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June 11, 2009 Issue

Meet the Candidates for Probate Judge of Jefferson County
Man found after 54 hours in woods
Cast your ballots for judge Tuesday
The Prodigal opens
DA receives report on Wadley shooting

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Meet the Candidates for Probate Judge of Jefferson County

Charlotte Lewis Gilmore

1. Serving as Jefferson County Probate Judge has interested me for many years, and I have researched the state requirements for laws and services of this office at length. The State of Georgia requires that Jefferson County’s Probate Judge hold at least a high school diploma and be a county resident for two or more years. I exceed these qualifications, as I hold a four-year degree from the University of Georgia, and I have lived in this county all my life. I have demonstrated abilities of organization and administration which I will use to operate the Probate Court. I will be a full-time Probate Judge whose first goal is to serve all the people of Jefferson County, and be available 40 hours a week to meet their needs. I will not hold any other paid position while I am in office and, as long as the voters see fit to reelect me, I hope to serve in this office for many years.

2. The U.S. Constitution and the State of Georgia mandate Probate Courts to handle a wide variety of duties, such as issuing marriage and firearms licenses, administering estates, appointing guardians for minor children and incapacitated adults, and running county elections. A majority of Jefferson Countians will probably, at one time or another in their lives, need to use this court’s services. I cannot state that any one duty of this office is more important than another, because I believe that, when a Jefferson Countian needs the Probate Court’s services, the service that person needs at that time, is the most important one to him or her. In short, serving the people of Jefferson County, being accessible to them full time, and meeting their needs by treating them in the manner in which I would like to be treated, while upholding federal and state laws is, to me, the most important responsibility I will have.

3. As previously stated, I will be in the office, maintaining regular 8 a.m.-5 p.m. hours each day, to assure that each citizen leaves that office with the satisfaction of knowing that their issues have been fairly addressed. I know that, when people visit the Probate Court with issues, they want them to be taken care of immediately, legally, and confidentially; I will, to the best of my ability, provide that service. At this point, I cannot presume to present specific plans to improve this office’s functions until I have the opportunity to study the actual caseload and processing system. What I will promise each Jefferson Countian is that I will have a positive, “can do” attitude toward improving the services of this office and I will work hard to implement any necessary changes. One of my major goals in any improvements we make is to save money for the county taxpayers, while assuring that this office’s business and legal environments are operated efficiently and confidentially, to assist all Jefferson Countians.


Asholyn Powell Lampp

1. I have worked in the Probate Judge’s office now for 15 years as the clerk/secretary. I have worked very hard and have learned much more about this job than just the clerk duties. I have attended trainings through the years and have recently had to step-in and completely carry out the duties in this office during the illness and death of the late Honorable Q.L. Bryant Jr. I have worked closely with clients and lawyers. I try to be courteous to everyone.

2. I believe every duty in the Probate Judge’s office is a vital importance to the clients, therefore I cannot just choose a few. The responsibilities would be to carry out all duties as I have done, and am doing now. Recording and filing all documents, wills, guardianships, firearms licenses, wedding certificates, etc., are just a few of the duties to name. Getting the information out to the clients is very important to me. Recording of all documents is of vital importance. Elections are a very important part of this job, in which I am already training in this area.

3. I am presently working in the Probate Judge’s office eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. If elected, I have no problem carrying the same service to the people. I would like to have secure storage space for older records, freeing up existing space for current records. Again, documents will be documented and filed in a timely manner just as I am presently doing.

Tyler C. Mahaffey

1. I am the most qualified candidate for the position because I am the only candidate with both legal and election supervision experience. As an attorney practicing law in Jefferson County for 12 years, I have represented numerous clients in the Probate Court. I have a thorough knowledge of probate law and procedure which has been developed through years of legal practice. I have also served as chief manager of elections at the Wrens Polling Precinct. As many are aware, the late Probate Judge Q. L. Bryant Jr. was an attorney and I believe it is important that the position be filled with an individual who has formal legal training.

2. The Probate Court should be user-friendly and available to all citizens. The Judge must ensure that all people using the court are treated equally and with respect. The primary duties of the Probate Judge include the probate of wills, administration of estates and the appointment of guardians for adults and children. In order to effectively perform these duties, a thorough understanding of probate law and procedure is required. The Probate Judge also serves as the chief election supervisor for all county elections. As elections supervisor, the Probate Judge is responsible for administering and overseeing each election. The Probate Judge must have a comprehensive knowledge of election procedures and the state election code.

