Wes Tallon Is Mr. Douglas County
He's just your everyday, run-of-the-mill communicator, engineer, planner, volunteer, piano man and singer.
Maybe you've had a piece of art displayed at the Courthouse Gallery or found a useful piece of information on the Douglas County Happenings online newsletter.
If so, you're like thousands of other Douglas County residents, but you probably didn't know that Wes Tallon and his three-person staff are responsible for organizing it all.
Tallon is the county's director of communications. But that is only the beginning of what he does for Douglas County.
For those that know him, he's the friendly guy that comes by at any county event and chats you up. He probably even remembers your name, and your kids' names too.
Tallon first conceived of the courthouse concerts in 1999. They started out as just a concert at Christmas, but last year Tallon and his staff presented and broadcasted 25 courthouse concerts.
Sheryl Pelletier, a Winston Elementary School music teacher, has been taking her classes to the concerts since the beginning, 13 years now.
"Wes is a huge supporter of the arts and has incorporated that love and support into his job, enabling thousands of kids to be able to take part in programs at the courthouse," she said.
"Not only has it given choruses a place to perform, it has given the community free concerts in person and on television."
Many parents get to see their children perform live in Citizen's Hall. But for those parents who can't escape work in the middle of the day, Tallon and his team broadcast each performance live on the county's television station, something Tallon is also in charge of, dctv23.
During the first concert at the courthouse, Tallon was still the county's director of Engineering, the job he was originally hired to do. There was no county director of communications yet.
In those days, Tallon set up a little $110-camera, made possible by a donation from GreyStone Power. He stationed the camera on a tripod and then ran upstairs to the control room to broadcast the concert. Sometimes he coaxed a couple of his engineering staff to help run the whole operation.
Within two years, the Board of Commissioners created the communications job for Tallon.
He was off and running.
If you've ever visited Tallon, or any of the county commissioners at the courthouse, then you've been to the third floor and walked through the Courthouse Art Gallery, another of Tallon's ideas.
"In the original design of the building, the space was on the plans to be a reception atrium so the board of commissioners could entertain dignitaries," Tallon said.
"It was a beautiful space but it was baron, with no lighting, and open walls. I asked the commissioners if we could try some art exhibits."
Art teachers select art made by their students and hang the pieces there every year from January through May. The first little artists had their creations displayed in January of 2005.
Today, Tallon proudly points out that local artists, mostly adults, also hang their (non-juried) pieces there for the remaining seven months of each year.
"Like the concerts, we want the courthouse to be a place where our citizens can show off their talent," he said. "We want to give them self confidence and teach them self respect. This is their building and they are welcome here."
Tallon said that's why kids are invited to the courthouse for trick or treating and why touch-a-truck is offered every year during September Saturdays.
"We want everyone to know this isn't a scary place," Tallon said.
September Saturdays draws more people than any event in the county. This was the ninth year Tallon and his staff organized every aspect and detail of the county's most popular party.
In August, the Friends of Art and Music Education (FAME) named Tallon as the 2011 recipient of the Kathy Brock Memorial Award.
Each year, FAME presents the award to a local education, administrator, or community member who has made significant contributions to the fine arts programs in the Douglas County schools.
Another activity at the courthouse that Tallon is responsible for is the blood drives. Tallon has been partnering with the American Red Cross for the past 14 years to collect blood.
Yes, that's before the current courthouse even existed. In 1994, there were two blood drives and that number has continued to grow.
In 2010, Tallon coordinated 14 blood drives for Douglas County, which resulted in the collection of 609 pints of blood. The American Red Cross estimates that the 609 pints may help save up to 1,827 lives.
In 2008, the American Red Cross presented Tallon with the Outstanding Commitment to the Community Award for Metro Atlanta.
"It shows how creative Wes is in finding ways to reach people," Alicia Doherty said, Senior Donor Recruitment Representative, Southeast Division Biomedical Services for the Red Cross.
Even some of his closest friends might be surprised to find out Tallon has some hidden talents too, like playing the piano and singing. He frequently volunteers his musical talents during county graduation ceremonies. He says his piano playing volunteerism is just his way of relieving a little stress.
When pressed, he even admits singing back up for many famous country singers, including Minnie Pearl.
"She was our stage mom," he said. "But we called her Mrs. Cannon, her real name."
Tallon worked himself through college at Opryland, in Tennessee.
"Before each performance she (Pearl) told us, 'the audience members put their pants on just like you do. Don't be intimidated by them,' she said. 'They may be celebrities or have money but those guys out there wish they had half the talent you kids have. You have stuff they don't have and you've got to get out there and strut it.' "
Tallon said his love of music is what energizes him to encourage the children during every courthouse performance.
"I'm not a complex person," he said. "I'm kind of like Forrest Gump. I'm just always involved in interesting things and momentous events in a lot of different fields of endeavor."
"I realized early on that I didn't really enjoy design. But I liked the fundraising and financing and putting a project together and trouble-shooting it. That was my forte," Tallon said.
Congressman Bill Hembree realized the need for a library in the area and obtained $2 million in federal funds for the project.
"The board of commissioners told me to just take charge of it," Tallon said. "But for me, it's truly been a labor of love."
It's a project where Tallon has used his background in engineering as well as his creativity.
"It's a right-brain, left-brain thing," he said. "I'm working closely with the architect and contractors. It's the best team I've ever had."
Tallon is not just helping with the big stuff either. It's been easy to find him and his band of Dog River Library volunteers in front of local businesses like Eva's Bake Shop or Joe's Crab Shack on frequent weekends throughout the past few months, collecting donations and books for the library that has just recently opened.
To date, more than 3,000 books for the library have been collected.
It's true, Tallon isn't "strutting his stuff" on stage anymore. He's building stages where every resident of Douglas County can strut their stuff.
Minnie Pearl would be proud.