2022 General Election
Information on this year's Primary General Election: Important dates, Sample Ballots
The Primary General Election/Nonpartisan General Election/Special Election will be held on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The voter registration deadline is April 25, 2022. The earliest day to apply for an absentee ballot is Monday, March 7, 2022. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is May 13, 2022. The earliest day to mail out absentee ballots is April 5, 2022; the last day to mail out an absentee ballot is May 13, 2022.
In person early voting will take place from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday, May 2 – May 20, 2022 at the Board of Elections Office, located at 408 Court Street, across from the post office in downtown Calhoun, with two Saturday in-person voting opportunities from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, 2022 and Saturday, May 14, 2022 at the Board of Elections Office.
*****Gordon County Sample Ballot for the REPUBLICAN PARTY PRIMARY can be found HERE
*****Gordon County Sample Ballot for the DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRIMARY can be found HERE
General Primary Runoff will be held on June 21, 2022. Voter registration deadline is April 25, 2022; for Federal Elections, the deadline is May 23, 2022. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is June 10, 2022. Mail out of absentee ballots deadline is as soon as possible prior to the Runoff Election. In person voting for a runoff will be June 13-June 17, from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Voter Registration Office; no Saturday voting will be held for a runoff.
The General Election/Special Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Voter registration deadline is Oct. 11, 2022. The earliest day to apply for an absentee ballot is Aug. 22, 2022; the last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Oct. 28, 2022. The earliest day to mail out absentee ballots is Sept. 20, 2022; the last day to mail out an absentee ballot is Oct. 28, 2022. In person early voting will take place Monday – Friday, Oct. 17 – Nov. 4, from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Elections Office; two opportunities to vote early on Saturday will be held from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, both being held at the Elections Office.
To register to vote or to view your sample ballot, visit www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP.
For more information, contact the Gordon County Elections and Voter Registration Office at 706-629-7781.
Candidate Forum held Tuesday night, April 26, 2022
Much transformed from year’s past, the Gordon County Chamber-hosted Candidate Forum was held on Tuesday night, April 26 as a way for the public to learn about the candidates running for local, state and national office.
As in year’s past, in the week prior to the event, media representatives worked with students from each of the three local public high schools, Calhoun High School, Gordon Central High School and Sonoraville High School, to formulate questions for candidates running for office this year. The Gordon Gazette worked with students from Sonoraville High School, comprising a list of questions for the candidates that were issue-focused on important topics the community wants answers, from both the local school board candidates and commission candidates. But on Tuesday morning, the media representatives received an email stating that issues had been raised concerning the questions that were to
Participants in Tuesday’s Candidate Forum running for local office include: TOP ROW: Larry Knudsen and Dana Stewart (County BOE Post 3): MIDDLE ROW: Chad Steward and Ricky Lee Smith (County Commission District 2); BOTTOM ROW: David MacKnight and Kurt Sutherland (County Commission District 4). BRANDI OWCZARZ/Staff
be posed to the candidates on Tuesday night, with a request to turn their questions in to the Chamber prior to the forum. There was no disclosure on who had complained of the questions, or how they had even been disclosed prior to the event. Fair questions for those seeking office, that the public was seeking answers from the candidates related to the Gordon County School Board races, including ‘Do you feel district-level administration should live in Gordon County?,’ ‘Given that all things are equal after an interview process for the hiring of staff positions, should a local candidate have preference over those from outside the community?,’ and ‘What are your thoughts on extending a contract and handing out a large raise for the superintendent before the expiration of the current contract?’ were cut from the Gazette’s offering of questions. It’s unclear if any of the other questions from the other two schools were removed.
The normal execution of the forum was also changed at the last minute and was different from years past: the modified questions for each race that were to be asked by the students were placed in buckets and passed around to the students to draw from. Each school got to ask each candidate a single question, for three total questions per candidate, then the slip of paper the question was printed on was placed back into the bucket. The next candidate for the same race then took questions that students pulled out of the same bucket but didn’t necessarily get the same question as their opponent since questioning was handled with a grab-bag approach. In some instances, one candidate answered the same question rephrased in different ways multiple times.
Below are the questions and answers for local candidates running for the Gordon County Board of Education Post 3 race, comprising of incumbent Dana Stewart ( R) and her opponent, Larry Knudsen (R ); and Gordon County Commission District 2 race comprising of incumbent Chad Steward (R ) and opponent Ricky Lee Smith (R ) and Gordon County Commission District 4 race comprising of David MacKnight (R ) and Kurt Sutherland (R ). In the Saturday, April 30, 2022 e-edition, the Gordon Gazette will cover the state and federal races that were represented at the forum.
Gordon County Board of Education Post 3
LARRY KNUDSEN (Republican):
Gordon County Schools are on their way to reaching capacity. Do you think this is an issue and what do you suggest would alleviate it? “Obviously we need a vision for the future that includes the growth that’s coming into the county, including the new subdivisions that have been approved at Sonoraville and other areas. So you need a good plan. One of my critical elements that I bring is (experience in) development and budgets, including structures and new support staff.”
