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Local News Archives for 2021-01

Cherokee County Chamber Names 2021 Board Chair

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to congratulate Adam Smith, Senior Vice President and Commercial Banker with Synovus whose term begins today as the organization’s 2021 Board Chair. Smith, who follows 2020 Board Chair David Simmons, Chattahoochee Technical College Vice President for Facilities, has been actively involved with the Chamber for the past nine years. He and his wife, Laura, reside in Canton with their two children.


Pre-COVID-19, the Chamber year would officially begin with an Annual Meeting where the accomplishments of the past year are highlighted, various awards are presented, outgoing and incoming Board members are recognized and in Smith’s case, a new Board Chair takes the helm. In December 2020 Chamber leadership determined that in anticipation of celebrating 2020 successes in the most traditional format possible, the Chamber’s Annual Meeting would be delayed from the typical January timeframe until later in the spring when optimistically larger groups can gather. Chamber members are encouraged to watch their email for the date and event details.


Those volunteers who will be recognized during the delayed celebration for completing a three-year term on the Chamber Board include Heather Blevins, The Pampered Chef; Phil Eberly, Lead Edge Design Group; Tom Heard, Cherokee County Water & Sewerage Authority and Deidre Hollands. Additionally, Tracey Satterfield Martin, Live Clean, Inc., served in an unexpired term since April 2019, and Immediate Past Chair John Barker, Delphi Global Technology, has completed seven years of service.


The newly elected Board members who officially begin their terms today, and will serve through December of 2023, include Dedre Brown, Georgia Department of Labor; Jeff Butterworth, Georgia Power Company; Sarah Gaither, iBeria Bank – a division of First Horizon Bank; Scott Gordon, CPL; Jennifer Puckett, In Harmony Pediatric Therapy; Janet Read Welch, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Dr. Mark Roberts, Reinhardt University.

“The Chamber owes a debt of gratitude to outgoing Board Chair David Simmons for his leadership during 2020. I look forward to working with him in his role as Immediate Past Chair and appreciate his support of me as I begin my term. The opportunity to work alongside the new Board members, as well as those whose Board terms are continuing, is exciting as well. In our volunteer role, we will work collaboratively with the organization’s outstanding staff to support the Chamber’s mission,” remarked Smith.


Among the awards to be presented during the anticipated Annual Meeting is the coveted First Citizen of Cherokee County recognition. The title of First Citizen of Cherokee County is bestowed upon a resident of Cherokee County who has resided in the county for a minimum of five years and has shown significant meritorious service to his/her community through family, civic and/or religious involvement. A panel of out-of-town judges reviews the accomplishments of each applicant with the winner being chosen based upon merit. Additional accolades to be announced during the Annual Meeting include Small Business of the Year, Excellence in Customer Service Award, Green Business of the Year, and Non-Profit of the Year. The 2020 Chairman’s Council “Joan McFather Volunteer of the Year Award” will be presented as well.

Rick Jasperse set to become House Transportation Chairman

State Representative Rick Jasperse of Jasper, Ga has been tapped to lead the powerful Transportation Committee in the Georgia State House. 


Jasperse will take over as House Transportation Chairman from Former State Rep. Kevin Tanner who resigned to run for Congress last year.  As Chairman of the Transportation Committee, Jasperse will lead the flow of legislation dealing with roads and transportation issues in the State House.  Representative Jasperse was the former Chairman of the Education Committee in the Georgia House last session. 


He is starting his 6th term representing citizens in the 11th District.  The 11th District includes all of Pickens County and portions of Gordon and Murray Counties. 

Gilmer Chamber Selects New President & CEO

Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce leaders have selected an experienced chamber and tourism professional as the new president and chief executive officer of the business organization. Jennifer Grimmer was unanimously approved by the chamber’s board of directors on Friday, January 15 to lead the 650 member chamber which serves as the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for East Ellijay, Ellijay, and Gilmer County.  


Grimmer previously served as the Executive Director of the Peachtree City Convention and Visitors Bureau – Atlanta Regional Tourism from 2015 – 2018. She is currently the Marketing Manager/Digital Marketing Specialist for the Natural Resources and Wildlife Division with the State of Utah in Salt Lake City where she has created and implemented a marketing strategy for the Department of Wildlife Resources.


“The chamber’s search committee was very focused on the qualifications of the candidates we wanted to interview,” according to Chris Wang, 2020 Chair. “Chamber, tourism, and marketing experiences were dominant skill sets that are required of the president. Jennifer met all of those prerequisites on paper and in person.” 


