Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Tifton, Georgia
Tifton Grapevine
Dr. Tracy L. Brundage, president of Keystone College in Pennsylvania, will become the next president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, pending a formal vote of the University System's Board of Regents.

Brundage, 53, is the sole finalist for the ABAC position, says Board of Regents Chairman Harold Reynolds and University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Sonny Perdue.

“Dr. Tracy Brundage is a dynamic leader who understands the role an institution like ABAC plays in impacting workforce development while remaining focused on Georgia’s leading industry of agriculture,” Perdue said in a statement released by the University System.

“She grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and her experience and creative problem-solving will make her an ideal leader for ABAC and its students, faculty, staff, and campus community in South Georgia,” Perdue said.

Brundage said, “I am very excited and look forward to the opportunity to serve as the next president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. ABAC has a long and distinguished history of educational service in Georgia, and I’m proud to have a chance to be a part of that legacy.”

Since 2018, she has been president of Keystone College, a private institution in La Plume, Pa., with an enrollment of 1,364 students. Brundage previously was the college's provost and vice president for academic affairs.

As president, she managed a $27.5 million budget and restructured the college's debt for an anticipated net surplus in fiscal year 2022, and implemented a plan that is on track to double funding for scholarships.

She has overseen development of new high-demand, career-based majors to help meet regional workforce needs, expanded internship and experiential learning opportunities for students, and opened a Professional Development Institute and several new student-centered facilities. Under her leadership, Keystone has a student success rate of placing 94% of its students in jobs, with some programs having a 100% placement rate.

Last month, Brundage was named one of the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal's Top 25 Women in Business. According to the Business Journal, she began her career as a corporate trainer for a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, was a director of workforce development and continuing education at Harrisburg Area Community College. Brundage then served as director of continuing education and a faculty member at Penn State University/York and vice president for workforce development and faculty member at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

A recognized expert in her field, the Scranton, Pa., native has testified on workforce development initiatives before state and national committees, including the U.S. House of Representatives. She has also owned and operated a Victorian bed and breakfast, and has worked as an information technology instructor with a private firm.

Brundage holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gettysburg College, a master of education in training and development, and a doctorate in workforce education and development from Penn State University.

ABAC is a special place and has a unique agricultural mission among USG institutions. Dr. Brundage’s success in previous leadership positions has prepared her well for this opportunity. We look forward to welcoming her to Southwest Georgia,” said Regent Barbara Rivera Holmes, chair of the Regents Special Committee, which assisted with the search for a successor to Dr. David Bridges, ABAC's longest serving president who is retiring at the end of this semester.
Tifton Grapevine
The Tifton Museum of Arts & Heritage is being renamed for Syd Blackmarr, Tifton's acknowledged "Queen of Arts."

On Thursday, the museum formally becomes the "Syd Blackmarr Arts Center." Local arts council officials say the new name better reflects the facility's activities and broad mission.

“It is an unimaginable gift to have my name associated with this treasured building, especially because of its location in the heart of the community, and because it is beloved by so many for its heritage and beauty,” Blackmarr said. 

“It has been my privilege and joy to foster and encourage the arts and artists in our community and the immediate region, and to observe their transformative power and contribution to the economic, educational and enrichment of life in community.”

Perhaps best known for establishing Tifton's Love Affair Fine Arts Festival, Blackmarr has been a leader and pioneer in the development and expansion of cultural arts programs, networks, and infrastructure across South Georgia for more than four decades.

Beginning in 1976 with her work at the Arts Experiment Station at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, she fostered the creation of eight local arts councils, the first rural arts consortium in Georgia, and arts-in-education programs in six counties. Her work led to cities, counties, and private entities increasing their appreciation of the role of the arts in building strong communities.

Blackmarr also promoted collaboration across the region, organizing the ABAC Performing Arts and Art & Entertainment Series, which has attracted large audiences.
In Tifton, in addition to the Love Affair, Blackmarr established the Arts in Black Festival and encouraged the development of La Fiesta del Pueblo, all of which affirmed cultural diversity. She has been a constant advocate for partnerships with educational, artistic and funding agencies that have brought support for arts and humanities programs to rural counties across the region.
"As a result of her decades of work in this field, a legacy of strong arts organizations, museum exhibits, preservation projects, and public art continue to thrive in South Georgia," said the awards committee when Blackmarr was honored with the Governor's Award for the Arts and Humanities in 2014.

The Love Affair Fine Arts Festival was first held downtown in 1980 on Love Avenue, where the museum/arts center is located.
“With this new name we symbolize decades of partnerships and public/private collaborations to make the arts happen,” said Kathy Moreno, Tifton Council for the Arts president. “That is the Syd Blackmarr style and legacy.”

