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Wrap-Up of 2023

Jan. 4, 2023
There’s nothing like waiting until the midnight hour to complete a task, or in the case of the City of Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County the noonday hour to come to an amicable agreement on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) distribution. The city and countywide until the last possible moment to reach an agreement.
Jan. 11
At approximately 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, 2022, Jay Carroll Fergueron escaped the Jeff Davis County Jail after being held on active warrant through another county. After nearly two weeks on the run, the Ware State K9 officers located and arrested the fugitive in Waycross.
The City of Hazlehurst Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were investigating the theft of $139,000 from an Altamaha Bank ATM in Hazlehurst.
Jan. 18
The monthly meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council was at times confusing, with tempers smoldering but not quite flaring as the members remained at odds over whether to sell, lease or keep the city-owned golf course and civic center.
The Board of Education re-elected Roger Ogilvie and Andy Ramay as chair and vice-chair for 2023 and 2024.
Jan. 25
The disagreements between the County Commissioners over who should be in positions of leadership continued. Each year, in the first meeting of the year, the group disagrees about who should be the chairman and vice-chairman.
Feb. 1
The Jeff Davis girls basketball team dropped two games, losing to Berrien and Fitzgerald.
Ribbon cuttings were held for The Roost Outdoors and Fibercraft Boats.
Work began on replacing the Whitehead Creek Bridge on Bell Telephone Road.
Feb. 8
Maeleigh Burns signed to play softball at Brewton-Parker College.
Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine highlighted four members of the Jeff Davis High School baseball team in their wrap-up of Region 1-AA baseball for 2023. Outfielder Cason Clance, pitchers Duke Stone and Alex Mason, and outfielder Hayden Turner were picked as players to watch.
Feb. 15
Hazlehurst City Clerk Vernice Thompson was elected treasurer of the Georgia Municipal Clerks Association.
Jeff Davis Primary School PE teacher Paul Glass resigned his teaching position but agreed to stay on as JDHS baseball coach.
Feb. 22
Tyler Reid Spell, the manager of the Dollar General store in Denton, was arrested and charged with theft by taking after allegedly stealing over $40,000 in deposits from the store.
The tremendous growth of Beasley Forest Products, along with increased truck traffic, was causing problems for neighbors.
March 1
The City Of Hazlehurst notified its water customers by letter that a concentration of Gross Alpha in the water from one of its drinking water wells exceeded the federal maximum contaminant level.
Gary Evans, chairman of the advisory committee in charge of making recommendations to the City about the city-owned civic center and golf course, told the council they could either keep the golf course, lease it to Joe Kahn of Blueberry Plantation in Alma or sell it to local businessman and entrepreneur Olin Wooten.
March 8
Jeff Davis High’s baseball team took a 5-3 win over Appling County, as they opened a 5-1 lead before the Pirates scored two runs in the bottom of the last inning.
The Jeff Davis Retired Educators sponsored “March to Music,” an evening music variety show to raise money for the March of Dimes.
March 15
Gobsmacked was the look on Ocmulgee Commissioner Vann Wooten’s face when, much to his surprise, he was suddenly and without warning removed in a vote as Jeff Davis County’s representative from the membership of Seven Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council.
The city council discussed at length with Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Fire-Rescue Chief Charles Wasdin but made no formal motion to repair or replace 143 issues with the City’s approximately 75 fire hydrants.
The city council approved a resolution to reactivate the long-shuttered Downtown Development Authority, and named Joel Chaney, Rubi Morfin Stanley, Nikki Moore, Glenn Harris, Casey Williams, Robyn Williams and a City Council elected official to the authority.
March 22
Community noon holy week services were planned April 3-7 at Hazlehurst First United Methodist Church.
March 29
The GBI arrested and charged Miguel Contreras, 19, with aggravated assault, and Augustine Medrano, 20, with party to the crime of aggravated assault and hindering the apprehension of a criminal. Both are from Omega, Tift County.
April 5
The Georgia General Assembly unanimously passed the Coleman-Baker Act which represents an important step forward in providing closure and justice for families affected by unsolved homicides in Georgia.
The Hazlehurst City Council was still in the process of trying to find someone to bring the city’s Twisted Pine Golf Course back to life. But the plan to lease the course to Joe Kahn, owner of the Blueberry Plantation Golf Course in Alma fell apart.
A shortage of officers in the Hazlehurst Police Department was compromising the safety of the citizens of Hazlehurst.
April 12
Jeff Davis High’s girls and boys tennis teams competed in the Region 1 AA finals.
April 19
Jeff Davis High’s Region 1-AA champion baseball team was set to host the first round series in the Georgia High School Association Class AA State Playoffs.