Originally from Oregon and a 2000 graduate of the University of Oregon, Grimmer grew up in a community that depended heavily on small businesses and tourism, similar to East Ellijay, Ellijay and Gilmer County. She has held chamber and tourism positions in Corvallis, Wilsonville, and Medford/Jackson County, all in Oregon, and Wahkiakum in Washington State. While in Wilsonville, Grimmer founded Oregon Horse Country (OHC) as an arm of the Wilsonville Chamber. The organization focuses on connecting, strengthening and representing the equine industry in the state. Lodging tax for Wilsonville increased by 30% following launch of OHC after its first year in operation.  Forming OHC garnered the Core Competency Award from the Western Chamber Executives Association in 2011 for the Wilsonville Chamber.  


“The opportunity to return to Georgia and be a part of an organization like the Gilmer Chamber is a dream come true for me,” Grimmer said. “My husband and I are recently empty-nesters and I’m excited to find a position I can pour myself into, make a priority and make a difference. My first initiative will be to listen to the community and build upon the foundations that are already in place in terms of tourism and chamber programs.”


Grimmer’s successes in Peachtree City include the founding of the annual Hops and Props Georgia beer festival in partnership with the Commemorative Air Force as well as the Annual Wine and Warbirds Festival. She also served on the boards of the Fayette County Chamber and Arts Council of Fayette County. Other accomplishments include graduating from both Leadership Fayette and the Georgia Academy of Economic Development.  


“The timing is right to bring Jennifer into the community as our new president,” said Wang. “Gilmer County was a great place for people to come spread out in throughout 2020, and we are excited to have a new president bringing fresh ideas for 2021 to continue to market our area as a perfect destination for all people to get away to. Jennifer’s expertise can play a large role in furthering the chamber’s core values of Integrity, Kindness, Collaboration, and Vision.”


Grimmer and her husband Ben, who served as a United States Marine, plan to move to Gilmer County in the next few weeks. Her first day at the chamber will be February 1.  


Members of the search committee, in addition to Wang, included Amber Davenport, United Community Bank, past chamber chair; John Marshall, past chamber chair; Bobby McNeill, Chateau Meichtry Family Vineyard & Winery, 2021 Chair of the chamber; Lex Rainey, past chamber Chair; Donna Reece, Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, current chamber board member; and Jason Smith, ETC and ETC Security, Treasurer/Secretary of the chamber.


The president’s position became vacant in the fall of 2020 when Paige (Green) Hutto resigned her seat to move to Alabama. She had served the community for 12 years and grown the chamber in both influence and valuable programming. 


The chamber board engaged The Chason Group to lead the executive search process. The firm, which is Georgia based, specializes in executive searches for chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, foundations and other non-profits. The placement of Grimmer marks the third Gilmer Chamber president recruited by The Chason Group.

All Cherokee County Schools District students on Virtual Learning 11 January through 19 January

From Cherokee County School District:


Dear CCSD Families,

When we welcomed our students back for in-person learning on Wednesday to fulfill our commitment of providing the best education possible to our students, we did so with the knowledge of the state of public health in our community.


Cases are higher in our community, our state and our nation than ever before.  Health experts are voicing concerns that a new COVID-19 strain now circulating in our nation will spread faster among everyone, including school-age children.  Our hospitals are full.


Our dedicated workforce of teachers, staff and substitutes have been affected by the community spread like all of their neighbors.  This afternoon, we now have more than 400 of our full-time staff absent due to COVID-19 positive cases and precautionary quarantines, with more test results pending; and our substitute availability is similarly weakened.


We cannot continue to operate in-person school safely with this level of staff absences.

As a result, I am temporarily closing in-person learning at all CCSD schools beginning Monday, Jan. 11, with a tentative reopening date of Tuesday, Jan. 19, following the observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 18), which is a holiday for students and staff.  We understand this closing creates hardships, but it is a necessary measure which gives our students, families and employees the next 10 calendar days to get healthier.


Students will be expected to log on to the Canvas platform for daily instruction.  Teachers and staff will report to campus and will be teaching online throughout the day and be available to answer emails during regular school hours.  If you have any questions, please contact your child’s classroom teacher.  Specific extra-curricular activities will be permitted to continue after school with additional safety measures in place, but continuation will be closely monitored for possible cancellation; no community use of CCSD facilities will be permitted.  


Parents whose children do not have access to a laptop computer or internet access need to contact the school front office as soon as possible.  Students who need to pick up medication or other items that they must have during this closure should call the school’s front office to make an appointment.  


School Nutrition will have to-go meals for the week prepared for pick-up in the bus lanes of schools from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, Jan. 11.  Students do not have to be with parents who pick up these meals.


Please continue to report your child’s positive test to their school during this closure; stay home when you’re sick (use this checklist:; get tested if you’re symptomatic or if you have had a close contact with someone who is positive; and if you are directed to quarantine, please follow the instructions and limit interaction with non-family members.

We are committed to providing the best education possible for all students, which we believe happens in person under the guidance of our outstanding teachers and the support of our staff, but the current staffing situation makes my decision today necessary.  


