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April 30--  Vidalia Fire Chief Brian Sikes reports 23 calls by the fire department in March.

2- House Fires

3- Smoke/Odor Removals

1- Vehicle Fire

7- Vehicle Accidents

2- Grass Fires

1- Gas Leak

6- False Alarms

1- Miscellaneous

April 30--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

Cooper, Jerrod Jerry - B/M- 41 YOA/ 1416 Byrd St. Waycross, GA- Bench Warrant (Dekalb County SO)

Davis, Mary Cristal- B/F- 32 YOA- 1208 Easter Dr. Apt. 1Vidalia, GA- Giving False Name to LE Officer (State Warrant)

Thompkins, Curtis Anthony- B/M- 31 YOA- 104 Everett St. Vidalia, GA- Disorderly Conduct/Simple Obstruction

Sipp, Melvin Ray- B/M- 59 YOA- 301 Maple Dr. Vidalia, GANo Driver’s License

Welsh, Lenworth Jamal II- B/M- 23 YOA- 911 Bay St. Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce/Driving Due Care Hands Free

Tillman, Antonio Larmar- B/M- 43 YOA- 1616 N Expressway Griffin, GA- Simple Battery (FVA)/Give False Name, Address, Birthdate to LE Officer/Probation Warrant (Charlton Co SO)

Brinson,Justice Ryan W/M 21YOA/304 Brantley Road Vidalia, Ga/Warrant Served (Probation ViolationToombs County)

Phillips, Dillon Ray-W/M 28 YOA- 204 E. First St Room 37 Vidalia, GA- Warrant Served (Parole)

Ward, Christy Lanelle- W/F- 42 YOA- 405 Green St. Vidalia,GA- Theft by Deception

Collier, Krista Marie- W/F- 31 YOA- 128 Collins St. Reidsville, GA- Theft by Shoplifting (Probation Warrant)

Simpson, Lonnie Rayshawn B/M / 18 YOA-702 West Second St Vidalia, Ga/ Warrant Service (VPD) Willfully Obstruction Of Police Officer Simple / Verbal (Misd)

Pratt, Kelly Lynn W/F 33 YOA/ 2631 Ga Hwy 15, Vidalia, Ga/Financial Transaction Card Fraud x Five Cts (Fel)/Theft By Conversion x Four Cts (Misd)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Ronald Lawrence, Lyons, warrant served

Tasha Herrick, Lyons, DUI, possession of controlled substance and drug related objects, driving with suspended/revoked license, hands free law

Kayla Rigdon, Reidsville, probation violation

Antonio Blaine, Vidalia, hands free law

Justin Aldrich, Metter, crossing of guard line with prohibited items

William Luther, Lyons, warrants served

Antoine Miller, Glennville, criminal warrant

Jonathan Gillis, Lyons, DUI

Michael Martin, Reidsville, willful obstruction of police, crossing guard lines with prohibited items, possession of marijuana

Nina Hall, Lyons, cruelty to children, assault

Michael Moore, Lyons, DUI, willful obstruction, attempting to elude arrest, driving with suspended/revoked license, failure to maintain lane

Michael Sanders, Vidalia, probation viiolation

Ronald Lawrence, Lyons, warrant served

Justin Connell, Lyons, DUI, child endangerment, possession of marijuana, traffic violations

Cadesha Williams, Lyons, disorderly conduct, no insurance, driving with expired license

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Stacy Allen, Vidalia, child support

Joey Brannon, Lyons, aggravated child molestation, registration of sex offender

Rubin Brown, Jr., Lyons, child support

Samantha Deen, Uvalda, failure to appear

Floyd Gutherie, Vidalia, battery - family violence

Jordy Herndon, Uvalda, DUI, failure to maintain lane

Delvin Johnson, Vidalia, DUI, driving with license suspended/revoked

April Lynn, Lyons, child molestation

Jason Miller, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Justin Mosley, Vidalia, driving while license suspended/revoked

William Prescott, Vidalia, shoplifting, probation violation, driving while license suspended/revoked

Franklin Scarborough, Vidalia, aggravated assault

Richard Williams, Lyons, DUI, open container, speeding

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/15-Robin Michelle Jump, Lumber City, Felony Probation Violation

04/16-Robert Lee Calkins, Uvalda, Disorderly Conduct

04/17-Jeremy Ronald Edge, Mt Vernon, Aggravated Assault

04/18-Eric Ryan Lawrence, Lyons, Felony Probation Violation

04/18-John Johnson, Ailey, Driving w/Suspended License

04/19-Clarance Daniel Taylor, Ailey, Child Molestation (2 counts)

04/19-Niki Denise Jackson, Mt Vernon, Disorderly Conduct

04/21-Patti Thrasher Cooper, Uvalda, Simple Battery (Family Violence)

04/22-Clifford Junior Peebles, Tarrytown, Warrant Served (Toombs County)

April 30--  Two Vidalia High School seniors have been named "Georgia Scholars" by the Georgia Department of Education.

vhsscholarsLogan Reid and John David Hodges were selected for achieving excellence in school and community life. 

According to the award criteria, Georgia Scholars are students who have carried exemplary course loads in high school, performed all courses with excellence, successfully participated in interscholastic events at their schools and in their communities and who assumed active roles in extracurricular activities sponsored by their school.

April 30--  Tuesday was supposed to be the effective date of the Vidalia Police Chief's retirement from the Vidalia Police Department, however, the chief has not submitted his retirement and the issue is ongoing.

Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet notified Chief Frank Waits April 9 that the Chief had four days to retire from the department or face termination. The deadline was later extended until the end of April.

Since then Chief Waits has been in contact with a lawyer from the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs to explore his options.  Attorney Mike Caldwell has been in contact with city officials, however, Overstreet will make no comment regarding the nature of the contact nor the status of the action.

Meanwhile, the City Council is holding an executive session to discuss the case Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 according to the city manager.  The meeting is being held at the Municipal Annex, however, there will be no open session and no vote will be entertained nor taken, according to a city announcement.

The chief's termination ultimatum came after members of the Vidalia City Council conferred with Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman concerning the police department's handling of the suspect in the R.J. Pope Men's Wear murder case last November. 

Suspect Tyrone Burns had been questioned by Vidalia Police about two weeks prior to the murder of store manager Brooke Joiner during an armed robbery.  He was questioned about a domestic violence altercation with his girlfriend and released when she was deemed  "an uncooperative witness" by police.  The inference is that if police had charged Burns he might not have been back on the street to allegedly kill Joiner.

The domestic dispute was not the only contact Vidalia police had with Burns. On September 28, he was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass and booked into the Toombs County jail.  He was released on a $2,500 bond two days later.

April 29-- Multiple victims defrauded by a former attorney will begin receiving a share of restitution now that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has won the case challenging ownership of part of those proceeds.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia that said funds from an investment settlement should go to restitution in the case against Wilson R. Smith, 67, of Vidalia rather than to his former wife, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Frances Smith had challenged ownership of $433,096 awarded to her former husband as part of a settlement with BlinkMind, a Texas company in which Wilson Smith had invested while they were married. The District Court ruled, and the 11th Circuit affirmed, that the settlement funds instead should be seized by the United States and applied to the restitution Wilson Smith owed after his sentence for Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft.

According to court documents, Wilson Smith, a personal-injury attorney, admitted to settling the cases of multiple clients without their knowledge, consent, or approval, then collecting more than $1 million in proceeds for his own benefit while lying to the clients about the status of their cases. Some of those injured clients were forced into poverty in the absence of settlements that they never received, even as Smith and his wife enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.

After pleading guilty, Smith was sentenced in October 2015 to 96 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.285 million in restitution. In January 2018, Frances Smith learned of the pending $433,096 settlement owed to her husband as a BlinkMind investor. A month later she filed for divorce; it was granted in March, and in April, Wilson Smith moved that the court transfer the BlinkMind funds into the divorce settlement even though, until that point, he had paid only $51,370 of the funds he owed in restitution.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and its Asset Recovery Unit asserted the funds should instead go to satisfy Wilson Smith’s restitution; the courts agreed.

“Wilson Smith’s actions in defrauding his clients represent a particularly egregious example of legal malfeasance,” said Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “Being forced to drag out the claim to these funds only made it worse for the victims who were hurt once in a personal injury case, and then victimized again by their dishonest, greedy lawyer. We hope this resolution will give them at least a small measure of redemption.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and prosecuted for the United States by Xavier Cunningham, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia and Section Chief of the Asset Recovery Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Patrick, with assistance from Litigation Support Specialist Dean Athanasopoulos.

April 29--  Mother Nature provided beautiful weather and the Sweet Onion City had a great weekend for the 42nd Annual Vidalia Onion Festival.

Josh Giles is the outgoing Festival Chairman, "I thought it was a wonderful festival.  We had a great turnout across the board, you couldn't ask for better weather, we had large crowds and I think everybody had a wonderful time."

The budget for this year's festival was $180,833 and Giles is optimistic about at least breaking even, "I'm very optimistic about that.  Budgeting for this kind of event is not easy because you never know what's going to happen, especially with the weather, but I'm going to say, bottom line, we probably exceeded what we anticipated."

Vidalia Tourism Director Alexa Britton says the town benefits from people who come to the festival from out of town, "I think most people would be shocked at how many people come from out of town and out of state to the festival.  We were open at the Vidalia Onion Museum on Saturday to give information and we had more than 60 people to visit and I would say 95% of those were from out of town," and she notes, "There's always a peak of our hotel and motel tax collections in April."

Alexa is the city's point of contact for the Onion Festival Committee, "The volunteers who are on the committee are working nine to ten months out of the year meeting and planning and there must be 300 or more volunteers who work on the weekend," and Giles says, without the volunteers, there would be no Onion Festival, "It's not easy and I appreciate every single person who helped us out."

Next for the committee, "We'll do a debriefing meeting and go over everything that happened this year and see what are the thing we can improve on for the following year..  Then we'll take a two to three month break and start all over again," Giles said.

Giles completes a five-year term on the committee next year and will assist the new chairman, Andy Woodruff, with the 2020 Vidalia Onion Festival. 

April 29--  City Park in downtown Vidalia was packed Saturday night for the Vidalia Onion Festival Concert.

Country stars Randy Houser and Carly Pearce followed show openers Justin Dukes, Salazar and Clayton Hackle on "The Stage" with concert-go'ers enjoying a mid-concert fireworks show in the sky over the Sweet Onion City.






John Koon from Vidalia Communications emceed the concert.

April 27--  A veteran Vidalia Onion eater scored his seventh title Saturday afternoon at the World Famous Vidalia Onion Eating Contest sponsored by the Vidalia Lions Club.  Seventeen competitors took part in three age categories.

onionrussFifty-three-year-old Russ Wagner of Vidalia downed eight Sweet Vidalia Onions in three minutes to beat out six other competitors in the adult category.

onioncameronThe 12 to 16 age category was won by 14-year-old Cameron Savinjewicz by consuming eight Vidalia's.

oniongirlsHis eight-year-old sister, Maci (L), and nine-year-old Layla Sikes tied for first in the "up to age 11" category by downing five onions each.

It was the first time in the competition's history that the late Lion Barron Godbee was not on hand to emcee the contest.  Lion Macky Bryant succeeded Barron but said "no one can replace him in the job."

April 27--  There were more than 20 entries in this year's Vidalia Onion Festival Recipe Contest and two women took all the top honors.  Joy Weaver (right in photo) won $600 as the side dish winner and the overall winner for her Sweet Onion Macaroni Casserole.

She formerly competed in the Vidalia Onion Run, but gave up running and started cooking, "I love Vidalia Onions.  I used to eat them like apples when I was little," and she describes her winning entry, "It's got Vidalia Onions in it, of course, but it also has mushrooms and it's just got a very good taste."  The casserole was her only entry and she promises to be back next year to defend her title, "Next year I might try to enter two.  I guess now I'm a cook and not a runner."


Sherry Kirkley (left) won first place in both the Miscellaneous Category for her onion dip and in the Main Category for her caramelized Vidalia Onion quiche.


