I’ve always thought of myself as a farm girl…
My family lived on a farm in a very rural area of southern Indiana, which my dad bought when he retired from the Army after serving in World War II and Korea. I loved the outdoors and hunting and fishing with him and my two older brothers. But when I was 9, Dad died and our lives changed. To support the family, my mother sold the farm and went to work. Because she had been an early member of the Women’s Army Corps in World War II, she was able to get a job at Fort Benning, so we moved to Georgia where she raised us as a single parent.
When it came time to go to college, I enrolled at the University of Georgia, thinking I would be a veterinarian. But a tour of the vet school changed my mind. While I admire those who work with sick and wounded animals day in and day out, I realized this wasn’t for me. So I sat down with a counselor to sift through the many majors at UGA. When we got to forestry and wildlife management, I knew I’d found a fit.
This will always be my home
I subsequently earned a B.S. degree from what is now called the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and then went on to earn a master’s degree in forest biometrics (yes, I’m a numbers nerd!). While in school, I met my husband, Bill Cheatum, an Army vet who had gone back to school for a second degree in forestry. We have been married for 40 years and have three children and five grandchildren. All of our children went to public schools in Oconee County. Our oldest son is a major in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Oklahoma. Our daughter and youngest son live in Montana. She teaches chemistry at the college level and he is a park ranger.
I began working for the U.S. Forest Service right after graduation and held a succession of increasingly responsible administrative jobs, with assignments throughout the South and one in Colorado. In 2005, I was named Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in North Carolina, responsible for overseeing 1.2 million acres of national forest land, 200 fulltime employees and a $20 million annual budget. I held that job, based in Asheville, until 2011, when I retired from the Forest Service.
Throughout my 32-year career with the Forest Service, Oconee County was always home base. Bill and I live on the family farm here, which belonged to Bill’s parents, E.L. and Hortelle Cheatum. My dad was from Hart County and had 11 brothers and sisters, so I have many first cousins living in Northeast Georgia. Our roots in this area go back six generations.
I believe change is possible
In 2017, I started a local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I’ve cared deeply about this issue since the Sandy Hook school shooting and, like so many others, have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of action at both the state and federal levels to implement common sense solutions to address gun violence and protect students.
And then I started thinking about running for office, realizing that I not only care about this issue but many others and believing that problems can be solved and change is possible. I learned a lot during my career with the Forest Service and was repeatedly tasked with bringing together people with very different viewpoints. I also know what it’s like to work in a male-dominated field and what it takes to be successful in that environment. I believe my background has prepared me well for the challenge of serving as an elected official in the Georgia General Assembly.
I’m running for the state senate because I want to represent the people of District 46 and feel that we are not being well-served by the incumbent. I will always remember that the role of an elected official is to serve constituents, not lobbyists. I want to encourage people to take an active role in the political process, not turn away in frustration. Please contact me with comments and questions, I welcome and need your support.