Blanton Named Executive Director of SOWEGA COA

The SOWEGA Council on Aging announced Monday that Debbie Blanton, currently the organization’s assistant director, will fill the large shoes of current Executive Director Kay Hind when Hind steps down next month. Hind, who has been with the organization for nearly half a century, announced late last year that she would retire effective March 31st. The council search committee put in place following Hind’s announcement decided that Blanton would succeed Hind as the new director. The committee’s recommendation was approved by the Board of Directors last week. When Blanton assumes her new role, Izzie Sadler, the Council on Aging’s current development director, will step in as associate director. The succession plan in place calls for Sadler to move into the executive director position after two years, on March 31, 2019. William Collins, the council’s board president, said Hind approached the board in September to inform them of her intention to retire. Collins said choosing a successor was no easy task. “This is the first transition we’ve had,” he said. Collins said the search committee was formed soon after Hind’s announcement and met with her three times throughout the process. The committee put out a request for applications, with most of the applicants having a connection to the agency, while staff members and community leaders were given the chance to offer feedback. Collins said it became apparent that a plan for the future needed to be established rather than supplying a quick fix, leading to the decision for Blanton and Sadler to be first and second in line, respectively, to pick up where Hind will leave off. “I’m excited because I think the plan (involves) two people besides Kay who have been at the heart of (the organization),” said Collins. “We feel we are truly passing the baton to those truly invested in the organization.” When Hind walks out of the Senior Life Enrichment Center she helped bring to life and that bears her name, she will be leaving behind an indelible mark that started when she joined the council in 1967. “I made up my mind at the spur of the moment to retire, but I would not have done it if I didn’t have two people who could run the organization,” she said. “The committee really worked on this. They are looking at long-term sustainability rather than a quick fix.” Blanton has been with the Council on Aging for 15 years, 10 of them as the assistant director. Sadler, meanwhile, played a key role in bringing the Senior Life Enrichment Center, which opened in early 2014, to reality when the project was in its later stages. “I think both have been committed to moving us forward,” Hind said. Blanton said it was comforting going into the transition process with someone like Hind to lean on, and she spoke highly of the individual who will be succeeding her in two years. “I can’t think of a better person to move the agency forward in the future,” she said of Sadler. Hind built the organization from one that had an $8,000 budget — no program funding — to one that now has a $6.5 million budget, runs more than 20 different programs, has an influence on 14 counties and employs more than 100 people. After March 31, Hind said her intention is to do some traveling and take advantage of the senior citizen resources she herself worked hard for — including the computer classes she has been intending to take. “I am looking forward to (utilizing) all the things here,” she said. When Sadler steps up as executive director, the likely focus will be toward how the growing aging population impacts the council’s staff. “We are reaching an unprecedented time in history,” she said. “To me, that changes the way we function. “We have come a long way, and we’ve got a long way to go. There is unlimited potential for what we can do.” When Blanton takes over in March, she said her intention will be to build upon the programs already in place. Asked if she felt ready to fill Hind’s shoes, she replied: “Yes I do, and I am excited about where we are going.” Both Blanton and Sadler spoke of building on what is in place and continuing to look for ways to reach out to an area that is predominately rural. In doing so, Blanton pointed out that it is not just the director’s job to move the needle forward. “You have to have a leader with vision, but you have to have the staff,” the incoming director said. Hind was recently reappointed to the Georgia Council on Aging, a position she said Monday she intends to keep after her retirement in order to continue her role as an advocate. A search is under way for a new development director, officials at the Council on Aging said.

Ronnie Lee to Lead the National Cotton Council in 2017

Ronnie Lee, a cotton producer from Bronwood, Ga., was elected National Cotton Council chairman for 2017. Named during the NCC’s annual meeting held in Dallas, Texas on February 10-12, he succeeds Shane Stephens, a Greenwood, Miss., warehouseman. As the managing partner of Lee Farms, Lee raises cotton, corn, peanuts, small grains, hay, pecans, and cattle in Terrell, Lee, and Sumter counties. He also owns and operates McCleskey Cotton Company, a ginning and warehousing operation with locations in Bronwood and Albany. His gin also is one of the owners of Chickasha of Georgia. Lee is involved in multiple agribusinesses. He owns RCL Flying Service; LGT LLC; McCleskey Saw and Machine Co., LLC; and Adela Logistics, all of which are companies that support local growers and their products. Prior to focusing on these closely held businesses, he was a vice president with McCleskey Mills, Inc., a peanut shelling company in Smithville, Georgia. An active U.S. cotton industry leader, Lee has been a NCC producer delegate since 2003 and served on the NCC’s Board of Directors in 2015. He also served as the vice chairman of the American Cotton Producers in 2014. He currently is a director of Cotton Incorporated. Lee also has been involved in regional, state and local organizations. He is a past president and chairman of Southern Cotton Growers. From 2005 through 2013, he served on the Farm Services Agency Georgia State Committee as a committee member and later as its chairman, having first been appointed by President Bush and later by President Obama. He also has served on the boards of the National Peanut Buying Points Association and the American Peanut Shellers Association. In 2004, Lee received the Soil Conservationist of the Year for Terrell County. In 2010, he was named the Farm Press/Cotton Foundation High Cotton Award winner for the Southeast Region. Lee, who attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, has three sons, Ron, Chandler, and Neil, all of whom are actively involved in the family businesses. He is a member of Bronwood Baptist Church. The NCC’s vice chairman for 2017 is Ron Craft, a ginner from Plains, Texas. Re-elected as secretary-treasurer is Barry Evans, a producer from Kress, Texas. Re-elected as NCC vice presidents are: Kent Fountain, ginner, Surrency, Ga.; Robert Lacy, cottonseed processor, Lubbock, Texas; Coalter Paxton, III, warehouseman, Wilson, N.C., Mike Quinn, cooperative official, Garner, N.C.; Joe Nicosia, merchant, Cordova, Tenn.; and David Hastings, textile manufacturer, Mauldin, South Carolina. NCC staff officers include: Dr. Gary Adams, NCC president and chief executive officer; Reece Langley, vice president, Washington Operations; Craig Brown, vice president, Producer Affairs; Dr. Jody Campiche, vice president, Economics and Policy Analysis; Dr. Bill Norman, vice president, Technical Services; Harrison Ashley, vice president, Ginner Services; and Fred Johnson, vice president, Administration and Program Coordination.

