BKP makes endorsement in Georgia HD7

Feature News, News

Many have called and texted me wondering if I was going to back someone in the runoff. I have made that decision. 

The people of Georgia House District 7 need a representative that understands our North Georgia values:  That is obviously not Sheree Ralston. Throughout the campaign it became clear she doesn’t have a clue about any of the issues. Remember what she said was her legislative priority, when our law enforcement responds to a call to have a clinician in the car with them. Ask your local law enforcement if they want a counselor to join them when responding to a call. Remember when she said that mental health legislation is a work in progress… but could not tell the voters what that means….

We need someone who doesn’t have to rely on someone else to write the answers to questions for them, someone who will listen and study the issues, someone who will represent the people and not Atlanta. I am endorsing Johnny Chastain for HD7. Johnny needs our vote, needs you to call your neighbors and ask them to vote and will need financial support. He is running against the establishment of a well funded machine. Let’s pull together and elect Johnny Chastain as our Rep for HD7.


Reasons Why to Vote for Brian K Pritchard

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If you don’t believe me, believe Joene Sorensen DePlancke. In a recent letter Joene listed her “Reasons Why to Vote for Brian K Pritchard.” Here are a few of her listed reasons in case you missed it on our newsletter.


“In my opinion, we need someone representing the 7th District at the Capitol with the following qualifications:

  • that will read and understand the bills that come before our legislature.
  • that has the courage and experience in standing up for what is right and what we need.
  • that will fight to the death to keep woke-ism and child mutilation and gender change out of our schools and away from our children until they are 18.
  • that will fight for parents’ rights to know what is happening to our children and the right to know the curriculum being taught.
  • that has been down to the capitol every year and attended numerous committee meetings and understands the process and can be effective from day one.”

Brian has worked hard for over 15 years for the 7th District in attending commissioner’s meetings, board of education meetings, attending legislative sessions in Atlanta, working closely with numerous senators and representatives on the bills that have been passed.


Brian is the only choice for the 7th District. Don’t allow the Elite in Atlanta tell you who should be your representative!


Vote for Brian K Pritchard on January 3 at your local precinct. Please note that Toccoa precinct has moved to the Fannin County Court House, 3rd Floor.


Brian K Pritchard is the grassroots candidate that has the knowledge and can stand up for the citizens of GA House District 7 in Atlanta. Brian will stand up for Constitutional Conservative Values of the North GA Mountains.

If you haven’t seen the forums here is a quick link to view both. Share these with anyone who is undecided. We believe the forums show who is qualified and ready to go to Atlanta on day ONE.

Candidate Forum for State House District 7 Hosted by Fannin County Chamber and broadcasted by ETC Candidate Night for the GA State House District 7 Sponsored by Fannin and Gilmer GOP, Mountain Patriots and Liberty Tea Party

As you watch the videos remember, we need a candidate that understands the issues that are coming down the pipeline. We need to send the person that is ready on January 9th to defend our values and rights in our mountain district.


Brian K Pritchard is the grassroots candidate for Georgia State House District 7. Brian will protect parents’ rights, protect our kids, protect our 2nd amendment rights, and keep the “WOKE” agenda out of our North Georgia Mountains. He is committed to getting law enforcement the resources needed to keep Atlanta drugs and crime out of our district. Send Brian to Atlanta on Jan 3.

Vote for Brian K Pritchard
State House District 7
on January 3rd


Donate Today

Volunteer or Donate to the campaign visit the website at bkp4ga.com

or Call 706-889-9700 to get in touch with the campaign. 

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Brian K. Pritchard announces candidacy for State House District 7

News, Politics

Georgia-  Brian K. Pritchard (BKP) announces his candidacy for State House District 7.  A special election will be held on January 3rd 2023. 

“I’m excited to announce today that I am running for Georgia State House District 7. Unfortunately this election will run through the Christmas and New Year holiday. Governor Brian Kemp has called for a special election January 3rd.”

Thank you, 

“BKP” Brian K. Pritchard

[email protected]


On November 16th a giant tree fell in the North Georgia mountains. The second longest-serving State House Speaker, David Ralston died. Although I considered him a close friend, I never called him David. I always addressed him as “Mr. Speaker.” Speaker Ralston loved the people of the 7th District where he called home from the time of his birth. He also loved the State of Georgia and being House Speaker. I asked him if he would ever run for congress or senate and both times he answered with a firm, “NO, if I did that they wouldn’t let me be speaker.”


We knew him as Speaker Of the House but we can’t forget he was Georgia State Representative District 7, elected to the office in 2003. You can’t go anywhere in the district that you don’t see the fruits of him being our Representative.The hard reality is the 7th District is no longer represented by the Speaker of the House, it’s like we have hit the reset button. This is not the time to take any chances.  We need to elect someone ready to serve on day one.  We can’t afford for our district to go backwards, we must be prepared to go forward. That is why I’m announcing that I’m running for Georgia State House District 7. 