Side Dish Winners

1st Place Winner: Joy Weaver – Bonnies Sweet Vidalia Onion Macaroni Casserole

2nd Place Winner: Elaine Allen – Vidalia Onion Pinwheels

3rd Place Winner: Cindy Reddish – Vidalia Onion Gratin

Main Dish Winners

1st Place Winner: Sherry Kirkley – Caramelized Onion Quiche

2nd Place Winner: Mary Dann – Chicken & Rice with Vidalia Onions

3rd Place Winner: Janice Graham – Onion Gravy with Beef

Miscellaneous Winners

1st Place Winner: Sherry Kirkley-Onion Spinach Artichoke Dip

2nd Place Winner: Sharon Tapley – Hot Vidalia Dip

3rd Place Winner: Elaine Allen – Vidalia Onion Cheese Ball

April 27—The 42nd Annual Vidalia Onion Run sponsored by the Vidalia Kiwanis Club was held Saturday morning.

4 27 19 10K Winner Male 4 27 19 10K Female Winner
Winner of the 10K was Joseph McLeod from Vidalia now living in Atlanta with a time of 38:15 The female 10K winner was Catherine Ziats at 41:44 from South Carolina.
4 27 19 5K Female 4 27 19 5K Male 2
The female 5K winner with a time of 20:23 was 13 year- old seventh grader Reagan Cooke from Greenville, South Carolina. The 5K winner from Savannah was Ray Bing with a time of 17:54.
4 27 19 Chason Brogden 1K 4 27 19 1K Female
The 1mile Fun Run and Walk winner with a time of 5:40 was Chason Brogdon a 17 year-old Track and Cross Country Runner from Vidalia High School. The female 1mile winner was Caitlyn Allen a Freshman from Vidalia High School with a time of 6:30.

April 27--  Fireworks lit up the night sky over Vidalia last night during the Onion Festival Street Dance downtown at City Park. 


There's another fireworks show in store tonight during the Onion Festival Concert starring country singers Randy Houser and Carly Pearce.

Opening acts include Justin Dukes, Salazar and Clayton Hackle.  Gates open at 3 p.m., music starts at 4 p.m.

Tickets are $25 at the gate.

(Photo Courtesy Lisa Chesser)

April 27--  The state of Georgia is implementing a new title and registration system for vehicles in late May.

Toombs County Tax Commissioner Brenda Williams says the state is shutting down the current system Thursday, May 23rd and that means her office will be unable to process any motor vehicle transactions until Tuesday, May 28.

She advises that if your birthday falls during that period, you should renew your registration or register a new vehicle on or before Wednesday, May 22.

April 26--  The traffic deaths of a Montgomery County couple this week are prompting the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners to ask the Georgia Department of Transportation to consider upgrading traffic controls at the intersection where the wreck occurred.

David and Patti Winge were killed when their vehicle was T-boned at the intersection of Highway 15 and Sawmill Road by a pickup truck that the Georgia State Patrol said ran a stop sign.

The Commissioners sent their deepest sympathies to the family of David and Patti Winge and said they will consider the following resolution at their monthly meeting May 13.


Whereas, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners is requesting from the Georgia Department of Transportation additional safety measures to prevent and/or lessen motor vehicle accidents at the intersection of Georgia Highway Routes 292, 15/29 and County Road 67 (a/k/a Sawmill Road) hereinafter referred to as the “INTERSECTION”, inside the City of Higgston, Georgia; and

Whereas, the INTERSECTION is the site of recent fatalities that occurred on April 24, 2019; and

Whereas, the INTERSECTION’S road signage and all other intersection warning devices should be reviewed to certify that the signage and devices meet and exceed standards.

Therefore, be it resolved, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners desire to ensure the public’s safety traveling through the INTERSECTION and respectfully request that the Georgia Department of Transportation take immediate action to install additional safety measures at said INTERSECTION.

Be it further resolved, the Clerk is authorized to send a copy of this Resolution to the City Council of Higgston, Georgia, with cover letter, requesting their support and endorsement of this request.

Adopted this 13th day of May, 2019.
Leland Adams, Chairman

paradeApril 26--  The theme for this year's Vidalia Onion Festival Children's Parade was "Onion Rings and Things" and the kids (and their parents) came up with a lot of creative costumes.

kids0to3In the age category 0-3 years, River Love won the "Best Overall" award, Willow Morrison the "Most Onion Festive" and Emily Dees the "Most Creative."


The "Best Overall" in ages 8-12 went to Alexis Bishop.

kidsgroupIn the group category, "Best Overall" went to Farmer and Onion Ring, "Most Onion Festive" to Bag O' Onions and "Most Creative" to Twin Rings.

April 26--  The Vidalia City School board approved personnel changes for next school year at its meeting Thursday including principal changes at two schools.

scottstephensScott Stephens is moving from the head job at J.D. Dickerson Primary School to succeed Tammy McFadden at Sally D. Meadows Elementary School.  He has been at Dickerson for the past four years and is a former principal at Swainsboro Elementary School.  McFadden moves to be the system's Director of Federal Programs to succeed Ginger Morris who has been named Assistant Superintendent to succeed Lucy Claroni who is retiring.

brenda mcclainStephens will be succeeded at J.D.Dickerson by Brenda McLain who has been the school's Assistant Principal since 2007.  She's formerly a second grade teacher at the school and taught Pre-K at Montgomery County Elementary School.

The school board also hired Robert McCoy to be the new band director at Vidalia High School succeeding longtime director Tim Quigley who remains on staff at the school.  McCoy was the band director at Clinch County High School and is being accompanied by his wife, Kimberly, who was hired to teach at Sally Meadows Elementary.

Other personnel changes approved by the board:


  • Tammie Johnson - JRT Bookkeeper
  • Traci Googe - VHS School Nutrition
  • Tressi White - JDD SpEd Teacher
  • Jennifer Cardinal - SDM Teacher
  • Megan Hart - SDM Teacher
  • Brooke McKie - VHS Family and Consumer Science Teacher
  • Carolyn Archambeault - JDD PIP Teacher
  • Jeanette Reynolds - SDM Teacher
  • Latrell Askins - Behavior Intervention Coach

PERSONNEL RESIGNATIONS: (effective end of school year)

  • Amanda McCoy - JRT Teacher 
  • Mallory Adams - JDD Teacher 
  • Shea Phillips - SDM Teacher 
  • Kristin Windham - JDD Teacher 
  • Melissa Wiggins - SDM Teacher 

April 25--  Art students from four area high schools took part in the Third Annual Vidalia Onion Chalk Walk competition Thursday on the sidewalks of downtown Vidalia.

The students using chalk as a medium depicted their perceptions of the Sweet Vidalia Onion and the farmers who produce them.  They came from art classes at Vidalia High School, Toombs County High School, Robert Toombs Christian Academy and Vidalia Heritage Academy.


The judges picked the work of RTCA's Christa Fields for the first place award.  Her art teacher is Dona Belcher.


Second place went to Mary Lopez of Toombs County High School where her art teacher is Meridith Brodnax.


Kassidy Montfort of Vidalia High School won third place.  Her teacher is Elizabeth Wolf.

April 25--  Toombs County officials are asking citizens for the patience as the county attempts to repair the 1964 air conditioning unit which cools the county courthouse in Lyons.

The unit provides cooling to 70% of the courthouse and the county is working with vendors to find parts to repair the system.

April 25--  Carly Pearce hails from a town in Kentucky half the size of Vidalia, but she's big time when it comes to country music these days.

carleypearceShe was nominated by the Academy of Country Music as the new Female Vocalist of the Year and, along with headliner Randy Houser, has a hit song at the top of the charts.  Both are in concert Saturday night in downtown Vidalia as part of the Vidalia Onion Festival.

Carly just turned 29 this week and has been honing her talent since she was a teenager, "I have loved country music since I was a little girl and did what many artists do.  I sang in all the talent shows and started a blue grass band when I was eleven.  When I was sixteen I convinced my parents to let me quit high school and start home schooling because I had auditioned to work in a country show at Dollywood.  I moved to Pigeon Forge when I was sixteen and did six shows a day, five days a week and the moved to Nashville ten years ago and started my long journey in the industry."

The up and coming star is engaged to country singer Michael Ray who himself was nominated as the New Male Vocalist of the Year and she admits she went after him, "I just figured I would do what any girl would do in 2019.  I messaged him online and we started talking and it crazy just how many similarities we had.  It very much was the right thing but, yes, I went after him."

After her Vidalia show, Carly goes back to Nashville to perform at the Grand Ole Opry and then hits the road for a tour with Jason Aldean.

She's looking forward to her Saturday night show in Vidalia, "I get to play 60 minutes which I don't get to do very often.  People are going to see where I come from in Kentucky and the influences that made me who I am. You're going to hear my hits that are on the radio and the songs that will be on my next album plus some of the cover songs that turned me into the artist I am.  I feel like people will walk away with a good feeling since I'm able to play for an entire hour."

Opening acts for the concert include Justin Dukes, Salazar and Clayton Hackle.  The gates to The Stage at City Park open at 3 p.m. Saturday with music starting at 4 p.m.  There's a fireworks show during the concert Saturday night.

Advance tickets are $20 at Vidalia City Hall or at the Vidalia Onion Museum. 

Tickets at the gate are $25 or online at

higgstonwreck2April 25--  Wednesday's wreck in Higgston claimed its second life last night.

Officials confirm that David Winge died at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah where he had been taken after a collision which killed his wife, Patti, at noon Wednesday. 

The driver of the second vehicle, Erik Hall of Vidalia, was injured and taken to Meadows Health where he is in intensive care.

Georgia State Patrol Sergeant First Class Eric Wilkes says a pickup truck driven by Hall was traveling east on Sawmill Road when it ran a stop sign at the intersection with Highway 15 and T-boned the Toyota 4-Runner traveling south on Highway 15 being driven by David Winge.  His wife was in the front passenger's seat.

The force of the collision drove the Toyota to sideswipe the church sign of the Higgston Baptist Church, which sits at the intersection, and to collide with the church's northern brick wall.  The truck caught fire.

David Winge is the Service Manager at Webster Motor Company.  He and his wife were returning from lunch at Big Al's at the time of the accident, according to SFC Wilkes.


April 23--  U.S. Highway One in Toombs County is now the "Staff Sergeant Dustin Michael Wright Memorial Highway" following dedication ceremonies Tuesday afternoon in Santa Claus, hometown of his grandfather.

ardiewrightgroup(L-R) State Senator Blake Tillery, Dustin's dad Ardie, Dustin's brother, Ardie, Jr., State Representative Greg Morris.

Staff Sergeant Wright was killed in an ISIS ambush 18 months ago in the southwest Africa country of Niger.

His family's casualty assistance officer, Army Chief Warrant Officer Angela Belding,  says he died a hero, "Dustin was just one of those people.  I know all the background of the incident that happened and he was not only a true hero, he was a hero above everyone else."

ardiewrightpicDustin's dad, Ardie, says his son's death touched people all over the country, "Dustin inspired people all over the country.  I've got a hand-quilted throw at my house that was made by 12 different women in 12 different states.  I've got an oil painted portrait that was sent to me from Utah.  People from Atlanta to Lyons to Vidalia were there when we brought Dustin home, thousands and thousands of people.  I think that's the most important thing for us as a family to recognize is that even after he was gone, even though it hurts, he made so many people feel good.  That was his key, when he walked through the door, he made everybody feel good."

State Senator Blake Tillery and State Representative Greg Morris, both from Toombs County, spoke at the dedication.  Representative Morris authored the General Assembly resolution naming the highway and said he hopes it will be a lasting memorial to Staff Sergeant Wright's sacrifice, "I hope it inspires people who see the sign  that don't know who is Dustin Wright and that they ask their parents, especially the kids, who was Dustin Wright, and that we have the opportunity to say he was a brave man who sacrificed and died for this community and for his country."

April 22--  The Chief Judge of the Middle Judicial Circuit made a visit to Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons to warn middle and high school students about the dangers of sexting.

kathypalmer"The don't realize they could end up in the Youth Detention Center until they're 17 and then in the county jail until they're 21.  They don't think about these consequences, they just think it's cute," Judge Kathy Palmer said.