A concerned citizen in the Snipesville/Denton area started an online petition to stop the growth of solar panel farms in the county.
April 26
One-year-old Riley Aiden Miller was killed when a family dog mauled the youngster as he was playing at his grandparents’ home in Denton.
Local businessman and developer Robyn Williams asked the city council that the caboose be moved to property he owns on Railroad Street so he could repair and enhance its aesthetics.
During city council meetings, discussions rose about what to do with three troublesome city properties: Twisted Pine Golf Course and Civic Center, Hazlehurst Water World Splash Pad and the caboose located at South Williams and Latimer streets.
May 3
Jeff Davis High’s boys tennis team advanced to the Elite Eight and the girls were in the Final Four.
The City of Hazlehurst was awarded OneGeorgia Equity funding from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in the amount of $500,000 for water infrastructure improvements to create approximately 20 jobs.
May 10
Members of the Jeff Davis High girls tennis team headed to the state championship in Rome were Diana Hernandez, Aleah Parker, Presley Cox, Ava Coleman, Noel Munoz, Demi Rush, Lexi Girtman, Cori Mims and Gracie Taylor.
Jeff Davis High School’s baseball team lost a double header to Mount Paran Christian School 2-0, 2-0 as the Yellow Jackets’ ended their 2023 season with a 27-8 record.
May 17
Jeff Davis High junior Laisha Hernandez brought home an individual state championship in the 300 meter hurdles at the GHSA State Track Meet.
Jeff Davis High’s girls tennis team won the Georgia High School Association’s 2023 Class 2A State Tennis Championship as they squeaked out a 3-2 win over Berrien High School in the championship match.
The County Commissioners voted to amend the recently created county Land Use Ordinance to state that no more solar farms be allowed in Jeff Davis County unless it is for personal use.
May 24
Jeff Davis High tennis coach Mary Katherine Brown and junior girls singles player Lexi Girtman received top honors as Region 1-AA tennis coaches voted to recognize them for their performances in the 2023 tennis season.
While the County Commission voted to ban any further solar farms from coming into Jeff Davis County, that vote may not be appropriate as it is questionable if a county can legally bar any industry from locating in a county.
The city council implemented a spending freeze on all city spending except for emergencies only. Council member John Bloodworth said the city was more than $800,000 over budget and that a “serious problem is coming up” if the freeze isn’t put in place immediately.
May 31
Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County law enforcement agencies were busy over the last couple of weeks resulting in a number of arrests.
June 7
Jeff Davis High softball players Jenna Miles and Jaci Underwood competed in the Annual Georgia Athletic Coaches Association North/South All-Star Game.
The Board of Education agreed to move forward with plans on three capital projects, including to purchase land for a new K-2 school site.
June 14
Former Hazlehurst business owner, Ms. Juanita Findley Thompson, 95, of Hazlehurst, died June 9 at Community Hospice in Vidalia.
Former GBI Agent Richard Deas died June 8.
Last July, the city council voted to close the golf course but Councilman John Bloodworth said that players, golf teams and even city employees are still using the course and the golf carts and damaging the property.
The Board of Education accepted the retirements of Doug Alexander, Richard Ryles, Sheila Edwards, Cherie Harper, Kim Taylor, Dennis Kirby, Bonnie Edwards and Paul Glass — although Glass will continue to lead the Jeff Davis High baseball program.
June 21
Solar panel farms continued to be a topic of discussion at a meeting of the Jeff Davis County Commissioners.
On the weekend of June 3 and the following days, several agencies executed three search warrants in three days at two addresses in Jeff Davis County and one in Appling County. Several arrests were made in relation to a chicken fighting operation being held in Jeff Davis County.
The Jeff Davis Emergency Medical Service transferred nine people to Jeff Davis Hospital who were injured in a 2-vehicle accident near the entrance to Wal-Mart on Jarman Street in Hazlehurst.
June 28
Landowner George Gainer attended a meeting of the Joint Development Authority and gave an impassioned argument in favor of their nod of approval on the plans he and his brother, Grant Gainer, have for using 1,100 acres of their 2,800 acre tract for the installation of an approximately $32 million solar farm. But at least two of the four Authority members present for the meeting gave a cold reception to the project.
July 5
The Rev. Steven Riddle preached his first sermon at Hazlehurst First Methodist Church.
July 12
Hazlehurst Police Chief Ken Williams resigned from HPD to take a position with the Georgia State Patrol and James Mock, who had served as captain of the department for the past 27 months, was named interim police chief.
July 19
The meeting of the Jeff Davis County Commission was decidedly routine in comparison to other recent meetings as the controversy over solar panel farms in the county appeared to have mellowed.
