rotated and one person shouldn't hoard these positions for long periods of time.  I think over time one becomes too familiar with special interests and it's better to move on and let other folks have the opportunity to serve at these levels," Senator Williams said Monday.

Senator Williams promises that he will still stay engaged and says, "I'm looking forward to getting back to the nitty gritty of working on legislation which is really my love."

Senator Williams will serve out his term as President ProTem which expires the end of this year.