Press Releases

 Sen. John Wilkinson Chaired Senate Team at 2016 Legislative Livestock Showdown

ATLANTA  (October 11, 2016) | Sen. John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) Chaired the Senate team as they tried their hand at showing dairy heifers at the 6th Annual Legislative Livestock Showdown in Perry, Ga on October 8, 2016. Senators Elena Parent (D – Atlanta), John Kennedy (R – Macon), Butch Miller (R – Gainesville), Michael Rhett (D – Marietta) and Larry Walker (R – Perry) made up this year’s senate team.

“This competitive event is a great opportunity for legislators who may or may not have a background in agriculture to learn first-hand what it takes to show livestock and practice their newly acquired show ring etiquette,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “Although we took second place this year, I am extremely proud of my colleagues who participated in the event and I’m looking forward to next year’s showdown.”

The Legislative Livestock Showdown is a highly competitive event between five senators and five representatives. The legislators were partnered with highly experienced 4-H or Future Farmers of America students who coached them on proper animal handling, showmanship and ring etiquette. Competitors were scored by two professional livestock judges. The Showdown was co-sponsored the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia National Fair.

Sen. John Wilkinson Co-Hosts 2016 Joint Agriculture Chairman Ag Issues Summit

ATLANTA, Ga. (August 11, 2016) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) and Rep. Tom McCall (R – Elberton) co-hosted the Joint Agriculture Chairman Ag Issues Summit in Perry on Tuesday, August 9. Committee members from the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives, several agency commissioners and other stakeholders were present.

“I’m extremely proud of the crowd we had at the summit this year,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “Thank you to all that attended and participated, especially the event sponsors. Agriculture is an important foundation to Georgia’s growing economy, and events such as this support growth and promote the significance of the industry.”

The Ag Issues Summit is an educational and open dialogue event for legislators, agency members and other stakeholders. During the summit, important issues are discussed and ideas for next steps are presented. This summit included an overview of the Georgia Ag Tax Exemption (GATE) Program. The Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Department of Revenue presented their actions and efforts to enforce the program. An update was given on Georgia water resources. Georgia’s growing economy was reviewed and discussed. The Honorable Austin Scott, United States House of Representatives (R-8th), gave an update on federal agriculture issues affecting Georgia and its economy.

JW Leg Adv.

Senator John Wilkinson Recognized for Legislative Advocacy

ATLANTA (November 12, 2015) | Sen. John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) was awarded the 2015 Award for Legislative Advocacy by the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC) on October 28, 2015. He was chosen for this distinguished honor in recognition of Senate Bill 274, which promotes the history of Georgia agriculture within the Capitol Museum at the Georgia State Capitol.

“The success of Georgia’s local and global economies relies heavily on the support and steady growth of agribusiness, not only by our state legislators, but from all Georgians,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “I thank the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council for their recognition of Senate Bill 274, and for this honor.”

Sen. Wilkinson received the honor during an awards ceremony held at the Georgia Archives and was joined by other award recipients, state officials, GHRAC members, and Archive staff. GHRAC established the Archives Awards Program in 2003 to recognize outstanding efforts in archives and records programs in Georgia. The council is charged with supporting efforts to improve the condition of records state wide and to promote the educational use of Georgia’s documentary heritage.

SB 274, signed into law in 2014, requires certain areas within the Capitol Museum to be dedicated to the history of agriculture. The Capitol Arts Standards Commission, in cooperation with the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and the Commission on the Preservation of the State Capitol, allocated these areas to display artifacts related to agriculture in Georgia.

Project SEARCH ProgramSenator John Wilkinson Visits Northeast Georgia Medical Center

ATLANTA (November 2, 2015) | Senator John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) visited the Northeast Georgia Medical Center on Thursday, October 29, 2015 to learn about Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is a partnership between the hospital and the Hall County School District that encourages students with disabilities to participate in an internship program, allowing them to try a number of jobs within the Medical Center.

“I am greatly impressed with the Project SEARCH program developed by the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Hall County School District,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “Partnerships like this are vital to Georgia’s workforce development and economic growth. I look forward to seeing the progress of this program and I sincerely hope that other business owners in the community will follow suit and consider starting their own workforce development program. Strong community involvement is essential to the well-being of our great state.”