What are your thoughts on retaining teachers in the school systems: “My wife is a teacher and I understand the difficulties and challenges within teaching; and the pandemic added even more difficulty. I believe we need to develop programs that demonstrate appreciation for not only all of our staff but also give them some type of incentive to stay, because we need really good teachers for our students.”
What are some things the County School Board is currently doing well and what are some things they can be doing better? “I think there are a number of things, based upon statistics, that our school boards are doing well but I don’t know that they are as good as representing the stakeholders (of the system) – the students, the parents and the teachers – representing their voices and what they’re interested in, so I would work towards expanding that and trying to solicit more information (from the stakeholders). I’m a big believer in getting feedback from people; I’ve done that my whole career. I think everyone in this room should be participating; without a collaborative effort, how can you come up with the best decisions?”
DANA STEWART (Republican, Incumbent):
Are you satisfied with the current offering of Advanced Placement classes at both Gordon Central and Sonoraville High School and would you support more classes to give our students who are serious about furthering their education an edge when applying for college? “Absolutely. I support Advanced Placement classes for our schools. Whatever we can do for you all as the children who are the center of the table, when I’m a Board member, you are at the center of the table. We do what is best for you. So absolutely. We have already put into place Advance Placement classes and we hope to expand that in the future. We are always looking to do what’s best for you guys. We want you to be able to, when you leave high school, to have an opportunity to go to college, go to a trade school, whatever your goal would be, we are there to support it.”
What are some things the County School Board is currently doing well and what are some things they can be doing better? “Gordon County Schools are doing really well right now. We’ve had some major accomplishments; we just went through a pandemic, which is unprecedented and we have never had to do that before and our teachers came through that and we were able to do virtual learning and continue to provide education even when we couldn’t be face-to-face. Our graduation rate is 97 percent; our high school nutrition has been able to provide free lunch and free breakfast for our students; we have gotten grants farm-to-table; we are just doing an excellent job at Gordon County Schools. Some things we can improve on; I think we can always improve on communication. It is very important that the schools communicate with the parents, that we communicate with stakeholders and that we keep parents involved in their children’s education.”
Gordon County Schools are on their way to reaching capacity. Do you think this is an issue and what do you suggest would alleviate it? “We actually just talked a little about this last night at our budget meeting that we had. So, right now I think Red Bud Middle is pretty near capacity, but we do have room at our elementary schools and our high schools to be able to accommodate should we get an influx of this new development that is coming onboard soon. That will be something that we really look at and really have to plan to make sure we continue to provide that quality education and that we can continue to accommodate the students who want to come here, because we want students to come to Gordon County Schools.”
Gordon County Board of Commissioners District 2:
RICKY LEE SMITH (Republican):
How could we fix the traffic issues caused by Bojangles? “I think they’ve served enough product that they can make an improvement on their drive-thru. Also, it’s the Hwy. 53 area that’s a concern for me and always has been; the design, the features, the whole street. Here recently we had a child injured in an accident; we had a school event at one of the larger churches in the area, a place with no sidewalks. There are just a lot of fundamental features that are wrong with the design features in that area. The access outside the perimeters of the main road needs improvement. The access road (design) in other counties, you see they have other design features that go parking lot to parking lot, business to business, things like that to achieve the goal.”
With unprecedented sudden growth already happening in Gordon County, how does local government work to accommodate that growth and keep us with that change and are you ready for those challenges? “I’m always up for a challenge; I thrive on challenge. Road improvements and things like that are something that has to be done in a long range plan. We do have traffic issues in various places, and we have to be prepared for whatever the growth is in a particular area. It takes a long-range plan to make something happen. Like the new bypass, it’s been in the works for quite a number of years and I don’t like some of the design features; we are going to need to eventually add traffic lights in places.”
How should the county handle the infrastructure needs and growth, especially the roads with the growth we’re seeing at this time and expected over the next few years with more than 11 million square feet of industry and warehousing coming to the community? “The County does have a comprehensive plan in place but we need to continually update it to make sure it’s providing the outcomes we want in our neighborhoods and communities. Once again, it takes long range planning to make those things happen. Being someone who’s always been in the construction industry, I do have a background in roads and bridge construction projects, sewer and water and I know that we have some SPLOST funds that we’re using for those purposes and if it’s something we need to add to, we can.”
CHAD STEWARD (Republican, Incumbent):
With unprecedented sudden growth already happening in Gordon County, how does local government work to accommodate that change and keep us with that change and are you ready for those challenges? “One of the things that we’ll probably have to do planning for that growth and as you can see, we are booming, Gordon County is doing great. We’re at 100 percent Freeport, the relationship with have with the Chamber and City of Calhoun, work with business and industry – it is booming. One of the most important things coming up soon with be our SPLOST to be past. In the next six to 12 months we’ll be in SPLOST negotiations, and that is going to rely heavily on infrastructure. So that’s one of the things we work with other cities; we work with Fairmount, we work at the City of Resaca and heavily with the City of Calhoun in those SPLOST negotiations and we are going to have to prepare ourselves with that infrastructure to handle all the new business and industry and the 3,500 homes planning to be built. We are ready for that challenge. I’ve been in one ESPLOST negotiation and I’ve also been through another SPLOST with the County, so I have the experience and know-how to work with the other cities in those types of situations.”
