Incumbent Sundai Stevenson and political newcomer Jamieson Palmer threw their hats into the ring Thursday, making it 10 candidates seeking seats on the Rome City Commission.
The qualifying period ends at 5 p.m. today for the Nov. 5 city election.
Rome is divided into three wards, with three seats in each ward for a total of nine commissioners. Commissioners in Ward 2 are not up for election this year; their terms run through 2021.
Stevenson, a property manager who's finishing her first four-year-term, is running for one of the three open Ward 1 seats.
The other four candidates for the ward are incumbents Milton Slack and Bill Irmscher, architect Mark Cochran and consultant Charles Love.
Palmer is a development services specialist for the city of Woodstock. He's seeking one of the three Ward 3 seats.
Four other candidates also have qualified: incumbents Bill Collins and Craig McDaniel, retiree Bonny Askew and attorney J.J. Walker Seifert.
Candidates must live in the ward where they qualify but all city voters will weigh in on the races.
They'll be able to choose up to three candidates in each ward. The three candidates in each ward with the most votes will take the seats in January.
Ward 1 covers the downtown district and the area to the east, between the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers. Ward 3 is west of the Oostanaula and north of the Coosa River.
Several other residents have checked in with City Clerk Joe Smith regarding the possibility of running, and incumbent Evie McNiece has not yet said if she'll seek reelection. The filing fee is $252.
Candidates must be at least 21, a registered voter since at least May and a city resident for at least a year as of the election date.
They also must be paid up on their federal, state and local taxes and, for any candidate convicted of a "felony involving moral turpitude," at least 10 years must have elapsed since the completion of their sentence.
Cave Spring's elections are canceled this year, since there are no contests for the seats. Former mayor Rob Ware was the sole qualifier for the mayoral post and will take up the gavel in January. Incumbent City Council members Tom Lindsey and Joyce Mink netted no challengers to their reelection bids.
There are no federal, state or county elections this year.
Holding a brass hand bell that was used to signal class changes in the early 1900's, Darlington senior and student body president Kasey Barnett rang in the new school year which has been a Darlington tradition since 2005.
Thursday morning's Opening Convocation was more than just an annual gathering, Tannika King, director of communications for the school said, it is the first event of the school year where the entire school is present.
While Monday was officially the start of classes, tradition dictates Darlington's 115th year began when Barnett rang the bell.
Darlington's Head of School Brent Bell welcomed the new and returning students.
Bell told them a story from his youth when someone went out of their way to be kind to him when they didn't need to be.
"My hope for every one of us this year is that we will be that person," he told the students. "Do we laugh and play (when someone is in need) or do we step forward and help."
Chandler Pittman, honor council president, told the Darlington student body that as students they must pledge to put honor above everything else. Pittman said the culture at Darlington has become one of trust that can't be found at most schools.
Eighth-grader Maddox Pyle said to him honor and truthfulness went hand in hand. Sara Jo Pierce, a Darlington fifth-grade student, said to her honor meant kindness.
"Choose being kind," she told her schoolmates.
In the crowd of Darlington students, 17 U.S. states and 28 countries were represented according to Tara Inman, dean of students for global education.
When the school first started, it only contained students from the Rome area she said. Flags from each student's country was brought in at the beginning of Thursday's convocation and put on display in the Huffman Athletic Center.
The convocation was concluded by the ringing of the bell, but not before Dean of College Guidance Samuel Moss III gave a background on the bell and its significance to the school. The bell was used by Shem Thomas during his time as the school janitor from 1905-1949.
Thomas was highly regarded among students and the headmaster, Moss said. The janitor rang the bell to signal the start of school, class change and school dismissal.
Moss said he found a poem in a Darlington annual from the 1920s written in honor of Thomas from the headmaster at the time. This was significant because in the '20s it was unheard of for a headmaster of a private school to publicly praise a black janitor, he said.
The bell Thomas rang has been saved over the years and during the school's centennial convocation in 2005 it was used to ring in the new school year.
Now, 14 years later, the school kept up the tradition to honor Thomas.
First-time claims for unemployment assistance skyrocketed in Rome in July. The number of Floyd County residents who filed for jobless benefits in July numbered 658, up 45.6% from July a year ago and up a whopping 136.7% from June.
Subsequently, the July unemployment rate for Rome and Floyd County rose to 4.6%. That was an increase of half a percent from 4.1% in June. Only Murray County, at an even 5%, was higher across the Northwest Georgia region. Pickens, Catoosa and Paulding counties all checked in with 3.2% rates, the lowest in the region.
A first-time claim is one filed by an individual who has not sought unemployment benefits during the preceding 12 months. It is considered one of the leading indicators of how a region's economy is performing, however, the filings do not necessarily reflect the state of the economy in the county where the resident lives. A Floyd County person who works in Cobb County and gets laid off from his or her job in Cobb County would be reflected in the Floyd County statistics.
Floyd County workers filed 658 initial claims in July, up from 278 in June and 452 in July a year ago.