We the People …. Our Founding Fathers intended for us to have a representative government of the PEOPLE and By The People, not corporations, special interests or lobbyists. The only reason you run for office should be to serve the people of the district.  We are tired of self-serving politicians in this country. The people, businesses and organizations in the 7th District will be my special interest group.  


This Special Election is what they call a jungle primary meaning there is no party primary and then a general election. This is a nonpartisan election. Candidates don’t have to identify a political party on the ballot. 


But, I am a Republican, and I am a Christian first.  Nothing comes before God and family. I am a Constitutional compassionate conservative. I believe in loving and caring for my fellow man.  A political party should never be the determination on how we care for people less fortunate than ourselves.  I support and will uphold the great documents of our US and State Constitutions.  I am a fiscal conservative.  I believe the state can provide services needed to operate with a little less money from the taxpayers. The people pay the bills and the government should be good stewards of the taxpayers money. We The People are overtaxed and need a representative that is beholden to the people. I believe in limited government and it’s time we get the government out of our pockets. I will be a representative for all the people in the 7th District.


  • We must protect our environment and preserve our beautiful lakes, rivers and forests. 
  • We must protect our children from a “WOKE” government agenda and preserve parental rights. 
  • I will work with the county and city governments to find a balanced way to continue growth in the district while maintaining the rural look and feel that we love. 
  • I have and will always support our teachers and our local educational system and the University system in our district. The children are our future and we need to provide them every opportunity possible for them to be successful. This will help attract well paying jobs to our district. 
  • I have and will always support our law enforcement. The safety and well-being of our citizens will alway be a top priority of mine. Drug cartels are not welcome and I will help our great men and women in law enforcement get the resources they need to keep us safe. Keep Atlanta crime out of our mountains! 
  • I have and will always support our accountability courts. 
  • As your Representative I will do everything I can to eradicate the drug problem in our community. We need to restore families. This is a must to protect our children from this evil. 
  • I am pro second amendment and believe in the sanctity of life. 


I look at everything with a positive view and I know together we can accomplish our goals.  I am a husband, father, and grandfather and protecting this district will have my entire focus and attention.  Look for my upcoming campaign videos where I will go into greater detail on all the issues. 


In the coming days of the campaign I will release short videos highlighting my dedication to the 7th District over the past 20 years and how I plan to represent the district. Visit our website BKP4GA.com and follow our social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BKP4GA. 


If you have any questions do hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call me 706-889-9700. 

I look forward to the opportunity to speak about the issues with any group or even a living room coffee talk. 


I humbly ask for your vote to be your next District 7 State Representative.




“BKP” Brian K. Pritchard




Fall Festival Saturday October 1st at Epworth Community Club with Speaker of the House Rep David Ralston and US Senate Candidate Herschel Walker


Candidates Forum sees many absentees as issues are discussed

Election, News

Fannin County, Ga. – Hosted by the Fannin County Chamber and CVB, April’s Candidates forum saw more absentees than attendees on Monday, April 25, 2022. Less than half of the candidates running for office attended with the largest missing portion coming from the District 9 Representatives.

In the United States House of Representatives race for the 9th Congressional District, only Gregory Howard was able to attend the forum. Offering his three minute opening statement, Howard spoke on liberties and the assaults they have endured.

Howard stated, “I’ve been asked why do I want to be in congress and the very simple answer is this, to advance my work in restoring our lost freedoms and the God-given rights bestowed on behalf of the citizens in our U.S. Constitution.”


Candidates for the Fannin Board of Education, Bobby Bearden and Debi Holcomb speak at the candidates forum on April 25, 2022.

After his opening statement, the event did not move into forum, but instead moved on to the Board of Education’s contested seat. With Clarence “Junior” Farmer unable to attend due to spinal surgery, only Debi Holcomb and incumbent Bobby Bearden spoke in the forum.

Holcomb focused on state issues that the county is facing saying that she is ready and willing to take her shot to make a difference for families in the county and be more transparent while looking to oppose state oversight in the county level. Through her experience as a mom with kids in the schools, Holcomb said that she has attended meetings of the school board and has worked in county government before.

Holcomb also spoke on compensation for teachers and time off during COVID through stay-at-home orders and her feelings towards retaining teachers in the school and losing the experience of those long-time teachers. She stated, “One of the most important things that our students need is teachers who are happy to be here and are happy to be teaching them, teachers that care. Our teachers do care, but they are not getting what they need and it’s hard for them to get the students what they need.”

Bearden is the incumbent of the office. He said he is proud of Fannin County Schools and that the school system is doing very well in current times. Holding to his participation in the school board through their efforts and what he referred to as successes over the years. Bearden said he is for the children and the taxpayers as a board member and pointed to his record as proof of the board’s forward motion and cooperation with other government entities to provide for the citizens of the county.

The teachers became a topic discussed over several questions as Bearden replied in another question that Fannin never furloughed like other places. He said, “We’ve always paid our teachers 190 days if I’m not mistaken. As far as I know, we take care of our teachers.”

