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Local Land Trust turns 20 years old

 

Mt. Conservation Trust marks two decades of preserving Pickens


 

Beginning in 1991 with a simple mission of protecting one of the highest ridges in Pickens County from logging, members of the Oglethorpe Mountain Land Trust began what is now two decades and counting of preserving green areas in North Georgia.

The Jasper-based land trust, now known as the Mountain Conservation of Georgia, will mark their 20th year with a series of special event during 2011.

According to trust history, a group of ten people gathered in the home of John and Miriam Kiser on Burnt Mountain and were successful at seeing Georgia Pacific let the timber contracts expire on the high slopes of Burnt Mountain.

Lynnell Reese, one of the original founders recalled in an article for the trust’s upcoming newsletter, “My dominant memory of our beginnings is that we had fun and drew from each others strengths, and I might add, strong personalities. The humor and mutual respect kept us cooking.”

In 1998, the trust changed their name to the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia (MCTGA). The intervening years also saw new director Dr. Barbara Decker come on board. Under Decker’s tenure the trust completed their protection of the Burnt Mountain Preserve, a 756 acre tract on the slopes of the mountain that frames the skyline east of Jasper.

School board meetings off to tense start with three new members

Tension ran high at the first school board meeting of the year, as the three new members used their majority to remove John Trammell as board chair and change the school board meeting time.

These actions drew harsh criticisms from the former chair and board member Ervin Easterwood, who accused incoming members Dan Fincher, Byron Long and Wendy Lowe of holding secret meetings and undermining the board code of ethics all members are sworn to follow.

“Just so we dispel any rumors or negative thoughts,” Trammell said during the board comments section at the end of the meeting, ”we voted on a code of ethics that’s been in place for some time and the first thing on that code of ethics says that all matters of the board come before all members of the board.

“Since some things were already decided on before we got here I didn’t feel it was appropriate to vote for them or against them because I wasn’t included in the deliberation. Private meetings without all of us being involved I will not support and I will not vote,” the former chairman continued.

According to both Trammell and Easterwood, the board unanimously decided at a recent board member retreat that Trammell would continue to serve as chair and Long would be selected to serve as vice chair.

But at the start of the meeting Fincher nominated Lowe as chair, which was seconded by Long and carried by a 3-0 vote in which both Trammell and Easterwood abstained.

 

Read complete story in our print edition on sale today. Also look for information on new school board meeting times and the plans for makeup days.

Jasper fighter to take on tough man competition

You get the impression of controlled power, a fighter who carries himself like a gentleman. Eagle Scout and Army veteran, Jimmy Darwin of Jasper, age 23, is to compete in a Tough Man boxing competition at Asheville, North Carolina near the start of February.

Darwin began boxing in the Army at organized bouts between units. "Between platoons and companies," he said. "Things like that. Company fights."

He served as an Army specialist with the Third Infantry Division 324th Company out of Fort McPherson. A training exercise damaged an eardrum and put Darwin out of the service with a disability just three months before the scheduled end of his four-year enlistment. "I've probably lost about 60 percent of the hearing in my left ear," he said.

His training as a boxer began with instruction from his platoon sergeant in boot camp, Darwin said, where he learned hand-to-hand combat as a recruit. When he found he had a knack for it, Darwin sought extra training in hand-to-hand technique.

"Everybody is required to do some hand-to-hand," he said. "I just decided to pursue it a little further than everybody else did."

And he continued the pursuit after exiting the Army. "Once I got out of the military, I was training with Greg Gaddis and a few people over here at Bodyplex," Darwin said, "and at Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu in Holly Springs. Gaddis, he did a lot of Muay Thai, a lot of kick boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and a lot of Taekwondo," Darwin said.

Gaddis has more than a decade of experience training fighters in martial arts, Darwin said, and training with Gaddis has improved his fighting ability. In amateur cage fighting nearer Atlanta, Darwin managed to vanquish one opponent after another as they came against him.

"Cage fighting is actually mixed martial arts, where you're mixing all kinds of martial arts," he said. A cage fight takes place inside an octagon-shaped ring bound at the edges by chain-link fence with padding on the fence posts, he explained.