"Every year in July and December we get a spike," said Ken Wright, director of existing industry and business services at the Rome Floyd Chamber. "We've got automotive supplier companies that have shutdowns in July and December. Those employees who don't qualify for vacation, they are allowed to go file for unemployment that week or two weeks."
The Department of Labor pumped more than $303,500 in unemployment benefits into Floyd County during July. The average weekly benefit check amounted to $249.
If there is any solace to find from the numbers, they mirrored a trend across the entire 15-county Northwest Georgia region.
First-time claims filed by residents of Dade, Catoosa, Walker, Whitfield, Murray, Gilmer, Fannin, Pickens, Gordon, Chattooga, Floyd, Bartow, Polk, Paulding and Haralson counties more than doubled from June to July, jumping from 1,595 in June to 3,213 in July.
The actual jobless rates for the contiguous counties showed Bartow at 3.5%, Chattooga at 4.5%, Gordon at 4.1%, Polk at 3.9% and Walker at 3.6%.
The new report indicates that there were 42,200 jobs tied to companies listing a Floyd County address in June, down from 42,400 in July, but up from 41,300 localbased jobs in July of 2018. The Department of Labor report further indicates that of those 42,200 jobs in Floyd County, 81% fall within the service sector of the economy and just 15% fall in the manufacturing sector.
Wright said the Chamber has more than 90 jobs that are currently listed on the Chamber website and a lot of companies are still looking for qualified employees.
Some days, her 34-year-old body feels like that of a 70-year-old woman as she battles a form of metastatic thyroid cancer.
Thursday, however, Kristina Lansdell was more of a young child at a birthday party when presented with a scholarship check for $1,000 by Summit Quest, a nonprofit organization that supports educational efforts of those touched by cancer.
"This is such a great honor," Lansdell, a former hair stylist, told a room full of family and Harbin Clinic staff at the check presentation ceremony at Harbin Clinic Cancer Center. "Having to put my schooling on hold for so long because it was just too hard and now that I'm a single mom with two kids, I am more driven right now than I have ever been in my whole life. I'm ready to finish this stuff and get it over with and be where I need to be in life, for my kids and everyone else in my family."
Taking Shorter University's online classes in business administration before continuing on to earn a master's degree in health care administration would be difficult for anyone raising children on their own. Add a full-time job as an administrative assistant in Harbin's medical oncology and hematology office and ongoing treatment for various health concerns and that's a nearly superhuman situation.
But that just seems to be the way Lansdell lives her life, according to her mother, Julianna Wilson.
"We're very proud of her. She's a go-getter," said Wilson, who had a minor case of lung cancer several years ago. "We feel very blessed for this help from Summit Quest. She's worked so hard for so long."
Lansdell had been diagnosed with thyroid disease as a teenager — a condition shared by her grandmother, Anneliese Mathews. It would be years later, just after giving birth to her son Noah, that doctors would discover her Stage 3 papillary thyroid carcinoma that had metastasized to her lymph nodes.
Noah, now 11, had been born with a tear in his lung and was in the neonatal intensive care unit when she was diagnosed.
"I got that news pretty much at the same time, so that was fun," she said the day before the Summit Quest presentation, explaining that she had suffered from severe heartburn during her pregnancy and developed ulcers in her esophagus. "I couldn't eat or drink for 10 days. So they finally did a CT scan and found the lymph nodes."
After thyroid surgery, she underwent isotope radiation therapy, which required her to be quarantined away from her family for about a month.
"A month is a long time when you're stir crazy and your family and friends come by and all they can do is wave through the window because they can't make contact with you," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "Then the cancer recurred four months later and they took the whole thyroid out and more lymph nodes."
Aside from the sheer physical toll her illness has taken, Lansdell estimates she owes upwards of $200,000 in medical bills.
"I'm going to die with that debt," she said, adding she went bankrupt in 2016 and was even homeless for a bit after she and her husband divorced.
She stressed she is trying to only look forward now, reaching for her dream of running a cancer clinic one day.
"I absolutely love working with patients because I understand what they're going through," she said.
It's that same empathy that lead to the creation of Summit Quest in 2010, followed by the designation of the Roy Philpot Scholarship Fund, which has now benefited three people whose lives have been touched by cancer.
William James founded Summit Quest after losing his father to lung cancer in 2007. The name of the organization was inspired by his father's last request: To have his ashes scattered on the summit of one of his favorite Alaska mountains.
Thursday was actually the anniversary of his father's passing, James said.
The fund was named after the father of Nancy Ely, office manager of Harbin's OB-GYN group.
"When my dad was in his last year of chemo here at Harbin, I noticed there were some patients who didn't have anyone to support them or even be with them during their treatments," said Ely, explaining that she felt compelled to begin fundraising activities for Summit Quest. "All the money we raise goes back to Summit Quest to benefit people like Kristina. They were kind enough to honor my dad by naming the scholarship after him."
Ely said those needing assistance can apply for the scholarship, including submitting an essay about themselves. She said when she read Lansdell's essay, the decision was easy.
"It was a no-brainer," Ely said as she enjoyed a lunch buffet after the ceremony. "It was beautiful."
Noah Edwards, a pre-K student at Unity Christian School