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City, county pass PILOT agreement
• The agreement is for the construction of a Food City supermarket at Dews Pond Road and Lovers Lane Road.

City and county elected officials have approved a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Dews Pond LLC concerning the construction of a Food City supermarket at the intersection of Dews Pond Road and Lovers Lane Road.

The agreement includes an $11 million investment by the Development of Authority of Gordon County in the form of industrial revenue bonds to Dews Pond LLC, which is an "entity created by the developer working with Food City out of Tennessee," according to a memo from attorney William Thompson to city and county officials. It also comes with a five-year graded tax abatement schedule, in which the company will pay no local taxes the first two years, 50 percent the next two years and 75 percent the final year, according to the agreement.

Kathy Johnson, the president of the Development Authority, said typically the authority only focuses on industrial development, but this will be its first commercial project. In moving forward with the project, the Development Authority laid out a specific set of criteria that must be met to be eligible for financing through the authority, she explained. These requirements included job creation, wages and infrastructure. The project is expected to create a total of 160 jobs — 50 of them full-time — and include at least $500,000 in infrastructure improvements.

In addition to the construction of Food City, the project also will bring a fuel center and two outparcels for potential commercial development. The supermarket chain originates from Tennessee and has expanded into Virginia and West Virginia, while recently

making moves into Georgia.

Johnson said several months ago the developer working with Food City came to the Development Authority inquiring about possible locations. Over the time since, the authority has worked with the developer to provide them with a community profile, which is used to "substantiate" the construction of a business in a particular area, she continued. Essentially it comes down to the inquiring company trying to determine whether the demographic data of particular area match up with their business, she added.

"They wanted it right there," Johnson said of the planned location.

The community profile looks at population around a site, how many people work and live in the area, income levels, the type and size of households, spending habits, among other data points all to answer the question of: "What potential customers they would have?"

"We do this more than once a week," Johnson said of providing community profiles to inquiring companies.

A groundbreaking for Food City is scheduled for May 16 at 10 a.m.

"We're pleased to have the opportunity to work with Food City, it's an opportunity to have a new business and a new Chamber member," Johnson said.

United Way names new executive director
• Dalton native Jennifer Latour is planning to build on the work of Vickie Spence.

Jennifer Latour

Jennifer Latour has always set her sights on working for a nonprofit, so when she saw a news release announcing the retirement of Vickie Spence as the executive director of United Way of Gordon County earlier this year, she decided to apply. And on April 15, Latour started in her new role.

A Dalton native, Latour graduated from Southeast Whitfield High School in 2009 before moving on to Dalton State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. Following an internship with the United Way of Northwest Georgia in Dalton while still in school, she was hired as a volunteer coordinator for the organization. Later in her three-year stint with United Way, she ventured into the marketing side of things.

"I've always had a passion for what United Way does because I've seen firsthand that the funding goes exactly where it's supposed to go," she said. "It just called me back."

The opening in Gordon County called Latour back from

her marketing position with Dalton Utilities, where she worked for about two and a half years. But even though she left United Way, she continued to stay involved as a member of the Young Leaders Society.

"My long-term goal was always to work in nonprofit," she said.

Though Latour is replacing Spence, who has led United Way of Gordon County since September 2006, the two will be working closely together until Spence's retirement date in June. Spence is helping Latour through one of the organization's major events, Dancing with the Stars Gets Schooled, which is set for May 30 and May 31.

"Vickie has done a wonderful job and is leaving an outstanding legacy, and I just hope I can continue the work that she has put in," Latour said.

As for future plans, Latour said she still needs to meet with the board to discuss the strategy under her leadership. But one thought is to continue the progress cultivated by Spence on the way to reaching the $1 million mark, she said.

"Calhoun seems to be a very giving place and I would just love to let people know that I'm here to support Calhoun and to make sure the people of Calhoun have a fair chance. That's the whole point of United Way, to connect everyone," she said. "We are a two-person staff, so we will take things one step at a time."

Latour hopes to continue to inspire local students to volunteer their time with United Way, so that when they enter their careers and move forward with their professional lives, they will understand the organization's work and be willing to support it financially.