Bearden said that his heart is in the school system and in the kids and that the school system is doing very well. He quoted an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Moving into the Post 2 Commissioner’s race candidates, Glenn Patterson, Larry Joe Sosebee, and Anita L. Weaver were present for the forum. Greg Staffins was absent due to allergies and Larry Syputa was absent due to a car accident. All three candidates supported the idea for a community center with meeting space, which was the Post 2 Commissioners opening question. With all three agreeing, the only question on each candidate’s mind was how to fund it and where to put it?

Patterson is the incumbent in the office. He noted successes in the county and its growth under the current leadership saying that projects like the recent announcement of a standalone library were proof of continued efforts and cooperation among state and local entities. He spoke about service to the citizens and continuing to pursue things like those he already has in his current term including paying off the courthouse, maintaining roads and bridges, protecting gun rights through resolutions like the second amendment sanctuary, improving public safety services, and improving broadband service among others.

Patterson spoke on affordable housing as a tough topic. He stated that the county needs to tackle the issue as it is facing many surrounding counties as well. He noted some hesitation in taking grants and state funds due to strings attached with many of those options. He said the county is already looking at ordinances and are working towards a type of solution. He spoke about town hall meetings and incorporating ideas from citizens on the issue. He said the topic is very difficult as he wants to support those people living here that are builders and that is how they make a living while also supporting citizens on the other side who view the continuing developments as a negative. He said he could see it both ways.

Sosebee was the Post 2 Commissioner in Fannin from 2010 to 2018. He also spoke on projects he was a part of saying that he would continue to work for Fannin County as it is dear to his heart. Increasing economic growth through new commercial businesses and jobs alongside financial responsibility through refinancing the courthouse were two examples he gave.

Touching on the topic of affordable housing, Sosebee noted the topic gains extra stress from rising costs of lumber and other building materials. He later added that despite the costs, he definitely believes the county has a problem with overdevelopment. Addressing the issue is a process as Sosebee said one option to help in controlling growth could involve a moratorium on the building of major subdivisions in some way. He noted that the need was present and a long term solution could likely involve moratoriums in some way whether short or long term.

Weaver is Chairman of the Fannin County Water Authority. Born and raised in Fannin County, she is also a retired Vice President from United Community Bank. She stated she is running to help save the county from what is happening to it.

With concern over the issue of water, Weaver is hoping to look into better supplies for water to the whole county. She said she wants to work with the cities to find ways to cooperate on water authority access and service to all citizens as many use insufficient wells or have too many families on the same well. The growth also pressures the water needs. With affordable housing and the county’s grown being specific questions asked in the forum, Weaver also suggested restrictions on building projects such as subdivisions through lot sizes or lot numbers. She agreed that overdevelopment is an issue and spoke on options like zoning as a possible answer. She noted that many may cringe at the topic of zoning specifically but insisted that the county needs to come together over the issue for a common solution.

515 Republicans The Power of 5 present Georgia Secretary of State Debate April 23rd

Feature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories, News

515 Republicans The Power of 5 present Georgia Secretary of State Debate April 23rd. Doors open at 3pm for live audience at White Path Creek Farms located at 1121 Old Northcut Rd, Ellijay, GA. Event will be broadcast LIVE on FYNTv.com with Moderator Brian K. Pritchard.

Qualified Candidates for 2022 General Election

Board of Elections, Election
Fannin Co. qualifying candidates

FANNIN, COUNTY — Fannin County candidates hoping to fill one of three county positions had until March 11 at noon to qualify. During the May 24, 2022 General Election, one county commissioner seat and two school board seats will be on the ballot.

Nine candidates qualified before the March 11 deadline.

Post 2 on the Fannin County Board of Commissioners:

Incumbent Republican Glenn Patterson qualified to run for re-election for the Post 2 seat. Four other candidates have also qualified for the Post 2 seat. The three Republican candidates are Larry Sosebee, Greg Staffins, and Anita L. Weaver. Larry Syputa is the only Democrat candidate that has qualified

Two seats on the Fannin County Board of Education:

Incumbent Vice Chair Mike Cole, a Republican, has qualified for an unopposed re-election campaign. Bobby Bearden, also an incumbent Republican has qualified, but will face a challenge from Republican candidates Clarence Farmer and Debi Holcomb.


Election information can be found on the Fannin County Board of Elections’ website, and at https://sos.ga.gov/qualifying-candidate-information.

Newly elected City Council members take oath of office

City Council

FANNIN, Ga. — The newly elected members of the Blue Ridge City Council were sworn in during a meeting on Jan. 18. Each member and the Mayor took the oath of office before beginning the meeting. The new council also appointed several city employees and board members during the meeting. 

Mayor Haight is sworn in.

Rhonda Haight took her oath of office and was sworn in as Mayor of the City of Blue Ridge. 

Mayor Pro Tempore Angie Arp is sworn in.

Angie Arp took her oath of office and was later appointed mayor pro tempore. 

Council members Jack Taylor, Bill Bivins, Christy Kay, and Bill Whaley also took their oath of office during the meeting. 

New members are sworn in.