The judge said the exchange of inappropriate photos or comments can have long term effects on a teenager's life,"Once a child allows themself to have that nude or partially nude photo made and sent to someone else then they both technically possess child porn.  If it's distributed any further then they're subject to a sexual predator picking it up and that child could become the victim of a sexual predator or become the subject of bullying or humiliation.  You can also get into the situation where you are trying to get into college or gain a scholarship and all of that is discoverable by a school and it really ruins a child's life."

Judge Palmer also urges parents to be hyper-vigilant monitoring their kids on the internet and learning the slang that often doesn't mean what you think, "I know a parent who checked their child's phone regularly and they checked it and it said, between the girl and her boyfriend, "Netflix and chill?"  The parent thought they were going to get together and watch Netflix and chill out, but no, that's the currently go for let's go have sex.  The parent didn't know that, it seemed to be totally innocent, so parents can't be too vigilant in staying on top of what's going on." 

April 22--  A proposal to close the Green-Tippett Road in Toombs County died for lack of motion at the April meeting of the Toombs County Commission.

The board refused to vote on a petition to close the road after learning it would cost the county $233,000 in a reimbursement to the Georgia Department of Transportation.  The state had used federal money to engineer replacement of a bridge on the road and wanted the county to repay the money if the road closed.  Commissioner Tommy Rollins said he had no problems closing the road until he learned of the financial payback to the state.

The commissioners approved a resolution enabling Chairman David Sikes to represent the county when a regional roundtable convenes to study renewing a one penny sales tax for transportation projects when the current T-SPLOST expires the end of 2022.  Lyons Mayor Willis NeSmith will be the other local representative, according to County Manager John Jones.

Next month the commission is expected to proceed with an alcohol ordinance implementing  the new so-called "Brunch Bill" which allows restaurants to serve alcohol prior to noon on Sundays. If approved, the new ordinance would take effect on July 1.

The commission gave retroactive approval of a $77,000 contract to McLendon Enterprises of Toombs County for emergency work it did to repair a washout on the Johnson Corner Road.

County Manager Jones reported county expenses are 4% under budget for the first quarter and that revenue for the E-911 system is up by 11%.

The new County Director of the Division of Family and Children Services introduced herself to the Commission.  Ashley Payne says the Toombs County office serves 7,000 recipients of food stamps and Medicaid and oversees 75 children in foster care.

Toombs County EMS Director Drew James reported 626 calls were answered in March.

April 20--  Twelfth District U.S. Representative Rick Allen issued the following statement following public release of the Mueller investigation regarding alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential election.

rickallen17“The United States Department of Justice publicly released the findings of Special Counsel Mueller’s two-year investigation, and very simply put, the report shows us what we already knew: there was no Russian collusion in our 2016 Presidential election.

As a nation, it is time for us to move forward, put partisan politics aside, and focus on addressing the issues at hand, rather than wasting taxpayer dollars to undermine President Trump. Transparency is a critical element of our democracy and the American people can now see the results for themselves.”

April 20—Queens for the 28th Annual Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby were crowned Saturday at the Toombs County High School Auditorium in Lyons.

Seventy-nine contestants competed in nine categories. The pageant awarded $2,700 dollars to the winners. The Queens will serve as representatives at this year’s Derby Races and other Derby events throughout the year.

Anna Beth Toole was crowned the 2019 Miss Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby and was awarded a $1000 scholarship. First Runner-up was Malory Kate Gagne and a $500 scholarship. Kate Brulte was crowned the 2019 Teen Miss Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby and received a $250 scholarship.

(L-R): Kate Brulte(Teen Miss) and Anna Beth Toole (Miss). 4 20 19 2019 Miss and Teen Miss Soap Box Derby Queens

Hope you are enjoying the lush growth we are having this spring. I’m planting lots of new annuals and perennials and mulching the bare areas created by the rains with oak flowers and shredded native tree trimmings. Check out the books, art, on-line class and other great information by clicking the links below. We will continue to add more of my art selections to the catalog. Purchase of the books, art and class are good ways to help the non-profit Texas Organic Research Center. 

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April 19--  Treutlen County Magistrate T.J. Hudson has been named the 2019 Magistrate of the Year by Georgia's Council of Magistrate Court Judges.  Governor Brian Kemp tweeted out his congratulations and noted it was an honor to have had Judge Hudson swear him at his inauguration in January.

MoCo Special Education Personnel Honored

The Montgomery County School System has named Kelsey Peterson as its "Special Education Teacher of the Year" and Sherri Wallace as its "Special Education Support Staff Member of the Year." 

April 18--  The Trump administration hosted a conference in Washington on economic opportunity zones and Toombs County Commission Chairman David Sikes is one of two county commissioners invited from Georgia by the National Association of County Commissions.

sikestrumpPresident Trump addressed the conference and Chairman Sikes says there's an economic opportunity zone east of U.S. Highway One in Toombs County that qualifies for the investment program, "There are a lot of good areas in there where you could invest in housing projects or in manufacturing, it's not exclusive to housing.  It's keyed in on investors so they'll have tax deferrals for ten years.  Now, in ten years, you can almost double your interest and if your making eight to nine profit on this real estate property, you can literally take what you would have to pay in taxes and double your money.  I don't know who wouldn't like that," the chairman observed.

Chairman Sikes says it was a surprise when the President showed up to speak and he got some insights you don't hear from the main stream media, "I actually met one of their attorneys in the Eisenhower Building and I said, "Hey, level with me.  How does our President really act?"  He said, "He's one of the greatest guys you'll ever meet.  All the stuff you see on TV or hear on the news, none of that stuff is real, he's a really wonderful person." 

"That made me proud," the chairman said, "I love Toombs County, I love this country and to have the opportunity to come up here and have a voice is a humbling, humbling matter."

sikescarsonChairman Sikes met Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Ben Carson during the conference.

April 18--  Two groundbreakings in Vidalia are good business news for the Sweet Onion City.

Local officials were on hand for ceremonies regarding a new hotel and insurance office complex.

holidayexpreswsThe new 70-room, four-story Holiday Inn Express will be built off Highway 280 East between Ruby Tuesday and the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce.  To the right of Vidalia Mayor Ronnie Dixon are owners Phil, Dinesh and Rick Patel.

farmersIn downtown Vidalia, Allen and Ginger Morris (right of Mayor Dixon) joined local leaders for the new Farmers Insurance complex which will also include leased office suites.

April 17--  Mercy Ministries in Lyons is celebrating its tenth year by expanding its service area to Applng, Jeff Davis and Bacon counties.

Clint Hutcheson told Vidalia Rotarians Wednesday that a new clinic is expected to open in two weeks in the small town of Graham, "The Mercy Ministries is expanding to the Graham location because we have several patients from that area who are driving to us here and we want to help them down there.  Also, we want to help each community take care of its own and the partnerships with the Appling County and Jeff Davis hospital is going to help that take place."

rotarymercy(L-R) Rotarian Tres Herin, Club President Angie McDaniel and Clint Hutcheson

The Mercy Ministries is a non-profit that currently serves an average of 500 uninsured, low income patients in Toombs and surrounding counties. Hutcheson says the expansion to Graham has been discussed for some time, "An individual called us and said we have a location for you to come look at.  God had already built a location about five years ago in the Jeff Davis area and it was just sitting there waiting on God's time for it to open.  Since then different businesses and individuals have contacted us and it's just grown and will be a great blessing to everybody down there."

In Toombs County, Mercy partners with Meadows Health in Vidalia and has embarked on a pilot program to reduce visits to the Meadows Emergency Room, "We're so thankful for everything that Meadows does for us and together we're combating ER visits.  There are so many people who are uneducated and think you go to the ER for services when you're not really having an emergency.  We're trying to offer them healthcare and medication for their chronic diseases to keep them out of the ER.  That saves the hospital money and ultimately saves the whole community money.  So, it's a lot of re-education and giving access to care as far as medications are concerned."


April 17-- Meadows Health is conducting a health needs assessment and is asking members of the community to visit by May 3 to participate in a web-based survey. This is the third year Meadows has conducted the community survey.

“The survey, which asks residents their thoughts on the health status of our community, only takes about 10 minutes to complete,” said Alan Kent, President & CEO of Meadows.  “The feedback of area citizens will help shape the role of medical care in our region.”

Kent said participation in the survey can be anonymous, but all participants who provide their name will be entered into a drawing for one of three gift cards ranging in the amounts of $300, $150 and $50 each. 

Kent said the purpose of the needs assessment is to identify and prioritize community health needs that will enable Meadows Health to develop strategies and plans that benefit the public and satisfy the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 

Conducted by an independent third party, the health needs assessment includes the community survey, demographic research, hospital discharge data review and interviews with physicians, clinicians and civic leaders.   

“The assessment will summarize the results of complete study,” said Kent. “It will help Meadows in strategic planning and the prioritization of resources.”

 The survey closes on May 3, 2019.

April 17--  The Vidalia Police Department reports the following arrests.

Sanchez, Mario H/M 30 YOA/ 268 Geiger St Mt Vernon, Ga / Disorderly Conduct (Misd)

Jones, Kenneth Dwayne Jr. - B/M- 27 YOA- 465 Old Savannah Rd Vidalia, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)/No Insurance 2nd/Operating a Vehicle While Registration is Suspended, Canceled or Revoked/Unlawful Use of License Plates/Bench Warrant- Expired Tag/No Insurance

Clay, Joshua Ali- B/M- 19 YOA- 473 TH Tippett Road Vidalia, GA- Possession of Marijuana Less Than Once/ Failure to Maintain Lane/Violation of Class CP License/No Insurance 1st/Operating a Vehicle While Registration is Suspended, Canceled or Revoked (Probation Warrant)

Kight, Ronald Lee- W/M- 54 YOA- 714 Racket Town Rd. Lyons, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Munford, David Lee- B/M- 38 YOA- 808 E. Fourth St. Vidalia,GA- Give False Name, Address, Birth date to LE Officer/Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Gaffney, Adelia- H/F- 39 YOA- 801 Thompson St Ext. Vidalia, GA- False Report of a Crime (State Warrant)

Downs, Sean Matthew- W/M- 22 YOA- 410 Randolph Dr. Apt. 7D Vidalia, GA- Criminal Trespass/Reckless Conduct (FVA)

White, Jakeira Tranae- B/F- 27 YOA- 417 Fourth Ave Vidalia, GA- No Insurance 1st/Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)/Warrant Served (Soperton PD)

Gordon, Courtney J B/M 22YOA / 706 Church Str. Vidalia, Ga / Possession With Intent, Possession Of Drug Related Object, Less Then An Ounce.

