Early voting for the November general election begins Monday, Oct. 15, and one of the most important issues in years — perhaps even decades — for Walker County residents is the commissioner referendum. Voters in Walker will have the choice of keeping a sole commissioner form of government or switching to a board of commissioners.
The referendum reads: "Shall the governing authority of Walker County be changed from a sole commissioner to a five-member board of commissioners with the chair person elected at large and four commissioners elected by district?"
A second local issue on the ballot concerns Sunday package sales and Sunday liquor by the drink.
There are not local contested races on the ballot. But Walker County voters will vote on the hotly contested governor's race between Democrat Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz, as well as elections for the U.S. Congress, secretary of state, attorney general, state schools superintendent and the General Assembly.
In addition, there are also seven proposed Georgia Constitutional Amendments and statewide referendum questions on the ballot. (For details of these items and for a sample ballot, go online to https://walkercountyga.gov/residents/elections.
Early voting for the Nov. 6 election is Monday, Oct. 15, through Friday, Nov. 2. Voters can cast ballots either in person or by mail.
In-person voting will be available at the Walker County Courthouse from Oct. 15 through Nov. 2. Registered residents may also vote Saturday, Oct. 27, and Monday, Oct. 29, through Nov. 2 at these locations: Chickamauga Civic Center, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Lookout Mountain City Hall, and the Rossville Municipal Civic Center. In-person voting poll hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Voters who wish to vote by mail may apply by submitting an application to the Walker County Elections Office at P.O. Box 1105, LaFayette, GA 30728, by emailing an application to email@example.com or by faxing an application to 706-639-3346. Applications are available at www.walkercountyelections.com. Mailed ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Voters are required to present an acceptable ID at the poll. This may be a valid state or federal government issued photo ID, including a free ID Card issued by your county registrar's office or the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS); a Georgia driver's license, even if expired; a valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state; a valid U.S. passport ID; a valid U.S. military photo ID; or a valid tribal photo ID.
Officials are hoping for and expecting a strong turnout of the county's approximately 35,000 registered voters for this important midterm election. In the 2016 general election, 24,509 (74.38 percent) of the county's 32,951 registered voters cast ballots either on or in advance of election day.
Songs of the Broadman sponsored by Golden Sound Music Inc. will be held Saturday, Oct. 13, in the Walker County Civic Center. Everyone is invited to join the Dinner Bell Roundup live at 6 p.m., with the program to begin at 7 p.m. This special hymn sing is a benefit fundraiser for Walker County debt reduction, and tickets are available through The Bank of LaFayette, 706-638-2520. Donations will be accepted during the singing. The Broadman hymnal, published in 1940 and edited by B.B. McKinney, preceded the Baptist hymnal.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is dropping rabies vaccine bait into the woods across North Georgia. The bait drop began Oct. 8 and continues through Oct. 12.
Planes will drop the bait in rural areas of Dade, Catoosa, Whitfield, Walker, and Chattooga counties, and a small section of Murray County.
Officials plan to drop 880,000 baits containing rabies vaccinations, mainly targeting raccoons, but the vaccine is safe for more than 60 different species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats.
Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits, but people should leave them undisturbed if they encounter them. Dogs that consume large numbers of baits may experience an upset stomach, but no long-term health risks.
If adults or children come in contact with baits, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap.
With the referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to change Walker County's form of government from a sole commissioner to a board of commissioners, it's interesting to examine the history of the county's form of government.
County government records, plus a pictorial display on the first floor of the Walker County Courthouse in LaFayette, provide a written and pictorial timeline of county commissions from the late 1880s to the present.
In Georgia, the 1868 constitution authorized the General Assembly to create county commissioners (first called county ordinaries and often the probate judge of the county) "in such counties as may require them, and to define their duties." Then the following year the General Assembly passed a local act creating the state's first "board of commissioners of roads and revenues," a three-member commission for Harris County. By 1877 more than half of Georgia's counties were governed by county commissioners rather than ordinaries, an early version of a sole commissioner. Today, all except nine of Georgia's 159 counties (Bartow, Bleckley, Chattooga, Murray, Pulaski, Pickens, Towns, Union and Walker) have the board of commissioners (or commission) form of government.
In looking at the history of Walker County government, the county had a series of ordinaries from 1852 to the late 1950s, although these individuals were not always the sole governing official in the county. County records show the following ordinaries and their terms: James Hogue (1852-1860), T.R.A. Haslerig (1861-?), Thomas W. Cobb (1863-?), Milton Russell (1869-1884), W.B. Foster (1885-1896), J.L. Rowland (1897-1904), Jerome Henderson (1905-1908), W. Doarwe (1908-1914), W.L. Stancell (1914-1937), J.C. Keown (1937-1957), and W.L. Abney (1957-?).
Beginning in 1883 the county was run by a five-member commission serving two-year terms until 1916. Then the commissioners were elected for fouryear terms until the form of government changed to sole commissioner in 1940.
