Here’s the first in a series of stories looking back at 2017 in Liberty and Long counties.
Jan. 4: 2017 started violently when Allen Brandon Terry was shot just an hour and a half into the new year in Salters Mobile Home Park in Walthourville. He later was pronounced dead at Liberty Regional Medical Center. A day later a group of teenagers reportedly fired weapons at a group of other teenagers in Walthourville. No one was hurt. A teenager was arrested.
On a brighter note, more than 100 people turned out for the annual Emancipation Proclamation Observance ceremony, even though it was held on the Jan. 2, instead of the 1st, which fell on a Sunday.
In sports, former Liberty County HS Panther basketball standout Jordan McRae got his first start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 20 points in a 121-109 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Jan. 8: Gladies McCallister, 34, was found dead Jan. 5 in a vehicle that had run into a pond on Mill Pond Road in Long County. Authorities were unsure what had caused the accident. A passing motorist spotted the partially submerged vehicle.
Also in Long County, county commissioners voted to stagger terms on the board. When current terms end in 2020, the district 2, 3 and 5 representatives will be elected to only two-year terms. The others will get four years. Commissioners also elected Mike Riddle, the only new
member on the board, as chairman.
The Georgia NAACP announced it would have a state meeting in Hinesville later in January. The two-day meeting was to feature state and local officials.
Hobby Lobby announced it hoped to have its new store in the Oglethorpe Square Shopping Center in Hinesville open by the middle of March, bringing 35-50 jobs.
In sports, former Liberty County football player Raekwon McMillan announced he would forego his senior at Ohio State to enter the NFL draft. The linebacker had led the Buckeyes in tackles his sophomore and junior years.
Jan. 11: Perry Lee Hatcher was sentenced to life in prison for the November 2014 death of his wife, Dashea Hatcher, in their Main Street apartment. The convict had tried to convince the jury in a trial a month earlier that his wife committed suicide. Hatcher will serve 30 years before he is eligible for parole.
The Liberty Initiative for Community Housing announced a push to provide more housing for workers, especially on the east end of the county. Officials reported at a review of county goals set in recent years. They pointed to Live Oak Villas, a 60-unit apartment complex, then under construction in Midway, as an example of what they wanted to accomplish. It started renting one- and two-bedroom apartments in the fall.
In sports, Long County head football coach Eric McNair announced he was leaving to take a position with Metter High School. McNair compiled a 4-13-2 record in his two years at the helm.
Jan. 15: The Liberty County Commission announced an ultimately unsuccessful bid to slap property taxes on post housing, arguing that while the property is technically federally owned, it is leased to a private company, Balfour Beatty, which profits from leasing it to anyone, not just military families.
Another coveted national franchise, Starbucks, announced plans to open a coffee shop in Oglethorpe Square Shopping Center. The Hutton Construction Co. project was becoming the largest retail development ever in Liberty County, and was spurred by efforts of the Hinesville Development Authority.
Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, whose District 19 covers Long County was sworn into office, taking the seat long held by former Sen. Tommie Williams.
Jan. 18: Hundreds turned out for the annual Liberty County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance activities, which ran through the weekend and culminated Jan. 16 with a parade an commemorative service.
A Fort Stewart soldier was arrested after allegedly attempting to hit Hinesville Police officers with the vehicle he was driving. The officers, who had tried to stop the vehicle, ended up firing their weapons at it. They were treated for minor injuries.
Jan. 22: Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Reactions among the crowd there varied. A group of students from First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Hinesville also attended, and found the experience awe inspiring.
A Bryan County jury awarded $15 million to the survivor of an April 2015 crash that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students on I-16. Hinesville attorneys Billy Jones and Carl Varnedoe represented Megan Richards in her suit against Total Transportation of Mississippi.
In an attempt to increase space without building, Liberty Regional Medical Center moved its business office off its main campus into a building across E.G. Miles Parkway.
Jan 25: Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes and others in the Georgia Sheriffs Association launched a campaign to increase pay for deputies, asking the state to authorize a sales tax. The drive has not yet been approved.
Longtime Liberty County Clerk of Courts Barry Wilkes, who retired late last year just before qualifying for the seat closed, was honored at a retirement dinner. The event drew officials from across the state to honor Wilkes, who served more than 30 years and who was a leader in bringing court records into the digital age as an officer of the Superior Court Clerks Association of Georgia.
Midway started the runup to municipal elections later in the year, setting the qualifying fees and dates to run for mayor and council seats.
In sports, the Atlanta Falcons played their final game in the Georgia Dome, which was supplanted later in the year by Mercedes Benz Stadium, as home to both the Falcons and Major League Soccer’s debut Atlanta United.
Jan 29: Outgoing Armstrong State University President Linda Bleicken confirmed that plans to consolidate her school with Georgia Southern included transferring the Liberty Center to the Statesboro school, not closing the Hinesville center. She said it would be “crazy” to not continue the local campus.
Derrick Harvey was found guilty of killing Markese “Pain City” Mahone, an aspiring rapper from Macon, at a Flemington motel in October 2014. Co-defendants in the case testified that Harvey shot Mahone during an attempted robbery. Sentencing was set for later.