She said that calling the building "The Syd" will "evoke memories held by thousands of people who enjoyed a lifetime of concerts, festivals, exhibits, readings, and performances all over the community. The new name reflects an even broader mission, truly a continuation of Syd’s distinctive ability to draw people together around the arts.”

The Syd is located in the former First United Methodist Church building built in 1900-01 by Tifton Methodists. It replaced previous wooden structures that were burned. First United Methodist relocated to its current location on 12th Street in 1954, and the old downtown structure eventually fell into disrepair. The Rotary Club of Tifton, led by its president Clay Dorminey, began efforts in 1990 to restore the building.

This Thursday, when the structure formally becomes "The Syd," aIso marks 25 years to the day when the museum’s first art exhibition opened on April 28, 1997.
Tifton Grapevine
An Adel woman is among 78 people to whom President Joseph R. Biden Jr. granted clemency on Tuesday.

In Biden’s first use of clemency power since taking office, he issued three pardons and 75 sentence commutations, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Stephanie Lynn McMurphy, 42, of Adel, was among seven Georgians who had their sentences commuted; all had been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

McMurphy had pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school and, in October 2018, was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison, followed by six years of supervised release, according to the Justice Department.

Her sentence was commuted to expire on April 26, 2023, with the remainder to be served in home confinement, leaving intact and in effect the six-year term of supervised release.

McMurphy was one of several people who had been sentenced in federal court as part of a methamphetamine distribution ring centered in Moultrie.

Court records show that McMurphy was indicted in federal court in Albany on April 11, 2017, on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and three counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

From May through November 2016, 30 individuals distributed methamphetamine in and around Moultrie and carried out transactions in Atlanta and parts of Florida, the Justice Department said at the time of the indictments.

In a statement released Tuesday by the White House, Biden said that many of the people on the commutation list had been under house arrest during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many would have been eligible for shorter prison terms if they had been charged under a more recent law that changed sentencing guidelines for certain crimes.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities,” Biden said.

“During Second Chance Month, I am using my authority under the Constitution to uphold those values by pardoning and commuting the sentences of fellow Americans.”
Tift County teachers honored for excellence Monday night were, front row seated from left: Matthew Blankenship, Mike Beeman, Valerie Wilson, Dawn Starling, and Stephanie Roberts. Back row standing from left: Erin Bean, Debbie Salter, Cindy Marzen, Regina Rogers, Kim Simmons, Samantha Walker, Jessica Padgett, Caroline Bostick, Amy Brooks, Lauren Duncan, Beth Thompson, and Billy King.
Tifton Grapevine
The Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Rotary Club of Tifton honored 17 public school teachers Monday night for excellence in teaching.

The Rotary Club hosted the Excellence in Teaching Awards Banquet recognizing teachers who were tapped for the education foundation's Excellence in Teaching Awards for the years of 2020 and 2021. The foundation presented each teacher with a plaque and an honorarium.

The "Tiftosterone" male singing group from Tift County High School provided entertainment for the banquet.

The teachers were nominated by a student, parent, peer, or administrator. Nominations are now open for the current school year, and Tift County public school educators may be nominated here.

Teachers honored for Excellence in Teaching for 2020 were: Amy Brooks, J.T. Reddick Elementary; Stephanie Roberts, Len Lastinger Elementary; Lauren Duncan, Omega Elementary; Mike Beeman, Cindy Marzen, Debbie Salter, and Valerie Wilson, all of Tift County High.

Teachers honored for Excellence in Teaching for 2021 were: Samantha Walker, Annie Belle Clark Elementary; Erin Bean, G.O. Bailey Elementary; Caroline Bostick, J.T. Reddick Elementary; Dawn Starling, Len Lastinger Elementary; Jessica Padgett, Matt Wilson Elementary; Kim Simmons, Northside Elementary; Beth Thompson, Omega Elementary; Billy King, Eighth Street Middle; Regina Rogers, Northeast Middle; and Matthew Blankenship, Tift County High.
Tift County's jobless rate remained at 2.8% in March for the third consecutive month, according to data from the Ga. Department of Labor (GDOL).

The jobless rate in Tift County had reached an all-time low of 1.8% in November.

Tift’s labor force, the number of people eligible to work in the county, rose by 80 at 21,522 in March, the GDOL reported.

Statewide, the March unemployment rate dropped to an all-time low of 3.1% from February’s revised rate of 3.2%. State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said that with the lower jobless rate, Georgia’s wages across the state are rising.

"Wages and benefits are having to be increased because of a very tight labor market, and we are now seeing the highest number of Georgians ever employed and participating in the workforce," Butler said.

"And with a record number of jobs being created, we have a situation where this will continue to be the case for the immediate future."

