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Local News Archives for 2023-01

Chairman Harry Johnston delivers State of the County

More than 300 people attended the State of the County event hosted by the Council for Quality Growth at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center in Canton Jan. 25.

The program featured Cherokee Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower, Cherokee Office of Economic Development President Misti Martin, and Cherokee County Commission Chairman Harry Johnston. Event sponsors Northside Hospital and VHB also gave remarks.

Johnston’s State of the County Address focused on the natural gifts in the community, as well as its great manmade resources, infrastructure and plans for the future. His focus: To keep and keep making Cherokee County the best place in the world to live, by gradually reducing the growth rate over the next 30 years and catching up on transportation infrastructure, while continuing to be one of the most fiscally responsible counties in the region.

Cherokee has the lowest Board of Commissioners controlled tax rates in the Atlanta Regional Commission, the second lowest expenditures per capita and the second lowest long-term debt.

Johnston highlighted the strong public safety network in Cherokee, including the Sheriff’s Office, which has the gold standard of advanced accreditation with excellence from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Less than 5 percent of agencies nationwide are accredited.

Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services, over its nearly 25-year journey from all volunteer to a county-provided service, is only 35 firefighters away and one station from full initial buildout. All firefighters are medically trained at least to the EMT level, with a more highly trained paramedic on most fire trucks on most shifts. The county boasts an Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of 2, making homeowners’ insurance rates low for Cherokee residents. The county is one of four in the ARC that directly provides ambulance service operating 14 units 24/7/365 and two day units operating Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. All personnel are interchangeable from fire or EMS.

Johnston praised the E 9-1-1 service that beats the national standard, answering 91 percent of all 911 calls within 10 seconds. The Center received nearly 400,000 911 calls in 2022.

Johnston also focused on the county’s parks program and the fact that it is 47 percent self-funded and is nationally accredited. Several projects are coming soon, including the February opening of the L.B. Ahrens Recreation Center, nicknamed “The Buzz.”

One of the challenges Cherokee is facing includes attainable housing for the county workforce, which the county Community Development Agency and Board of Commissioners have plans to address. Another is transportation infrastructure. The Comprehensive Transportation Plan expected to be adopted in coming months identifies the road projects needed over the next 30 years, with adequate funding sources for the local projects. Funding may be short for state projects and to fully keep up the needed pace of local road resurfacing.

“Cherokee County has almost everything going for it, the opportunity to maintain our increasingly rare quality of life, and the will to succeed,” Johnston said. “We must, we can and we will keep Cherokee County the world’s best place to live.”

2023 Woodstock Summer Concert Series Lineup Announced

During his 2023 State of the City Address on Friday, Woodstock Mayor Michael Caldwell announced the lineup for the 2023 Season of Woodstock Summer Concert Series.

“I hope you were able to join us last year for the Summer Concert Series. From Sister Hazel to Scotty McCreery, Woodstock, you showed up to play,’ said Mayor Caldwell. “It's not unexpected to find our concerts yielding thousands in attendance, and this year is shaping up to be the biggest ever.”

The season opens on Saturday, May 13th with chart-topping country singer-songwriter Craig Morgan. Hits like “Redneck Yacht Club” and “International Harvester” will have downtown Woodstock rocking. Saturday, June 10th, Rick Springfield takes the stage at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Amphitheater. It will be a moment to remember when the Australian-born musician and actor sings his Grammywinning number one hit “Jessie’s Girl”. Bruno Mars Tribute, Uptown Funk, will bring that twenty-fourcarat magic to the July 8th concert. Concertgoers will want to jump when another great tribute act, Completely Unchained, performs Van Halen’s greatest hits on August 12th. The season ends on September 9th as southern rock icons Drivin N Cryin rock the stage with original hits like “Fly Me Courageous” and “Straight to Hell”.

“Woodstock Parks and Rec is adding a lot of value to already great sponsorship packages this year,” Mayor Caldwell stated. “If you’ve been thinking about partnering as a sponsor on this outstanding event series, this is the year to commit.”

For information on sponsorship, contact City of Woodstock Special Events Coordinator Marybeth Stockdale at 770-592-6000 ext. 1952. Additional details will be announced online at in the coming weeks.

