Local candidates face off in 6 contested races

Election season kicked off with a bang last week as 17 candidates threw their collective hats in the ring to run for six Lumpkin County positions. 

All three Board of Commissioners (BOC) seats up for election this year will see multiple candidates, along with the post of Coroner, County Surveyor and Board of Education (BOE) District 1. 

Those who will return to office unopposed, barring a surprise write-in candidate, include Tax Commissioner Rachel Pruitt, Clerk of Courts Rita Harkins, Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, Magistrate Judge Randy Pruitt, Probate Judge Michael Chastain and Board of Education District 3’s Jim McClure who will not face anyone on the May 24 ballot.

Here’s a look at the local races:







Dr. David John Miller and Bill Scott will face off for the District 1 BOC seat. Incumbent Doug Sherrill is not running for the post.

Scott has previously served as District 1 commissioner. He is seeking election again, he said, “because I am passionate about the progress of Lumpkin County. I want to be the people’s voice and manage the future growth of this county. I will bring a common sense approach to growth, listen to the people and always make the most informed decision possible.”

Though not new to the political arena, Miller is a first-time candidate for public office. 

“As a small business owner, I am passionate about bringing economic prosperity and job growth to Lumpkin County and to provide for our children’s future. As the former chair of the Lumpkin County GOP, I stand steadfastly behind limited and transparent government, individual freedom and personal responsibility, free market growth with limited regulatory burden and fair but minimum taxation. You can find out more about me and my positions at www.votedavidmiller.com.”




Incumbent for District 2 Steve Shaw will face competition from D.J. Wight, Carlton Smith and Bobby Mayfield. This is Shaw’s first bid for re-election. 

None of the other three candidates have held public office before. Wight, a small business owner, said, “I will use my resources in retail to help expand smart economic development such as bringing a Grade A+ grocery store to Lumpkin County. And I pledge I will also give back to our community by donating half of my commission salary to local charities.”

Local businessman and volunteer firefighter, Smith made an unsuccessful run for the District 2 seat in 2011.

“I am running to help bring Lumpkin County into the 21st century. We’ve got a county whose operating expenses continue to grow and whose revenues have remained flat for several years. That has to change,” Smith said. 

Mayfield has been with the Lumpkin County School System in various positions since 1998. He currently serves as Assistant Principal at Lumpkin County High School. Mayfield said, “We have many needs in our county from park and rec fields to roads and infrastructure to pay for our valued employees. I am not in favor of a tax increase, so the next best solution is to promote growth in our county and to increase the tax base. One of my primary goals if elected would be to develop the Highway 400 corridor and along with expansion will come jobs for our citizens and opportunities for our children.”




Current District 1 Commissioner Doug Sherrill is challenging current board chair Chris Dockery for the top spot on the BOC. 

“I want to thank all my supporters for the incredible encouragement these past several years.” Sherrill said. “After much consideration and the overwhelming response to offer the community a choice, I decided to announce my candidacy for chairperson. I will be a leader that will focus on team building, our children and investment in infrastructure to broaden our tax base.” 

Dockery has served four years as Commission Chairman. This is his first bid for re-election.

“The community is working together and we need to keep the momentum going,” he said.







Three candidates qualified to run in the District 3 school board race—Mera Turner, John (Jay) Sessions and Catherine Ariemma. 

“With 40 years as an educator in Lumpkin County I want to continue to be a part of this outstanding system as a board member,” Turner said. “I look forward to working with the new superintendent as we continue with this quality education system. Students and teachers deserve our support to provide the best education possible in this ever-changing world.”

Ariemma said she is “excited to announce my candidacy for the Lumpkin County Board of Education. I have a deep passion for this community that I have called home for 20 years. As a former educator, serving on the BOE would be a way for me to give back to my community in my area of greatest interest.”

Sessions currently works in Human Resources for Regions Bank. He has a daughter in Lumpkin County Elementary, and has “a vested interest in the success of our school system,” he said. “I believe my combination of education, having earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration, and professional experience, spending 10 years in the Human Resource field, will add value to the board.  My prayer is that we elect the most qualified candidate to this position that has the best interest of the children as their primary goal.”




Incumbent Ronald Fortner will be facing three challengers for the post of county coroner. Despite also facing felony charges stemming from allegations that he illegally billed the county, he said he planned “to be [at the election’s office] at 9:01 a.m. on qualifying day. I have so many people calling me to make sure that I am going to run again. I hope by this first election we have had our trial and I am back in office.”

This is Amanda Jones’ second run for the office. She is Director of Family & Community Relations for Dahlonega Funeral Home. She said she “want(s) to serve my community further and bring integrity, trust and fiscal responsibility to this office. I believe I am capable of doing a thorough investigation, maintaining records and developing a team of trusted individuals to serve Lumpkin County. I also look forward to looking into the budget to see where I save tax dollars.”

James (Jim) Sheppard comes from a law enforcement background. 

“I have 28 years of law enforcement experience and over 2,000 hours of Georgia POST (Peace Officer Standard of Training) training. I will be able to bring a level of knowledge, skills and abilities to the office, and I can provide the level of professionalism and integrity needed for the level of service our community not only demands, but expects and deserves from our elected officials,” he said. “Good government starts with good people.”

Diane Kimmel is retired from law enforcement and said, she “would like to serve Lumpkin County as (its) next coroner. Our citizens deserve a candidate who is compassionate, transparent, with law enforcement experience and who will serve with a high level of integrity, and your vote will allow me to show you these characteristics at work.  Please email: kimmelforcoroner@gmail.com should you have any questions.”





Current county surveyor John Gaston faces opponent John Davis in this year’s election. Gaston served as surveyor from 2000-2008 and again from 2012 until the present. 

“I have worked in Lumpkin County continuously for the past 26 years in the surveying profession and have found that using my knowledge gained through both formal surveying education and the extensive experience of all of those years of local surveying is one of the best ways that I am able to serve the people of Lumpkin County,” he said. “Since the county surveyor office is not political, but rather builds upon the experience, education and knowledge gained from working in the profession, as well as years of dealing with property law, I am by far the most qualified candidate for this office. There is no county salary associated with the office so I am available to the public through my business, GeoImage at 21 Enota Street, or by phone at 706-864-7298, cell 706-344-2151, and ask for everyone’s vote and continued support.” 

Davis is a retired Lumpkin County school teacher and coach and currently works as the senior land surveyor for Davis Engineering & Surveying, LLC in Dahlonega. 

“I have been a resident of Lumpkin County for 44 years, and hold B.S. and M.ED degrees from North Georgia College, an ED.S degree from the University of Georgia, a Land Surveying Certificate from Middle Georgia College and I am a licensed land surveyor in the State of Georgia,” he said. “I enjoy providing land surveying services and the opportunity that it presents to be able to help families protect and enjoy their ‘little piece’ of America, and I am seeking your support for the office of County Surveyor. I look forward to serving the Dahlonega/Lumpkin County community—the greatest place to live in the world.”



Look to upcoming editions of The Nugget for more in-depth interviews with candidates before General Primary voting begins.

The last day to register to be able to vote in the General Primary is Tuesday, April 26. Advance voting begins Monday, May 2 and the Primary election will be held Tuesday, May 24.

Second Slider: 

The Dahlonega Nugget

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 36,
Dahlonega, GA 30533

Phone: 706-864-3613
Fax: 706-864-5812