Project SEARCH is a one-year program for high school students, designed to help them transition from the classroom to a full-time job. The students rotate jobs every week while in the program to gain experience in clerical roles, food service, mail sorting and hundreds of other areas. In 2014, more than 83 percent of students who participated in the program were hired after its completion.



UGA Farm Tour Wilkinson

Sen. John Wilkinson Participates in UGA’s Third Annual Farm Tour

ATLANTA (September 15, 2015) | Sen. John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa) attended the University of Georgia’s (UGA) third annual farm tour, held on September 3, 2015 by University President Jere W. Morehead. With a recent jump in agricultural growth in Georgia, the tour was created as an interactive tool to learn more about the state’s largest industry and explore opportunities for future progress and expansion through the university.

“Participating in the Annual UGA Farm Tour has been a great experience. It has given leaders in our state an opportunity to have in depth, meaningful discussion about the current landscape of Georgia’s agriculture industry,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, I am grateful for the insight our local farm communities lend to the legislative process and I thank them for their guidance when it comes to implementing sound and thoughtful policy.”

This year’s tour highlighted the impact UGA has on Georgia’s agricultural industry, and was concentrated on farms, laboratories and factories in northeast Georgia. Beginning at Tiger Mountain Vineyards and working its way through the Georgia Poultry Laboratory, King’s Hawaiian Bakery and others, the tour came to a close at Sonstegard Foods. In addition to Sen. Wilkinson and President Morehouse, others participating in the tour included Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Rep. Terry England, Chairman of Georgia House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee and J. Scott Angle, Dean and Director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.


 Future FarmersSen. John Wilkinson Sponsors Resolution Recognizing Future Farmers of America

ATLANTA (February 27, 2015)  |  Sen. John Wilkinson (R- Toccoa) sponsored Senate Resolution 136, applauding the Future Farmers of America (FFA) on their activities and recognizing February 24, 2015 as FFA Day at the Capitol.

“What an honor it is to recognize these young future farmers for everything they have done,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “It fills me with pride to see Georgia’s young people have such a strong appreciation for the wellbeing of agriculture in our state, and I can’t wait to see what else they will do for the future of farming.”

The Georgia FFA association is the third largest state FFA association in the country with 37,684 current members. Agricultural education and the FFA guarantee its young professionals meet growing needs in the science, business and technology of agriculture and increase awareness of agricultural needs across the country.

The FFA motto, “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve,” encourages leadership, personal growth and career success among its members.

Racing Hero

Sen. John Wilkinson Honors Racing Hero

ATLANTA (February 18, 2015)  Sen. John Wilkinson (R- Toccoa) sponsored Senate Resolution 91 on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015,  honoring Clarence Landers “C.L.” Pritchett. He is a respected and talented race car driver and entrepreneur who was a legend on the racetracks of the Southeast.  Pritchett and many family members joined Sen. Wilkinson in the Senate Chamber on Wednesday.

Pritchett’s accomplishments on the dirt tracks over the years have made him one of the most admired competitors in the sport of race car driving. According to racing historians, Pritchett won between 800 and 1,000 races and finished in the top 10 in more than 90 percent of his races from 1967 and until 1990. He also expanded his tire business, Pritchett Tire, to four locations throughout North Georgia.

“He is one of the greatest leaders and friends I have ever known. It was delightful to have him and his family join us in the Senate chamber,” said Sen. Wilkinson.


10959322_10200347026073844_5775525509539313033_n(3)Sen. John Wilkinson Elected to Serve as Senate Majority Caucus Secretary

ATLANTA (November 18, 2014) | State Senator John Wilkinson (R- Toccoa) was elected to serve as Secretary of the Senate Republican Caucus for the upcoming biennial legislative term of the Georgia General Assembly. In this role, Sen. Wilkinson will be responsible for recording all official legislative activities for the Senate Majority Caucus.         

“I am honored to represent our caucus and thankful to my colleagues for entrusting me with this role,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “I look forward to working with the leadership team, the caucus and each member of the Senate to promote legislation that ensures Georgia’s continued economic growth and vitality.”