Woodstock Mayor Michael Caldwell Delivers 2023 State of the City

Woodstock Mayor Michael Caldwell delivered his 2023 State of the City Address on Friday morning at the Woodstock Arts City Center Theater. The event was hosted by IN WDSTK. Over 170 IN WDSTK members and guests were in attendance for the annual breakfast and networking event.

In his speech, the mayor highlighted the City of Woodstock’s prior year accomplishments and outlined his priorities for the coming year. “Last year you welcomed me to this stage as a newly minted Mayor. The 31st Mayor of this great City, taking on this new responsibility during our 125th year of cityhood,” said Caldwell. “This month marks the dawn of a new quarter-century in our city’s story, and I mean for us to meet it head on. We will not pass on this day’s challenges to future Councils or future generations. We will continue to heed our calling and leave this city better for our children.”

Mayor Caldwell outlined his top three major policies for the upcoming year: To enhance the quality of life in Woodstock by focusing on parks expansions and establishing Woodstock as a regional trail hub; to build a more sustainable, secure economy in Woodstock by diversifying the commercial base with a concerted effort to recruit high-paying jobs and businesses into the core of the city; and, to concentrate city efforts on building generational wealth for citizens through the largest economic engine in human history, American home ownership.

“The challenges that we face are issues that nearly every other community in America would do anything to have. As cities and communities around the state and the nation struggle, watching their populations flee to greener pastures,” Caldwell noted, “Woodstock looks ahead to brighter days.” Mayor Caldwell cited crime rates, the unemployment rate, transportation projects, and relationships with governments and the private sector to demonstrate that the city’s metrics are improving and continuing toward success.

Regarding Woodstock City Council’s intention to complete Little River Park, Mayor Caldwell noted that $8 million of the upcoming SPLOST has been allocated to completing Phase 1. “We have finally laid the groundwork to make the “soon” on those “Little River Park Coming Soon” signs on Trickum Road actually mean “soon.” Caldwell said, “In a city as active as Woodstock, these offerings are genuine game changers.”

Mayor Caldwell shared progress made on the City Center project, a $100+ million project that will create more than 50,000 square feet of new office space, a 120-room boutique hotel, new conference center space, new restaurants, new retail, new park space, some critical street realignments, and a 647-space parking deck. “This project represents a true, fiscally conservative approach to public-private partnership with the public infrastructure - streets, park, parking deck - being built with public investment and the private portion of the project being entirely paid for with private dollars,” said Caldwell. According to the Mayor, Woodstock has executed a development agreement with the contractor for the infrastructure portions of the project and a groundbreaking on the Chambers Street and East Main Street realignments will take place this quarter.

Mayor Caldwell expressed his aim to establish the infrastructure needed for residents who own businesses outside of the city to relocate their headquarters in Woodstock. “For both new and existing Woodstock businesses alike, we are intent on making sure that our city, like our state, is number one for business,” Caldwell said as he revealed a link a new business recruitment form on the city’s website. The mayor stressed he wants to build an economy in Woodstock that can lead the way in restoring the sense of community that America needs.

History Cherokee Presented With Two Awards from Georgia Association of Museums

Nearly 200 museum professionals recently descended upon Cartersville, Georgia, for the annual meeting of the Georgia Association of Museums (GAM). They arrived from all regions of the state, from Rome to Thomasville to Savannah. The theme of the 2023 conference was “Museums: The (Fill in The Blank) Frontier.” Attendees participated in a variety of sessions and workshops ranging from developing education programs to designing eye-catching exhibits and visiting with vendors whose products and services target the field. The highlight of the week was the annual GAM Awards Luncheon.


This year History Cherokee was presented with two awards by GAM President Marcy Breffle and Award Committee Co-Chairs Melissa Swindell and Karin Dalton. The first award recognized the documentary, The Way it Was: Stories of Cherokee County’s Desegregation, created in partnership with Scrapbook Video Productions. The other Special Project Award was presented for the new Cherokee County History Center exhibits.