Bill Whaley

New members take oath of office

Jack Taylor

New members take oath of office

Christy Kay

New members take oath of office

Bill Bivins


The new city council approved the appointments of several city employees: 

  • City Attorney Charles S. Conerly 
  • City Clerk Amy Mintz 
  • Police Chief Johnny Scearce 
  • City Treasurer Michael Richardson 
  • Municipal Court Judge Robert Sneed
  • Levy Officer Chris Mortimer 
  • Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Hudson

The council appointed Andy Bowen to the Blue Ridge Downtown Development Authority, and Mayor Haight also appointed Laura Ray to the DDA. Additionally, the council appointed Angie Arp to the Downtown Development Authority. At Arp’s request, Councilmember Kay will replace her after one year. To fill Arp’s seat on the Planning and Zoning Commision, the council appointed Brian Higgins. 


Blue Ridge City Council Election: The Results

Election, Featured News, Featured Stories
Election Results

FANNIN, Ga. — After almost a month of voting, the polls for the Blue Ridge City Council election closed today, Nov. 2, 2021 at 7 p.m. This election has been called one of the most important in Blue Ridge history and comes at a time of heightened worry about the future of the city. 

For months, both citizens and candidates have made their voices heard on what they consider serious issues for the city. Now, the citizens of Blue Ridge have chosen who will serve on city council to tackle those issues. 

Although the results are not yet certified, the poll workers announced their tallies to the public. The results of the election were announced at 10:41 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2021. 


Rhonda Haight has won the title of Mayor of Blue Ridge. She will replace Donna Whitener, an incumbent of 12 years. Haight’s term is four years. 

Vote count:

Rhonda Haight – 234 votes

Donna Whitener – 196 votes

Post 1:

Jack Taylor has won the Post 1 seat. He will replace incumbent Harold Herndon. His term is two years. 

Vote count:

Jack Taylor – 250 votes

Harold Herndon – 168 votes

Post 2:

Angie Arp has won the Post 2 seat. She will replace Rhonda Haight. Mike Panter, the Post 3 incumbent, was her challenger. Her term is four years. 

Vote count

Angie Arp: 223 votes 

Mike Panter: 211 votes 

Post 3: 

Christy Kay has won the Post 3 seat. She will replace Mike Panter. Her challenger was Brian Higgins. Her term is two years. 

Vote count

Christy Kay: 233 votes 

Brian Higgins: 194 votes 

Post 4: 

Bill Whaley has won the Post 4 seat. He will replace Robbie Cornelius. Whaley had two challengers, Richard Arnold and Jacqueline Brown. His term is four years. 

Vote count

Bill Whaley: 207 votes 

Jacqueline Brown: 157 votes 

Richard Arnold: 63 votes 

Post 5: 

Bill Bivins has won the Post 5 seat. He will replace incumbent Nathan Fitts. His term is 2 years. 

Vote count

Bill Bivins: 261 votes

Nathan: 172 votes


515 Republicans The Power of 5 present Candidate Q & A – Countdown to 2022


City Council Election: Interview with Mike Panter

City Council, Election
Mike Panter

FANNIN, Ga. — Mike Panter is a candidate for the Post 2 seat on the Blue Ridge City Council. He spoke with FYN to discuss his candidacy, previous achievements, and future goals. Mike Panter is incumbent and running against Angie Arp, who has previous experience on the city council. 

On collecting delinquent taxes and business license fees: 

Panter says that his push to collect unpaid taxes and fees began right after the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the city: “We had a loss of revenue for that month [April 2020]. I was brought into a finance meeting, and there was a lot of discussion about, you know, what we were going to do.” Panter says it was then that he began to consider how to generate more income, “I was informed … by the accountant that the delinquent taxes were over $300,000, and my comment was ‘why have they not been collected?’” 

Panter explains that he was told the council had never wanted to collect the taxes “because it was a black eye for everybody.” He commented, “If my 80 year old mother can pay her taxes, everybody can pay their taxes.” Panter notes that the city ended up collecting over $200,000 in delinquent taxes. “Also during the process I found out we had over 90 businesses … that had delinquent business license,” which Panter says have now all been collected through 2020. Additionally, he mentions his work to increase business license fees from $50 to $250, a figure that had gone unchanged since 2004. 

Panter says: “Going forward, if elected … we will continue to collect our taxes, we’ll continue to collect business license [fees], and if we don’t, we’ll take the appropriate action, because, you know, the future … of the city of Blue Ridge depends on our collection of revenue.”  

On city water:

“I also did a search of our water. I found out that we had around 200 homes that were on residential water rates, but they … were on rental programs,” Panter says, “I deemed them as commercial, cause if you’re renting your home as a business, it’s commercial, it’s not residential.” He says he changed the water rate for those homes, increasing revenue for the city. Panter also brings up subdivisions that are outside the city limits, but are provided with city water: “A lot of these homes … we don’t get taxes from these people.”  

In response to claims about poor water quality, Panter says, “Quite frankly, we’re one of the highest rated water as far as purification, in the state.”  