Jackson, Xavier Jaquan B/M 23 YOA 330 Sebie Page Rd. Vidalia ,Ga / Possession With Intent, Possession Of Drug related Object , Less Then An Ounce, Warrant Service (VPD)

Loyd, Tony Gene W/M 53 YOA / 192 Beasley Hill Soperton, Ga / Driving While License Suspended Or Revoked 1St (Misd)

Hunnewell, Catherine Judy W/F 44 YOA/ 204 E First St Rm 24 Vidalia, Ga / Probation Warrant Service (VPD)

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Janeth Aguilar-Garcia, Lyons, speeding, driving while unlicensed

Timothy Bratton, Uvalda, crossing guard lines with weapons, intoxicants or drugs, driving while license suspended.revoked

Rodney Byrd, Vidalia, probation violation, registration of sex offenders

Clark Clinton, Lyons, possession of marijuana

Alexander Dillard, Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked, no insurance, operation of car radio at level audible for 100 feet or more

Harvey Houston, Thomaston, probation violation

Erika Highsmith, Lyons, forgery

Christopher Mikell, Nicholls, probation violation

Arael Perez-ortiz, Lyons, driving unlicensed, use of multiple-beam road lighting equipment

Precious Scott, Wrightsville, driving with license suspended/revoked

Michael Waller, Tarrytown, driving with license suspended/revoked, failure to exercise due care

Cameron Williamson, Lyons,forgery

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Joshua Griffin, Baxley, possession of drug related objects

Michael Martin, Reidsville, possession of marijuana, willful obstruction of police, crossing guard lines with prohibited items

Justin Connell, Lyons, DUI, child endangerment, possession of marijuana, traffic violations

Brandon Green, Lyons, criminal warrant

James Thissen, Mulberry, FL., theft by taking

Milton Smith, Vidalia, criminal warrant

Anthony Roberson, Garfield, reckless driving

Michelle Morris, Vidalia, possession of drug related objects

Cody Gillis, Vidalia, possession of drug related objects

Gerardo Diaz-Gomez, Lyons, driving unlicensed

Robert Paxson, Lyons, possession of methamphetamine, no insurance, driving with no license on person

Sebastian Knudsen, Savannah, possession of marijuana

Tawanna Blanks, Lyons, warrant service

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/08-Quenten Johnson, Mt Vernon, Warrant Served (Vidalia PD)

04/09-Barbara Jean West, Lyons, Felony Probation Violation

04/10-Charlie Nobles, Mt Vernon, Violation of Bond Conditions, Bondsman Off Bond

04/11-Austin Sean Powell, Mt Vernon, Possession of Marijuana <1oz., Use of Communications Device while /Driving

04/11-Simona Michelle LaCoste, Douglas, Driving w/Suspended License, Use of Communications Device while /Driving

04/14-Tonya Lynn Evans, Uvalda, Disorderly Conduct

04/14-Frank Edward Williams, Vidalia, DUI, Failure to Maintain Lane

04/14-Tammy Eyetta Hill, Tifton, Items Prohibited for Possession by Inmates, Criminal Attempt

April 17-- Congratulations to our Toombs Central Elementary School April Students of the Month!


Back Row (Left to Right): Jocelyn Nava, Richard Delgado, and Sophie Tillman.

Front Row (Left to Right): Camden Conner, Zsazali Ipock, Harper Underwood, and Hunter Brantley. 

April 17--  Citizens are invited to attend a ceremony dedicating U.S. Highway One in memory of U.S. Army Green Beret Staff Sergeant Dustin Michael Wright of Toombs County.


The dedication ceremony is Tuesday, April 23 at two p.m. at the Santa Claus Community Center and is hosted by the City of Santa Claus and the Toombs County Board of Commissioners.

The dedication is the result of a resolution introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia and supported in the Senate by Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia.  U.S. One in Toombs County will be named for Staff Sergeant Wright.

Staff Sergeant Wright was killed in October, 2017 in an ambush by what U.S. officials said were about 50 fighters thought to be affiliated with ISIS.

The U.S. Africa Command says the Green Berets were part of a team assisting and advising local forces in southwest Niger at the time of the attack.


April 17--  Five years ago, Logan Lawrence graduated from Vidalia High School and began a journey which most recently landed him a job interning in the White House.

"Coming from a place like Vidalia that's such a small town and seeing the White House on television for so many years, interning there was really something special to me," he said.

loganlawrenceLawrence applied for the internship after receiving his political science degree from the University of Georgia.  More than seven thousand people applied for the 90-day internship and 84 were selected, "For us to be picked out to serve as interns in this administration when there were so many people around the country going for the same opportunity is unbelievable."

Logan's job was in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, "The President and the First Family receive thousands of letters and emails and phone calls from the American public every single day.  What I did was to help coordinate responses.  It was a really fulfilling experience to coordinate requests for proclamations and messages and greetings.  In that office you serve as the voice of the administration to the American people and I drafted letters to military personnel and civilians in recognition of monumental events in their lives.  It was great."

"There were so many amazing experiences there everyday that we were allowed to take part in that I will never forget.  It helped me to grow as an individual and it's something I will look back on very fondly in my life," Logan said.

April 16-- Ameris Bank Market President David Bachelor announces that Steven Rigdon has been named the city president for the bank’s market areas of Vidalia, Dublin and Lyons.

steverigdonRigdon will be responsible for the oversight of core banking activities in these markets and building and strengthening the bank’s initiatives and programs. He is a community banker with more than 21 years of experience in the areas of bank administration, client service, bank regulation and policies.

“Steven will be an invaluable addition to our team as he brings many years of banking, financial and management expertise which will allow the bank to continue to expand our reach and banking relationships with customers,” said Ameris Bank Market President David Bachelor.

Prior to joining Ameris Bank, Rigdon served as division president of Spivey State Bank where he was responsible for all bank operations and lending functions. He has also served as director of legislative and regulatory affairs for Community Bankers Association of Georgia and as vice president, commercial lender for Pineland State Bank.

Rigdon is very involved in the community. He is a foundation board member of The Lodge at Bethany, trustee at East Georgia State College Foundation and member of the Swainsboro Rotary Club and Metter Primitive Baptist Church. He previously served as chairman for the Community Bankers Association Leadership Division and Candler County United Way, and as president of the Candler County Chamber of Commerce and Metter Rotary Club. He is a former member of the Candler County Industrial Development Authority.

He attended the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University and the Commercial and Consumer Lending School at the Community Bankers Association of Georgia. He received a bachelor’s degree in business from Georgia Southern University.

Rigdon has been married to his wife, Tina, for 25 years and they reside in Metter, GA.  They have two daughters, Ramsey and Leah.  

April 15--  Middle and high school students at Robert Toombs Christian Academy got an education on what's trending in illegal drugs these days.

gbicalesAgent Tanya Cales with the GBI's Southeast Regional Drug Enforcement Office in Metter visited the school Monday, "The top drugs are meth, cocaine and opioids and that's what we're seeing now.  Just like in the 60's and 70's you saw LSD and stuff like that and it's just progressed.  I think it's about the same, but it's a different drug and it has more devastating effects so we're starting to hear about it more."

One dangerous difference is the growing use of Fentanyl, "It can be very deadly.  Fentanyl was originally designed for pain medication, but now it's being shipped over from China through Mexico and Canada.  It's mixed up with some other ingredients into a pill.  Sometime they mix is with meth, sometimes they mix it with heroin and there's actually no pill that our Crime Lab has seen that Fentanyl has not been mixed in," Agent Cales said.

The agent says she personally is against legalizing marijuana in Georgia, "I would not like to see it and I think we're going to have some problems if it's legalized here," and she also says law enforcement has to keep a close eye on the implementation of Georgia's new law authorizing medical marijuana, "I think we're going to see some of those problems in those states where it's legal.  We're probably going to see some of those problems here, too.  We're going to have to be very careful in what we do and how we do it.  People have to realize it's there for medical use and not recreational use."

April 15-- State School Superintendent Richard Woods today announced the 10 finalists for 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year.

teresathompsonAmong the finalists is Tattnall County teacher Teresa Thompson who teaches at South Tattnall Middle School.

The finalists were chosen from a pool of applicants all previously selected as their school district’s Teacher of the Year. The applications were read by a panel of judges that included teachers, past Georgia Teacher of the Year winners, administrators, community leaders and others. The finalists were chosen based on the strength of their essay responses.

“The ten 2020 finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year are an exceptional group of educators and I’m proud to call them my colleagues,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Each one of them exemplifies what a teacher should be – caring, skilled, knowledgeable and intellectually curious, and first and foremost, laser-focused on the well-being, potential and success of their students.”

Finalists will meet with a panel of judges for a formal interview and give speeches during a finalist luncheon today. The winner will be announced Saturday, May 18, 2019.

The 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year will travel around the state and the nation, serving as an ambassador for the teaching profession in Georgia. He or she will also be entered in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists*

Kristen Applebee, Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools

Amy Arnold, Colham Ferry Elementary School, Oconee County Schools

Dr. David Bishop Collins, Fernbank Science Center, DeKalb County Schools

Carlos Hernandez, General Ray Davis Middle School, Rockdale County Schools

Lewis Kelly, Newton High School, Newton County Schools

Tracey Nance Pendley, Burgess Peterson Academy, Atlanta Public Schools

Stephanie Peterson, Westside Elementary School, Lowndes County Schools

Kiana Pinckney, Palmetto Elementary School, Fulton County Schools

Teresa Thompson, South Tattnall Middle School, Tattnall County Schools

Francisco “Frank” Zamora, Johnson High School, Hall County Schools

April 15--  The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation allowing Electric Membership Cooperatives in the state to offer improved internet delivery to citizens who live in rural areas.

State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia says the "Broadband" legislation will do for the internet what the EMC's did for electricity, "It's just as important to our homes and our citizens now as electricity was in the 30's, 40's and 50's.  The EMC's did a great job of getting that last mile of service out there and I'm looking forward to seeing them now."

Tammy Vaughn of the Altamaha EMC in Lyons says they are planning a customer survey to determine the need, "In the coming months we're going to survey all of our members to see if they have adequate broadband service and get a feel for what's going on and what the needs are in our area."

At the same time, Altamaha is looking for funding and partners, "We are in the process of applying for some grant funds that may be used to help us with rural broadband in our area.  We are also in discussion with Pineland Telephone.  We are working on an agreement with them. a potential partnership, that we might could come together to bring broadband to our area.  However, the grant is not a definite and the agreement with Pineland is not a definite either, it's just something that is in the works," Vaughn said.

April 12--  In the aftermath of an animal cruelty case which brought widespread attention to Montgomery County, the Board of Commissioners is hosting a public meeting to see if citizens want dog control services in the unincorporated parts of the county and if they are willing to pay for it.

Commission Chairman Leland Adams issued the following notice regarding the meeting.

The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners is hosting a public listening session regarding the County’s need to provide dog control services in the unincorporated areas of Montgomery County, Georgia. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 6:30PM. The location of the meeting will be the Montgomery County Adult Literacy Center, 251 South Richardson St., Mount Vernon, Georgia.

The County’s authority to provide dog control services in the unincorporated areas of the County is stated in O.C.G.A. § 4-8-22.

The Board of Commissioners invites citizens of Montgomery County to attend and participate in the listening session. In addition, citizens are welcome to voice their concerns if a property tax increase on the unincorporated areas is needed to fund the service.

The Board of Commissioners welcomes the public’s comments and suggestions.

April 12-- Twenty members of the 2018-19 Leadership Toombs-Montgomery Class graduated today following a morning of presentations by graduates at the Durden Cabin at Partin Park in Lyons.

ldrshop2019(L-R) First Row: Marissa Brown, Irene Alamilla-Castro, Sandy Reid, April Worth.

Second Row: T. J. Walker, Debbie Dees, Heather Gourley, Heather Mead.

Third Row: Nicole Dykes, Michael Johnson, Chad Ritchie, Jessica Aaron, Mid McCain.

Fourth Row: Greg Hudgins, Jason Davis, Ben Allen

Back Row: Pat Dixon (Chamber Chair of the Board), Drew James, James Jermon, Chris Alvarez, Scott Morrison, Garrett Wilcox (Program Committee Co-Chair), Blythe Wilcox (Committee Co-Chair).

The Leadership Toombs-Montgomery Steering Committee is currently seeking nominations for the 2019/2020 class. If you’d like to nominate someone, please call the Chamber for a nomination form at 912-537-4466.

toombsoutdoorsopeningApril 12--  The new "Toombs Outdoors" store officially opened with Co-Owners Mark Montford (L) and Jason Harvill doing the honors with one of the store's small Echo chain saws. 

Formerly Johnny's Small Engine Repair, the new "Toombs Outdoors" sells Echo and Grasshopper yard maintenance equipment and service and parts for all types of yard equipment at its location on U.S. Highway One South in Lyons.

April 11--  The City of Vidalia is giving its police chief till the end of April to decide if he wishes to retire.

Chief Frank Waits was placed on administrative leave without pay Tuesday by City Manager Nick Overstreet following a Monday night executive session by the city council.  According to Chief Waits, he was told the city wants to go "another direction" with the police department.

City officials don't comment on personnel matters, however, three members of the city council have been in contact with Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman in the aftermath of the murder at R.J. Pope's Menswear in Vidalia last November.