The lack of entertainment within our county has been a point of discussion among citizens. What are your thoughts on this and how can the county bring in more entertainment business? “When I was growing up, we had cruising, we had a movie theater and we had a skating rink. We don’t really have anything for kids to do anymore and I understand that. I asked my niece “Where are all the kids at?” and she told me they stay at home, talk on their phones or Facetime. That’s what you guys do. One of the things that’s going to give us an advantage is the growth; it is the business and industry, it is the 3,500 homes being built here. Population is the key; when you have the population that puts you over certain marks, then you can progressively look and obtain entertainment and more restaurants. That’s why we have a hard time competing with Bartow; their (population) is around 100,000, we’re in the 50’s. Whitfield, they’re at 100,000. So when you have a certain population, you can aggressively attract entertainment and restaurants; things that we all want and as we grow, we can work with the City of Calhoun and Chamber of Commerce to attract those things that you all want and give us a better quality of life in Gordon County.
What is your knowledge of the Gordon County Comprehensive Plan and if you are familiar, share one or two of the most important parts that would be beneficial to bring improvements to Gordon County in the next few years? “I am familiar with the plan and that’s one of the things that’ll have to change over time as we grow. We have to have controlled growth. You may have certain things that arise that come up with your Comprehensive Plan that you didn’t really think about or you didn’t really plan on it to come into fruition. So you may have to go back and rethink some of that Comprehensive Plan when you see that, maybe things were overlooked and you see mistakes that happened. It’s a changing plan that has to change over time and you will change that plan as you grow. You will adjust that plan as growth continues.
Gordon County Board of Commissioners District 4
DAVID MACKNIGHT (Republican):
How should the county handle infrastructure needs, especially rods, with the growth we are seeing at this time and expected over the next few years with more than 11 million square feet of warehousing and industry coming to the community? “One of the things that hasn’t been mentioned is the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was passed in Congress. I know Dalton has already locked in $5.5 million and Cartersville $14 million of that. Georgia got $11 billion dollars; we need our share to help roads. There’s money there; we need to get our share. We need somebody to write grants for that; currently we have nobody for that. We rely on an outside service to write grants for Federal money.”
What is your knowledge of the Gordon County Comprehensive Plan and if you are familiar, share one or two of the most important parts that would be beneficial to bring improvements to Gordon County in the next few years? “The last time the Gordon County Comprehensive Plan was updated was 2018; prior to that was 2015. So it’s due (for update). It should be probably revised more than every six years with the growth going on today. They are currently using the expanded suburban area map to locate areas for growth, which is a great part of the plan. This will show you where subdivisions can be applied for but it does need some updating, though. It is critical for our growth.”
With unprecedented sudden growth already happening in Gordon County, how does local government work to accommodate that change and keep us with that change and are you ready for those challenges? “I’m ready for the challenge; 31 years at Home Depot. In retail, that’s almost like dog years; seven years for every one year in retail. There is considerable growth that’s coming that has to be addressed; it’s already here. We can’t deny that. What we’ve got to do is work with the City. Everybody has to be involved. We have the opportunity to really shape the future of this county. It’s at a crossroads and I’m more than ready of this challenge. I am on the number end of business; I have a degree in accounting and have ran Home Depots for 31 years.”
KURT SUTHERLAND (Republican):
What is the role of local government in the lives of Gordon County citizens? “The role of government in the lives of Gordon County citizens is the life of the Gordon County citizens. Everything that Gordon County citizens depend on is our local government to make the right decisions and to look at things and if they’re leading in the wrong direction or is going to cause problems in a neighborhood or in a community, that’s when the commissioners need to do a broad look at everything and see if it is going to be beneficial to what the county is being asked to do. So, government, with the citizens of Gordon County, is everything because that’s what the community of Gordon County depends on is the government to make the right decisions for them. That’s why everybody that’s running for office is here tonight, to have an ear to listen and do the right thing.”
With unprecedented sudden growth already happening in Gordon County, how does local government work to accommodate that change and keep us with that change and are you ready for those challenges? “I’m ready for it, because in running the 4-H program over the years and going to 4-H camp with 60 4-Her’s, boys and girls, for all those years…tested. I’m ready. Growing up on a farm, running my own family business now and farming, I’m ready for the challenge. The way we’ve got to look at everything and fix that is, you look at when somebody is coming to build a new subdivision, you’ve got to look at the area. Does that area need that subdivision? There’s a lot of space on the other side of this county that can be utilized. We don’t need to pack all the subdivisions in. I’m for growth, yes we have to have houses but we’ve got to have what is called controlled growth. We need to look at other places where this growth can take place. And we are going to have to do that, because you’ve heard everybody talk about all the buildings that’s being built, all the subdivisions that’s already being built. We know we’re already growing and we want people to live in Gordon County and work in Gordon County and send their schools to Gordon County.”