3. I would pursue the duties of Probate Judge with the same intensity, dedication and care that I have put into running my law practice for the last 12 years. As to the day-to-day responsibilities, I will be in the office on a daily basis, each and every day, for as many hours per day as it takes to effectively carry out the duties of the position. I pledge to be actively involved in the daily functions of the Court. For improvements, I would computerize the docketing and billing system for the Court since both are currently written by hand.

Marnique Williams Oliver

1. My integrity, educational background, and work experience make me the best qualified person to serve as judge of probate court. While serving the people of Jefferson County as a public defender and private attorney I have acquired the expertise to correctly probate wills, administer estates, approve guardianships, determine whether adults are incapacitated, and to properly execute judgment while interpreting the law under the jurisdiction of the probate court.

2. All duties and responsibilities of probate judge are important because they protect the public. Jefferson County citizens should have confidence that their probate judge will appropriately interpret their intentions in distributing their hard earned property. Incapacitated adults and minors are the most vulnerable in our community and the protection of their person and property is a serious responsibility that I will not take lightly as your probate judge. The citizens of Jefferson County can rest assured that I will give each case my undivided attention and will administer justice fairly in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia.

3. I plan to be a very involved probate judge with an open door policy and approachable atmosphere. I would like the probate office to become more user-friendly. For instance, I would like to digitize and modernize the office by creating a Probate Court of Jefferson County website. On this website, people could acquire information necessary to assist in genealogical research, finding historical documents, and viewing the many services available through probate court. Under my guidance, hard work, imagination and ingenuity the first permanent capital of Georgia’s Probate Court will stand out as a flagship court for other counties to emulate.

John J. Pilcher, II

1. There are several reasons I feel I am the best person for this position. First of all, having practiced law for 24 years and having been a municipal judge for 20 years has provided me with the most experience of any of the candidates running for the position. Just going to law school does not teach you how to be a lawyer, it teaches you the law in a vacuum, but more importantly it tries to teach you how to think like a lawyer in determining what the issues really are in cases. Education in the law is important, but the practical experience in handling just about every type of case that comes before a Probate Judge and hearing cases as a judge has given me the best background to be able to take over as Jefferson County’s Probate Judge without having to learn as I go.

2. The most important duties and responsibilities of this position are the same as with any Judge’s duties and responsibilities, to apply the law, based on the facts, fairly and impartially to all cases and parties involved. While some of the issues that the Probate Judge handles are simply clerical in nature, the most important matters deal with people during times of great emotional stress, the death or the incapacity of a loved one with the need for the appointment of a guardian for them or for minor children. The Probate Judge must be able to handle these matters in accordance with the law but also with compassion and understanding, I can do both.

3. As Probate Judge, I intend to be in the office daily. I will review all filings in the office and ensure that every matter is handled in a timely and orderly fashion.

As to improvements in the operation of the office, all courts have rules of procedure that must be followed. These rules allow for the orderly and consistent operation of the court. Except for updating accessibility to the court and the court’s records through improved technology, only time in the office will allow me to determine how to best improve the Court’s efficiency for the county.

Alton W. Spells Jr.

1. I am running to serve the citizens of Jefferson County as a full time, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Probate Judge. My past experiences include eight years with Georgia Legal Services as a non-attorney paralegal. This has provided me with legal experiences to become your next Probate Judge. I have represented individuals over 300 times in administrative hearings in the area of public benefits. I have served this community and surrounding communities for over 30 years as a helper of the people.

2. All the duties of the Judge of Probate Court must be done and done effectively. If asked to give priority, I must state that the issue of guardianship of adults and minor children are very dear to me, along with maintaining all vital records. Another priority will be keeping the office open, and running it effectively to respond to filings and requests made upon the Probate Court.

3. If elected, I will be a vital part of the daily activities of this office since I will have regular office hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I will plan community activities and workshops to educate the public on the office of Probate Court.

Comments on changes in the office are premature at this time since I have not taken the opportunity during this short campaign to observe the daily operations. I will note that space is needed to accommodate the increasing number of files and data generated in the day to day operations. That issue is based upon my personal observations. In addition, there needs to be a technology update within the office.

Man found after 54 hours in woods

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

“I was dog tired but it was worth it,” said Maj. Charles Gibbons of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Gibbons was talking about the effort from more than 15 agencies and volunteers over the weekend in a search for an elderly man who wandered away from his caregiver.