Vidalia police had questioned the accused killer, Tyrone Burns, in a domestic violence case with his girlfriend October 30, but no charges were filed.  Chief Waits said the woman, Teresa Sherry Byas, was uncooperative and refused to make a statement.  After the shooting at R.J. Pope's, the District Attorney indicted Burns on the domestic violence case before securing a murder indictment against him, "We basically said we're going to prosecute this case and you're going to cooperate.  We found out this guy had a bad history of doing the same thing.  She didn't want to cooperate even then but we forced the issue."

Altman says if Vidalia police had placed Burns in custody after the domestic incident, a records check would have revealed his criminal history and pending cases in Florida and would have led to his extradition.

"When everyone was asking me how it came about that he was not arrested or nothing was done with the domestic, I said you will have to ask the officer.  I'm sure that played a part in the council's decision as to what took place, what could have taken place and what may have prevented the circumstances that eventually ended up in the murder at R.J. Popes.  I'm sure that played a part in the council's decision," the DA said.

Altman said he met with Vidalia City Council members Raymond Turner and Cecil Thompson and talked on the phone with Lisa Chesser.  In addition to the R.J. Pope murder, he said they discussed the gang problem in Vidalia and the city's non-participation in the area drug task force which he believes is a mistake.

The chief is 63-years-old and has been in the job for 14 years.  Under his leadership, the department became certified by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, one of only 126 in the state to earn that distinction. 

April 11-- The City of Vidalia Water Department in partnership with the Vidalia Fire Department will begin water main/hydrant-flushing on Monday night, May 6th, 2019.

Water main/hydrant flushing activities will be conducted in the evenings and early morning between 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, to minimize the impacts on our customers. This program is being undertaken to ensure customers continue to receive the highest quality water.

The flushing of the system should last approximately 8-10 weeks

During this time, customers may notice episodes of decreased water pressure or discoloration of their water. Water discoloration results from temporary disturbances of the normal water flow within our piping network. These short-term changes in flow can stir up naturally occurring minerals and sediment that settle within the water mains. The objective of the water main/hydrant flushing program is to remove these accumulated sediments from our pipes by flushing the water out of the fire hydrants.

If water discoloration occurs, customers should try to refrain from using hot water (for washing laundry, etc.) and run their cold-water faucets until the water appears clear.

We apologize for any inconvenience the flushing operations may cause. All questions regarding this issue should be directed to the City of Vidalia Water Department at (912) 537-4566.

April 11-- To enhance roadway safety, the Georgia Department of Transportation has chosen to convert the current two-way stop at the intersection of State Route (SR) 23/57 and SR 169 to an all-way stop starting Tuesday, April 16, if weather permits.

The intersection is located approximately four miles northeast of Glennville heading towards Reidsville on SR 57. 

Leading up to the switch, the Georgia DOT will complete the following high priority work:
•    Installation of flashing red beacon for all directions;
•    SR 23/57: installation of rumble strips, stop ahead signage, and stop bar;
•    SR 23/57 and 169: installation of “All Way” plate on the bottom of stop signs.

Message boards will be in place on both approaches of SR 23/57 to notify the traveling public about the new all-stop condition. These boards should remain for several weeks after the switch, as motorists adjust to the different operation. GDOT sign and maintenance teams will be in the roadway leading up to the official all-way stop launch executing the above activities. 

April 10--  The Vidalia Rotary Club recognized winners of the annual Rotary Speech Competition at its meeting Wednesday.

Junior Fernando Zayas from Robert Toombs Christian Academy won the competition and $150 in prize money plus a $150 check to RTCA.  Second Place winner is Vidalia Heritage Academy tenth grader Jackson Williamson who garnered $75 for himself and a like amount for VHA.  Third place winner is Toombs County High School junior Crystal Morales who was awarded $50 plus $50 for TCHS.

rotaryspeechwinners(L-R) Vidalia Rotary Club President Angle McDaniels, RTCA Headmaster Travis Absher, Winner Fernando Zayas, 3rd place winner Crystal Morales, TCHS Assistant Principal Sidney Spell, 2nd place winner Jackson Williamson, VHA assistant principal Carol Welch and Rotary Club speech competition chairperson Blythe Wilcox.

April 10--  The state legislature passed a $27.5 billion budget, the largest in Georgia history, and State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is concerned that a slow down in state revenue may lead to a deficit.

tilleryradioHe made the observation on NewsTalk WVOP's Southeast Georgia Today morning show Wednesday, "We started looking at this in January about revenues were and where they were going.  I just saw March's numbers and we're up $105 million over March, 2018, but the problem is, to make budget you needed to be up $150 million and that means next month we have to be up $200 million.  That's concerning because if we don't make this year's budget and next year's budget is predicated on growth, that makes me concerned about what we're going to see in 2020 and 2021."

The state currently has a $2.5 billion surplus, but Senator Tillery points out the state spends about a $1 billion a month so it's not as big as it sounds.

Senator Tillery is proud the legislature passed the toughest abortion bill in the country, but cautions it also means there's a need to support mothers who give birth under difficult conditions, "If we're going to say that life is protected at birth, then we have to be willing to come alongside those families and help them with the situations they're in whether it be with foster care and adoption, etc.  That's one of the areas I've been very involved with at the state level.  It's been near and dear to mine and my wife Ashley Nicole's hearts and I want to remind our listeners that if we're going to hold that standard on one side, we're always going to be sure we're there supporting that child after its born."

The legislature passed a bill designed to help find more permanence in a foster child's life, Senator Tillery reported.

frankwaites19April 9--  Frank Waits, Vidalia's police chief for the past 14 years, has been placed on leave.  City Manager Nick Overstreet issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon with no further explanation.  The city council held an executive session on personnel at its monthly meeting Monday night but would not confirm that Chief Wait's future was discussed.

He was visited by Mayor Ronnie Dixon Tuesday morning and met with the city manager and city attorney Tuesday afternoon before the statement was issued.

Meanwhile, the city is doing a salary review to make sure city employees are being paid adequately.

The city council approved a $10,750 contract with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to do the review, according to City Manager Nick Overstreet, "The Mayor and Council thought it was time to review the pay scale structure we have.  It's been in place since 2008 or 2009 and we thought it was important to make sure our employees are being paid appropriately according to the jobs they hold."

Overstreet expects the review will start in September and says it will also address employee job descriptions, "They will be here in the city conducting employee surveys to form new job descriptions for every single position and accomplish a number of other things to help us move forward."

In other actions at the meeting, the council:

* Turned down a request from Mark Alexander to change the zoning of land adjacent to an apartment complex on McDonald Drive from single family to multi-family residential.

* Agreed to seek a contract to remove trees on the eastern side of the Vidalia Regional Airport to comply with FAA safety regulations.

*Approved bids of $23,650 from Woody Folsom for a Dodge Charger for the Vidalia Police Department and another of $30,200 from Paul Thigpen for a Ford Explorer for the Vidalia Fire Department.  It also okayed more than $20,000 to buy other equipment for the fire department including a water testing kit, protective fire suits and an air pack.

April 8--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia says the highlight of the just-ended session of the Georgia General Assembly was passage of what's called "The Heartbeat Bill" which basically outlaws abortions in the state.

He credits Governor Brian Kemp for getting it passed by a two-vote margin in the House and expects it to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court,"It's the strongest abortion bill in the country and will most likely wind up in the new court, President Trump's court, and if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, it will end abortions in the state of Georgia and any state which would pass such legislation."

Representative Morris lists other legislation which he favored that passed in addition to the abortion bill and the state's record $27.5 billion budget"

*Getting a solid reliable voting machine for good safe elections.

* Medicaid waivers to protect our hospitals.

*The education component including the $3,000 pay raises for certified teachers.

*Broadband for rural Georgia including authorization for Electric Membership Cooperatives to get in the Internet distribution business.

Representative Morris voted against the medical marijuana bill which passed because he believes marijuana is a gateway drug even though he empathizes with people for whom the medical marijuana bill is supposed to help.

He also predicts that the bills to legalize casinos and horse racing tracks in the state, which were defeated, will be passed in the future.

Representative Morris was a guest on Monday morning's Southeast Georgia Today program on NewsTalk WVOP in Vidalia.  Senator Blake Tillery will be on the program Wednesday morning at 8:05.

April 8--  The Georgia Department of Labor is hosting a conference for area employers in Vidalia in June and issued the following invitation today.

"You are invited to join us at the upcoming “Employers in the Know 2019” Business Summit scheduled for June 19, 2019, at Vidalia Community Center. The summits are sponsored by local Employer Committees and the Georgia Department of Labor, and are held each year throughout the state. The summit for Region 9 are designed to provide information for managers, human resources professionals, business owners and supervisors seeking guidance and tips for handling management, compliance and operational challenges.

"This annual event will provide an opportunity to meet and hear from Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler, receive valuable information from legal experts, learn more about sexual harassment from a management view, listen to updates on unemployment insurance, and find out about GeorgiaBEST@Work. 

"We hope you’ll plan to join us. To register go to:"

April 8--  A portion of Johnson Corner Road in Toombs County will be closed for two weeks starting next Monday, April 15.

According to the Toombs County Commissioners office, the major repair work is about a mile north of Georgia Highway 56 and is between the B.A. Pittman Road and the H.E. Keel Road.  Work should be completed by Friday, April 26.

April 8--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Newell, Quartez Deshun / B/M 41 YOA/ 103 Arlington Dr Vidalia, Ga / Willfully Obstruction OF Police Officer / Severe/Forceful (Fel) / Possession Of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Kyaundra Jones, Lyons, Seat Belts, driving unlicensed

Eddie King, Jr., Lyons, driving while license suspended/revoked

Eddie Owens, Lyons, Deposit Fraud, Bad Checks

William Poole, Mount Vernon, batter, cruelty to children, driving while license suspended/revoked

Nechema Walker, Vidalia, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

04/02-Kaitlyn Jody Crawford, Reidsville, Forgery-4th (2 counts)

04/02-Dustin Kyle Fulford, Uvalda, Driving w/Suspended License, Defective Equipment

04/03-Jason Hunter Bridges, Glenwood, DUI/Drugs, Tag Light Violation

04/06-James Alford McDonald, Vidalia, Disorderly Conduct

04/06-Christopher Devon Mitchell, Mt. Vernon, Speeding, Possession of Firearm During Commission of Crime, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Related Objects

04/07-Cassandra Joy Bryant, Lyons, Forgery-4th

April 8--  The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation to raise the minimum base pay of four county constitutional officers across the state.

The increases will take effect on January 1, 2021 following the November, 2020 election for sheriff, clerk of court, tax commissioner and probate judge.

The law raises the annual base pay of the Toombs County sheriff from $59,328.83 to $70,753.11 and the base pay of the Toombs County Clerk of Court, Tax Commissioner and Probate Judge from $49,721 to $59,296.

Additionally, the elected officers receive statutory supplements of $367 per month, longevity pay amounting to 5% of their base pay for every four-year term served and cost of living adjustments accumulated over a six-year period.

According to Toombs County Manager John Jones, the current base pay and additional payments amount to an annual salary to the Toombs County Sheriff of $87,015; Clerk of Court $74,116; Tax Commissioner $64,302 and Probate Judge $62,741.

The base pay is tied to the population of each county and the constitutional officers in smaller counties like Montgomery and Truetlen receive less pay.

The new law gives sheriffs in those counties base pay increases from $46,917 to $55,952; the clerks of court, probate judges and tax commissioners go from $40,967 to $48,856.  Probate judges who also act as county magistrates, as in Truetlen County, will get a base pay raise from $11,644 to $13,223 for that function.

The measure dictates that county governments fund the increases. An official with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia says that while base pay was last hiked in 2006, official's salaries have gone up 14 percent due to cost-of-living adjustments. Todd Edwards says the group objects to the state telling local governments how to spend their money  

4 6 19 2019 Miss Vidalia Onion QueensApril 6-  The 2019 Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant took place Saturday April 6, 2019 in the auditorium of Southeastern Technical College and this year more than 50 young ladies participated the competition.The pageant is sponsored by the Vidalia Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.

Crowned as this year’s Miss Vidalia Onion was Hannah Herndon (Left), a senior at Robert Toombs Christian Academy. Herndon not only won the crown overall, but she also won, Best Dress and Best Interview.

