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IN APPRECIATION - Steve Adams was recognized for his role as head of Wheeler County’s Emergency Management. He has faithfully served in this capacity since 2004, but even before then, was hard at work in his community of Spring Hill building a fire response team which has been going strong for 30 years. Chamber Treasurer Brandon Pope presents a commemorative plaque to Adams.Photo by Deborah Clark
IN APPRECIATION - Steve Adams was recognized for his role as head of Wheeler County’s Emergency Management. He has faithfully served in this capacity since 2004, but even before then, was hard at work in his community of Spring Hill building a fire response team which has been going strong for 30 years. Chamber Treasurer Brandon Pope presents a commemorative plaque to Adams.Photo by Deborah Clark

TOP BUSINESS – Since it was established 25 years ago, Wheeler Correctional Facility (WCF) has had a profound influence on the growth and development of Wheeler County. The award-winning prison, which is the county’s top employer, has doubled in size since it was built. Wheeler Chamber President Thomas Spell presents a commemorative plaque to WCF Investigator Chris Ashley, who was representing the facility at the Chamber banquet.

was held in the James Stapleton gymnasium/ auditorium on the campus of Wheeler County School in Alamo.

Receiving honors as outstanding citizens were Suzanne Couey, Superintendent of Schools, and Steve Adams, Director of Emergency Management. Named as Businesses of the Year were the Glenwood Telephone Company and Wheeler Correctional Facility.

Citizen of Distinction Suzanne Couey Couey grew up in Wheeler County and after graduating from Wheel- er County High School, earned degrees and certifications from Wesleyan College, Middle Georgia College, Troy State University, and Valdosta State University. Her entire pro fessional experience as an educator has been spent serving Wheeler County schools. She became the Wheeler County school system’s first female superintendent in 2017, after joining the school system full-time in 2009.

Perhaps her most demanding challenge during her seven-year tenure as superintendent — other than seeing the system through the COVID epidemic — was the planning and construction of a new $35 mil- lion K-12 Wheeler County School, which opened in September 2022. The project began with public hearings, passing a bond referendum in 2019 with a 90.2% approval rate, and coordinating with the state of Georgia which financed almost 90 percent of the project.

Under her very capable management, the district is now prepared to completely pay off its capital outlay projects by 2030, which is 20 years earlier and $3.3 million less than the original bond agreement had specified. Those projects include not only the new school, but an agricultural facility, a new transportation facility, and a new hitting cage for baseball/ softball.

She will be stepping down from her role as superintendent this year to spend more time with her family, but she will remain with the school system in a full-time capacity to provide expertise in a number of important supportive roles. Citizen of Distinction Steve Adams Wheeler County has been home to Steve Adams for his entire life. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have lived in the Spring Hill Community for nearly 52 years on third-generation farm land.

In the early 1990s, Adams and his cousin, Craig Adams, recognized the need for fire protection for the Spring Hill Communi ty and began the process of working with the county to build a department. With the support of the commu- nity, Spring Hill Volunteer Fire Department has been a strong department for over 30 years. Because of his passion to help others, Adams accepted a position with the county as EMA Director in 2004. As EMA Director, Steve has worked to get grants and any monies available for emergency equipment for the county as well as the volunteer fire departments. Adams is well known in the Georgia Emergency Management Association (GEMA) for his willingness to provide mutual aid to other counties as well.

Adams has continued his training each year and has earned his Certified Emergency Management credentials. This acknowledges that he has the skills and the ability to effectively manage a comprehensive emergency through preparedness, response, and recovery. His responsi bilities have grown to also include County Fire Chief, Search and Rescue Coor – dinator, First Responders, and Spring Hill Volunteer Fire Department Chief.

Business of the Year: GTC

It is rare now to find a family-owned business in a rural community that has survived, much less thrived; but Glenwood Telephone Company (GTC), which has been around for over 125 years, is still going strong.

GTC is the smallest, privately-owned Incumbent Local Exchange Company in Georgia. Now into its third generation of leadership by the same family, GTC looks to continue to expand its state-ofthe- art, 100% buried fiber telecommunications and broadband services across Wheeler County and adjacent territory.

On January 4, 2023, GTC received a $4.8 million grant — part of $234 million in 29 grant awards for broadband Internet expansion across Georgia. This award will improve connectivity within Wheeler County by expanding GTC’s buried fiber optic network, allowing the company to reach more underserved and unserved residents within the county.

Recently, GTC re ceived a U.S. Treasury allocation that means GTC will be getting a total of $5.3 million to bring broadband to 1,127 sites, rather than the original 608 locations first designated in the grant. Work is now underway.

GTC was founded in 1898 as a telephone and telegraph office, the company was purchased in 1940 by W. H. Harvey Jones and his wife, Odessa, who later sold the company to Leon B. Adams and Eloise Cox Adams. Eloise was a native of Glenwood.

Upon her father Leon’s death in 1982, Janice Adams O’Brien assumed supervision of the company. She passed away in October of 2021 and her son, Jim, assumed ownership and became the company’s CEO. Last year, he received an honor on his late mother’s behalf, as she was inducted into the Telecommunications Pioneers Association Hall of Fame.

Wheeler Correctional Facility

In its 25 years of operation Wheeler Correctional Facility has impacted Wheeler County and its municipalities in many positive ways. The privately-owned facility has contributed to the local tax base, provided jobs, and brought in revenue as money is spent locally by staff. Additionally, administration and staff at the facility have formed local partnerships to benefit the community.

The award-winning prison, which is equipped to house 3,000 inmates, is privately owned by Core Civic and is one of the two largest prisons in the state of Georgia. Only Coffee County’s facility, also owned by Core Civic, equals Wheeler’s facility in size.

Wheeler Correctional Facility partners with the Georgia Department of Corrections not only to provide incarceration and rehabilitation for male medium security offenders, but to offer a wide range of re-entry, educational, and vocational programs for inmates — from earning a general education diploma to acquiring certificates in welding and diesel mechanics. The goal is returning inmates to communities where they can become productive members of society.

The correctional facility was built in 1998 with a capacity of 1,000 to 1,700 inmates. Since that time, the facility has doubled in size and the current inmate population now numbers about 2,500. The current warden is Shawn Gillis.

The facility was awarded ACA accreditation in three-year intervals from 2000 to 2021. Its medical department was presented with the Medical Association of Georgia accreditation in three-year intervals for the years 2000 to 2015, and in 2018, it was named Core Civic’s “Facility of the Year.”

Guest Speaker

Speaking at the banquet was Sabrina Graham Graan, who grew up in Wheeler County, and has spent the last 21 years at the Georgia Attorney General’s Office in the Capital Litigation Section. She has litigated numerous cases in the Georgia Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Sponsors for the annual banquet were Glenwood Telephone Company, Wheeler Correctional Facility, Georgia Power, Wheeler County Development Authority, and Beasley Timber.

STILL MAKING HISTORY – Glenwood Telephone Company owner and CEO Jim O’Brien accepts a plaque from Wheeler County Chamber President Thomas Spell in appreciation for the company’s positive and enduring impact on progress in Wheeler County. The company is now in its third generation of ownership by the same family.

Photo by Deborah Clark

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Photo by Deborah Clark

Sabrina Graham Graan

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