"The Tough Man [competition at Asheville] is strictly boxing," Darwin said. "And it's pretty much anybody that's willing to enter. There may be people with limited experience. There may be people with extensive experience. May be people that just walk in off the street."

Mimi Jo Butler honored for golden deeds

From her work counseling countless students through the decades to her work preserving  old buildings for future generations, Mimi Jo Butler was honored last week by members of the Pickens County Retired Teachers Association as the 2010 Golden Deed recipient.

“God has blessed this community with volunteers, and Mimi Jo is central to that,” said Vivian Murphy, chairman of the PCRT Golden Deed committee. “She has led a tremendous and unselfish life.”

After graduating from Emory University with a double major in history and sociology, Butler worked in child protective services in DeKalb County before beginning her education career in 1965 in Cobb County. In 1996 she moved to Etowah High School and into Pickens County schools in 2000. She worked at Jasper Middle School and Pickens Elementary before retiring in 2008 from Tate Elementary.

Along the way she touched many lives.

“Educators make a really positive influence on students, and I can tell you Mimi Jo made a positive impact on me,” said Mike Robertson, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and former Etowah High School student. “She truly is the epitome of what an educator is: she loves, she cares, she supports. I wouldn’t be here today before you as a professional in the health care environment if it weren’t for Mimi Jo.”

Robertson is one of three people who nominated Butler for the Golden Deed this year.

Upon receiving the award, Butler praised her parents’ community service work through the years as well.

“I didn’t do anything like they did for the community. There was not much they didn’t do. Dad was more well known for (his work) because he wrote articles for the Progress, and mother was more a behind the scenes person.”

Butler said she thoroughly enjoyed working with students and seeing them develop into accomplished adults, but, as every educator will tell you, she has seen her share of hardship and tragedy in the eyes of her students.

“When I came to Pickens in 2000, I was not prepared for the poverty that had happened in Pickens County since I left,” she said. “I mentored whole families that didn’t have running water or electricity. Every day in education is an opportunity for something to happen. Education affords you an opportunity to give kids opportunities they never would have had. Working with kids is fun.”

Butler praised the efforts of the local mentoring program and the wonderful volunteers who’ve worked with children over the years.

“I love teaching kids about preservation and teaching adults to care about their past.”

Though she has worked in schools and behind desks her entire career, Butler has never been afraid of getting her hands dirty to accomplish things she deems important. While restoring the old Tate Gymnasium, Butler said things got a little sticky.

“Jackie Howell and I worked under the bleachers in that gym for two days, and it was built in 1923-24, and let me tell you, it seemed like it had never been cleaned under those bleachers. There was an entire history underneath those bleachers.”

Butler, a 36-year veteran educator, is an officer for the Marble Valley Historical Society. She scripted the downtown walking tour of Jasper and won the Spirit of 1812 Award in 2010.

She has written four books of history, edited the Cobb County Genealogical Society quarterly for 10 years, and written historical nominations for the Tate Gymnasium, the whole village of Tate and the marble company, and the Pickens County Courthouse.

Butler established the museum at the old county jail in downtown Jasper and was chairman of the building committee at Tate Methodist Church, where she oversaw the building of a new fellowship hall.

A proud friend and co-nominator, Barbara Cline, thanked Butler for all she has done for others throughout the years.

“Mimi Jo and I go way back – for 64 years probably,” Cline said. “Shortly after school started we became friends, and shortly after that we became best friends. We’ve kept that up forever. I just want to say thank you for what you’ve done for me and thank you for what you’ve done for others.”

 

Murder-for-hire suspect arrested

            Pickens Sheriff’s Deputy Michael A. Flynn arrested Ray Mountain Road resident Johnnie Melissa Burmeister Monday on charges of Criminal Solicitation to Commit Murder and Family Violence stemming from a warrant issued in Muscogee County, Georgia.

            Flynn received information of a lookout for Burmeister during morning roll call. Later, Deputy Flynn spotted a vehicle matching the description of the one Burmeister was believed to be driving. He stopped the vehicle, and Burmeister was arrested without incident.

            Burmeister is being held at the Pickens County Adult Detention Center awaiting transport to Muscogee County.