“I am speechless! I have been doing this for eighteen years! I really have no words to describe how I’m feeling right now. For me the hardest part of the competition was not just the interview, but the anxiety because all of the girls go in there and you don’t know how they did. Tonight I just gave it my all.” Herndon said.

Hannah had some advice for the other young ladies in the pageant who hope to win it one day, “Just to be yourself and confidence is key. Believe that you can do all things and Christ strengthens you.”

Madison Toole(Right), a junior at Vidalia High School was crowned the 2019 Teen Miss Vidalia Onion. Madison not only won the overall crown, but was also awarded Best Interview. “First of all I would like to thank Kerri Lynn, Anna Beth Toole and my parents for pushing me to do this pageant. I am so grateful to be able to represent this title this year and the things that I am going to learn from it.” Toole said.

Pageant Director Keri Lynn Nester stated, “I am excited for what’s to come for these girls and I want to thank everyone for another great year.”

April 6--  The Georgia General Assembly has wrapped up its session for this year and two area legislators will discuss what happened on NewsTalk WVOP, AM 970 and FM 105.3.

Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia and Senator Blake Tillery are guests this coming week on the Southeast Georgia Today morning show.

Representative Morris will be on the program Monday morning, April 8th at 8:05 a.m. and Senator Tillery will be a guest Wednesday, April 10th at 8:05 a.m.

If you have questions, you may call during the programs at 912-537-9202 or email questions in advance to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The program is also streamed at

By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)

The General Assembly finally adjourned just before midnight Tuesday evening.  Coincidentally, Tuesday was also my and Ashlee Nicole’s third wedding anniversary.  She served as the General Assembly’s Doctor of the Day on Day 40, so I may have faked a cough once or twice just to get to see her. Because this was the first session with a new Governor, Lt. Governor, and many new legislators, most, including myself, expected this session to be relatively slow and more of a “get to know each other” event.   We could not have been more wrong.  Governor Kemp came out of the gate eager and ready to implement the agenda on which he campaigned: putting Georgians first, protecting life, tackling healthcare cost, giving a raise to teachers, and promoting rural Georgia.

What Made the News

Budget- The 2020 Budget is particularly friendly to rural Georgia, specifically Southeast Georgia. Our teachers, school counselors, and other certified staff will receive a $3,000.00 raise which will be included in all future budgets.  This raises the salary of a starting teacher to roughly $37,000.00 and raises the average Georgia teacher salary to roughly $58,000.00. Among other items, this budget includes $1,058,000.00 for our district’s airports-the front door for most outside industrial recruitment; funding for new residency positions in Augusta, Valdosta, Savannah, and Macon; funding to continue the four-laning of U.S. Hwy 1 through the heart of our district; and funding for safety improvements at Georgia State Prison in Tattnall County.

Broadband- Senate Bill 2 allows our rural EMC’s like Altamaha, Satilla, Little Ocmulgee, and Canoochee EMC to enter the broadband/fiber business.  These companies were instrumental in providing the last-mile of electrical service decades ago.  I believe they are uniquely suited to replicate that action with broadband service now.  I have already received emails from some of our local EMCs discussing whether they will get involved in helping our community in this way.  The EMCs begged for this authority.  I’m anxious to see them utilize it.  Senate Bill 17 clarifies certain ambiguities and confirms that rural telephone companies, like Pineland Telephone, can also provide this service.

The Heartbeat Bill-HB 481- The General Assembly took steps to implement one of, if not the, most pro-life bills in the Nation.  Once signed by Governor Kemp, an abortion in Georgia would be illegal after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected.  This is typically about 6 weeks into a pregnancy.  We have heard this bill will immediately be challenged in the Courts and implementation could be delayed until a judge rules on the issue.

Medicaid Reform- Senate Bill 106 allows the Governor to petition the federal government to revamp our Medicaid program.  The possible changes include work requirements, incentives to visit primary care physicians instead of emergency rooms, and the setting up co-pays so those receiving services have skin in the game as well. 

Addressing Healthcare/Health Insurance Cost- Senate Bill 106 also allows Georgia to apply for permission from the federal government to employ private sector techniques like high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to drive down the cost of monthly health insurance premiums for all Georgians.  More on this below.

Medical Marijuana- HB 324 allows the limited cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes only. This bill split our district.  After seeing the families in the hallways who have benefited from this treatment, I voted yes to allow families access to this oil in Georgia.  On a personal level, my 15-year-old cousin has autism and epilepsy.  She once suffered from multiply seizures daily.  After seven failed medicines (in combination with her other medications), doctors tried low THC oil.  The seizures have been dramatically reduced.  She also was able to come off all her other medications.  I am not saying low-THC oil is the miracle drug for everyone, but for some suffering from Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and autism, it is. HB 324 authorizes just over nine acres of production in Georgia. The University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University, our state’s two land grant universities, would be able to apply for federal licenses to grow and convert cannabis oil for research to answer questions about the benefits and harms such treatments may cause.

Human Trafficking- The number of young children being exploited for sex trafficking is astounding. Georgia is ground zero for this activity. Senate Bill 158 continues our assault on this perverse practice that demeans and destroys innocent lives.

Adoption/Foster Care- Many of you know this issue is near and dear to my and Ashlee Nicole’s heart.  It’s not simply enough to promote life by limiting abortion. We must put our time and money out to support these children and their mothers as well. Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 453 continue to work toward finding permanence in a foster child’s life.

What Didn’t Make the News but is Equally Important

Hospital Transparency- Almost 90% of hospitals in Georgia are non-profits, but some of these large “non-profits” have tens of millions in savings and appear to engage in certain anti-competitive practices to the detriment of rural communities.  HB 321 requires non-profit hospitals who benefits from tax exempt status be more transparent about where they spend funds, including billions of dollars they receive through Georgia’s Medicaid program. 

Healthcare Cost- Senate Bills 16 and 168 will facilitate out-of-state doctors and nurses moving into rural Georgia by recognizing their credentials from other states. Senate Bills 115 and 118 set the authority for providers to be paid for telemedicine visits.  With the current capabilities of smart-phones, I believe smart-phone tele-doctors will provide most primary care in the future.

Broadband (again!)- The state will likely be able to begin a rural broadband pilot project this year.  The goal is to find the most cost-effective technology for spreading broadband in areas like ours. I have made no secret that our district is best suited to pilot this potentially multi-million-dollar project.  I am hopeful we will have an answer this Fall.

Independent Pharmacies Push Back- House Bills 233 and 323 push back against big pharmaceutical companies by ensuring patients have a right to choose their pharmacy and prohibit insurance companies from ordering patients to certain pharmacies.

Bible in Schools- Senate Bill 83 expands the curriculum for teaching the Bible in high school settings.

Incentives for Rural Georgia- HB 224 redesigns our state’s jobs tax credits to make them much more beneficial to rural Georgia communities.  While I think the definition of rural is a little high (county population of 50,000 or less), this credit acknowledges Georgia’s growth has not been equal and retools our incentives to attempt to give rural Georgia a leg up on economic recruitment.

These are just a few of the matters we dealt with in this year’s session.  You can find a more detailed account concerning particular legislation on my website,, or at

Looking forward Toward 2020

No review should be complete without a look ahead.  Here are some things I am watching as we begin preparing for next year:

Economy/Budget- Several indicators raise eyebrows about the continuation of Georgia’s unprecedented economic growth.  If the economy is cooling, tax revenues will as well, and our ability to put more money into big budget items like healthcare and education will stop too.

Healthcare and Education- these two areas now make up 77% of all State spending.  If two items made up 77% of your family’s budget, you’d understand why these receive such a watchful eye.  These are also the two most-rapidly growing areas of our budget- another reason why additions here see such scrutiny.

Healthcare Insurance Cost- While we took a major step in tackling this problem through direct patient-physician contracting and the passing of Senate Bill 106, I believe the cost of medical care to be the single most important issue we can tackle moving forward.  When health insurance premiums are as much as a mortgage, middle class America cannot afford both.  Until we untangle the web that drives cost, including regulation, insurance issues, and the hidden administrative cost of care, we are will not provide the solution our friends and neighbors deserve.

Ramped-up Polarization Among Political Parties- For years, both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly praised the fact that Georgia avoided the unproductive partisan stalemate of Washington, D.C.  This year, we noted a decisive departure from that track and a turn toward a much more divisive, political rhetoric.  Long term, I feel this will get worse, and I believe this not to be in the best interest of Georgia.

This year’s pace and issues have made this session difficult.  I’m sure we’ve gotten some things right, I’m equally as certain we’ve gotten some things wrong, and the mountain of issues for next year is already accumulating.  For now, I’ll be back at my law office on Durden Street in Vidalia for the next few months enjoying the lifestyle and traffic-free pace of our community. However, my cell number and email do not change just because we are not in session.  Please feel free to reach out if you have an idea for how I can serve you better.  While I’m looking forward to being with you at home, it is a true honor to represent you in Atlanta and thank you again for allowing me to serve you in the Georgia Senate.

By Senator Jack Hill, Reidsville


Maybe it's a sign of the times, but it seemed that an inordinate amount of time was spent on Sine Die day discussing medical marijuana, TCH, cannabis oil, hemp and how the products will be grown and sold.


House Bill 213, also known as the "Georgia Hemp Farming Act", creates a set of guidelines for the growing, processing, transporting, testing, and destruction of hemp crops in Georgia. Hemp, a non-psychoactive form of cannabis, was legalized in the United States in December 2018 by a federal farm bill. Hemp was previously legal in the United States as long as it was purchased from foreign sources.

The Georgia Hemp Farming Act will require producers to hold a hemp grower license or hemp processor permit in order to be able to cultivate, handle, or process hemp. The licenses will be issued for one calendar year at a fee of $50.00 per acre, up to $5,000. Hemp farmers are required to give the Department of Agriculture the exact location of their fields and greenhouses. The department will be allowed to randomly test the hemp at the fields and greenhouses owned by licensees, and will be permitted to destroy hemp which contains a delta-9-THC concentration of .330% or more. 

This bill will allow Georgia's farmers to join the competitive hemp industry and gain the revenue from this newly legalized product.


A 2015 bill created the Low THC Oil Patient Registry in Georgia, but provided no means for those patients to access Low THC Oil. "Georgia's Hope Act", House Bill 324, allows for the legitimate use of medical cannabis for health care, and creates a means for the production, growing, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in Georgia.

HB 324 creates a means for patients on the Low THC Oil Patient Registry to obtain low THC oil in Georgia. Pharmacies will provide the retail outlets for the registry card holders to purchase the oil. It provides regulations on the production of marijuana used to create low THC oil, and requires growers and processors to obtain a license.  

This bill creates the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which will oversee the manufacturing of low THC oil in Georgia. The commission will oversee the quality control, security, and oversight of all low THC oil production in the state.

There will be two Class I production licenses issued costing a $25,000 application fee and $100,000 for the license if awarded. There will be two Class II production licenses awarded costing $5,000 application fee and $50,000 for the license if awarded.

It is unlawful to ingest the low THC oil by way of any electronic cigarette or device which will produce vapor in a solution or other form.

HB 324 requires a 20% set aside of expenditures of businesses purchasing under this act.


HB 365: Lowers the Title Ad Valorem Tax on vehicles to 6.6% from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2023. Clarifies that TAVT would not be imposed on the transfer of a title between legal entities that are owned by the same person. Eliminates the sales and use tax on rideshare, taxi and limo services and imposes a 50 cents per "for hire ground transportation" and 25 cents per "for-hire shared ride" excise tax.

HB 445: Creates a new definition for "dynamic dune field" and specifies where construction may be permitted on one. Creates exemptions for minor construction projects, subject to approval by the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.


HB 282: Increases the length of time required by law enforcement to maintain physical evidence related to a sexual assault case to 30 years from the date of the arrest of the perpetrator, or 50 years if no arrests are made.

HB 454: Establishes safety rules for electric assisted bicycles. A study committee will look at two wheel electric scooters.

HB 470: Requires DNA samples to be taken from individuals currently incarcerated or on probation for a felony charge. Requires the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purge the DNA samples of individuals who had their felony charges dismissed or upon acquittal.