Sen. Wilkinson is currently the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee, and a member of the Appropriations and Government Oversight committees.

The first term of the 153rd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly will convene on January 12, 2015, at the Georgia State Capitol.

 livestock showdownSen. John Wilkinson and Senate Team Participate in the 2014 Legislative Livestock Showdown

ATLANTA (October 16, 2014) | The Georgia State Senate team, captained by Sen. John Wilkinson (R – Toccoa), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, fell just short of “bringing home the bacon” at the 2014 Legislative Livestock Showdown on Saturday, October 11, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry. The fourth annual event, an entertaining showmanship competition between members of the Georgia State House and Georgia State Senate, was co-sponsored by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

“I am so proud of the 4-H, FFA and Senate members who participated in the Legislative Livestock Showdown at the Georgia National Fair in Perry,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “They did a great job. As Chairman of the Agriculture Committee it was my responsibility to find five senators willing to participate. The fact that all five of them took their time on a Saturday to participate is a strong indication of their support for young people and agriculture!”

In a departure from previous years, the legislators were judged on swine showmanship skills rather than cattle showmanship skills. Legislators were paired with a 4-H or FFA member who coached them on technique and presentation that morning before the show. During the livestock show, legislators individually presented their own hog for judging in the arena based on the knowledge and best practices taught by their 4-H or FFA coach.

The Senate team was represented by Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford), Sen. Dean Burke (R – Bainbridge), Sen. Don Balfour (R – Snellville), Sen. Nan Orrock (D – Atlanta) and Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga).

The Georgia House team was eventually named the winner of the 2014 Legislative Livestock Showdown. The traveling trophy will now reside in the office of House Speaker David Ralston until the 2015 event.

FullSizeRender (41)Sen. John Wilkinson Brings Awareness to Dystonia at the State Capitol

ATLANTA (September 17, 2014) | Senator John Wilkinson (R- Toccoa) honored Dystonia Awareness Day at the Capitol today, September 17, 2014.  Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, often resulting in painful and debilitating body positions for the victim. 

“As our country continues to shine light on the awful diseases and illnesses that face our country, I felt a personal obligation to bring awareness to this debilitating disorder,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “Dystonia affects an estimated 300,000 people in North America alone, including my courageous wife, Debbie.  We urgently need to bring awareness to Dystonia because so many people are misdiagnosed, which in turn delays proper treatment.  This disorder can make the most simple tasks impossible to achieve, however I know as a state and a country, we can come together to combat this disorder through research and knowledge.”

Governor Nathan Deal presented members of Tyler’s Hope, a foundation established to advance research for a cure, discover effective treatments and promote for awareness and education of Dystonia, with a proclamation declaring September as Dystonia Awareness Month in Georgia.  Sen. Wilkinson also led the adoption of Senate Resolution 850 during the 2014 Legislative Session to recognize September as Dystonia Awareness Month.

“We are grateful that the state of Georgia has recognized September as Dystonia Awareness Month.  This is a big leap in the effort to spread awareness and educate,” said Rich Stabb, Co- Founder and President of Tyler’s Hope.  “Awareness will play a huge role in helping hundreds of thousands of people receive better treatments, quicker diagnosis, and ultimately finding a cure.”

Sen. Wilkinson’s wife, Debbie Wilkinson, a school teacher in Carnesville, Ga., noticed symptoms in 2006 when excessive, involuntary blinking began to impair her vision.  In 2011, Wilkinson had an invasive procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery that dramatically improved her symptoms and pain.  She now partners with the Dystonia Medical Research Facility (DMRF) to lead the North Georgia Dystonia Support Group, which meets in Gainesville.  Wilkinson, along with other volunteers, are currently petitioning the White House to recognize Dystonia Awareness Month at the national level.

Dystonia is frequently misdiagnosed due to a lack of understanding and awareness of the disorder.  Children of virtually any age can be diagnosed while many adults become disabled in the prime of their lives.  It can affect multiple generations in a single family or occur sporadically with no family history.  Symptoms of dystonia are not the same in every patient, and can affect a specific part of the body or many parts simultaneously.

