Dr. Charles Peck (pictured above) says he is stepping down as CEO of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. Dr. Peck, who has headed the hospital on Prince Avenue since 2013, says he will stay on through the end of May while a successor is found. He’s leaving the hospital to join a private consulting group. “When he joined, the independent Athens Regional Health System was dealing with significant operational, financial and employee engagement challenges. In a short period of time, Chuck’s leadership helped stabilize the system and point it in the right direction,” says Piedmont Health Systems CEO Kevin Brown in a news release. Dan Kaufman says his last day of president of the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce will be June 30. Kaufman has headed the Gwinnett Chamber since 2013. First he announced his resignation as Mayor of Bowersville; now Jim Jordan says he’s had a change of heart and will stay on as mayor of the city in Hart County.
The state Labor Department reports an uptick in the Athens unemployment rate: it was 3 percent in November but climbed to 3.4 percent in December. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler (pictured above) says there was also in Clarke, Oconee, Oglethorpe, and Madison counties a 25 percent increase in claims for first-time unemployment benefits. The labor force in Athens fell by 1,988 in December to reach 103,672. That number is up by 2,701 over the past year – an average monthly increase of 225. Athens lost 2,353 employed residents in December, pushing the total to 100,137. The number is up 3,150 for the year, or about 265 per month. Jobs fell by 2,100 in December 101,200. The job total in Athens is up 3,800 over the year – an average monthly increase of almost 315. Claims for unemployment insurance increased by 25 percent in December. They were up by 10 percent when compared to the same month a year ago.
The Georgia men’s basketball team dropped a 92-82 contest to No. 25-ranked LSU Wednesday evening at the Maravich Assembly Center where the Tigers have won 18-straight including 11 this season. Georgia outshot LSU, the SEC’s third-best offense in scoring and field goal percentage, 53.6-percent to 50-percent and kept pace in most statistical categories, however the difference boiled down to turnovers. The Tigers cashed in 17 points on 17 Bulldog turnovers, while Georgia managed seven points off eight LSU mishaps. The Bulldogs’ 82 points were tied for their most in conference play, but Georgia fell to 9-9 overall and 1-5 in SEC. Meanwhile, the Tigers improved to 15-3 overall and stayed undefeated in conference play at 5-0. “The overall assessment was too many turnovers, not enough defensive activity, and they turned those turnovers into baskets,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “We wanted to put a lot of pressure on Tremont Waters [game-high 26 points] and he played the game without a turnover. We want to play him as a passer more than anything else, but we did fight. We have to figure out that we can score against these teams and not wait until the second half, but we did that. We were competitive in the sense that we were trying to do the right thing, but communication for us is still a huge aspect to improve on.” Sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds guided the Bulldog offensive attack with 18 points, 15 of which occurred in the second half. Aiding Hammonds was fellow sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Chipping in 10 second-half points, senior forward Derek Ogbeide finished with 14, while six of junior guard Jordan Harris’ 10 points also came in the second frame. Georgia grabbed the game’s first lead at 8-2 on two E’Torrion Wilridge free throws and threes from Hammonds and Claxton. The Tigers evened it at 8-all, before Claxton hit another three and Harris converted a fastbreak layup to reestablish the lead at 13-8. Then, fourteen-straight LSU points swung the momentum the Tigers way, which they carried into halftime with a 48-36 lead. Claxton led the Bulldogs in points with 14 thanks to a career-high three 3-pointers. Out of the break, Hammonds drained a trey to dip the Georgia deficit under double digits and he followed that up with a pair of free throws shortly after to make it a 48-41 game. After a Tigers’ dunk, Turtle Jackson sank Georgia’s seventh 3-pointer of the night to bring the LSU lead down to six. A 10-2 run by the Tigers put their advantage past the double-digit mark again. The LSU margin grew as high as 17, but Georgia fought it back to single digits at 74-66 on a Hammonds’ layup with 5:52 to play in regulation. Two Tigers’ free throws followed, and then a contested layup by freshman guard Tye Fagan and a free throw from Claxton inched the Bulldogs to a seven-point difference. The two squads traded points again, however Georgia could not cut further into the deficit down the stretch. “We want to win, and we will,” Crean added. “We just have to quit beating ourselves, because again this will be one of those nights that we will look back and say ‘they were good, they were talented, and do a lot of good things, but we beat ourselves in certain ways’. Whether it is the 11 turnovers in the first half or what, you aren’t winning that way. We just have to continue to look at it the way it is.” Forward Amanze Ngumezi had arguably his best game of his freshman career with seven points, going 3-for-3 from the field with a three – all in the first half. Next, the Bulldogs will face the Texas Longhorns as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Saturday Jan. 26 at Stegeman Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled at 2 p.m. ET and will be on ESPN2.