HB 502: Updates the Georgia Code regarding continuance requests. Allows for members of the Georgia General Assembly, legislative staff, Legislative council and other state agencies who wish to file for a continuance of stay when they are the lead council or part of the lead council in a pending civil or criminal proceeding. The continuance of stay would only be applicable seven days prior to session, including special sessions, convening, length of any session, three weeks following Sine Die during scheduled meetings including national conferences, board meetings and caucus, committee and study committee meetings. In criminal cases outside the blocked out period, legislators can apply but victim has right to object.\


HB 239: Adds provisions for Georgia's state-wide business court including the location of the court, the appointment of the judge, the court's jurisdiction and the compensation of the judge. Will require both parties to agree to have the case heard in business court.

HB 543: Allows courts to classify an individual as an "equitable caregiver", which would include individuals who have "fully and completely undertaken a permanent, unequivocal, committed responsible parental role in a child's life."


HB 85: Provides a sales and use tax exemption for nonprofit organ donation centers. Provides a sales and use tax exemption on the membership and initiation fees incurred by joining a shooting of physical fitness club.


Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at legislation that passed in different areas and including budgetary changes that were also made in the FY 2020 General budget. We will look at Mental Health, children's issues, issues affecting the elderly, Economic Development, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, Healthcare and others.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2019 budget (HB 30) may be found at As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

I may be reached at

234 State Capitol, Atlanta , GA 30334

(404) 656-5038 (phone)

(404) 657-7094 (fax)

E-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or Call Toll-Free at

1-800-367-3334 Day or Night

                                                                                                                   Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

April 6-- Three local students have been chosen to represent Altamaha EMC on the 2019 Washington Youth Tour (WYT), an all-expense paid leadership experience sponsored by electric membership cooperatives in Georgia.

altamahhollandaltamahahunteraltamahashah(L-R) Falyn Holland of Toombs County High School, Hunter Brotman of Robert Toombs Christian Academy and Arham Shah of Swainsboro High School will attend the tour on June 13 - 20.

These students were carefully selected through an application process which includes a study packet, written test, and a personal interview.

altamahbrileyBriley Braddy of Vidalia Heritage Academy was also selected as a delegate for this year's tour. Because Briley's father serves on the board of directors for Altamaha EMC, she was not eligible to compete in the local contest. Georgia EMC sponsors a state-wide essay contest for children of EMC employees and directors. Briley's essay was chosen for a spot on the 2019 tour.

For more than 50 years, the WYT has helped promising student leaders become exceptional young adults. The WYT was established to inspire the next generation of leaders. The tour offers opportunities for students to meet policy makers, tour historic monuments and participate in leadership experiences all while making new friends from across the state and the nation. Teens on the tour are challenged to consider the part they play in local, state and national government, to become engaged citizens and to learn about careers in public service.

"These students represent the next generation of accomplished, involved leaders in our communities and state," says Tammye Vaughn, Altamaha EMC's WYT Coordinator. "The chance to experience the nation's capital, to see monuments and memorials honoring those who made sacrifices so we can live and worship in a free society, as well as surround themselves with other exceptional students who come from different parts of the state and country is a rare opportunity."

The 114 teen-delegates will gather in Atlanta to kick off the tour, spending time getting to know each other before departing for Washington D.C. When the group arrives in D.C., participants will tour historic locations like Mount Vernon, explore museums and monuments and meet with their elected officials to discuss the issues that are important back home. Georgia's delegation will convene with more than 1,700 youth representing cooperatives across the nation.

Since 1965, the WYT has given more than 3,000 students from Georgia and more than 50,000 nationwide the opportunity to take part in this unique experience. Altamaha EMC is pleased to provide this opportunity to deserving local students each year.

April 6-- Glenwood Telephone Company (GTC), the smallest independent
Telephone company in Georgia, is proud to announce the commencement of a multi-million
dollar Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project in its service area. The FTTH project is
expected to take several years.

Fiber to the Home is the most advanced communications system in the world today,
allowing over 3 million voice calls or 90,000 TV channels. It can provide symmetrical
speeds over 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps), hundreds of times greater than today’s DSL
speeds. Fiber also is resistant to electromagnetic interference including fire and
lightning making it safer and more reliable.

Executive Vice President Jim O’Brien says, “We hope this will spur economic
development in Wheeler County, provide opportunities for our customers to work from
home, use telemedicine, and help attract companies to Glenwood.”

Mr. O’Brien continues, “Fiber to the Home should not be reserved for highly populated
Urban areas. As telecommuting, distance learning, and telemedicine and the Internet of
Things become more prevalent, more and more people can move away from Cities to
the Country. Technology is allowing people to have the same conveniences of City life,
including making a good living and building home based-businesses with a world-wide

CEO and President of Glenwood Telephone Company, Janice O’Brien states, “We are
making a large investment in our community in the hopes of attracting new businesses
to the area who require state-of-the-art technology and high-speed Internet.”
GTC is planning to have an initial FTTH area online by the end of the year and will
eventually serve all it’s Incumbent Local Exchange area (ILEC) customers with FTTH.

Glenwood Telephone Company is the smallest, privately owned Telephone company in
Georgia. It operates an approximate 13 square mile area along the bluff side of the
beautiful Oconee River in Wheeler and Laurens County Georgia.

April 5--  Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits reports the following arrests.

Kight, Mandy Brooke- W/F- 30 YOA- 129 Cherry Stree Alston, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked(First)

Summersett, Anthony Tevin- B/M- 24 YOA- 206 Brown St. Vidalia, GA- Carrying a Concealed Weapon/Discharging Gun-
Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs/Discharge of Gun, Pistol Near Public HWY, Street/Possession of Marijuana Less Than Ounce

Carter, Jocelyn Rachel D 27 YOA/ 302 Chestnut St / Metter, GA / Criminal Trespass

Wheeler, Brandon Kent W/M 23 YOA/ 6421 Hwy 297 Vidalia, GA/ Bench Warrant (VPD)

Carter,Jennifer Diane W/F 42 YOA/ 410 Randolph Dr Apt 8C Vidalia, GA/ Theft By Shoplifting 2nd Offense (Misd)

Horton, Mary Elizabeth W/F 32 YOA 707 W Second St Vidalia, GA / Battery (Misd) / Criminal Trespass (Misd)

Stange, Nathaniel- W/M- 19 YOA- 1238 Herndon Rd. Baxley, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Williams, Pebbles Faith- W/F- 21 YOA- 1228 Herndon Rd. Baxley, GA- Theft by Shoplifting 1st Offense

Conley, Christian Herndon- W/M- 20 YOA- 795 Del Conner Rd. Uvalda, GA- Driving While License Suspended or Revoked (First)

Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker reports the following arrests.

Raekwon Williams, Lyons, possession of marijuana and drug related objects

Michelle Morris, Vidalia, possession of drug related objects

Cody Gillis, Vidalia, possession of drug related objects

Robert Paxson, Lyons, possession of amphetamines, no insurance, no license on person

Robert McDaniel, Lyons, burglary

Jessica Cook, Uvalda, DUI, possession of drug related objects, impeding traffic

Patrick Rosenwald, Vidalia, disorderly conduct, affray

Crystal Barefoot, Hinesville, disorderly conduct

Toombs County Sheriff Junior Kight reports the following arrests.

Justin Barnard, Vidalia, parole viiolation

Kaitlyn Brinson, Statesboro, seat belt, driving while license suspended/revoked

Cassandra Bryant, Lyons, DUI, controlled substance purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, sale; traffic violations

Whitney Burkett, Lyons, controlled substances and methamphetamine purchase, possession, manufacture, distribution, sale

Forrest Dreys, Lyons, probation violation

Orbey Gibbons, Vidalia, probation violation, obstruction, driving while license suspended/revoked

Brett Hutcheson, Lyons, probation violation, burglary

Donald Waters, Soperton, probation violation

Montgomery County Sheriff Doug Maybin reports the following arrests.

03/25-Derrick Brent Jackson, Soperton, Aggravated Assault

03/26-Lakeisha Renfroe, Soperton, Theft by Taking, Criminal Receipt of Goods and Services Fraudulently Obtained

03/26-Timmy Jermaine Jackson, Mt Vernon, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Cocaine w/Intent, Unlawful Use of a Communication Facility, Bondsman Off Bond

03/26-Rafael Antonio Reed, Soperton, Driving w/Suspended License, Failure to Maintain Lane

03/27-Amber Aldridge, Mt Vernon, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana <1oz

03/27-Adam Sanders, Mt Vernon, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana <1oz.

03/27-Michael Corey Brown, Uvalda, Theft by Taking

03/29-Rodney Scott Mock, Mt Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

03/29-Jarvis Trenton Taylor, Mt Vernon, Felony Probation Violation

03/29-Juan Carlos Luna-Ramirez, Vidalia, Driving while Unlicensed, Failure to Maintain Lane

03/30-Terry Antwan Williams, Mt Vernon, Sale of Alcohol without a License, Sale of Alcoholic Beverages on Sunday

03/31-Danny Edward Collins, Lyons, Warrant Service-Johnson County

April 4--  It didn't take long Wednesday for heavy equipment operators to demolish the building at the corner of Jackson Street and First Street in downtown Vidalia. 

farmersdemolitionThe building has had many lives and old timers will remember when it was Sears Gulf Station years ago. 

The prime location in the middle of downtown will soon be the home of Farmers Insurance and agent Allen Morris who says the new building should be completed within six months.

April 4--  The Lyons City Council made some appointments during its April meeting this week.

lyonschaplainThe Senior Pastor at the Faith Assembly of God Church in Lyons, Joseph Akins, was named to serve as the volunteer Public Safety Chaplain for the city and was welcomed by Lyons Police Chief Wesley Walker (left) and Mayor Willis NeSmith.

lyonshousingThe council named Sonya Eason (left) to fill the unexpired term of Jesse Inman on the Lyons Housing Authority and to serve a new five-year term starting this summer.  Stan Bazemore (center) and Kevin Hill were reappointed to the Authority and sworn in by Mayor NeSmith.  The Authority's new director, Shawnee Gunn, was also introduced to the council.

In other actions:

*The council approved emergency repairs on South Victory Drive by McLendon Enterprises at a cost not to exceed $68,000.

* Agreed for the city to pay membership dues to the Lyons Lions Club for city department heads and council members.

*Began consideration of city ordinance changes that would increase the fine for curfew violations to $1,000 and would make the fine for parking violations no less than $50.

April 4--  An intersection in Soperton which has had more than its share of collisions is getting a four-way stop in an effort to reduce accidents.

According to city officials, the Georgia Department of Transportation is expected to install the stop signs at the intersection of Highways 46 and 29 on Tuesday, April 16.

April 3--  The Port of Savannah is the fastest growing port in the United States and is on the way to doubling its capacity in the next decade.


The Toombs County Development Authority took a busload of local citizens to the port and learned that port-related jobs number 439,000 in the state and more than a thousand in Toombs County, according to Stacy Watson, the port's Director of Economic and Industrial Development.

"It means more opportunities for jobs and capital investment.  You've got a world class port right here in your backyard with very easy access to Vidalia and Toombs County and that means lots of opportunity for existing industries there to grow.  I think Vidalia and Toombs County are ready for the growth we're expecting.  You've got a great team with the Development Authority and elected officials and we look forward to a great working relationship."

The port saw an eight percent growth rate last year with 3,374 containers bringing imports to Toombs County, 75% of which went to the Tumi Distribution Center in Vidalia. 

Toombs County Development Authority Board Chairman Trent Williams worked at the port as a contractor 12 years ago and said, "I was very impressed and truly amazed at its growth.  It's great for our area.  We are 16 miles off I-16 and we have our industrial park ready to go.  What also impressed me was their plans for railroad spurs into the port."

Watson says the port is bringing CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines onto its 1,200 acres to facilitate shipments to new inland ports in Gainesville and LaGrange.  It plans to spend $2.5 billion in the next ten years, "It is a strategy that we've maintained over many years.  You don't wait until the growth is needed to start your growth plans.  You've waited too late by then.  That's been a strategy of ours for the almost three decades I've been here.  We talk with economists, we speak with our customers, we speak with Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern.  We're out to actually predict what the future demand will be and stay ahead of that growth curve and that strategy has worked very well for us over the years."

