Driven by dreams
• Louisville native expresses passion for classic vehicles in a "new dealership just for old cars"
By Faye Ellison
"Driven by dreams. Perfected by passion."
That is a motto Dorsey Thomas has kept with him throughout life. Now it is the motto of a company he is steadily building from the ground up, his own classic car dealership, Country Boy Classics.
"It is a new car dealership with all old cars," Thomas said. "We will build the cars or restore them for customers. It will be everything that you get from a new car dealership just for old cars."
The dream and the passion were both passed on to him at a young age, though he did not even notice early on.
"My love of cars started a long time ago when I was a kid," he said. "I would collect Matchbox cars for every car in the world."
As he got older, real cars began to catch his attention. His father, James L. Thomas, built a 1939 Jaguar when he was 8 years old; the car still sits under their porch.
"I would help drive it around and mess up all the tools," Thomas smiled as he reminisced. "I would look at that car everyday and watch him drive it to work."
When he was 11 years old his father, a beloved school teacher, died. His mother, Dorothy Thomas, was taken before him in 1986.
"I didn't have a chance to do a lot with him and I wish I did," Thomas said.
He would carry a torch for not only his father's passion for cars, but a burgeoning interest he had himself.
While growing up after his father's death, Thomas would sit on the front porch on a warm afternoon watching cars pass by until it was dark when then the only indication of the make and model were their headlights.
His oldest sister Kimberlei Thomas-Smith raised him and his other three siblings.
"It was terrible," he said, remembering having to cope with his father's death and a new lifestyle all at once. "She was only 21 and had to raise four siblings while paying bills, medical bills and she had her own kids. But all four of us went to college and graduated with honors. It is a blessing."
Thomas realized then that it was not only Kimberlei supporting him and his brothers and sisters; it was new father figures like Howard Johnson and Roosevelt Mills.
"It does take a village," the Brown Terrace native explained. "We had people like Kathy Davis, Larry Davis, Norma Thomas and Howard and Cynthia Johnson to help. But if I had to do it again, I wouldn't do it any other way. I now have a beautiful wife and son, a good life."
With the help of his wife, the 1998 Jefferson County High School graduate was able to realize his dream later in life.
"My wife would say, 'You know so much about cars, why don't you do something,'" he said of his wife, SaFarrah. "It was kind of like my father was speaking through her."
His wife's father, Rev. John Harmon, also offered his services to his son-in-law.
"He is my go-to man," Thomas laughed. "If you need something today, he will have it for you tomorrow."
Thomas told him of his dream of owning a classic car dealership and the light bulb came on above Rev. Harmon's head as well.
"He was all for it," Thomas said. "He is a great inspiration to me. My wife is human resources; she helps me do a lot of the hard work."
Since coming up with the idea of a classic car shop, Thomas has been working on a 1967 Chevy Nova II.
"I have been working on it about a year and a half," he said. "It is something I have thought about really hard. It is hard getting it started and it is hard to finish."
Not only did he second guess himself about opening a classic car shop, Thomas met other critics along the way to reaching his dream.
"People were saying, 'People don't buy classic cars,' or 'They won't pay that much,' but I have found that more people admire me for doing it," Thomas said. "Now people can buy the car they went to prom in or say, 'This just took me back to a time when life was good. It took me back to when you left the front door open with the lights on.'"
With the classic cars, not only will he fulfill his dream, but he expects to help others find those dreams that they have lost.
"This is a reminiscing point," Thomas said, adding with a smile, "It is a small vacation to forget about all the bills, the worries, your wife or kids."
In high school, he owned his own diamond in the rough. Now he realizes you really don't know what you've got til it's gone.
"In high school, I had a 1967 Plymouth Fury," he said. "I didn't know what it was then, but it is the next to be restored."
Thomas explains his drive and passion for classic cars one of the only way he knows how.
"Everybody has a vice, a passion or a fix," he said. "Looking at engine size or exterior trim, these are mine. These cars are my sport."
Not only is Thomas looking forward to owning a car business, but he is looking forward to August when he gets to give back to the same community that gave him a chance in life.
Country Boy Classics will hold a car show on Aug. 5 in Wadley Park. It is $20 to register with prizes for first at $500, second at $75 and third at $50.
"We want to get as many cars as we can get," Thomas said. "We like the classic cars and we are trying to bring back the American muscle, but the show is open to all types of cars.
"I am doing this to get the kids together in my hometown. I want to give the people something to look forward to. I want them to believe that they can win and help inspire them to get them on the right track."
And if all goes well this is an event Thomas said he wants to do "for life."
For more information on the show call (770) 402-4366 or (912) 536-4082.
Jefferson County budget squeaks
• Budget shows an overall decrease despite increased expenses in several departments
By Jessica Newberry
Despite a lengthy list of predicted expenses for the upcoming year, the FY 2006-2007 tentative budget for Jefferson County shows a decrease from the past year's budget for the first time in over five years due to cuts including the completed construction of the new landfill cell and completion of the road into the industrial park.