The man, 81-year-old Elmer Lane, suffers from dementia and is partially deaf, said Lt. Robert Chalker, an investigator with the JCSO.

Lane reportedly walked away from his home several miles outside Wrens Friday, June 5, at about 2:30 p.m. He was found Sunday, June 7, about 8:30 p.m., Chalker said.

“Authorities from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County EMA, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Jefferson County fire departments and Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division spent all day Saturday searching for Mr. Lane in wooded areas near his home,” Chalker stated in a press release issued Saturday around 9:13 p.m.

The ground search resumed at 7 a.m. Sunday.

After a full day canvassing the area, Chalker issued another press release about 9:30 p.m. announcing Lane had been located in a heavily wooded area about two miles from his home.

“Lane is in good condition considering his ordeal,” Chalker said. Lane was transported to Jefferson Hospital in Louisville.

“On behalf of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, all of the other assisting agencies and Lane’s family, we thank you for your help in spreading the word about Mr. Lane’s disappearance. We could not perform our duty without your assistance,” Chalker’s release continued.

Gibbons said it was obvious Lane was tired from his experience.

“A bit dehydrated, not real dehydrated. He was alert,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons said he appreciated all the assistance from the numerous agencies that leant support. Gibbons also said he wanted to thank the volunteers and the businesses that prepared food for everyone who helped in the search for Lane.

The county’s EMA director, Lamar Baxley, said the positive outcome was the result of teamwork.

“The dispatchers did an outstanding job,” he added.

Gibbons said personnel from Glascock County’s Sheriff’s Office, fire department and EMA and from Burke County also assisted in the search.

During Tuesday night’s Jefferson County Commission meeting, Chairman William Rabun recognized the tremendous effort by all of the agencies and volunteers involved.

Cast your ballots for judge Tuesday

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The polling stations for the election of Jefferson County Probate Judge will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, but voters still have a chance to cast their ballot early through advance voting until Friday, June 12, at the county’s registrar office. The office, located at 302 East Broad St. in Louisville, is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Six people have qualified for the position, which was left vacant by the March death of long time Probate Judge Q.L. Bryant.


The candidates are Charlotte Lewis Gilmore of Louisville who works for Georgia Power; Asholyn Powell Lampp of Bartow, the current chief deputy clerk of the Probate Court; Tyler C. Mahaffey of Wrens, a lawyer and partner in private practice; Marnique Williams Oliver of Louisville, a lawyer and partner in private practice; John J. Pilcher II of Wrens, a lawyer in private practice; and Alton W. Spells Jr. of Louisville, a teacher.

This is a countywide, non-partisan election. The winner of the election will also fulfill the position of election superintendent.

In the interim, Judge John Murphy is carrying out the duties of both probate judge and election superintendent. Murphy took over these responsibilities as required by law in his capacity as the county’s state court judge.

The county probate courts exercise exclusive, original jurisdiction in the probate of wills, administration of estates, appointment of guardians and involuntary hospitalization of incapacitated adults and other individuals. All probate court judges administer oaths of office and issue marriage licenses.

The candidate who wins the election will serve the remainder of Bryant’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2012, with an annual base salary of $46,408.38.

The Prodigal opens

By Leila Borders

“I’m not here to audition,” said Chad Waller, pastor of Harrison Baptist Church in Harrison, at auditions for the Bartow Schoolhouse Players’ production of Slow Down, Sweet Chariot. After assisting auditioning actors by reading parts with them, the self-proclaimed “uncomfortable actor” who was merely accompanying one of his daughters to the auditions soon found himself on stage playing the wily, and somewhat despicable, fiancé Norman Gorman.

From deceiving fiancé to the father of 12 in Cheaper by the Dozen, Waller has already made his mark on the Bartow stage. However, just as he wins his audiences over on stage, Waller thrives behind the curtain as well. This June, he is directing the Players’ production of The Prodigal, a modern retelling of the Gospel of Luke’s parable of the prodigal son. Directing the musical should not be difficult for Waller—he wrote it.


In 1988, Waller began writing the story of a son who left his father’s farm to find his own way—a story not very different from Waller’s own path. Born in Harrison, Waller left the farm he was raised on at 18 for the city of Dublin. Attending school for music, he worked at a newspaper until he decided to explore his artistic side through an unlikely medium: hairdressing.

“That lasted about a year,” he laughed. Finding his path in music, however, was much easier. Having studied piano since the age of 4, he soon found himself playing for a church—a job which quickly turned into a full time music director position. It was in Dublin that Waller met and married his wife of 22 years, Melinda. Together, the Wallers served as music directors in churches in Atlanta and Michigan.