On city finances:

Panter says that during his term he took “A look at the finances of the city, [and] saw that our bonds … had a 39 year note of over 13.9 million dollars.” He says he was able to renegotiate the bonds, to save the city over 2.5 million dollars, “We moved from a … 37 year bond at 4.1% to a 32 year bond at 2.3% which saved the city … this year alone, a hundred thousand”. Panter also brings up additional benefits of his work with the city finances: “Not only did we save 2.5 million dollars in debt, we got a double A rating which gives us better … financial ability to go out and borrow money and do things that we need to do to work toward the infrastructure.”

On affordable housing:

Panter first clarified his vote on affordable housing: “As you probably know, I voted no on the affordable housing proposal that we had about 3 or 4 months ago. The reason I voted no, was … not because I was against affordable housing. I’m for affordable housing.” 

He says that there’s different levels of affordable housing, with important distinctions. Panter leans in favor of workforce housing, which is usually available for middle class workers. “One of my things is, if we’re gonna do affordable housing … I want us to … have some type of control over who gets this housing. What I mean by that, I feel like that our citizens ought to have priority.” He says that other forms of housing, like Section 8, don’t allow the city to restrict access to people from other cities: “So, with workforce housing, if it’s structured correctly, we could determine where, we could determine the price range, we could put stipulations … for someone to be eligible.” Panter suggests possible requirements such as a year of prior residence, and a cap of 36 months in the housing. The lack of control is what led Panter to vote no. He says, “The way I understand it, if you use federal money for affordable housing, then we, the local city … do not have … our local residents having first option.” 

Panter also mentions that workforce housing is done throughout the country for workers like police, firefighters, and factory workers: “It’s a way that we could make sure that we have a workforce in our city.” He brings up the importance of location for those workers, another reason he voted no, saying, “Workforce housing is built in the geographical area where the people that live there can walk to work, can walk to a drug store, can walk to a grocery store. So all of the things that they need on a day to day basis is available to them.” The proposed location, as he explains, was near two schools and an existing residential area with no sidewalks, streetlights, or turn lanes. 

To voters:

“I spent 38 years in the city of Blue Ridge and Fannin County, working with the youth of this community. I’ve served just about on every board, and the people that know me know that I’m all about the community, taking care of our current community.  Making sure that as we grow, we’re growing financially stable. If I’m re-elected I’ll make sure that the city of Blue Ridge stays financially fit, to be able to expand our fire department, our recreation services, and one of my main goals is to build an aquatic and wellness center for the citizens of Blue ridge and Fannin County.” 


FYN made an effort to contact every candidate, but we were ultimately unable to speak with Post 1 candidates Herald Herndon and Jack Taylor; Post 3 candidate Christy Kay; Post 4 candidates Jacqueline Brown and William Whaley; and Post 5 candidates Bill Bivins and Nathan Fitts. Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Nov. 2, 2021. 


City Council Election: Interview with Angie Arp

City Council, Election
Angie Arp Headshot

FANNIN, Ga. — Angie Arp is running for the Post 2 seat on the Blue Ridge City Council. Arp spoke with FYN to discuss her past experiences and future goals. She has previously served on the council and is running against an incumbent, Mike Panter

On her break from city council:

Arp says, “I think people at that time was probably frustrated and aggravated, as they are now about the division, the fussing, the fighting.” After losing the last city council election, Arp suggests that “people see that I’ve been out of the picture, and I really wasn’t the problem.” 

She says she chose to run again because she still sees many of the same issues, but also new worrying ones: “I’m running again, because I see what is happening now. It’s disturbing, cause it’s got worse … over the past four years I’ve attended the meetings … I still know what’s going on, I still see what’s going on, and it’s still very disturbing to me.  Arp explains she could not just sit back in good conscience and wish for someone to step up to the plate, “I … could not have someone walk into his seat without even having to knock on a door … I’m gonna do my part this time.” 

On overdevelopment: 

“Bottom line is, you can’t stop growth altogether. You can’t stop people from selling their property, you can’t stop people from building on their property, but you can create ordinances that controls it,” Arp says. 

She talks about the proposal for the hotel that took place when she was in office. At the time, the hotel was eventually approved for four stories, regardless of the Planning and Zoning Department’s recommendation, Arp explains, “Well, no one stepped up to make that motion to change to three story … and I knew that if I had said it, made the motion, that it wouldn’t get passed … So if I had to do one thing over, in that whole four years, it would have been that I would have made that motion, regardless if anyone supported it or not.”

Going forward, Arp shares her zoning goals, “First thing in, go through those ordinances. Even if we had to hire … somebody to help us go through it, but they need to be updated.” She notes that most of the ordinances have not been altered in decades: “Actually, every ordinance in the city needs to be gone through and updated, but especially the zoning, just to make sure we don’t get overdeveloped. They’ve already reduced the height, that’s a step. But there’s other things that needs to be done.” Arp specifically points out, “In the zoning for the R3, you can build up to 45 feet. That’s crazy! So, they reduced it in the central business district … but yet now in R3 you can go up to 45 feet in a residential area?” This is just one example of several inconsistencies, Arp says. 