35th Annual Chamber Dinner Held with Success

The Sylvester-Worth County Chamber held its 35th Annual Chamber Dinner on February 16, 2017, at the Worth County Community Center. The dinner was well attended and enjoyed by all! 2016 Chair Kim Gilman welcomed everyone, asked everyone to keep the storm victims in prayer and spoke about the Chambers accomplishments in 2016. Ms. Gilman then thanked the Worth County EDA, City of Sylvester and all 277 members for their support. Ms. Gilman then led everyone in the Pledge. Ms. Tonya Singletary sang the National Anthem. Upcoming Vice Chair Tony Bell did the invocation. The next part of the program consisted of a farewell, by Ms. Gilman, to Directors of 2016, thanking them for their dedication and work with the Chamber. President/CEO Karen Rackley then proceeded with the Installation of our 2017 Directors, recognition of our 2016 Ambassadors. Chair of the Events Committee Ms. Sarah McCrary then recognized the events committee. She thanked the WCHS Band, and Jazz Trio, Chris Shipp Lawn Service and the Worth County Fire and Rescue team for all their help. The meal was prepared by Hugh Hardy owner of Carrol’s Sausage and Kristen Garland, Worth County School Nutritionest and staff. The Worth County High School Band were the evenings servers and the Worth County High School Jazz Band provided Dinner music. Chair Kim Gilman asked the crowd to keep the victims of the past storms in everyone’s thoughts and prayers and stated we had a special slide show that shows we are WORTH COUNTY STRONG. After the slide show, incoming Chair Josh Beckstrom recognized the tourism committees that help bring much-valued tourism dollars into Worth County. Then Chair Kim Gilman performed her last duty as Chair by passing the gavel to incoming Chair Josh Beckstrom. In turn, Chair Josh Beckstrom performed his first duty as Chair by presenting Past Chair Kim Gilman with a special gift of an engraved gavel for her to keep. The program proceeded to the Awards Presentation.

2016 Business of the Year – Shipp Shape Lawn Service
2016 Good Will Ambassador – Men’s United
2016 Lifetime Achievement – Debbie Gray Bridges

Chamber Directors Tony Bell, Gina Connell and Lisa Dylinski then proceeded with the Door Prizes. The Chamber gave out $250.00 in cash Door Prizes and reminded the winners to spend it locally! Mitchell EMC, Coca Cola, Colony Bank, Fletcher Yearta, Phoebe Worth Gift Shop and the Worth County High School also contributed door prizes that were handed out. Chair Josh Beckstrom then ended the evening by congratulating the awards winners, recognizing the Events Committee for a job well done, and thanking all our sponsors and supporters of the Chamber.

Thank you to the sponsors for the evening:
City of Sylvester
Mitchell EMC
Phoebe Worth Medical

Con Agra
Worth Gin

Century 21, Smith Branch and Pope
Colony Bank
Crop Production Services
EMC Engineering
Flint Equipment/Albany Tractor
Lawhorne Storage
Mobley Gin
Park-Built Company, Inc.
The Sylvester Computer Guy
Worth County Health Dept
Worth County High School

Benefit Concert Adds T. Graham Brown

South Georgia’s own T. Graham Brown, a native of Arabi in Crisp County who has had more than 20 singles on the country music charts including three reaching No. 1. Austin McAlpin of McAlpin Entertainment in Tifton made the announcement this week. Brown will join 12 other artists, including John Berry, Cyndi Thomson, Buddy Jewell, Ray Scott, Ben Wells, Daniel Parrish, Faith Jackson, Landis Frier, Derrick Dove, Ryn Crider, TJ Mauldin and Anne Cline on stage at 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. McAlpin said all artists are donating their time, and 100 percent of every ticket sold goes to benefit local storm victims. For more information like this, please follow Tifton Grapevine.

