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Fascinating people of Forsyth: A homegrown lawmaker
Gilligan prepared for first session in Georgia Legislature
Gilligan - photo by Micah Green

About this series

This article is the latest in an ongoing Sunday series spotlighting some of the fascinating people in Forsyth.

Previous articles

* Leading the charge for Sharon Springs

* County native enjoys serving the community

* Teaching far more than dance

* Fighting the stigma of addiction

* Learning to lead

FORSYTH COUNTY -- On Monday, District 24 state Rep. Sheri Gilligan will begin her first session in the Georgia Legislature, and she’s been getting ready.

Gilligan, a Forsyth County native, won the seat in a special election runoff to fill the unexpired term of Mark Hamilton, who stepped down to take a private sector position in Tennessee.

In June, Gilligan was the top vote getter in the special election, but fell an estimated three to four votes shy of the required 50 percent of votes plus one that would have given her the outright win. In a runoff the following month, she drew about 75 percent of the vote.

Since then Gilligan, a Republican who has worked as intelligence specialist for Navy Reserve and CIA and a teacher, has been readying for her new duties.

Question: Obviously, last year was busy for you with the election and runoff, how did that go?

Answer: “As a matter of fact, I was not planning any kind of a political campaign at all, and was surprised when I heard that [state] Rep. Hamilton was stepping down. Really, my husband and I spent a lot of time in prayer and fasting and we called a lot of people to see if anyone else was interested in running.

“The scary thing to me was they said they were really interested in having me run again since I had run the previous year [against Hamilton]. Finally, my husband and I, as a family, talked about it and we decided that, ‘OK, we’ll give it another shot,’ so that’s how we started.

“Then 60 days later, two elections later, I was the representative-elect for Forsyth County and the 24th district. It was a whirlwind summer.”

Q: Since the runoff, how have you been preparing to take office?

A: “I have been meeting with a lot of my fellow representatives, touching base with them. I’ve attended several committee meetings, not necessarily the committees that I was assigned [to].”

“Here in the district, just going to various events and just staying in touch with the people here who I have the privilege now of being able to represent at the Capitol.”

Q: Is there anything you are interested in doing during your term?

A: “For me, education is the most important thing for our future. I don’t like the federal encroachment in our education process, and so I would like to see Georgia pull completely out of the Common Core curriculum, regardless of what they’re calling it today.

“My goal will be to see that teachers are the ones in control of the classroom, not some faceless, nameless bureaucrat.”

Q: Moving away from politics, you served in the Naval Reserves and worked as an analyst for the CIA, could you tell me about that?

A: “Even though I had a college degree, I am listed as an intelligence specialist and was a petty officer second class when I left the reserve. I got a lot of training. I really enjoyed working with a lot of incredible people.

“I worked primarily with imagery intelligence, so anything that can take a picture is something that I’m interested in.

“At the CIA, again I primarily worked with imagery and everything from when we would be launching our next platform to when we had to bring that platform back to Earth. Everything in between on the imagery cycle I had a part of.

“My career with the CIA proper was only seven years, but I spent 20 years in that field, and spent a lot of the same time in the exact same northern Virginia location doing work with all of the other intelligence organizations.”

Q: Then later you taught at Lanier Technical College?

A: “I was a substitute teacher when I first came back [to Forsyth County] in 2006. I was born [and raised] here and come back in ’06 and was a substitute primarily at Vickery Creek Middle and West Forsyth High.

“I prefer the high school students. I like how their minds are operating and how their personalities are developing. It’s a great age.

“Then I was teaching at Lanier Tech, a nutrition and diet therapy class, and that’s finally when I got to use my degree field, the first time in my life I got to use my degree field.

“But I cannot work at Lanier Tech in the [Technical College System of Georgia], and be a representative, so I had to resign that position.”

Q: What was your degree in?

A: “They don’t even have it anymore. It used to be called home economics, now it’s consumer sciences. I did a lot of nutrition and home — kind of raising your family, those kinds of things — all focused on the family and nutrition and health.

“I was hoping to work in the [University of Georgia] Cooperative Extension Service, but life takes strange little detours along the way. And somehow all of these detours ended up bringing me back home and now to the state House. It’s been a fun journey.”

Q: Finally, what would you say is something that is fascinating about yourself?

A: “I tend to think I’m pretty common. The only thing that is truly fascinating or noteworthy about me is what makes us all truly unique. I’m just a wife and a mom and a daughter and a person who cares a lot about our society, about our world.

“Every day I want to get up and do something that I think made a difference for my community and that’s what I strive to do every single day. I think that’s really ultimately what drives most people to get up and do a really good job and make a difference every day.”