“Just taking the time … they should want to get things updated, I mean 40 years is a long time to not put any emphasis on that. Quite honestly, when I went in office that’s what I wanted to do, and I tried to focus on it. But, combatting all the other darts at me, and just trying to get the streets paved, trying to get the playground done trying to fight to make sure things are done legal, there just wasn’t enough time. It just didn’t get done. That’ll be a top priority for me though [going forward].” 

On a city manager: 

“Well I agree there needs to be a city manager,” Arp says. She explains how, in the past, the city council has approved a city administrator. However, Arp says, “In this case, because the mayor has fought for ten years against anybody being in an administrative position, other than her, then there’s no recourse other than to change the form of government.” 

Arps mentions she is worried about the way the city is currently headed: “The problem is here, the mayor can’t do what a city manager could do, because she don’t work 40 hours. So really the city is growing, and the way … things are not getting done, if .. the city does not get a city manager, … or someone who can supervise and make sure things are done, and report back to the council, or report back to the mayor or whatever, it’s just gonna continue to get worse. I’m sorry, but the city cannot continue forever … on the path it’s been going for the past 10 years, it just cannot.” 

Despite that, Arp says she is not in favor of a city manager with total control: “So, … I would favor that, but I would be careful, and in no way change the council, that it’s a strong council, because I think one person having the complete say is not good.”  

On infrastructure: 

Arp says that infrastructure is a crucial issue: “It is gonna take millions and millions and millions of dollars to fix what needs to be fixed … Now the sewer treatment plant needs to be, it’s got capacity to hold more, we’re only at 30% capacity, but it’s old … to do the whole thing over will cost millions too.” 

She also is concerned that infrastructure is not being looked at with enough priority saying, “You’ve got pump stations … they’re undersized, nobody ever thought about the growth being what it is, so they’re undersized. When I was in office, assisted living, those [developers] came and asked the council, ‘can we hook on?’ The mayor was like yeah … no problem. Well, come to find out once they get open, the pump station down there was not upgraded. So, sewer was running out on the ground. The city had to pay for the pump station to be upgraded.” 

She also talks about the water lines throughout the city, “We’re talking about lines all over this city, galvanized water lines that are corroding on the inside out … water from the treatment plant … is going through the water into our pumps, and it’s posing a health hazard, because when it breaks down it’s not safe … Then same thing with sewer lines. Sewer lines are terracotta clay pipes, that is breaking down and sewage is going out into the ground.” 

Arp explains that, as she sees it, money is the biggest challenge to fixing the city’s infrastructure: “Until somebody steps up and quits wasting money on this, that, and whatever, and dedicates that … we are gonna start saving money.” Proactive decisions need to be made, she argues: “They’re just doing what they have to do. Fix the problems, repair, just do what they have to do to get through the day. But, at some point, if it’s not take seriously, something ain’t done about it, it’s gonna be a big big problem, even worse than it is now … You can’t ignore it, you’ve got to start doing something: planning and saving.” 

On affordable housing; 

“If all these businesses downtown, if they can’t get workers, because the workers can’t afford a place to live around here, or there’s just simply no places to live, then that hurts everybody. That hurts that business, that hurts then the revenue brought in from that business. The tax dollars, that hurts the county’s revenue, it hurts the city’s, it hurts everybody. So that to me is a big thing, Arp says. She notes that while she is in support of affordable housing, she thinks it takes some type of developer that can use federal funding to ensure the housing is actually affordable for those who need it.

To Voters: 

“I want them to consider whether or not they like what they see in the city. If they feel like enough focus, and enough priority, has been put on them, and if so, then vote for the same, because you’re going to get the same. If you don’t like it, then vote for change … History has a way of repeating itself, if you want change, then you have to make the change.” 


FYN made an effort to contact every candidate, but we were ultimately unable to speak with Post 1 candidates Herald Herndon and Jack Taylor; Post 3 candidate Christy Kay; Post 4 candidates Jacqueline Brown and William Whaley; and Post 5 candidates Bill Bivins and Nathan Fitts. Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Nov. 2, 2021. 

City Council Election: Interview with Rhonda Haight

City Council, Election
Rhonda Haight

FANNIN, Ga. — Rhonda Haight, an incumbent on the city council, is running for Mayor of Blue Ridge. She spoke with FYN to share her current views and future goals for Blue Ridge. She is running against Donna Whitener, the incumbent mayor of 12 years. 

On new leadership: 

When asked why she thinks Blue Ridge is ready for a new mayor, Haight says, “I’ll tell you why … I sat in the meeting two years ago and watched the sunshine law being violated, and this is after the mayor had practically misled the council on annexation as well as the public, and I realized then at that meeting … that I would not continue on this road under her leadership.” She says she made the decision that night to run for office in the next election. Haight also notes: “I do feel like, probably I am the most qualified because I do have experience with budget … I have 12 years of experience just as she does, but mine’s been as a council person, and of course when you’re involved from this angle, you know the makings of the city.” 

On council decorum: 

Haight says that good, consistent meeting policies and unity are important parts of having an effective city council: “You set a good meeting policy, that’s not changed consistently … so, you put a good policy in place that satisfies the citizens, and allows them input, but also keeps the meetings orderly, that’s one of the first things. Secondly, you bring a council together with unity, you don’t try to pull people apart, and you don’t mislead them with information.” 