What are some things the County Commission is currently doing well and what are some things they can be doing better? “I think they’re doing a good job in keeping our teachers and safety and making this county a good place to live and work. They’re working with the folks that are coming in to build these subdivisions. They’re not telling them ‘No’ and shutting their doors. They’re working with all these contractors and giving them a chance and giving them ideas. That’s a good thing that they’re doing because they know that there’s a need. And they’re working on a way to fix it. I want to be a part of that way so we can try to fix it. Some of the things we are doing a good job on but can do better on is our intersections in the county need work. And everybody knows that. If you go out on some of our side roads, there’s a lot of traffic. Dews Pond, some places on Red Bud and even the new intersection, but there’s things that need to be addressed that will handle that situation. I’ve been in a lot of counties and we do have better dirt roads than gravel. I am proud of our roads but we need some fixed.”
Getting to Know the Candidates
Some of the candidates running in local races for this year’s General Election answered questions presented by the Gordon Gazette ahead of this Tuesday’s Candidate Forum.
COUNTY COMMISSION - DISTRICT 2
CHAD STEWARD (Incumbent, Republican)
Bio of Candidate: Graduate of Gordon Central High school class of 1993. Obtained a college degree from Dalton State. 8 years experience Gordon County School Board. 11 years experience Gordon County Commissioner- 10 years vice chair. Supervisor at Southeastern Freight Lines. Calhoun/ Gordon County leadership graduate. Georgia Academy of economics graduate. 3 years experience Gordon County college and career academy board of directors. Association county commissioners of Georgia certified county commissioner. Certified in County government revenue and finance. 5 years experience Gordon County chamber developmental authority board.
Why are you running for office? Projects completed by local contractors: animal shelter, parking deck, judicial complex, county plaza (old BB&T) Fire Station 6.
-Promoting our qualified county employees into positions of leadership: IT Director, Recreation Director, Human Resource Director, Head of Road Department, County Administrator, County Assistant, Fire Chief.
-10% pay increase for all full-time employees (implemented January 2022.
-100% Freeport implemented to attract and keep existing business and industry.
-Joint venture with chamber of commerce and city of Calhoun to obtain one of the only two Buccees in the state of Georgia.
-Current (tax) millage rate is the lowest it has been in 9 years.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? Having a great relationship with the City of Calhoun and the Chamber of Commerce, and the implementation of 100% Freeport. We have seen an extreme increase of business and Industry here in Gordon County. My hopes are for existing industries to grow and to bring new diversified industries into our county. I want our children to be able to obtain a trade or a four year degree after high school and have the opportunity to have high paying careers available to them here in our county.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the county?
1. Gordon county is growing at an extreme rate which means there will be a higher demand on infrastructure to accommodate our increase in new business and industry and population growth . Our next county SPLOST will need to be heavily reliant on infrastructure projects.
2. With the increase in population that we will see over the next 5 years will make it possible for the city, county, and chamber of commerce to aggressively attract more stores, restaurants, and entertainment options for a better quality of life for Gordon Countians.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term?
1. Additional pay increases for our county employees to keep salaries competitive with our larger surrounding counties (implemented 10% pay increase January 2022)
2. Continue to keep health care costs as low as possible for our county employees.
3. Continue to keep our county millage rate as low as possible (Gordon County has the lowest millage rate we have had in the past 9 years)
4. Continue to promote qualified county employees into leadership roles.
5. Continue to use local contractors for county SPLOST projects (putting locals to work and keeping our money in the county)
6. Continue to attract new business and industry into Gordon County.
RICKY LEE SMITH (Republican)
Bio of Candidate: Ricky Lee Smith, born in Gordon County and a life long resident of Sugar Valley. Married to Stacey Sullivan Smith and has one daughter and son-in-law, Michael and Sydney Ramey. Ricky has been in the construction industry for over 40 years and is a past journeyman lineman for Georgia Power Company. He currently owns a construction company and holds 3 Georgia licenses: Onsite Waste Water Systems Installation; Utility Management and Residential Light Commercial Building. Ricky serves as board chair of Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Why are you running for office? To utilize my life’s experiences in such a way that will improve all the communities in Gordon County and create sensible solutions for quality of life issues.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? The peacefulness, serenity and quietness of a small-town atmosphere coupled with the ability to grow and expand without losing the uniqueness that each community possesses.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the county? Establish an improved and detailed communication process supported by factual data between the leadership and the citizens in an effort to achieve consensus concerning projects and changes.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? Provide a new and different perspective and viewpoint. Work towards completing projects and finding solutions to needs presented to the board in a manner which is timely, cost effective, and more efficient. Working with others, identify visionary goals and opportunities for the future.
