Dawn Braddy is no stranger to hard work and service to the public. From working on a farm to her years in the workforce spread out over a variety of occupations, she has learned a thing or two about what it takes to actualize goals and reach the top. That said, it’s no wonder she set out for public office, worked tirelessly on the campaign trail, won, and keeps right on chugging.
Although she was born in Chatham County, the fifth child of Wilson “Boy” and Lynette Newman Warren, Braddy has called Emanuel home for more than 50 years. She attended school in Oak Park until eighth grade. Thereafter, she entered Swainsboro High School and graduated at the age of 16.
She married Jimmy D. Braddy in March 1976 and together, they have three children: daughter Lynn and sons Jimmy and Rusty. (Today, she also has 10 wonderful grandchildren—eight grands and two great-grands.) The Braddys purchased the matriarch’s grandmother’s home in Oak Park. There, they have lived and raised their family since 1978.
“My first job,” Braddy said, reminiscing, “was handing tobacco to be strung on a stick. I’ve cropped tobacco a time or two in my life as well and helped hang it to dry in the barns. The money I earned from this job was used to help buy school clothes.”
She then worked a short time as a ward secretary at what is now Emanuel Medical Center. Next, Braddy went to work part-time at Dairy Queen in January 1978, where she remained until September 1996, at which point she started working for the Emanuel County Tax Commissioner. She stayed there for nine years. After leaving “the tag office,” as most people call it, Braddy moved on to the magistrate court.
Looking back, Braddy says she knew about five years into her employment with the magistrate court that she wanted to run when former magistrate judge Ronald Wiggins retired. Sure enough, on February 2, 2020, he announced his intent not to seek re-election and to instead, in fact, retire. Braddy qualified exactly a month later on March 2, 2020.
She spent 9.5 months on the campaign trail, working day and night amid a pandemic to realize a goal she set for herself years prior.
“The work itself was strenuous with COVID-19 becoming a problem in March. It put a stop to house-to-house politicking. I did, however, ride and put up signs. If I saw someone in their yard, I stopped and talked, and I talked to people in stores. I also held several meet-and-greets around the county, which were a great success.”
Along the way, she promised to address the trash sites. Braddy also committed to advocating for animals in her role as magistrate judge, should she be elected.
Those long hours, the conversations, and promises paid off November 3, 2020 when she won the general election some 6,300 votes to her opponent’s almost 3,000 votes. Now as she sits in her office’s new headquarters constructed late last year inside the courthouse, she’s overwhelmed with gratitude for the support she received in getting to where she is today—yet she knows the task at hand isn’t over, rather she’s just getting started.
“I have been blessed to be elected the chief magistrate judge by the citizens of this great county,” she said. “I have always enjoyed working with the public, meeting new people, and seeing old faces. The welcome from the public has been wonderful! Everyone has been so encouraging and I feel so blessed, but I feel I owe it to the people to deliver on the commitments I made. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Braddy’s transition into her own magistrate judge administration was made smoother, thanks to her serving as associate magistrate judge since June 7, 2016. She was sworn in as chief magistrate on December 28, 2020, and her term officially began January 1 of this year.
So far in the few short weeks since her tenure began, Braddy has begun working with code enforcement as well as the board of commissioners to find a way to keep area trash sites cleaner. She says that task is going to take the commitment of both those bodies in addition to all the citizens. The public’s concern and involvement in keeping the county clean, beautiful, and welcoming to out-of-towners and industries alike will help tremendously.
Secondly, Braddy has moved animal abuse toward the top of her priority list as an elected official, just like she said she would on the campaign trail.
“I’m a strong believer in taking care of your animals,” she commented. “Abuse will be addressed! In my 15 years employed with the magistrate court, I have only seen two animal cruelty cases. That’s good! Let’s keep it that way… But if there’s abuse that needs addressing, our office will do that. Animals can’t speak for themselves, so we have to be their voice.”
In the meantime, the new magistrate judge is looking forward to online training for chiefs this month. COVID-willing, she and her cohort of new magistrate chiefs will continue that training in person in September.
In closing, Braddy says she’s thankful for the multitude of support she has received and is looking forward to how her office can better Emanuel.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped me along the way, especially Judge Ronald Wiggins for hiring me and having faith and trust in me to appoint me as an associate judge. I could not have done this without the love, support, hard work, and encouragement of my family. To the voters, thank you! I promise I will continue to strive to help each citizen to the best of my ability within the laws of this county and state,” she said. “As chief magistrate judge, I would like to see all of our citizens unite to make our county a better and safer place to live and to attract more industries and jobs for our citizens. We can accomplish this by taking pride in our communities, keeping them clean, and showing the youth of our county that with all of us working together, we can prosper!”