In the documentary, Education Manager Harvee White and videographer Mark Albertin were able to capture the very powerful story of Cherokee County’s desegregation by talking with the people who integrated the Canton Theater and other local establishments.


“We were careful to capture not only their voices, but their resilience, pain, joy, and hopes to showcase in the film,” said Ms. White.


The five exhibition galleries in the new History Center were created by Architect and Exhibit Designer John White and Exhibits and Collections Manager, Kaylee Johnson. The galleries explore Cherokee County’s history from 10,000 B.C. to the present.


“Being involved in this project and being able to share Cherokee County's rich collective history through our new museum's exhibits is such an honor” said Ms. Johnson. “Our team - from director, designer, marketing, education, and curation - came together to create a museum that I know will have a long and enduring legacy in our community.”


“I’m incredibly proud of this team and thankful for the recognition from the Georgia Association of Museums for these two awards,” said History Cherokee’s Executive Director, Stefanie Joyner. “These talented professionals worked hard to bring this history to life and we’re excited to share these stories with the public.”


“We are very pleased to present these awards to a very deserving recipient,” said GAM President Breffle. “Our members represent a good cross section of museums and cultural organizations in Georgia’s communities, large and small,” she added. “We are happy to honor institutions, staff members, volunteers, patrons, exhibits, and special projects that have excelled in providing inspiring programs and leadership,” she concluded.


The Cherokee County History Center is open Wednesday through Sunday; learn more at

City of Jasper Fire Department Promote Fire Marshal Ian Norton to Assistant Fire Chief

Fire Chief John Sherrer is pleased to announce that Fire Marshal Ian Norton has been promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief of the Jasper Fire Department effective January 11, 2023. Assistant Chief Norton started his career with the City of Jasper as a Volunteer Firefighter over twenty years ago and has worked his way up through the ranks to his most recent position of Captain and Fire Marshal. Assistant Chief Norton is a State Certified Fire Inspector, Firefighter, and is currently working towards his Fire Investigator certification.

Sonia Jammes, City Manager, says that “Retired Assistant Chief Von Headrick left a rich legacy when he retired in December. I am confident that Ian has the experience, skills, and respect of the Department to step into the Assistant Chief position and excel. The City was fortunate to have such a high caliber internal candidate in Assistant Chief Norton.”

The Office of Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration honored with 2023 Foundations Award

The Office of Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration was honored earlier this month with prestigious award from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

“This is the very first year that this award has been given out,” said Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration Director Anne Dover. “This award was earned due to the tremendous work done, each and every election cycle, by our amazing staff.”

The Office of Cherokee County Election and Voter Registration received the 2023 Foundation Builders Award in front of 300 of their counterparts on Wednesday, Jan. 4 while attending the Georgia Registered Voter Information System (GARVIS) conference in Athens, Ga.

“Elections are the bedrock of any functioning republic,” said Georgia State Elections Director Blake Evans. “It is essential that all counties have a solid foundation of knowledge and leadership. The Foundation Builders Award recognizes the county that is dedicated to getting the little things right. They believe that no detail is too small and that successful elections are conducted on a basis of transparency and hard work.”

For more information on Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration, please visit

Cherokee Recreation and Parks Seeking Donations for Project Valentine

Cherokee Recreation and Parks is seeking donations for its 8th annual Project Valentine initiative.

The donations will benefit clients of Empower Cherokee, a local nonprofit organization serving the special needs community. Requested items include lip balm, lotion, sticky notes, pens, markers, word searches, art or music activities, candy (sugar-free and regular), and other holiday-related items.

“It’s wonderful to see the community come together each year to show these folks just how much they are loved,” said Cherokee County Recreation and Parks Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator Jessica Hallman. “All of the donated items will be made into goodie bags to be delivered to Empower Cherokee.”

Cherokee Recreation and Parks will accept donations through Wednesday, Feb. 8. Items can be dropped off at the South Annex location at 7545 Main Street, Building 200 in Woodstock, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or at the Cherokee County Aquatic Center located at 1200 Wellstar Way, in Canton Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. All donated items should be new, unwrapped and in a bag.

For additional information about the Project Valentine program, contact Cherokee Recreation and Parks at 770-924-7768 or visit


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