COUNTY COMMISSION - DISTRICT 4
DAVID MACKNIGHT (Republican)
Bio of Candidate: Spent 31 years with Home Depot; 21 of those as a store manager. David’s formal education is as a degreed accountant from Louisiana Tech. David and his wife, Debbie, have been married 37 years, and they have lived in Gordon County 17 years.
Why are you running for office? Gordon County has blessed myself and my wife with so many things: place to work, place to live and great people to be around. I feel indebted to Gordon County; I want to pay back Gordon County for the things it’s provided me.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? The feel of, despite the growth we’re experiencing, that we still have a small town, tight knit community.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the county? We need to have a balanced growth between homes, school and business. I would also like to see the City Council and County Commissioners work in unison for the betterment of everybody in the County.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? In the short term, I’d like to work on more transparency with the county government; reaching out to the public for their feedback. I think we need to have some kind of “ask the commissioners” open dialogue, whether on Facebook or some other medium. I think it would help people understand what the commissioners do and why they do it. For long term, I think the county needs to look for alternate routes for traffic; both north and south, and east and west. There are only a few avenues to get either direction, especially if I-75 becomes clogged. I hope we can attract higher paying jobs so we can retain some of the youth in Gordon County. We have an aging tax population and that will hurt us in the long run if we do not retain our younger citizens.
KENNETH RUSSELL (Democrat)
Bio of Candidate: I’m Kenneth Russell and I’m running for the District 4 Post on the Gordon County Commission. I am a retired high school and part-time college social studies teacher. Over my thirty-seven years of public school teaching, I taught at Red Bud, Gordon Central, & Sonoraville High Schools as well as Georgia Highlands college. I am married to the former Kathy Langford, & we have two adult children, Kent & Katy. We have made Gordon County our home for almost 40 years, and our children graduated from school here. Our family has deep roots when it comes to spiritual and political concerns.
Why are you running for office? I have taught social studies as a Georgia public school teacher for over 37 years. My teaching and lobbying experiences, as well as my understanding of government, economics, and history qualify me to serve as a County Commissioner. In addition, I have always had a deep respect and interest in our American political traditions. My parents both served in the military during World War Two, and instilled in me the importance of patriotism, responsibility, a love for God, and for service.
Throughout my years of teaching, I encouraged my students not only to vote, but to strongly consider supporting candidates for office, as well to run themselves. Its time to get out of the wings and do my part too.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? I want to see our county continue to work toward targeted growth. This is growth that is positive and proactive. We need a framework that ensures a balanced growth which will protect the environment and ensure our quality of life. While Gordon County is home to one of the nation’s most productive poultry industries, we must ensure that small owners will continue to have a voice in any decision making and planning.
I will work to make sure that Gordon County continues to ensure that the citizens of Gordon County have quality occupations. This should the best opportunities for additional education and training. I support the efforts of the school-to-work curriculum such as the Career Academies. I also applaud the schools for their excellent technology programs.
I urge all community stakeholders to encourage our public school educators and to continue providing them with what they need to be the excellent teachers they have proven to be repeatedly. Our children are our future, and they should have every opportunity to learn from both their educational and life experiences. I will collaborate with other members of the County Commission, as well as with all our community, state, and national leaders to provide an educational system that will convince our children that they can stay in Gordon County and realize their potential right here.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the county? I will work with the other Gordon County commissioners in the continued effort to provide a variety of housing choices for the diverse work force that is coming into our area. I would work with the all Gordon County to implement a targeted plan where to offer housing and appropriate communities for work-force, multi-family, and small homes. While the zoning regulations are being implemented, and are accessible on the Gordon County website, the public does need to get more familiar with them.
I would work on ways to bring all our Gordon Department departments and agencies to where they on the forefront of technology. I am interested in seeing broadband service expanded into countywide. So many of our students cannot access the internet in their own homes.
Finally, we need to collaborate as a local community to recognize prominent individuals born and raised in Gordon County who have had noteworthy careers. I think that Gordon County to officially join with the local effort to get a Roland Hayes postage stamp commissioned by the United States Postal Service.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term?
Work with the other commissioners and other community stakeholders to ensure we have a well-developed and well publicized plan for targeted growth in Gordon County. This would include plans for work-force, multi-family, and small homes, as well as plans for initiatives to attract businesses and industries to our area.
Work with all community stakeholders to develop a proactive way to recognize prominent Gordon Countians from our past who have contributed significantly to our historical legacy.
Work with all community stakeholders to ensure we all recognize the significant role all of us in Gordon County play in making our lives and futures better in this community. This work would include a continuation of including all our smaller incorporated communities into the decision-making and planning. I commend the work that Fairmount, Plainville, and Resaca have been doing.
We must COOPERATE, COLLABORATE, and CELEBRATE in GORDON, 2020.