The Sheriff’s Department was called to the Jeff Davis Hospital Emergency Room to investigate an incident in which a 2 1/2-year-old child tested positive for methamphetamine.
The Board of Education approved the employment of nine recently retired teachers who are returning to the classroom on a part-time basis.
July 26
The County Commissioners voted to hire V. Dewayne Stone of Douglas as the new Road Department Superintendent.
After being open for a month, the window to bid on purchasing the city-owned golf course and community center closed.
Aug. 2
The Jeff Davis County Board of Elections ran an advertisement officially notifying the public of the General Election for the City Nov. 7 for the offices of Mayor, Ward Three council member and Ward 4 council member.
Aug. 9
Jason Kennedy was named Curriculum and Professional Development Director for Jeff Davis County Schools.
A new school opened in Hazlehurst as Georgia Allied Health Institute began instructing students to enter the field of health technicians.
Aug. 16
Georgia Association of Conservation Districts elected Tabatha Wooten as Treasurer at their Annual Meeting.
Hazlehurst City Councilman John Ramay announced his candidacy for Mayor of Hazlehurst in the Nov. 7 City Election.
Mrs. Valiree Elton, a longtime downtown businesswoman in Hazlehurst, died at her residence. She was 91 years of age.
The City Council hoped to make par by reopening the city-owned golf course after it closed several weeks ago because of ongoing money woes.
Aug. 23
It appeared that a lot of people wanted changes in Hazlehurst’s city government as nine people threw their hats in the ring for three openings on the council.
The Jeff Davis County Court System appeared to be moving toward virtual hearings as all the counties in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit were discussing the possibility of modernizing courtroom proceedings.
The City Council members agreed to sit down with the Jeff Davis County Board of Commissioners to discuss dividing SPLOST more equitably between the two governments.
John M. Bloodworth formally announced his candidacy for mayor of the City of Hazlehurst.
Aug. 30
Authorities arrested Kaleb Edmonds, 32, of St. George, S.C., and charged him in connection with the theft of $250,000 worth of heavy equipment stolen from Rebel Auction Co. of Hazlehurst.
The City of Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County amicably arrived at an agreement on how SPLOST funds will be divided between the local governments.
Mayor Bayne Stone announced that two long-time-in-the-making major projects that will benefit Hazlehurst were moving forward.
Sept. 6
When will a special election be held to fill the City of Hazlehurst Ward 2 council position vacancy created when Ward 2 Council member John Ramay qualified to run for Mayor in the Nov. 7 City Election? The answer depended on who you asked.
Diane Leggett announced that she would seek reelection as Ward 3 City Commissioner.
Mayor Bayne Stone announced that Sarah Boatright, who owns Sarah’s in the City in Baxley and Boatright’s Buffet in Alma, planned to open a restaurant in the city owned civic center.
Sept. 13
The city council was again in a turmoil, this time over how to fill the seat vacated by John Ramay who had to resign his Ward 2 post to run for Mayor.
The school transportation department was ready to receive its new e-buses.
Sept. 20
Laneka Smith formally announced her candidacy for Mayor of Hazlehurst.
The contractor building the new Jeff Davis County Emergency Medical Service building said the building should be turnkey ready in early November. But the county didn’t have enough personnel to fill the new building.
Sept. 27
Resign for violation of oath of office. That’s what Steve Land, Hazlehurst’s longtime but now-retired chief of police, said to Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Leggett and Ward 4 Councilman John Bloodworth.
Oct. 4
Former Jeff Davis County Tax Commissioner Brenda Joyce Johnston Graham passed away at the age of 83.
Oct. 11
Jeff Davis High’s softball team was ranked No. 1 in two polls with a 24-3 record.
Landon Chavis announced he would run for the Ward 4 post on the city council.
Oct. 18
Jeff Davis High’s defending state champion softball team entered 2023 post-season play with a 24-3 record and an 18-game winning streak.
Portions of a meeting of the Jeff Davis County Commission got contentious. And it appeared lack of communication was the culprit.
Oct. 25
Mayor Bayne Stone said that Sarah Boatright, who owns two other buffet restaurants in Baxley and Alma and is planning another in Vidalia, is “eager to rent the restaurant,” but her requirements to open the Hazlehurst location include a walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer, commercial dishwasher, ice machine and other upgrades, all to the tune of $78,000.
Jeff Davis High rolled through the Super Regional Tournament at ACE Charter School in Macon with a 16-3 win over Josey, a 6-0 victory over ACE Charter and a 3-1 win over Pierce County. The wins improved the Lady Jackets’ record to 27-3 and earned them a spot in the Georgia High School State Softball Tournament in Columbus.
