Dawson County was in the spotlight last weekend as Republicans from across northeast Georgia rallied at the 9th Congressional District banquet and convention.
With Gov. Nathan Deal as keynote speaker Friday night and 9th District Congressman Doug Collins addressing a convention of more than 400 Republican delegates Saturday, leaders touted conservative values, while promoting job creation and improvements in education.
Just weeks after the end of the 2013 legislative session, Deal highlighted the progress lawmakers had made and praised the district's representatives for their work.
"We've just completed the third legislative session since I've been governor, and I can tell you, I believe that we have had three very successful legislative sessions," he said during the group's annual banquet and fundraiser at the Lakeview Center in Dawsonville.
"We really got every piece of legislation that the governor's office felt we had to have to keep government moving the direction we wanted it to go."
Noting the creation or expansion of 900 businesses since taking office in 2011, Deal said that figure translates into more than 62,000 new Georgia jobs.
"Since I took office in January 2011, I have made making this state the No. 1 place in the country in which to do business my top priority, and everything that I do I try to focus it on having that goal being advanced," Deal said.
"And we are on the verge of announcing so many others. And some of these are hundreds and multiple hundreds of jobs that we know are coming our way, and many of these will be in outlining parts of the state and not in metro Atlanta. It's good for our state to have the growth outside Atlanta."
Candidates vying to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, who has announced he won't seek a third term, were also at the banquet. They included Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Tom Price.
Dawson County GOP chairwoman Linda Umberger said she was honored by both Deal's and the candidates' presence.
"As the second most conservative congressional district in the country, we are so pleased that they thought it was important enough to be there with us. That they chose to come to the 9th District says quite a lot about how much Dawson County matters, considering each of the 14 districts were also having their banquets," she said.
Mike Berg, chairman of the county commission, said the events were an opportunity to showcase the offerings in Dawson, where hotels were booked to capacity and many visitors enjoyed the outlet mall and Amicalola Falls during their stay.
"I think everything went very well. Everything ran so smoothly," he said. "Linda Umberger did an excellent job of managing the process. I heard a lot folks say they were very pleased.
"We had some interesting speeches Friday night from the Senate candidates, and I believe that experience spurred other counties to want to host [the convention] in the next few years."