I’m ready to do my part.
COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION - POST 3
DANA STEWART (Incumbent, Republican)
Bio of Candidate: I have been a nurse for more than twenty years now. My goal was to select a field where I could make a difference for people. I have never been disappointed in this profession, calling, and an opportunity to serve others in need. After spending several years in diabetes care, I found the need for more focus in North Georgia for diabetes care. This led me to return to nurse practitioner school. For the last 12 years, I have worked as a mid-level medical provider, the vast majority of that time being with Advent Health, here in Gordon County. I am active in the medical community, our schools, church, and in the Gordon County community. My husband, Will, and our sons Ben and Ross live in the Redbud community. My oldest son, Ben, is a graduate of Sonoraville High School and currently attends Mercer University in Macon. My youngest son, Ross, currently attends high school at Sonoraville High where he loves his academic classes, his welding class, and is part of the high school tennis team that just won their first ever region tennis championship.
Why are you running for office? I recently published my platform for Post #3 as follows:
1) Our schools represent our community. We want our schools to perform in a manner that represents us well, in both academic and extracurricular areas. We all want to see our children succeed.
2) School Safety is always important. We all know that our children must have a clean and safe environment for them to excel.
3) Every child needs an advocate! I firmly believe a child cannot succeed without this essential support.
4) Our system and board members are responsible for making sure our teachers and staff have the tools they need to educate our children. Being an educator, teacher, coach, and school system employee is a calling. It is an act of love for our children. We owe these professionals our undivided attention.
5) We should continue to strive for the best use of our funds to educate our children.
6) Finally, straight from the state education website, the role of the school board is to guarantee the integrity of major management systems and processes, and then review the results. I want to ensure we continue successful programs, and encourage research/ development of any programs when results show that we have fallen short.
In looking at the last school board term, there are two items that are important to note. First, there was a pandemic. Many of the items we held dear and we held important were postponed behind a history-making pandemic. Second, the board serves as one unit, and I would never pretend to take credit for the accomplishments of the schools or for the board. With these two things in mind, there is much our system has accomplished:
•Our schools navigated a pandemic. Some challenges were bigger than others, and some initiatives were more successful than others. However, adjustments were made by dedicated students and educators to continue the educational process in the midst of an unprecedented and global pandemic.
•The most recent millage rate was set below the calculated rollback rate to further reduce property taxes.
•Projects were accomplished with eSPLOST to include the SHS hitting facility and baseball field, GCHS/AMS concession stand and restroom facility, and improvements to the Holland Transportation Complex.
•Our Nutrition teams set records for numbers of meals served, implemented farm to school programs, and received state grants.
•We saw active involvement in the Parent Advisory Council and Teacher Advisory Council. The Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council was launched this year.
•The overall graduation rate was at 97%.
•The graduation rate of Exceptional Education Students increased to above 90%.
•The graduation rate of English Language Learners is the 3rd highest in the state and is above 90%.
•Using relief funds, the school system purchased updated student and teacher resources/textbooks.
•The Professional Learning Community process has been implemented and used to identify and address individual student learning gaps.
•We received Cognia Accreditation with high commendations.
•GCS is implementing the Gordon Gateway Program to offer innovative virtual options for students in high school.
•The system is implementing Gordon Transition Center to replace Ombudsman for students in grades 6-12.
•The system implemented the PAL (Play and Learn) program for 3 year old children to improve early learning opportunities.
•The system expanded the number of propane buses and installed a propane filling station.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? One thing I love about our schools is the family and community involvement we experience. I believe our schools are a backbone in the community, and Gordon County continues to demonstrate this concept over and over. Gordon County embraces our young people, and they support them. When I see our schools excel, whether in academics or extracurricular, our community always embraces those achievements as well. Trips to other school districts have demonstrated that not all schools and communities experience this type of support. We are truly blessed here in Gordon County. Continuation and growth of community involvement is a necessary component for the quality education of our children and the positive growth of Gordon County.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the school system? There is always a need for improvement of communication between parent, community, and school. It is important that student needs and successes are reviewed and communicated, not only at large, but individually when appropriate. Every child deserves a quality education, which can be achieved through the cooperation of all stakeholders. Communication is key, and we must always strive for improvement.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? As an individual, I hope that my past experience, both as a board member and a nurse practitioner, will help me to better serve as a contributing member of the board of education. Quality programming, student success, quality educational personnel support, and fiscal responsibility of allocated funds are always critical areas for both short term and long term focus.
LARRY KNUDSEN (Republican)
Bio of Candidate: I have spent over 30 years in senior and executive leadership roles in both publicly and privately held organizations, primarily those focused on human service and health care including Becton Dickenson, Bisell Healthcare and Trulife.
I began my career as a social worker supporting a small county district attorney’s office focused on child welfare cases. Serving a community’s families and students brings everything full circle for me as an individual.
