After 12 years of representing the people of Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties, Amos Amerson announced Saturday he will not seek reelection. Dawson County manager, Kevin Tanner, and Clint Smith, who served eight years in the Georgia House of Representatives, have announced their intentions to fill Amersons seat. Both need to qualify May 23 25 in order to run for office.
During his monthly Eggs & Issues breakfast at Ryans Saturday morning, Amerson said one of the things he is most proud of is being able to sit down and listen to the concerns of people from his district.
I never set out to change the world, just my small part of it, said Amerson. The most important things to me have been local legislation and local families.
Over the years, Amerson has helped 30 40 families with handicapped children get the assistance they needed. Another time, he assisted in pushing through paperwork for a family in Suches whose son-in-law was about to be deported.
Amerson said that he has also managed to push through a number of statewide bills which do not have his name on them.
I have a philosophy passed down to me from my grandfather, which is that you can get a lot done as long as you dont care who gets the credit, he added.
He recounted a four-year battle to get a bill passed that allows Georgia wineries to ship intrastate, meaning they can ship product to customers in Gerogia. Prior to this bill, if you wanted Georgia wine, you would have to go there and buy it, and take it home.
I finally figured it out, said Amerson. The former governor didnt like me, so I got a friend of mine Ron Stephens, head of the economic development committee, to put his name on it, and I sat back and watched it go right through. He (Gov. Perdue) didnt like me cause I always told him exactly what I thought.
Amersons current term ends on the start of the 2013 Legislative Session when the new Representative Elect is sworn in. He will continue to serve as he has for the past 12 years until his term is up.
Good legislators dont just do their job during the 40 days of the legislative session, they do it 24/7/365, said Gerald Lewy, Communications Director, House District 9.
Hugh Stowers, a fixture at Amersons breakfast meetings for more than 10 years was born and raised in Dawson county near the Etowah river.
I think hes the best elected official Ive ever know in my life in Dawson County, said Stowers. Hes here to serve the people and not for his own personal gain. Youll never find someone who communicates with the constituents as well as Amos does.
Stowers also mentioned he would like to see a change in how the Dawson County Commission chair is elected. Currently, the chair is elected by the voters to serve for four years.
Amerson offered ideas for Stowers to pursue, which included looking at how Forsyth county changed their rules. First, they took a straw poll to see if people wanted to change how their chair was elected, and then second, they put it on the ballot for a vote. Forsyth voters were successful at changing their existing structure to one where their county commission chairman is elected every year by other commissioners.
You get enough people to agree with you, and you can probably get it changed, said Amerson. But, I wont be there to see it. Are you getting the idea Im enjoying this? Cause I sure am, he added with a chuckle.
Switching topics to the HOPE scholarship, Amerson said most people dont understand what HOPE means.
HOPE stands for Help Outstanding Pupils Educationally, he said. HOPE is a merit based scholarship, not a needs based one. Right now, 60 65% of students lose it their first year in college because theyre just not prepared.
Amerson pointed out that schools need to be a better filter for students.
I believe high schools need more accountability, especially for truancy. If students miss a certain amount of school, then the school should be fined.
Separately, a teacher from Kilough Elementary School in Dawsonville expressed her concerns about the possible elimination of teacher jobs in Dawson County, and money that is being spent on capital projects rather than funding for teachers.
You have to understand that money was set aside for capital building projects, which cannot be touched for teacher salaries, said Amerson.