~ Dates to Remember ~


20th ~ Worth County Schools Out
21st ~ Books & Bubbles at the Margaret Jones Public Library 10:30am
22nd ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
22nd ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
22nd ~ WCMS Soccer Game at home 4:30pm Girls then Boys to Follow
23rd ~ Preschool Story Time at the Margaret Jones Public Library 10am
23rd –25th ~ All State Chorus in Athens
27th ~ Biometric Screening at Margaret Jones Public Library
28th ~ Books & Bubbles at the Margaret Jones Public Library 10:30am


1st ~ Spring Pictures at WCMS
1st ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
1st ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
2nd ~ Spring Pictures at WCES
8th ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
8th ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
10th ~ Muffins with Mom at WCMS
15th ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
15th ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
22nd ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
22nd ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
24th ~ Donuts with Dad at WCMS
25th ~ Fire Ant Festival in Ashburn
27th ~ Worth County Schools Out
28th ~ Worth County Schools Out
29th ~ Worth County Schools Out
29th ~ Kiwanis Meeting 12noon
29th ~ Taco Night at Old Mexico
29th ~ Worth County Schools Out
30th ~ Worth County Schools Out
31st ~ Worth County Schools Out

*** Email your questions or event listings to
and we will get them listed on the calendar ***

WCPS Chosen as a Finalist SSTAGE STAR Award

Worth County Primary School was chosen to present at the 10th annual SSTAGE Promising Practices Conference that was held on January 19, 2017 in Athens.  The team consisting of Jenny Worn, Kim Pritchard, Kaysie Wiggins, Alicia Oncale, and Maegan Kuck presented “Using Data Teams and Technology to Transform the RTI Process and Raise Student Achievement.”  Student Support Team Association for Georgia Educators (SSTAGE) in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education announced that Worth County Primary School was a finalist for a SSTAGE STAR Award for Promising Practices in the elementary school level category based on the conference participants’ scoring of the Best Practices rubric.  The committee will complete a site visit to WCPS on March 22nd for final evaluation before naming a winner.  The community is very proud of the direction WCPS has taken the RTI process and incorporating technology to ultimately improve student achievement!

Georgia Cotton Industry Pleased With Special Master’s Recommendation

On February 14, 2017 Ralph Lancaster, the Special Master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to oversee the Georgia-Florida “Water Wars” dispute, ruled in Georgia’s favor. The case stems from years of legal disputes between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. This particular case involved Florida suing Georgia via the Supreme Court and requesting Georgia cap its water consumption from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin at levels predetermined by Florida. Cotton is the largest row crop in Georgia with annual farm revenue exceeding $826 million and a total economic contribution of $1.6 billion to Georgia’s economy. The ACF Basin is home to almost half of all cotton production in Georgia. The Georgia cotton industry – farmers, ginners, cottonseed handlers, warehousers, merchants, cooperatives, and manufacturers – are pleased with Lancaster’s recommendation to the Supreme Court. In his recommendation to the Supreme Court to deny Florida’s request for a consumption cap on Georgia water withdrawals, Lancaster concludes that “Florida has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that any additional streamflow in the Flint River resulting from a decree imposing a consumptive cap on Georgia’s water use would be released from the Jim Woodruff Dam into the [Apalachicola] River at a time that would provide a material benefit to Florida.” The Georgia cotton industry joined together with the peanut and vegetable industries to submit a “Friend of the Court” brief on behalf of the farmers of Georgia. This brief explained the significance of Georgia agriculture and the importance of irrigation to Georgia farmers. Any water withdrawal cap would be detrimental to Georgia agriculture. Cotton leadership across Georgia was pleased to hear of the news. Jimmy Webb, a Calhoun County cotton farmer in the middle of the ACF Basin, said that “we are thankful for the decision of the Special Master. Our ability to irrigate our crops is one of the main reasons we have been a successful and sustainable farm.” Webb serves on the UGA-CAES Dean’s Advisory Council and The Cotton Board. Bart Davis, who farms cotton in Worth and Colquitt Counties, also part of the ACF Basin, said that “farming is the lifeblood of our community, almost everybody that lives here works in production agriculture. If we can’t irrigate when the crops need it, this whole community would just dry up.” Davis serves on the boards of Southern Cotton Growers and Cotton Incorporated. Matt Coley, a cotton farmer and ginner from Dooly County, which is on the edge of the ACF Basin, said that “we make our living off of the land and being good stewards of the land. Farmers had the most to lose in the case, and we still do if any future cases are brought forward.” Coley serves as a director on the American Cotton Producers of the National Cotton Council and the Georgia Cotton Commission. Andy Borem, President/CEO of Chickasha of Georgia, a cottonseed handler, said that “we’ve been watching this case closely because we knew that our growers would be crippled if the government imposed new restrictions on the amount of water farmers could use for irrigation.” Borem serves on the Board of Directors of the National Cotton Council and is the President of the National Cottonseed Products Association.