The $11.108 million tentative budget is a $263,000, or one percent, decrease from the $11.371 million budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
“When someone calls, a social worker will talk to them about their needs and how we might be able to help,” Patton said. “Maybe they are looking for help with custody or we can find someone to give them some legal advice or assistance. We have developed a resource guide and we send it to agencies in each county as well as the families that make contact with us.”
"This is one of the tightest budgets I have worked since I've been here," County Administrator Paul Bryan said. "Tremendous attempts have been made to find alternative sources of revenue so we don't have to depend as much on the ad valorem tax."
Consolidation sheets are currently being completed and will aid in establishing the actual size of the tax digest, according to Bryan.
Completed cell construction at the new landfill has given a $547,000 decrease, almost 53 percent of last year's new landfill budget. The old landfill's tentative budget has also shown a 45 percent decrease.
"Because of very good testing results over the last couple years, testing and engineering costs have been drastically reduced," said Bryan.
Another significant decrease is evident in the Other category of the budget, which included funds for the construction and development of the road into the industrial park last year, according to Bryan. In the tentative budget, the Other category shows a decrease of $146,000.
Budget categories showing the greatest increases include the sheriff's office at $118,100 and the roads department at approximately $89,900.
According to Bryan, the increase seen by the sheriff's office takes into account the purchase of two vehicles and additional staff positions now that the jail has a stable population. The federal requirement of having a registered nurse on call will also be filled in the upcoming year. The cost of this position should be offset by the decrease in doctor and emergency room visits, Bryan said.
"This year, all positions are budgeted as being filled," said Bryan. "Our increase in budget for the sheriff's department is going to be directly offset by an increase of revenue from the jail."
The roads department's budget increase is largely due to the upcoming paving project of a 2.3-mile portion of Greens Mill Road and the purchase of a chassis for a dump truck.
Increases can also be seen across the board in fuel, salaries and health insurance. Gasoline, electricity and natural gas costs have all increased, and these changes are reflected in the $58,000 budgetary increase for gasoline alone.
"As with the general public, we are at the beck and call of producers," Bryan said, "and attempts are being made to cut down on our use of fuel whenever possible."
A total three percent salary increase of $186,235 is present in the tentative budget and is the first cost of living raise for county employees since January 2004.
A 10-percent, $42,400 increase in health insurance premiums is also visible across the board, partially due to the eligibility of recently-hired jail employees.
"While our health insurance costs increase as the general public's increase, our claims are also higher due to our aging employee base," said Bryan.
Other significant changes include a $112,000 decrease in maintenance and shop allocations due to no planned purchases of large equipment, not filling a heavy-duty mechanic's position and the movement of a position to another department. The fire department also saw a decrease of $32,700 from last year because of the previous inclusion of grant funding. The $31,600 decrease in the tax assessor department came as a result of finishing upgrades of computers and aerial photograph updates.
Various other departments saw variations from last year on the tentative budget due to the movement and status of employment positions and computer updating.
Although the tentative budget is slightly lower than last year, sources of additional revenue to further cut costs for the citizens of Jefferson County are being explored.
"We are pursuing available grants and users' fees such as the solid waste maintenance fee to keep taxes low," said Bryan.
The tentative budget is posted at all county libraries and the office of the probate judge. Copies are available upon request at the Jefferson County Commissioners' Office.
The first budget hearing was held on Wednesday, June 21, and the second hearing and adoption of the 2006-2007 budget will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 28.
Aerial photos of area property should soon be available online
• County votes to go with qPublic, a web-based company; hopes it will provide better service and an improved product
By Jessica Newberry
Jefferson County residents will soon have online access to updated information and aerial photographs of land from the Tax Assessor's Office.
At their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 13, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to contract with qPublic, a web-based company that designs and maintains data-access sites for local governments.
In 2002, the CSRA Regional Development Council (RDC) contracted with the Jefferson County Tax Assessor's Office to provide a website with access to property information for land within the county. The RDC aided the county in obtaining the grant funds but failed to update information on a monthly basis.
This page has been accessed times.
"We decided to switch providers because the new company will provide a better product and our new information will be accessible more quickly," said County Administrator Paul Bryan.
Jefferson County has already signed a contract with qPublic, which offers more data layers than RDC including aerial photographs, property record cards and photos of property.
A main goal of improvements to the website is to reduce traffic in the tax assessor's office by allowing the general public and businesses to access all available data with a home or office computer.
"This site, updated monthly, will provide everyone with information on sales of properties within the county and the location, owner and assessed value of a property," said Bryan.
Many surrounding counties have already switched to qPublic and are seeing positive results. Emanuel, Johnson, Bulloch and Screven counties are already online with the company, with office traffic being cut in Emanuel county by 80 percent and Bulloch county's site seeing an average 7,000 requests on a week day.
"This move will bring us in-line with other counties within the nation while providing us and the general public with information about property that is for sale," said Bryan. "It will be a tremendous asset to real estate agents, lawyers and prospective purchasers of land."
The Jefferson County Tax Assessor's Office website by qPublic can be accessed at http://www.qpublic.net/ga/jefferson/.