Nov. 1
Jeff Davis High came agonizingly close to repeating as the Class AA Softball State Champions, falling 4-3 to Appling County in the finals of the state tournament in Columbus. Jeff Davis finished the season with a 31-5 record while Appling finished with a 21-7-1 mark.
Georgia Senior Judge E.M. Wilkes III was named as the featured speaker at the Nov. 11 Veterans Day ceremony.
Incumbent Mayor Bayne Stone drew three challengers for his seat — current Ward 4 council member John Bloodworth, former Ward 2 council member John Ramay, and political newcomer Laneka Shevelle Smith. Ward 3 council member Diane Leggett is being challenged by Christopher M. Jones and Matthew Ashton Rentz. And the Ward 4 council seat, currently held by Bloodworth, had two candidates — Landon Jeffrey Chavis and Jose Guadalupe Zamora Jr.
Nov. 8
Jeff Davis High’s basketball season was set to tip off.
John Ramay won the City of Hazlehurst Mayor’s race without a run-off, getting 58.6% of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Bayne Stone got just 20.3% of the vote. John Bloodworth had 13.9% and Laneka Smith 7.2%.
There was to be a run-off for the Ward 3 seat as incumbent Diane Leggett out-polled her two challengers with 41.4% of the votes while Christopher Jones made the run-off with 31% and Matthew Rentz missed the run-off with 27.6%. Landon Chavis won the Ward 4 race over Jose Zamora Jr. with 83.3% of the vote.
And the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax extension was approved county-wide, as 82% of the county voters cast ballots in favor of the extension.
Nov. 15
A large crowd of Jeff Davis High football fans made the long trip to Thomson, and endured chilly weather and wind-blown, misty rain. But the Bulldogs easily prevailed for a 40-0 win to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
With the absence of Mayor Bayne Stone, who was out of town for a family medical matter, and City Attorney Ken W. Smith, plus the unfilled Ward 2 seat held by former councilman and now mayor-elect John Ramay, the Hazlehurst City Council desk contained three empty chairs out of seven.
Nov. 21
District Attorney Keith Higgins announces that a Jeff Davis County jury found Bruce Mitchell, 61, From Hazlehurst, guilty of entering an automobile following a jury trial.
The first annual Festival of Trees, a Christmas and holiday event sponsored by the Friends of the Big House was coming to the Big House in early December.
At the November meeting of the Board of Education, School System Chief Financial Officer Betty Corbitt gave her monthly financial report, which may be her last time giving the report. In the board’s October meeting, board members accepted Mrs. Corbitt’s retirement after decades of service.
Nov. 29
Jeff Davis County Election Supervisor Christy Riner issued the call for a special election for Ward 2 city voters to elect a Ward 2 City Council member March 12, 2024, in conjunction with the Presidential Primary.
Most of the November meeting of the Jeff Davis County Commission was spent behind closed doors to discuss personnel. The commissioners met 15 minutes in open session, then spent 55 minutes in private.
The Hazlehurst City council voted to set qualifying dates and a special election to fill the council seat for now-vacant Ward 2, previously held by mayor-elect John Ramay.
Dec. 6
Jeff Davis County native Andrew M. (Drew) Wilkes was selected as one of Georgia Trend magazine’s “Legal Elite” in the magazine’s December, 2023, edition.
Jeff Davis High graduate Miyon Conaway was set to be with the Liberty University Flames football team Jan. 1, 2024, when No. 18 Liberty (13-0) and No. 8 Oregon (11-2) meet in the Fiesta Bowl.
Dec. 13
Georgia Trend recently released its Georgia 500 Most Influential Leaders List. For the second year, Coastal Pines Technical College President Lonnie Roberts was named to the list.
The Board of Education approved hiring Hazlehurst native Joshua Worth as the new Chief Financial Officer to replace long-time CFO Betty Corbitt who retired recently after 18 years on the job.
Seniors Alex Mason and Duke Stone were selected for Georgia Dugout Preview magazine’s South Georgia Big 10 for the 2024 baseball season.
Dec. 20
John Freeman Stinson Sr., founder of Stinson’s Barbecue in Lumber City, died at the age of 78.
The Jeff Davis County Commission approved final details to assist two local industries with multi-million dollar expansions.
Dec. 27
There were lots of awards to go around at the 2023 Jeff Davis High School softball banquet and none were quite so appropriate than the Players of the Year award that went to the seven seniors on the team.
Mayor Bayne Stone presided over the workshop and regular monthly session of the Hazlehurst City Council for the last time as mayor.

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