On city manager: 

The council had previously voted to create a city manager position in Blue Ridge, but Haight says “Speaker Ralston … felt like we needed to have another town hall meeting … he felt like that we needed more input from the community.” She notes that regardless of the outcome on Nov. 2, she will push for a town hall meeting on the subject: “I do plan to have town hall meeting in November. Nathan Fitts and I have both talked about that, and several other candidates … doesn’t matter if I win or lose, the city needs that going forward.” Haight says that after the town hall meeting, if the city is in favor, she hopes to send it back to the general assembly to be passed, and implemented immediately. 


At Blue Ridge’s City Council Election Forum, Haight brought up feathering zones in the city. She elaborates, “When I say feathering, our ordinances actually state that this is how it should be done … you should go from your highest use, which is CBD [Central Business District], and then it goes to C2 down to C1 … so it needs to stagger, and that’s what I mean by that.” Haight also mentions that zoning ordinances are not being followed all the time: “I think if we simply follow our rules, then it shouldn’t be a problem … the ordinance reads where it should be staggered down from its lowest use, then to residential, and that takes both parties.” 

On affordable housing:

Haight says that housing is an important issue in Fannin County. “Affordable housing is needed. The average list price of a house in Blue Ridge as of … last monday is $817,000,” Haight emphasizes. She then notes that the average income in Blue Ridge is around $30,000: “So,when we look at affordable housing, we’re looking at workforce housing, transitional housing.” Haight also addressed what she considers a misconception about affordable housing, saying, “I think the way some people are twisting it, is that it’s housing that would bring in crime, and I think that is very discriminatory, and really I don’t think federal housing would appreciate any of that.” She also mentions that housing issues lead to worker issues: “Our shops, right now a lot of them can’t open because they don’t have workers.” 

On infrastructure: 

Haight believes there are misconceptions about the city’s infrastructure as well. For that reason, she says, she facilitated a meeting with engineers to discuss it. Haight then brings up a ten year plan that was implemented to address infrastructure issues. “Currently we are working on replacing old parts, and our [water and sewer] buildings,” which Haight says is a project that will cost around $5 million. However, Haight believes if the city stays on track with the plan, the city will have a “wonderful water and sewer system.” 

On communication and public involvement:

“I’d like to see more town hall meetings,” Haight remarks. She also says she would like to see more public comment spots during city council meetings: “Why would you restrict what the people want to … say?” Haight also believes involving the public in committees is a great way to increase public involvement. Other than that, she also proposes website improvements and holding two city council meetings a month. 


Haight considers one of her biggest achievements to be reducing building height limits. She says, “One of the things I’m most proud of, is the fact that I spearheaded the effort to reduce … building heights downtown, and I’ve been working on that for a while. It’s been over a year’s process for the moratorium up to this, so I guess really, knowing how the public hates the big tall buildings downtown, I think reducing the building size is … probably one of my biggest accomplishments.” 

To Voters: 

“I want them to remember that I truly live in downtown, and that I truly live in the city limits. And, you know if for any reason other than that, that’s why they should vote for me, because it has been questioned numerous times as to my opponents to where she lives … our charter clearly states that you have to live in the city limits, and you must have lived here for a year consecutively. Anyone who knows, they know that I live here, and you know I would say, if you remember anything … when you’re voting, think about the truthfulness to this situation.” 


FYN made an effort to contact every candidate, but we were ultimately unable to speak with Post 1 candidates Herald Herndon and Jack Taylor; Post 3 candidate Christy Kay; Post 4 candidates Jacqueline Brown and William Whaley; and Post 5 candidates Bill Bivins and Nathan Fitts. Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Nov. 2, 2021. 


City Council Election: Interview with Mayor Donna Whitener

City Council, Election
Whitener headshot

FANNIN, Ga. — Donna Whitener is running for re-election as Mayor of Blue Ridge. She has been incumbent mayor for 12 years. She spoke with FYN to discuss her  experiences as mayor, and her goals for the future. She is running against Rhonda Haight, an incumbent on the city council. 

On infrastructure:

Whitener says, “We’ve actually done quite a few infrastructure projects … we spent about 18 million dollars in rehab on water plants, transmission lines, two new million gallon tanks.” She clarifies that those projects took place in the beginning of her time as mayor, and that more recently: “We’ve done probably another 20 million in different projects such as water line replacements, streetscape projects, renovation projects, so you know we’ve done a lot of things that have taken care of the … infrastructure and the structures in our community that are important to us.” 

On city sewer: 

“You know we’re just now starting to do a lot with sewer. We’re starting to see some sewer issues pop up, and we’ve seen those all along because a lot of the lines are terracotta,” Whitener explains, “Our sewer system is so much smaller than our water system, we have over three thousand customers on our water system, but we have just a little over a thousand customers on our sewer system.” She also explains that while the infrastructure is dated, the capacity of the system has only recently become an issue: “That’s starting to happen because those lines just can’t handle it, they’re caving in, and they’re needing to be … replaced.” 