"United Way is a quick and fast way to learn what your community is doing, what it's about and what's out there to help people," she said, adding that she personally experienced this while working with her local United Way in Dalton. "A lot of people know someone who has directly been impacted by United Way and one of its agencies."

It's in knowing how United Way and its agencies have helped those in her community which inspires her to further the organization's reach and impact.

"It helps for me when you meet people who have been touched by United Way. It compels you even more to help," she said. "Everyone is a paycheck away from needing a service. You want to have a good and quality service for these people to turn to."

A service that extends a reaching hand to anyone who may suddenly be unemployed or surprised by a medical diagnosis, or needs a little extra help in paying rent or keeping the lights on at home, Latour said.

Earth Day at Calhoun Elementary School

Preparing lifelong learners
• From bus driver to special education teacher, Kelly Pendley is always an educator with a purpose.

Editor's Note

This is the final part of a series dedicated to the Gordon County Schools' Teacher of the Year three finalists: Nikki Hampton, Jayme Crowley and Kelly Pendley.

While teaching elementary-aged children might be considered by some as challenging, Red Bud Elementary teacher Kelly Pendley chooses to look at her job as a project. In her perspective, if a student isn't learning well, she's not doing her job well.

Pendley started her career with Gordon County Schools as a bus driver and special education paraprofessional before completing her teaching degree from Reinhardt University. And teaching both exceptional students and gifted students in third grade, Pendley is always changing her approach to teaching with one significant constant – the student is always the priority.

When curriculum isn't making sense to a student, she alters her teaching approach to fit the needs of each individual without

disregarding the learning styles of other students in the class. She works with parents, students and other teachers in the building to make sure all students are getting the best possible education.

Pendley was announced in March to be one of the three finalists for Gordon County Schools' district-wide Teacher of the Year Award, along with Nikki Hampton, from W.L. Swain, and Jayme Crowley, from Fairmount Elementary School.

And according to Red Bud's Assistant Principal Monica Holt, having Pendley in the district's top three isn't a surprise.

"(Kelly's) a true change agent in our school, not just for our kids but for our staff," Holt said. "She teaches more than curriculum, what she teaches kids and teaches me every day is we all have something to learn."

Holt said the school is thrilled to have one of their own teachers recognized among the top three finalists for the award, adding that Pendley shows the community that Red Bud is still an exciting place to be.

Pendley, who said she was "born to teach," couldn't imagine herself doing anything else. She said the classroom is a place where she feels safe and comfortable.

"When I'm having a bad day or morning, things are crazy, I'm spilling the coffee and the teens are acting up, when I get (to school) and start teaching, I just love it. It's always been that way," Pendley said.

Pendley is known around the school as the campus's "energizer bunny," never running out of excitement and positivity despite challenges within classroom and having six children of her own. But following along with her teaching philosophy, the third-grade teacher said she strives to be always growing and constantly learning.

"I will do whatever it takes to figure out how they learn best," Pendley said. "I want to push all students to go higher than they ever imagined possible."

This year, Pendley's class motto is "mistakes are learning," and over the course of the academic year, she's amended it to say, "mistakes are learning if you find out what caused that mistake and try something new."

Making an example for her students by showing them she is constantly transforming into a better teacher and learning from her mistakes, Pendley aims to demonstrate how to be a life-long learner.

"These are the years that (students are) forming and these years are so important," Pendley said. "The more that they're challenged but that it's safe for them to make mistakes, I think and hope that too will shape them as they get older."

In response to her nomination for Teacher of the Year, Pendley said she would love to have a bigger platform to show teachers the potential influence they have on their students, and how much "attitude is everything."

"At the end of each school year, my hope is that all students leave my classroom feeling loved, confident and excited about learning," Pendley said. "I hope this love for learning continues throughout their lives."

Pendley has earned a Master's of Education in early childhood education from Piedmont College and is currently pursuing a specialist degree in curriculum and instruction, planning to graduate in 2019.

The 2019-2020 Gordon County Schools' Teacher of the Year will be named at a banquet held in honor of the three finalists on April 30.