Staff Photo by Andy Johns/Chattanoogaq Times Free Press U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., speaks with Catoosa County Tea Party members Jeff and Stella Fletcher at the congressman's office Tuesday.
DALTON, Ga. -- Spending and security were on everyone's minds Tuesday as North Georgia Congressman Tom Graves officially opened a Dalton office.
Two Dalton policemen stood inside the front door of the office for Graves' first event in the district since Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and several staff members were shot while meeting constituents on Jan. 8 in Tucson.
Graves, a Republican, downplayed any security concerns, saying he treated Tuesday's appearance as he had other events.
But Chief of Staff Tim Baker said the police presence might be the "new norm."
Baker said the congressman's staff had contacted local police to notify them of the visit, a step recommended by congressional officials after the Arizona shootings.
Dalton police spokesman Bruce Frazier said the police presence wasn't necessarily a reaction to the Tucson shootings, and the department acted after being notified of the event by Graves' staff. In the past, officers often have been present when politicians come through Dalton, he said.
"If they let us know, we try to send somebody out," Frazier said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, has set dates for his County Connection Program to give constituents chances to meet with his staff.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
* Feb. 8 -- Sonoraville Recreation Complex, 7494 Fairmont Highway, Calhoun, Ga.
* Feb. 15 -- County Administrative Building, 800 LaFayette St., Ringgold, Ga.
* Feb. 22 -- Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad St., Ellijay, Ga.
* March 1 -- Murray County Courthouse Annex, 121 N. Fourth Ave., Chatsworth, Ga.
* March 8 -- Sonoraville Recreation Complex, 7494 Fairmont Highway, Calhoun, Ga.
* March 15 -- Walker County Courthouse Annex, 101 S. Duke St., LaFayette, Ga.
* March 22 -- Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, 152 Orvin Lance Drive, Blue Ridge, Ga.
* April 5 -- Murray County Courthouse Annex, 121 N. Fourth Ave., Chatsworth, Ga.
* April 12 -- Sonoraville Recreation Complex, 7494 Fairmont Highway, Calhoun, Ga.
* April 19 -- Dade County Chamber of Commerce, 111 Railway Drive, Trenton, Ga.
* April 26 -- Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad St., Ellijay, Ga.
Source: Rep. Tom Graves
Supporters, family members and local officials packed the office on South Thornton Avenue.
"Generally, everyone was very supportive of what we've been doing," Graves said.
Many attendees were members of tea party groups in Northwest Georgia. During Graves' election campaigns last summer and fall, many of the groups threw support behind him, citing his small government and anti-tax platform.
Jeff Fletcher, a co-founder of the Catoosa County Tea Party, said Graves had done a good job staying true to his campaign promises.
"He's on task; he's on message," Fletcher said. "That's obviously what you're afraid of, that he'll fall in line with the Washington insiders."
Naomi Swanson, the local coordinator for the Dalton Tea Party, commended Graves for his accessibility.
"He's very hands-on right now," she said. "I think he's listening. I know he's listening to the people."
Rocky Face resident Tyler Epps said he voted for Graves and would continue to support him if he stayed true his campaign promises.
"We need as limited government as possible," said Epps. "That's the only way the free market is going to work."
Dalton Mayor David Pennington said he talked with Graves often, but came to the office opening to again encourage the congressman to support manufacturers in the region.
"He needs to be the voice of manufacturing, not just in Georgia, but for the whole country," Pennington said.
Graves is the first North Georgia congressman in 50 years to have his main office in Dalton, Pennington said.
Graves, from neighboring Gordon County, said he will split time between offices in Gainesville and Dalton, but likely would spend more of his in-district office time in Dalton.
Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...