Walker County's two-year commissions and their members were:
1883-1886 – L.K. Dickey, J.B. Rogers, William McWilliams, J.F. Smith, and N.G. Warthen;
1887-1888 – William McWilliams, J.F. Smith, J.B. Rogers, B.I. Glenn, and A.J. Caldwell;
1889-1890 – J.F. Smith, J.B. Rogers, A.J. Caldwell, William McWilliams, and B.I. Glenn;
1891-1892 – J.T. Alsobrook; C.A. Cameron, O.R. Henderson, T.N. Jones, and J.T. Suttle;
1893-1894 – J.F. Smith, R.B. Neal, T.J. Alsobrook, J.F. Bonds, and Jasper Love;
1895-1896 – J.F. Bonds, T.J. Alsobrook, Jasper Love, R.B. Neal, and N.C. Napier;
1897-1898 – R.B. Neal, N.C. Napier, T.J. Alsobrook, C.W. Evitt, and Jasper Love;
1899-1900 – R.B. Neal, James Weaver, J.M. Ransom, R.B. Shaw, and Gordon Lee;
1901-1902 – R.B. Neal, B.F. Thurman, James Weaver, R.B. Shaw, and W.A. Horton;
1903-1904 – J.B. Hall, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, W.A. Horton, and James Weaver;
1905-1906 – J.H. Hammond, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, T.F. McFarland, and James Weaver;
1907-1908 – James Weaver, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, John B. Henderson, and T.J. Bandy;
1909-1910 – John B. Henderson, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, T.J. Bandy, and J.M. Ransom;
1911-1912 – John B. Henderson, R.B. Shaw, J.C. Young, J.V. Johnson, and J.M. Ransom;
1913-1914 – R.B. Shaw, J.M. Ransom, J.V. Johnson, J.D. McConnell, and J.C. Young;
1915-1916 – J.C. Young, J.M. Ransom, J.D. McConnell, A.J. Wheeler, (R.B. Shaw resigned), S.P. Hall.
During this time, 1883-1916, commissioners serving more than one two-year term were Shaw, 16+; Young, 14; Neal, 10; Ransom, 10; Weaver, 10; Smith, 8; Alsobrook, 8; Rogers, 6; McWilliams, 6; Love, 6; John B. Henderson, 6; Glenn, 4; Caldwell, 4; Bonds, 4; Napier, 4; Horton, 4; Bandy, 4; Johnson, 4; and McConnell, 4.
Starting in 1917, commission members were elected to four year terms. Those terms and commissioners were:
1917-1920 – S.T. Carson, Claude Clements, R.V. Thurman, T.C. Coulter, (J.B. Henderson resigned), and James R. McFarland;
1921-1924 – Claude Clements, M.A. McConnell, S.P. Hall, W.S. Abercrombie, and J.R. McFarland;
1925-1928 –J.H. Kilgore, C.M. Thurman, Clark Tucker, L.P. Keith, and G.R. Morgan; 1929-1932 – L.P. Keith, F.M. Shaw, J.H. Kilgore, W.R. Morgan, and C.A. Chambers;
1933-1936 – W.A. Loach, W.P. Blackwell, J.M. Baker, W.L. Johnson, and J.H. Williams (elected in Democratic Primary March 5, 1932);
1937-1940 – W.W. Garmany, Joe M. Baker, G.R. Morgan, R.D. Cubine, and W.P. Blackwell.
After Walker County residents voted to change the county form of government to sole commissioner in 1940, those commissioners and their terms were:
1940-1952 – Fay Murphey, 3 terms
1953-1960 – Roland Mosely, 2 terms
1961-1964 – Albert Campbell, 1 term
1965-1972 – Bill Quinn, 2 terms
1973-1996 – Roy Parrish, 6 terms
1997-2000 – Buddy Chapman, 1 term
2001-2016 – Bebe Heiskell, 4 terms
2017-present – Shannon Whitfield
The Prater's Mill Country Fair focuses on mountain music, Southern foods, living history exhibits and the handmade crafts and original art of 165 talented artists and artisans. Craft demonstrations include blacksmithing, spinning, quilting, rug hooking, woodcarving and hand tufting, a cottage industry that evolved into the tufted carpet industry centered in Dalton, Ga.
At the fair, visitors take self-guided tours of the operating gristmill, the country store, Shugart Cotton Gin and the Westbrook Barn complete with farm animals. Across the road from the mill in the 1898 Prater's store guests taste authentic Southern meals. Elsewhere throughout the festival are other specialties such as pitcooked barbecue, apple cider, fried apple pies and churned ice cream.
During the fair, families enjoy a walk down the nature trail and pony rides for children. Educational exhibits include an authentic Civil War encampment, working antique engines and "Peacock Alley", a clothesline display of hand-tufted bedspreads.
Continuous entertainment on stage features Appalachian-style clogging teams, country bands and gospel singers. Wandering musicians, jugglers, dulcimer players and storytellers perform throughout the festival area.
In many minds, the highlight of the Fair is the food. Authentic Southern dishes like chicken and dumplings, collard greens, and corn bread cooked on a wood stove – near the 1898 Prater's store (located just across the road from the mill). Other regional favorites are served at various points on the festival grounds. These include delicacies such as John's Family pit-cooked barbecue, Cochran Family fried apple pies, North Georgia apple cider, and even fresh-churned ice cream.
See page A7 for more on the rich history and making of Prater's Mill.