I bring a wealth of leadership and consensus building to the table. I have led both sales and operation teams supporting budgets in excess of 100 million dollars annually. I have implemented and overseen budgeting processes at all levels, including operations of building throughout North America. I have experience managing and supporting human resources functions for employees and understanding and supporting their retention and benefits. I have navigated challenging contracting and legal situation and business acquisitions.
I have supported advocacy initiatives across the country for women’s health and cancer recovery, amputees and the durable medical equipment market.
I live with my wife, a veteran special educator, in the Red Bud community with my Boykin Spaniels, rescue cats and other farm animals. I love a good cup of coffee and sitting down to listen to understand an issue. My values are driven by my faith, awareness of our community needs, a commitment to conservative views and a desire to support students, families and all stakeholders.
Why are you running for office? Our schools play a critical part in our growth as a county. Central to this growth are our students, families and are our schools. Our schools are the first point of engagement for individuals with children moving into Gordon County and in many cases where we bid our students farewell at graduation and send them off to new areas, professions or college to share about our county. The message they carry forward about who we are and is critical. While our students in many ways are our future, they are also our messengers. I want to help shape and support that message. Gordon County is a well-kept secret with years of excellence as part of its history.
I am driven to serve our community, not only our students but all stakeholders; leadership, administrators, teachers, staff, students and families. I believe we need to reframe the overused term “transparency” and redefine school board and community oversight to represent CLEAR, CONCISE and COLLABORATIVE approaches to supporting our students, families, schools and district. This includes all areas of school and district operations and accounting up to and including hiring and human resources decisions that reflect and consider the culture and needs of our community
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? Gordon County Schools is a large and growing school district that still feels like a small community of caring and engaged individual stakeholders. This needs to continue but community voices need to be heard through times of challenge and growth. I would like to see increased opportunities for not only school board members to directly listen to and support our schools and their teachers but also all stakeholders such as parents and student input to be closely listened to and embraced.
-Exploring all opportunities to continue the all children receive breakfast and lunch programs beyond this year and into the future so that we know Gordon County children have at least two meals every day.
-The implementation and support for positive school support and intervention programs such as PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Schools) programs to help administrators, teachers and families guide the socio-emotional need and discipline of our students.
-Focusing on and supporting graduation rate. All Gordon County students must graduate. Most critical is that we support and guide their post graduate choices toward college, technical college, careers or the military. Taking the graduation focus one step further and helping assure our students have a vision and a pathway to the future.
-Continued and increased funding of curriculum and course offering for our students at all levels to include Advanced Placement courses, honors and gifted tracks at all levels, dual enrollment, technical and CATE programming, agriculture and FFA programs, enhanced athletic opportunities and student club and organizations.
-Statewide and nationally, we are facing teacher shortages. We need to help support teacher salaries, benefits and opportunities for professional development so that our veterans want to stay, and that we embrace the those entering the profession. We want teachers to choose Gordon County.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the school system? Gordon County school is facing growth and increased student needs at an unprecedented rate. We need to listen closely to our stakeholders and collaborate with them though all levels of partnerships. Growth is challenging and it is not something that can met with top down approaches. It involves active listening, understanding, engaging in emotionally charged situation even when difficult and helping build consensus and agreement. We need as a district to work toward building models that support increase community engagement to resolve school district issues. To make our parents, teachers, families and students believe that they are being heard.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? Short term I hope to see a decision making model that embraces all levels of stakeholders with an emphasis on community input and opinions implemented for our district. A model that focuses on listening that is CLEAR, CONSISE and COLLABORATIVE when decision are being made that impact our resources with our greatest resource being students and families.
Long term Gordon County Schools has a history of excellence. The last few years have been difficult on many. We need to recharge and revitalize confidence in our district and not be hesitant about change. Change, continuous improvement and growth are what we need to support for our district as we move forward into the future.
COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION - POST 1
CHARLIE WALRAVEN (Incumbent, Republican)
Bio of Candidate: I am a lifelong resident of Gordon County who attended Gordon County Schools and graduated from Calhoun High School. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Business Administration, and Piedmont College with a Masters Degree in Education. I worked in industry for 20+ years in Gordon County. I have worked in the Gordon County School System as a teacher and coach(25+ years) and school board member for 8 years. I have been married for 49 years and have 2 sons who graduated from Gordon Central High School. I have 2 grandchildren that attend Gordon County Schools and 2 grandchildren that attend school in Athens.
Why are you running for office? Some of the accomplishments are: Improvement of school facilities; Reduction of mileage rate; Keeping schools open during the pandemic; One to one laptop initiative; Maintaining small class sizes; Purchasing school supplies for students and teachers; Providing free breakfast and lunch for students; Salary increases for classified staff; Giving bonuses to teachers and staff; Improvement in the graduation rate.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? I have been involved in Gordon County Schools for many years as a student, parent, and employee. Gordon County Schools prepared me for college and career. Gordon County Schools also prepared my sons for college and careers. It makes me proud to see students, teachers and staff represent Gordon County Schools in the classroom, in the community, and on the playing fields.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the school system? I am not advocating changes in our school system. I feel like that the school system is in very good hands.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? In the short and long term I would: Support the strategic plan; Maintain fiscal strength; Maximize the use of SPLOST funds; Continue to improve facilities; Continue the one to one laptop program.
COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION - POST 5
KACEE SMITH (Incumbent, Republican)
Bio of Candidate: My name is Kacee Smith and I am running for the Gordon County School Board Post 5 position. I have served on the Gordon County School Board since 2018. I have lived in Gordon County my entire life. I attended Red Bud Elementary, Sonoraville Middle School, and Gordon Central High School. My wife, Belinda, has been teaching in the Gordon County School system for fifteen years. My son, Kacedon, is in fifth grade and my daughter, Kacelee is in Kindergarten. They both attend Tolbert Elementary. I have an extensive business background and have been a business owner most of my adult life. I am the Sales Director at Owen Security. I am the owner of Brightway Insurance The Kacee Smith Agency, in Calhoun. I am also a co-owner of the Colombus Lions Arena Football Team. I have also owned a nationwide professional arena football league, where I served as President. Through my time in arena football and business ownership, I have gained an immense amount of experience in leadership and business growth. I have substantial experience in sales, marketing, networking, and management. I try to bring my business experience to use for the betterment of our school system. I am fiscally conservative and I strongly believe that those elected to office should do everything in their power to make the most of every tax dollar. My experience, knowledge, and passion to serve will help me continue to succeed as a board member. The well being of the students is at the forefront of every decision I make.
Why are you running for office? I have decided to run for the Post 5 position to have the opportunity to continue the progress that we have started during my term. My commitment to increase transparency and communication will continue to be a top priority. During my term, we have begun live streaming BOE meetings, made it easier to participate in our meetings, hired a full time communication position, and rolled back our millage rate tax.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? I attended Gordon County Schools, I am a lifelong resident of Gordon County, my wife is an employee in Gordon County Schools, and my children attend Gordon County Schools, so I care immensely about every aspect of the school system. Some specific goals I have for our school system is to increase the involvement in our college and career programs and provide more leadership development for our staff.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the school system? We have begun developing a leadership program for our staff, and I want to see that continue to grow. I also want to support our teachers with disciplinary issues and support students and teachers by providing resources that they need to be successful.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? I will continue to fight for our community and make sure that their voices are heard. I will continue to be transparent and available to the citizens of Gordon County. I will continue to ensure that each tax dollar is spent wisely and that the students of Gordon County are the top priority in every decision that we make. I will tirelessly fight to make Gordon County Schools the best school system.
COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION - POST 7
EDDIE HALL (Incumbent, Republican)
Bio of Candidate: I am a lifelong resident of this area. I grew up in Resaca and attended Resaca School. I was in the first group to attend Gordon County Middle School, located at what is now Gordon Central. Mr Lonnie Daniel was the principal. I went on to graduate from Calhoun High and attended Dalton State. I have worked in many areas of business. I have spent the majority of my career in management, sales and marketing. I owned a successful small business and now work in a sales support role with Yanmar America in Adairsville. I am married to Ashli Hall, a teacher at Gordon Central. We have five children and two grandchildren.
Why are you running for office? I feel I have helped accomplish much in my first term. I feel I have help the BOE become more transparent. I am proud of the fact a citizen can now address the BOE at a meeting by simply showing up and requesting such. We have lowered the tax rate to the lowest rate in many years. We have increased local business partners keep tax money in Gordon County. We have also regulated purchasing procedures to help keep cost under control.
What do you love about your community that you want to see grow? I love the fact this is OUR system. We have many 3rd and even 4th generation teachers. Although some try to change it, I love the fact we try to take care of our own.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the school system? I feel we need to look locally whenever possible to fill our ranks and leadership roles. I feel we need to concentrate on the students, not numbers. I feel we need to let teachers teach and not tie them to some “protocol” or the latest fad in teaching. We have good trained professionals who know how to do their jobs. Let them do those jobs. I think we need to restore discipline in our schools and make them safe. I think we need more classes in the trades. I think we need to get back to a traditional day and not put a student in a classroom for almost two hours and wonder why absenteeism is high when they don’t want to come. MOST of all I would like to see ALL your elected BOE members step up and lead. We are the guardians of your schools and should act as such. WE are at the top of the chain of command and should act as such. It is the duty of a BOE to establish the standards a community expects. Then hire a Supt to carry out those plans.
What do you hope to implement if elected for office both short term and long term? I continue to work for the best education for our children at the best value for our tax paying citizens. I would love to see a fair balanced budget. I would love to see us prepare now for things we may face in the future so we can continue uninterrupted. We are losing good teachers every year. I would like to work to reverse that trend. I would like to see our board involved. I would like to draw from the experience of members. And have input, rather than simply show up once a month to vote yes or no on proposals.