In sports, Bradwell Institute announced Ross Couch, a former assistant coach at the high school, had been hired as head football coach. Couch had served on the staff of coach Greg Hill, who resigned in December, for two years earlier. Most recently, Couch was defensive coordinator at Windsor Forest.
Feb. 1: The Liberty County school board rejected a proposed calendar for the present school year after some members said it included too many long weekends for students and faculty.
Hutton Construction Co. planned a grand opening of its Oglethorpe Square shopping center for March 8, it was announced at a city council meeting. Officials said the area would be a “game changer” for retail business in Hinesville.
Feb. 5: Cracks in the administration of Liberty County schools under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee appeared when an attorney for the system’s CFO, Roger Reese, said Reese was considering a lawsuit against Lee and the school board for the way he was treated during and after the bidding process to select a bank to handle school finances.
Feb. 8: The president of the local bank branch that won the contract to handle school finances said the allegations from CFO Roger Reese were absurd. James Rogers of Ameris Banks said its officers followed the letter of the law in winning the contract.
Hinesville City Council amended its ordinances to allow property to be used as it traditionally has even when that use doesn’t fit into surrounding zoning even when the property is sold. In the past, so called “grandfathered” property uses had to conform to surrounding zoning when it changed owners.
Feb. 12: A man who was convicted of a 1996 attack on a woman in a Hinesville parking lot when he threatened the victim with a hatchet, was arrested again in Long County. Calvin Leon Nelson served 20 years for the conviction and, five months after his release, was arrested for alleged sexual assault in Long County. Officials gave few details of the crime or arrest.
Veterans of the 24th Infantry Division’s participation in Operation Deseret Storm during the Iraq war announced plans for a reunion in and around Hinesville and Fort Stewart for later in the month.
Long County commissioners voted to hire a county administrator. The vote was 3-2. In the past, the commission chairman and department heads have handled operations.
During a Hinesville Rotary Club meeting, presidents of Georgia Southern and Armstrong State universities discussed the merger of the schools. They did not discuss their opinion, just how the merger would work.
Feb. 15: At a meeting, Liberty County commissioners reveal they are considering imposing a fee to start a professional fire department that would have a full-time firefighter and would coordinate efforts of volunteer departments around the county.
Members of Bradwell Institute’s Friends Helping Friends were honored by a resolution proposed by state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, to the General Assembly. FHF connects special education students with mainstream students, even throwing a prom for them once a year.
Midway City Council affirmed earlier actions to hire an architect and engineering firm for construction of a new city hall.
In sports, J.T. Pollock was hired by the Long County school board as head football coach for the Long County Blue Tide. The veteran coach had compiled a 82-49-2 record in 12 years at Appling County High School.
Liberty County High School boys and girls basketball team, and Bradwell Institute’s girls made it through region play with slots in the state tournament.
Feb. 19: A Hinesville teen was dead and a young man was arrested and charged with murder following a fight in Eagles Landing Subdivision. Clyde Weeks, 19, was allegedly shot to death by Philemon Jackson, 21. Weeks reportedly was standing up for a friend when he was killed.
Further problems within the Liberty County Board of Education came to light as one member, Marcus Scott, said he was disgusted with leadership of the system. There were also allegations of improper conduct by administrators and board members lodged with AdvancED, the organization that accredits schools.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a string of burglaries of churches. Sheriff Steven Sikes issued a warning to whoever broke into four churches in recent weeks. The victims said the crimes were making them rethink their accessibility to the public.
Nine people were arrested on drug, weapons and probation charges as the result of a Hinesville Police sting on an alleged ring operating out of Woodwind North Apartments.
In sports, First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s Highlander basketball team won the GISA AA Region 2 championship.
Feb. 22: Thomas Cribbs, who spent much of his 42 years with the Hinesville Police Department heading its detectives division, died. Cribbs had retired a year earlier and won praise from colleagues and citizens for his dedication to law enforcement.
The state announced that the DOT Coordinated Highway Assistance and Maintenance Program, which is supposed to offer free roadside assistance to motorists, will start operating in the Hinesville area.
Liberty County Panthers advanced to the second round of the state basketball tournament, while Long County’s Blue Tide were eliminated in the round. And Blue Tide coach Deshon Brock announced he was leaving for a job with Mitchell County High School in Camilla.
Feb. 26: Bradwell’s Lucy Shin, Liberty’s Jevante Dewberry, and FPCA’s John Killough were named STAR students for their respective schools. They and the STAR teachers they chose, BI’s Michael Bell, LCHS’s Brian Nixon and FPCA’s Lee Christenson, were honored at a Liberty County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Killough was advanced for regional consideration at the county’s STAR student.
In sports, Liberty County advanced to the Elite 8 after dominating a game in the second round of the state playoffs, while FPCA Highlanders advanced to the second round of the GISA state tournament.
In Ludowici, Brian Todd announced he was stepping down as Lady Tide basketball coach, making him the school’s third head coach to leave this school year.