Nine years after beginning his story of the prodigal son, Waller finished the musical and produced it for the first time in a church in Port Huron, Mich. With a cast of almost 75 people, the first production was a success.

“I thought ‘I can’t believe I did that,’” Waller said of watching the first performance. “That’s when you know you’ve created something far beyond you.”

Waller, who thinks of himself as a song receiver rather than a writer, has produced countless popular Christian songs in addition to his musicals. He also never stops writing. The Bartow production of The Prodigal features two new songs.

“The songs come,” he said. “I see the stage and I see it acted out and I write it down.” This is the third production of his musical. The first production in Michigan and the second in Atlanta were both presented in church settings, and Waller is excited to have the opportunity to bring the musical “outside the church walls.”

“The world is music to me,” he said. “It’s been like that all my life.”

Waller has certainly made music his life. When at 40 Waller and his family made the decision to return to their small hometown of Harrison, it allowed him to devote his time fully to creating the music he says is “always there.”

Back in Harrison, Waller keeps himself busy pastoring the Harrison Baptist Church when he is not writing, composing, acting or directing.

“It’s an itty bitty church with sweet, sweet people,” said Waller. From 10 to 15 on a good day to more than 50 filling the pews, the congregation has been steadily growing since Waller’s inception.

“I don’t think worship should be boring,” he said. “I get excited.”

It is safe to say that if his presence in the pulpit is anything like his presence on stage, his sermons are anything but boring.

“Chad Waller is one of the most multitalented individuals I’ve ever met. He can sing, he can play, he can write, he can act, he can direct, and he’s a joy to work with,” said Bill Kitterman, the Prodigal’s moody brother in the Bartow production.

From the zip-up sweatshirt worn so frequently to practices to his spiked hair and blue jeans, Waller presents his cast with a welcoming attitude and a wealth of talent. The Bartow Schoolhouse Players’ production of The Prodigal, opening June 11, is sure to show the dedication and exuberance of its creator.

For reservations to the play The Prodigal call (478) 364-3340. Performances are June 11-13 and 18-20 at 8 p.m. and June 21 at 3 p.m. The play is sponsored by First State Bank.

DA receives report on Wadley shoot

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on a fatal shooting that occurred in Wadley in April may be on its way to the grand jury within a week.

Jefferson County’s district attorney, Hayward Altman, said last week that he has received the GBI’s report on the incident and would take about another week to complete his review, after which time Altman will decide whether further action is needed.


The shooting occurred April 3 after two Wadley police officers responded to a domestic call on North Main Street about 4:28 p.m.

A man identified as Jerry Conner was reportedly beating on a vehicle when the officers arrived on the scene.

When one of the officers approached Conner, Conner turned on the officer with a knife, Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis said at the time.

Lewis said the officer was backing away from Conner and the knife and fell in the yard. The other officer called for back up.

At this time, a state officer arrived on the scene and attempted to use a Taser.

Lewis said the officer made contact with Conner with the Taser but it had no effect.

WPD Cpl. Patrick Paquette and two investigators arrived on the scene. They got out of their patrol car to assist the officers who were already there, the chief said.

Lewis said at the time that the officers gave multiple commands for Conner to drop the knife, which he refused to do.

The chief said that at some point, Conner focused his attention on Paquette.

“He didn’t comply with the commands from the officers and continued on towards them and all three of them were getting out of the same vehicle. At some point, Officer Paquette had to decide to use deadly force to protect himself and his fellow officers from receiving serious bodily harm or even death,” Lewis said.

The chief described the knife in Conner’s possession as being between eight to 10 inches, including the handle.

“It was a large knife,” he said.

Lewis said Paquette, who is a part time officer with WPD and works full time as an officer with the Richmond County Board of Education, is on administrative leave from WPD.

“My prayers and condolences are with the family for the loss of their loved one,” Lewis said.

Jefferson County Coroner Edward James said Conner was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the abdomen, and died that evening at Jefferson Hospital.

“The case is presently being reviewed by the district attorney’s office,” Altman said Monday.

“We will carefully review it to determine if it should be presented to the grand jury. We will reach a decision about that shortly. It’s important not only for the citizens of Jefferson County but also for the officer involved to make a quick and educated decision.”

Altman said it is important for everybody involved to know what really happened.

The district attorney may determine no further action is needed. In that case, Paquette would return to duty, Lewis said Tuesday.

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