After the Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services Color Guard presented the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance, Cherokee Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens introduced Olens and described him as “accessible and responsible.”
Olens told the crowd of about 60 that he represents the executive branch, and said he enjoyed working with many of Cherokee and Canton officials in the past.
“I have a lot of very positive thoughts about your county,” Olens said.
Olens spoke about two House Bills he had worked on as the 53rd state Attorney General. He said when Florida passed legislation that stopped “pills mills” from operating, the problem moved into Georgia. Georgia’s response — HB 178 — goes into effect July 1, and Olens said it will help eliminate “pill mills” from Georgia.
“Ten years ago we had 10 pill mills,” Olens said. “A month ago we estimated we had 140.”
Olens said good pharmacists were having their licenses threatened by not filling prescriptions, and this bill will give the licensing board and the state drug and narcotics agencies the ability to pursue the problem.
Olens also talked about HB 200, which he passed shortly after taking office, and said it put in place mandatory training for law enforcement to learn how to recognize sex trafficking, funds for rehabilitating victims and longer sentences for offenders.
“According to the FBI, Georgia is one of the 14 worst states in the country for sex trafficking,” Olens said. “When I say sex trafficking, I’m talking about the exploitation of children for sex. I’m talking about 12- to 14-year-olds.”
Olens said this is not a problem that only exists in the city of Atlanta, but is widespread in both rural and urban areas. “We hardly go a week in our state without an arrest or incitement related to sex trafficking,” Olens said.
Olens said the Rotary Clubs in the area would be working to stop sex trafficking over the next year as part of a new initiative.
“One of the quotes that I love the most is by Winston Churchill who said, ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,’” Olens said. “Thank you very much for what you do, because clearly, what clubs like this do around our state has so much benefit to all the citizens of our state.”
The club presented Olens with an anniversary medallion and will give a donation in Olens’ name to the Sequoyah Regional Library system.
The Rotary Club dedicated a 9,763-pound, marble and garnet monument to the public service men and women for their sacrifice. The monument’s inscription is “service above self,” the Rotary Club motto.
Ahrens and 2007 Rotary President Susan Padgett-Harrison announced that the park where their monument was placed, beside the marble courthouse in downtown Canton, had been designated by the county commissioner as Canton Rotary Park.
Padgett-Harrison said the Rotary Club has a 76-year history in Canton.
“The Rotarians first formed a city guard to protect the city when our young men were away fighting in World War II,” Padgett-Harrison said. “This year we are helping with MUST Ministries, with Habitat for Humanity, and this week we’re going to send a really nice contribution to the Moore, Okla., Rotary Club in honor of what they’ve been through, so their ‘boots on the ground’ can use that in the most effective manner.”
Padgett-Harrison said Rotary’s discussion about a monument to honor public safety men and women began in 2005, and the original concept was from Rotarian Carrie Budd McGowan.
Padgett-Harrison said the club received thousands of donations from the community to help fund the project.
“My heart is always touched by public safety workers, but the enthusiasm for this project was overwhelming,” Padgett-Harrison said. “While we can never begin to live up to the sacrifices that our public service workers and our military make to our community, Rotary shows that in some small way we can all contribute to service above self.”
In other news, the YMCA announced a new program and said they were working with the nutrition program for the Board of Education to provide lunch and breakfast meals for children in the community who are part of the discount lunch program.
Executive Director John Hicks said they anticipate serving a large number of children over the summer.