By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
An area mayor is receiving regional recognition.
Lavonia Mayor Ralph Owens was named the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission’s 2012 Elected Official of the Year earlier this month at the GMRC’s annual awards banquet in Gainesville.
The Georgia Mountains Regional Commission covers 12 counties, including Stephens, Franklin, and Hart.
Owens said he never expected to receive such an award.
“It’s an honor to receive it and it got me by surprise, but I’m honored to get it,” Owens said. “I’m sure there are a lot of other people who deserved it as much as I did.”
Owens has served as the mayor of Lavonia since 1990.
In that time, he said the city has undergone significant change for the better.
“Well when I first took office we had two police cars and five or six policemen and those two cars were used 24 hours a day,” he said. “Now, we have a new police department, 14 police officers and each officer has his own car. There’s just so much more equipment than we had when I first came here.”
Owens also pointed to the town’s water and sewer department and road department as entities that have developed since he first took office.
Owens is also the chair of the Franklin County Industrial Building Authority and he said some of the biggest accomplishments while he has been in office have to do with bringing jobs to the town that sits along Interstate 85.
“When we got Auto Zone here, which employs 500 people, I feel that was a great accomplishment,” Owens said. Also Bosal Industries, there’s just a lot of industry that I did have a great part in getting it to locate here in Lavonia.”
Owens also pointed to his work in getting the new Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center built in Lavonia instead of along I-85 the next exit up in Hart County.
According to Owens, future plans for Lavonia include repaving the roads in the downtown area and putting the finishing touches on the renovation of the Lavonia Train Depot.
He also said the town continues to work at trying to attract new businesses and industries.
Owens has three more years to serve in his current term as mayor.
He would not say whether he plans to run again.