On building heights: 

Whitener says, “I know the big one that everybody ask about is the 60 foot in height. That’s been there since 1978. Over the years we’ve had a lot of tall buildings, some of those have burned, been torn down, changed over the years, but its always been that. In the last two terms … there has been a lot of talk about changing the height.” She says that two Planning and Development administrations have recommended that the height limit be reduced to 45 feet, but she says the council never wanted to take action: “They never wanted to change the height at that point. Never even talked about going to the 35 foot … it’s been through planning commission, its been through council members, and you know they’ve now made it 35 foot, but in the last time that we had a discussion about it … it didn’t happen.” 

On city manager form of government: 

Whitener says that the biggest challenge with any form of government is “Nobody’s actually studied the city manager form of government.” Whitener explains when she was first elected, she was in favor of a city manager, but soon changed her mind: “As I started talking with other mayors and council members, city manager form of government is only typically done in larger cities. We only have about, well we have a population of a little over 1200 people.” She notes a small number of small towns who have a city manager, while the vast majority favor a mayor. 

Whitener also cites a high turnover rate, a high level of control, and the impersonality of a city manager: “In our little city, a lot of our folks are my age … those folks like to pick up the phone … they like having that person they can talk to, they’ve got my phone number, they’ve got me on speed dial, if there’s anything going wrong at their house, if a tree fell, if they’ve had a storm, I get a call.” She says her personal connection with citizens is important, and it is lost with a city manager. 

On zoning: 

“I’m the only council member that has done any planning and zoning training,” Whitener says, “Planning and zoning involves people’s property, and it involves dollars, it involves their money, their livelihood and the people around them, it affects their livelihood too.” She says that training for the council would help them handle the increasingly difficult issue of growth and overdevelopment: “I think that planning and zoning training would help them look at it from a bigger picture, as to what it does to the entire neighborhood, rather than just ‘that’s a frame of mind’ or ‘that’s somebody I know’ or ‘that’s somebody that talks a good game’ … I think it helps you to sort out what makes sense and what doesn’t.”

On the City of Blue Ridge Police: 

Whitener first explains that growth in Blue Ridge is causing an increased burden on police. From more wrecks to small incidents in town, she says the uptick is putting stress on the city’s officers: “We only have 10 officers, we’ve got 4 part time, we’re really needing to staff up.”  

“We put money aside to hire two new officers. The problem is finding those people … with all that happened in the last few years, the defund the police, the ugliness that they were having to go through … a lot of people said ‘you know, I’m not putting my life on the line for everybody anymore, I’m tired i want to go home and enjoy my family,’ and I understand that. So, a lot of folks have gotten out of that field, so we’ve got to find those folks that we can recruit from somewhere that are still interested. 

Whitener also says, “Maybe if they have the support system from the mayor and the council, as to we want good police officers, we’re not gonna tell you to stand back, we’re gonna tell you to move forward. You’re a police officer, you know what to do and you know when to do it. So, … we’ve got to make sure that those officers know that we support them.” 

On affordable housing:

“There’s a lot of gossip that affordable housing didn’t get passed. Affordable housing has not been on any kind of yes or no vote. What did not get passed was they wanted to rezone an area where we already have some sewer issues. We thought some of those had already been resolved, but its not … three days before the vote came up, they had had another blow out in that area that had caused some problems, and so we had about a million dollar repair on the line and a pump station before any major housing at all could go in there. It was 15 acres that they wanted to put 170 units in. If we had rezoned that to R3, we would have been obligated to put them on our sewer system, which would have not worked. It would … have been a problem… we couldn’t have done it, it would have ruined the entire sewer system for everybody else in the neighborhood.” 

Whitener clarifies, “It’s not that I’m not for affordable housing, and for workforce housing, because I know it’s needed. I get calls … pretty often, but I have rental properties myself, and so I know that there’s a need out there. But, the problem you have is a lot of people are trying to sell the affordable housing, that that was … voted on, but it was not, it was actually the area they chose.” 

In the future, Whitener says: “That’s my goal with affordable housing, I want to make sure that we’re not selling out our affordable housing to folks from the Atlanta area … I want to make sure that we take care of the people in Blue Ridge and Fannin County first.” 

To voters: 

“I’ve always supported my citizens. They’ve been able to reach me 24/7. I’ve had to say no to some citizens, but I’ve always given them the reasons that I couldn’t do what they wanted. I’m approachable, I’m reachable … I want citizens to know that I’m there for them, and I’m there to make sure that we have a secure and safe community.” 


FYN made an effort to contact every candidate, but we were ultimately unable to speak with Post 1 candidates Herald Herndon and Jack Taylor; Post 3 candidate Christy Kay; Post 4 candidates Jacqueline Brown and William Whaley; and Post 5 candidates Bill Bivins and Nathan Fitts. Early voting is already underway and Election Day is Nov. 2, 2021. 


Blue Ridge City Council Forum October 6th 2021 Mayor of Blue Ridge Seat

Election, News

Blue Ridge City Council Forum October 6th 2021 Post 1 Seat

Election, News

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