For more information regarding Dystonia, please contact Jessica Feeley at DMRF at 800-377-3978, or  DMRF is a non-profit organization that strives to advance Dystonia research for improved treatments and ultimately a cure, promote awareness and education, and provide support resources for affected individuals and families.

wilkinsonandNikiHayley Sen. John Wilkinson Participates in Bi-State Joint Savannah River Basin Caucus Summit

ATLANTA (September 20, 2013) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) joined Governors Nathan Deal and Nikki Haley and both states’ general assembly members at Lake Hartwell to learn more about water management of the Savannah River Basin and witness the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sign the Savannah River Basin Comprehensive Study on Sept. 18, 2013.

“Lake Hartwell is an economic driver in the 50th Senate District, attracting an estimated 10 million people annually to its shorelines,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “This vital resource provides flood control, hydropower, commercial and recreational use having an economic impact of millions of dollars for the region.  Therefore, I’m glad to see the cooperation between South Carolina and Georgia to bring more adaptive water management to Lake Hartwell through this comprehensive study.”

The Savannah River basin Comprehensive Study when complete will provide important data to recommend changes to the current water management plan and improve the Drought Plan.

For more photos from the event, please visit Georgia State Senate Facebook.


JW and GovSen. John Wilkinson Joined with Governor Deal to Break Ground on State Route 17 Expansion

ATLANTA (September 19, 2013) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) joined with Governor Nathan Deal, the Georgia Department of Transportation and local community leaders to break ground on State Route 17 widening in Stephens County on Sept. 18, 2013.  This project is a part of the Governor’s Road Improvement Program (GRIP) to boost Georgia’s economic development by connecting 95 percent of cities with 2,500 or more people to the Interstate Highway System, providing healthy arteries for goods to be moved around the state.

“As long-time friends stretching back as far as our time in the Future Farmers of America organization, it was a pleasure to host Governor Deal in Stephens County,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “Together we have long dreamt of expanding our highway system in Northeast Georgia to accommodate increase flow of goods and keep our state competitive.  By growing the Freight Corridor Network to four-lanes on Highway 17, we are staying ahead of demands and bringing jobs to Northeast Georgia.”

From Stephens and Franklin county line to Scott Road, construction workers will increase State Route 17 to four-lanes for 6.28 miles, projecting to complete by May 31, 2016. The widening will continue for another 3.13 mile stretch with sidewalks from Fieldcrest Road to Memorial Drive and should be finished by April 30, 2016.

Since this expansion is part of the improvements to the Freight Corridor Network, it is exempt from Congressional Balancing as delineated in House Bill 202, signed into law this past legislative session.

For more photos of the groundbreaking ceremony, please visit the Georgia State Senate Facebook.


wilkinsonAgsummit-300x263Sen. John Wilkinson Co-Hosts Joint Agriculture Chairman Ag Issues Summit

PERRY, Ga. (August 7, 2013) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) and Rep. Tom McCall co-hosted the Joint Agriculture Chairman Ag Issues Summit in Perry on August 6th.

“I’m thankful for all those who participated in the summit,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “Our turn out was great and fostered a productive discussion on agriculture issues facing Georgia and the country as we move into the next generation. By sharing these ideas together, we can create more responsible legislation to promote agriculture growth in the state.”

Legislators joined with agriculture community advocates to listen and learn on a variety of topics, including: Georgia Agriculture Sales Tax Exemptions, Federal immigration reform, regional water planning and commercial driver’s license farm exemptions.

The meeting was sponsored by Georgia Agribusiness Council, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Poultry Federation and Georgia Urban Ag Council.

04162013_-SCGAWaterMeeting-300x199 Sen. Wilkinson and other Georgia Legislators Discuss Lake Levels with South Carolina Lawmakers

ATLANTA (May 3, 2013) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) joined with the Savannah River Caucus, a group of Georgia lawmakers whose districts fall along the Savannah River Water Basin, in a bi-state meeting with their counterparts in South Carolina to discuss water management on April 16th.

“Water issues are nothing new to Georgia, and it remains a legislative priority for me,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “This meeting was the perfect opportunity to address water levels at Lake Hartwell, which is between Georgia and South Carolina along Stephens and Franklin counties.