Thank you,

Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools

Hotline Available for COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments In North Georgia

 Due to an overwhelming response to the recently announced expanded COVID-19 vaccination eligibility beginning on Monday, January 11 in Georgia, the North Georgia Health District is experiencing some technical difficulties as large volumes of traffic hit our online system. Therefore, starting Friday, January 8, the district will add a toll-free hotline number as a means for eligible individuals to make an appointment for a vaccination at their local county health department. That number to our Call Center will be 1-888-881-1474.


As of Monday, January 11, 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations will be provided at Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties to these groups of individuals that will be part of the newly expanded Phase 1-A of the Georgia COVID-19 Vaccination Plan:


Staff in clinical settings (e.g., physicians, nurses, pharmacists, EMS, laboratory staff, environmental services). 

Residents and staff at long-term care facilities who have been unable to get vaccinated. 

All adults 65 years of age or older and their caregivers, and law enforcement and fire personnel.


Beginning Friday, January 8, to make a vaccination appointment, eligible residents should call 1-888-881-1474. Residents can resume registration online beginning Monday, January 11 at If you experience difficulties getting through, please be patient and be assured you will be provided an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.


Residents must preregister to be vaccinated and must register in the county where they live or work. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

Northside Hospital Cherokee updates visitor restrictions due to COVID-19

To help prevent the transmission and spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Northside Hospital is taking precautions to protect patients, family members, staff, and the community. Entry to all five Northside hospitals and specialty facilities is restricted.


Visitors will not be accepted at Northside Hospital Atlanta, Northside Hospital Cherokee, Northside Hospital Duluth, Northside Hospital Forsyth, Northside Hospital Gwinnett, Northside Gwinnett Extended Care Center, Northside Gwinnett Joan Glancy, or outpatient facilities. Outpatient facilities include all Northside Hospital Cancer Institute outpatient oncology practices and infusion centers.


Exceptions to the Visitor Policy (all hospital facilities):

  • Women’s Services, Surgical and procedural areas will continue to permit one support person/care partner per patient. Labor & Delivery patients are allowed one support person of the mother's choosing for the duration of the hospital stay. No substitutions allowed
  • Northside Hospital Special Care Nurseries will permit one primary caregiver to visit their infant in the NICU for one hour each day, and this may be extended to four hours for discharge training. Northside staff will continue to provide resources – including tablets for live streaming and emailed photographs – to enable visitors to connect with the babies.
  • Patients undergoing outpatient surgery or procedures are allowed one visitor in the waiting room.
  • Minor patients (under 18) are allowed two visitors
  • There may be additional exceptions as determined by hospital leadership for patients receiving end of life care, rapid decline in condition, emergency care, behavioral health concerns, or other unique patient conditions
  • Northside reserves the right to reduce visitation access at any time based on public health and safety concerns

Visitor Screening Guidelines and Requirements

Visitors will be required to:

  • Wear a facemask/cloth face covering at all times while in the facility
  • Perform frequent hand hygiene
  • Remain in the patient's room or other designated area
  • Comply with the guidelines or they will be asked to leave the facility

Visitors will be screened for symptoms of acute respiratory illness in accordance with the CDC guidelines before entering the facility: 

  • Visitors with a positive screen will not be permitted to enter the facility
  • Visitors with a negative screen will receive a colored armband each day. The band must be worn for the duration of each daily visit.

During this time, we encourage family members and friends to use alternative means to interact with loved ones via phone and video calls (FaceTime, Skype, etc.), social media and other tools

Cherokee County Board of Commissioners give COVID-19 Vaccine update

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has received numerous inquiries about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in Cherokee County. The health department located in Cherokee County is run by the Georgia Department of Public Health North Georgia Health District not by Cherokee County government.


After receiving numerous inquiries from concerned citizens, Cherokee County Commission Chairman Harry Johnston reached out to Dr. Zachary Taylor, Georgia Department of Public Health Director for North Georgia. Dr. Taylor advised that DPH is working this week to vaccinate medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Next week, they expect to begin vaccinating police officers and fire personnel, as well as citizens over the age of 65.

Taylor said the state-run health department in Woodstock will be the primary location in Cherokee County for vaccinations. Testing still will be available there but on a more limited basis.


The North Georgia Health District is expecting to launch a website later this week that will allow citizens age 65 and older to sign up for appointments. The site will be accessible at


The over-65 phase is expected to take at least the rest of this month with the expectation that the program will be expanded in early to mid-February to all adults over 31 years old with an emphasis on front line jobs like teachers, food service workers and adults in congregate environments like jails. As that phase completes, the program is expected to be expanded to young adults and children.


For any information regarding administering of the COVID-19 vaccine, appointments or locations, please visit and/or follow their social media accounts.


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