He said the state's average wage difference from February 2020 to February 2022 was over 9%. Some of the industries hardest hit during the pandemic showed wage increases over 10%, including leisure and hospitality with a 20.4% increase.
In the Tiftarea during March, counties posted the following jobless rates with the previous month's rate in parentheses: 
  • Worth, 3.3% (3.3%)
  • Turner, 4.8% (4.9%)
  • Irwin, 4.0% (4.1%)
  • Cook, 3.2% (3.1%)
  • Berrien, 3.4% (3.3%)
  • Ben Hill, 4.6% (4.4%)
Tifton Grapevine
May is Lupus Awareness Month, and “Lupus Warriors” and their supporters are invited to kick off the month this Sunday and observe 10 years of raising awareness of lupus in South Georgia, says United Way Executive Director Pat McKinnon

Local lupus warriors are asked to gather at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at Brodie Field for an all-purple lupus awareness photo shoot to be taken at 5:30 p.m.
“Everyone is asked to wear a purple shirt,” McKinnon said. “All Lupus Warriors – people living with lupus – should make sure to check in, as you will sit in the first three rows for the photo.” The theme is "Let's Make Lupus Visible."

South Georgia has been promoting lupus awareness since May 2012, McKinnon said.

“Lupus advocates have been painting the town purple by placing purple bows on local businesses. Advocates have had football games and basketball games for lupus awareness. T-shirts have been sold to show support of the Lupus Foundation of Georgia.”  

On May 2, Tift County Commission Chairman Tony McBrayer and Tifton Mayor Julie B. Smith will sign proclamations declaring May as Lupus Awareness Month: Tift County Commission at 4:45 p.m. at the Tift County Administration Building, and City Council at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.  

“Please come out, support, and wear purple on May 2 as well,” McKinnon said. “And, May 10, 2022, is World Lupus Day and ‘Put on Purple,’ also known as P.O.P. It’s an opportunity for the lupus community to join together across the country to raise awareness of the physical, emotional, and economic impact of lupus," she said.

For more information, email TiftCounty4Lupus@yahoo.com
The Prater Music Fest, honoring Ocilla native Dave Prater of the legendary R&B duo Sam & Dave, is scheduled May 5-7 in the Irwin County seat.

Festivities will kick off at 7 p.m. May 5, with a community worship service at Big’s Stump Creek. Admission will be $10 and will feature a performance by Willie Spence.

May 6 and 7 events will be held on the grounds of the old elementary school at 102 N. Alder St. The Friday, May 6, annual block party will start at 6 p.m. with a performance from the Irwin County High Jazz Band, followed by the announcement of the Dave Prater Memorial Scholarship winner.

Attendees will dance the night away to the sounds of the Southern Soul Band, featuring Ocilla native Jerry Moss. Food and beverage vendors will be set up and ready to serve at 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 7, activities start at 11 a.m. with arts and crafts vendors, DJ Roland Lott, and performances by Southern Confessional and Irwin County High chorus groups.

Saturday will end with the Hollywood Band on stage.
Giovani Jimenez, a biology major from Tifton, has been selected as the Student of Distinction from the School of Arts and Sciences at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Students of Distinction are chosen by faculty through a competitive process. They must first be a superior or distinguished honor student with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Other factors considered include activities on and off campus, leadership among peers, and strong interpersonal skills.

Jimenez serves as treasurer of the Advancing Toward Occupations in Medicine Club, president of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Club, and is a member of the TriBeta Biology Honor Society

As a participant in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, Jimenez presented his research and participated in summer camps focused on personal skills and career opportunities within the STEM field.

Jimenez was a volunteer for the Migrant Farmworker Health Project and was selected as one of 10 students for the SOWEGA-AHEC Pathway to Medical School program. 

Jimenez participates in community activities, such as presenting science experiments for elementary school kids, assisting staff in cleaning kennels at the local animal shelter, and assisting with carpentry and painting through Habitat for Humanity.
"Tabby" is among the cats available for adoption at the Tift County Animal Shelter. To adopt Tabby and see other pets available, visit the shelter between 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, or call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch's Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055
More than 40 orange trees were growing and doing well in Tifton, surviving seasonal frosts, according to news dispatches of April 27, 1894. W.O. Tift imported the trees from Japan during the previous year and planted them in Tifton "as an experiment."
Call Us at 478-227-7126

Your Locally Owned Digital Newspaper!

To Subscribe, CLICK HERE!
or Text TIFTON to 22828

Our MidWeek Edition includes 'This Week in Tifton History'
Our Weekender Edition includes Recent Local Deaths

Tifton Grapevine
e-published every Tuesday and Friday

Frank Sayles Jr.
Editor & Publisher
Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
A Service of Sayles Unlimited Marketing LLC, Tifton, Georgia