April 3-- April is Confederate History Month in Georgia and in most Southern states. In observance the Montgomery Sharpshooters, the local camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), marks the graves of all Confederate veterans in Montgomery, Treutlen, and Wheeler Counties.

Camp members place a small battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on each of the graves. These flags make the graves of Southern soldiers much more visible than they normally are, and honors their service in defense of their country during the War for Southern Independence.

The SCV is a heritage organization open to anyone that is a descendant, direct or collateral, of a Confederate soldier. The SCV has two main objectives: honor the good name of the Confederate soldier and see that the true history of the War for Southern Independence is told.  Recognizing the service of Confederate soldiers by marking their graves is one way that the SCV honors the veterans.

sonsgravesMarking the grave of Pvt. David Higgs of Company E of the 61st Georgia Infantry are (L to R) Savannah Smith, Ace Stringfellow, Luke Smith, and Hank Stringfellow.

Savannah and Luke are the children of camp member Joseph Smith and Ace and Hank are his nephews.

Pvt. Higgs is buried in the McCrimmon Cemetery on Georgia Highway 292 in Montgomery County.

April 3--Yesterday the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), along with Eastman Police Department, arrested Alexia Williams of Eastman, age 38, on charges of one count of Malice Murder, one count of Felony Murder and one count of Aggravated Assault for the death of Althea Etheridge, age 60.  New information was developed in the investigation that led to these charges.

Williams was arrested and booked without incident into the Dodge County Jail.  The case is active and ongoing at this time and will be turned over to the Oconee District Attorney’s Office when completed. 

On Monday, April 01, 2019, the GBI was requested to assist the Eastman Police Department to assist with a death investigation that occurred at approximately 4:28 a.m at the intersection of Calahan Street and 1st Avenue, Eastman.

A deceased victim, identified as Althea Etheridge, 60, of Eastman, was discovered inside her 2004 Ford Expedition vehicle which wrecked after she was stabbed.   

If anyone has information, please contact the GBI Eastman office at 478-374-6988 or Eastman Police Department at 478-374-7788. 

April 2--  Vidalia Onion farmers are working to rid a disease from their crops this year.

Two onion farmers who spoke to the Vidalia Rotary Club, Aries Haygood and Brett Williams,  are both concerned with Downy Mildew.

rotaryfarmers(L-R) Aries Haygood, Rotary President Angie McDaniel and Brett Williams.

According to Haygood, "It's a fungal disease that can wipe out a crop or portions of a crop in no time.  The challenge is that it likes cooler, wetter weather and it also needs the wind to move it.  Today it's cool and the wind is blowing ten to 20 miles an hour so the spores are being blown across the fields.  We're throwing everything we can, the kitchen sink, at it to try and slow is down."

Williams says it's almost the worst he's seen in 15 years, "We've seen some in other years, but this year is probably the second highest pressure of Downy Mildew that I recall.  We just need some good weather.  The lower temperatures and this wind blowing the spores around has got us very nervous."

Meanwhile, on the labor front, both farmers say if it weren't for guest workers whom they bring in mostly from Mexico, there would be no Vidalia Onion crop, "These folks love what they do.  When they show up, they show up to work. I think they look forward to it every year because it's a good job for them and the can make more money to take home to their families," Haygood says. 

Williams says the main problem with guest workers is government red tape and he's hoping the Agriculture Department under the leadership of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will be able to streamline the system, "It's just so expensive.  Our biggest expense is labor and if we don't find a way to trim that then we're going to get backed into a corner.  The grocery stores are steadily pushing for lower prices from us and our backs are against the wall, so that would be a big help if we could get it streamlined."

April 1--  Another class of fifth graders has completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) course conducted each year by the Vidalia Police Department at Sally Meadows Elementary School.

Vidalia City Councilman Greg Johnson urged the DARE graduates to make their own decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol, "As they begin to mature and grow older, there are going to be lots of people asking them to try this and try that, but I really wanted them to understand they must make their own decisions and do not let anyone pressure them into doing something that don't want to do."

Vidalia High School senior Grace Blount is one of the students who served as role models for the DARE class and she remembers that the course had an impact on her life, "It really did because I have never done drugs and I've never drunk alcohol and it instilled that in me."

She also echoes Councilman Johnson's advice and says teenagers face a lot of pressure to do the wrong things, "There is a lot of pressure because all your friends seem to be doing it and you don't want to be left out, but you need to make sure that you do what's right and make the right decisions.  I try to take myself out of situations before they get to a point where I can't."

dareessarywinner19Each DARE class writes essays about what they've learned and this year's overall winner is Sadie Berry (shown with Councilman Johnson and DARE instructor Corporal Dwayne Carpenter).  Other winners from individual classes are Kingston Ryals, Deidra Boston, Suemyreah Alton, Nyla Thomas, Diana Alas, Numiyah Walton, Kalli Jo Roberson and Sanaya Lewis.

April 1-- Three dental hygiene students from Southeastern Technical College (STC) were recognized at the 2019 Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta on Friday.

stchinman(L-R) Haley Grant of Mt. Vernon, Allison Brantley of Statesboro, and Sarah Trenerry of Jesup were named Hinman Scholars and received $1,000 scholarships from the Hinman Dental Society's Board of Directors.

“The students were selected for the scholarships based on their exceptional leadership skills and work ethic,” said Dr. Jennifer Gramiak, Program Director for STC Dental Hygiene. “These students have excelled in the program and I am very proud of their accomplishments," she said.

The 2019 meeting was the 107th meeting of the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Society, which has been providing scholarships to dental hygiene students since 1989.

For information on careers in Dental Hygiene, visit or call (912) 538-3100 or (478) 289-2200.

By Newt Gingrich

Trump and the Post-Mueller World

Trump and the Post-Mueller World

The political and media elite in America have some explaining to do.

As the reality sinks in that the Trump campaign didn’t collude with Russia during the 2016 election – and that no obstruction of justice charges levied against the President are forthcoming – Americans are going to start asking why they have been lied to for two years.

For the first half of President Trump’s first term, we have seen a wildly hysterical news media, which has consistently operated under an assumption of guilt rather than innocence – and regularly reported unsubstantiated, politically-motivated accusations as facts. Some have gone so far as to repeat accusations that the sitting President of the United States has committed treason and that he would be the first sitting president to be jailed.

We have also seen a concerted effort by the Washington establishment and the bureaucratic deep state to hinder the President’s ability to lead by perpetuating the phony collusion narrative – which it appears was concocted by the out-going Obama administration.

In the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, Americans deserve to hear the truth.

Mueller’s report should spur a series of parallel investigations.

First, Congress should find out how claims this bogus were able to consume and perpetuate through the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and our intelligence agencies.

The Obama administration reportedly knew that Russians were trying to influence the election. Why did they decide to spend energy pursuing a false narrative rather than aggressively combatting Russian hacking efforts during a presidential election cycle? It certainly appears now they were simply trying to hurt the Trump campaign. How involved was President Obama himself – or Vice President Joe Biden for that matter? Why has James Clapper – who has access to American intelligence – been so convinced that the collusion story was real? For that matter, why did Jim Comey break FBI protocols and seek to spread the collusion lie? Congress should call these people in and ask them under oath.

Additionally, Congress should fully make the Mueller report and all its supporting documents public – to the extent that the law, national security, and decency allow. The agents who wrote and signed the FISA warrant applications that were based on the absurd, unsubstantiated Christopher Steele dossier should be held accountable.

As a part of all this, members of Congress should pressure their colleague Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif, to step down as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Even after Mueller’s findings have been made public, Schiff has continued to lie to the American people about alleged secret intelligence. He has no business knowing our national secrets if he’s willing to fabricate them for political gain.

Second, Congress should look at the wide gap between the DOJ’s willingness to aggressively pursue phony allegations about the Trump campaign – while completely ignoring documented lawbreaking by the Clintons. The group at the FBI that has doggedly pursued the false collusion story is the same group that let Hillary Clinton slide on deleting official emails, creating an illegal computer server, and destroying evidence of her wrong-doing. If fully uncovered, I expect the extent to which these agents were motivated by political bias would be astounding.

Finally, the third investigation should be completed by the news media.

The major media outlets should form a commission – perhaps with Pew Research or the Poynter Institute – to examine the role media played in spreading falsehoods for the last two years. It’s clear that the media was either handily used by – or fully in league with – the political enemies of President Trump.

At best, reporters, editors, anchors, and producers failed their due diligence in vetting the heaps of anonymous sources on which they frequently relied. At worse, they were just seeking to make money by influencing – rather than informing – the American people.

In either case, the collusion story will bring long-lasting damage to the media’s credibility and the public’s trust. At a minimum, The New York Times and The Washington Post should return the Pulitzer prizes they received for “breaking” the collusion story.

It would be intolerable for media members to walk away from this disaster and pretend they had nothing to do with it – or claim they were just reporting the news of the day. When the news media collectively decide something is “a fact,” it creates enormous power promote falsehoods. This is exactly what happened here.

Now, I have been very critical of Mueller’s methods – and his decision to bring on a host of ardently liberal lawyers to conduct this investigation. The fact that these determined lawyers were unable to find anything is remarkable. (Remember that Ken Starr laid out 11 allegations against President Bill Clinton at the end of his investigation – including five obstruction of justice charges.)

The results of this investigation make it clear to me that the world in Washington is about to change dramatically. The President will have the Mueller report as a shield against the circus of investigations Congressional Democrats are planning, and the post-Mueller Trump White House will be able to focus on a much wider variety of important things.

For example, Trump will now be able to aggressively combat real Russian efforts to influence our elections. He will be able to better deal with the crumbling civilization in Venezuela. President Trump will be able to focus on better ways to compete with China and denuclearize North Korea.

I have no doubt, the post-Mueller world is going to be very good for President Trump, Republicans, and all Americans.

Your Friend,

March 31--  The City of Vidalia held a joint public safety awards ceremony honoring members of both the police department and the fire department.

awardwinnersvpvfd(L-R) Vidalia Police Officer of the Year Detective Michael Howell, Certificate of Appreciation Winner Officer Corey Bell, Employee of the Year Madge Collins, Rookie of the Year Officer Tyrie Johnson, Supervisor of the Year Lieutenant Ray Corbett, Certificate of Appreciation Award Winner Corporal Matthew Bell, Firefighter of the Year Ben Seabury, VFD Rookie of the Year Pete Phelps, Volunteer Firefighter of the Year Wesley Ward and Fire Officer of the Year, Assistant Chief Ben Allen.

The Vidalia Police Officer of the Year is Detective Michael Powell who has words of advice for anyone considering a career in law enforcement, "I would encourage them to get involved, but it's really a very big strain, especially on your family life.  If you want to get involved I would look into our citizens police academy and, if your a female, into our firearms training course just to get an idea because it's a very big life decision.  If you do it, you're probably never going to stop.'

Other police department honors went to Employee of the Year Madge Collins, Rookie of the Year Officer Tyrie Johnson, Supervisor of the Year Lieutenant Ray Corbett, and Certificates of Appreciation were presented to Corporal Matthew Bell and Officer Corey Bell.

The Vidalia Firefighter of the Year is Ben Seabury who loves his job despite the danger, "You know, I couldn't think of any reason to do it other than I love it. There is no other job I'd rather do than this.  I can't think of anything better to do, honestly."

Fire Department honors were also made to Rookie of the Year Pete Phelps, Volunteer Firefighter of the Year Wesley Ward and Fire Officer of the Year, Assistant Chief Ben Allen.

This is the first time the police and fire departments have held a joint recognition ceremony and both department chiefs agree it makes a lot of sense

Police Chief Frank Waits says, "We all protect the public and work together on the streets, so why not have our awards banquet together," and Fire Chief Brian Sikes concurs, "It's special because we want the public to see that we are a unified city and we make up the public safety division of the city.  We work wrecks together, we work fires together and we're always there for each other."