Lake Hartwell, like many bodies of water, is an economic driver in this region.  It is paramount for both environmental and economic reasons that water management here is flexible to adapt to current environmental factors such as drought and federal mandated downstream requirements.”

Lake Hartwell is a man-made reservoir with a 962-mile shoreline and a popular recreational lake destination in the Southeast.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, manages the water levels at Lake Hartwell.  Therefore, congressional action will most likely be needed to change current regulations.  Already, U.S. Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) are working together on the federal level to address the water issues on a broader scale.

“I remain committed to finding a long-term water solution for Lake Hartwell and the surrounding region including Russell Lake and the Savannah River Basin,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “Only with a united front can we effect change in this region to improve tourism and reduce environmental costs.”

HAR_4080 Sen. Wilkinson Named Chairman of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee

ATLANTA (January 15, 2013) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) has been named Chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee for the 2013- 2014 term by the Senate Committee on Assignments.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to cultivate legislation that will benefit our land and waters,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “My top priority is to enrich the soil in Georgia to be a fertile land for its citizens.”

The Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee addresses issues such as agricultural land use, commodities, commissions, fairs and expositions, marketing law, pest management, and pesticides.

Sen. Wilkinson has also been selected as Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee and a member of the Appropriations and Government Oversight committees.

“I’m humbled to preside over a Senate that is strongly unified and filled with individuals that are hard-working, intelligent and dedicated to solving problems,” Lieutenant Governor Cagle said. “I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Chairman Wilkinson, who is extremely well-versed and passionate about this important subject matter, to deliver Georgians real results on the major issues facing this State.”

“We are fortunate to have a wealth of talent and experience in the State Senate,” said President Pro Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth). “I have every confidence in our new committee leadership team.”

Once a piece of legislation is introduced in the Senate, it is assigned to a Committee, depending on its topic.  If the Committee gives the legislation a “do pass” recommendation, then the proposed law is sent to the Rules Committee for consideration.  The appointed chairs will oversee the operation and order of Senate committee meetings, including calling for action on bills, resolutions or other matters assigned to that committee.

The first term of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly convened January 14, 2013 at the Georgia State Capitol.

HAR_3904 Sen. John Wilkinson Appointed to the Senate Aging Study Committee

ATLANTA (August 31, 2012) – Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) joins with other senators to form the Senate Aging Study Committee, as stated in Senate Resolution 979.  Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) will chair the committee, consisting of Sen. Wilkinson, Sen. John Crosby (R-Tifton), Sen. Mike Crane ( R-Newnan) and Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale).

“I’m honored to have been tapped to serve on this committee,” said Sen. Wilkinson.  “It’s vital that lawmakers are aware of the issues that face Georgians young and old.  This committee is a step forward to ensure the state is providing the best possible care to seniors.”

The committee will examine if the state is prepared to handle the growing needs of the seniors in Georgia.  This population sector is growing at a pace that one in four Georgians will be over 55 years by 2030.  Members will determine if any issues need to be addressed by through legislation.  The committee will complete its study by the end of this year.

 PolicymakeroftheyearSen. Wilkinson Named “Policy Maker of the Year” by Georgia ACTE

ATLANTA (July 24, 2012) – The Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education awarded Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) “Policy Maker of the Year.”   This is given annually to legislators who have made a significant contribution to career, technical, and agricultural education (CTAE) programs.

“I’m honored by this recognition for my dedication to career, technical and agriculture scholastics throughout my career,” said Sen. Wilkinson. “ I’ve strongly advocated for a sustainable Georgia by providing students with a solid educational core in agriculture and technical studies.  These fundamentals will equip Georgia’s workforce with the necessary tools to get the job done.”

“Senator Wilkinson was selected to receive this award because of his strong commitment to our CTAE programs during his career with the Georgia Department of Education and most recently while serving as a member of the Georgia State Senate,” said Matthew Gambill, Executive Director of the Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education.

The Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education was founded in 1926 and currently serves more than 2,700 members representing the full scope of CTAE in Georgia.  It provides leadership in developing an educated, prepared, adaptable and competitive workforce. Association membership consists of middle and high school teachers, school counselors, graduation coaches, school administrators, principals, superintendents, employees and faculty of the Technical College System of Georgia, and businesses and industry partners.