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Meet your government: Volunteers help make Laughinghouse's job easier
Beth Laughinghouse has been the manager of the Better Hometown/Main Street Jefferson program since 2006. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

Meet your government
Every Monday, The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local government running smoothly.

JEFFERSON — Beth Laughinghouse has the equivalent of 10 pounds of responsibilities squeezed into a 5-pound bag, but she gets by with the help of her trusted volunteers.

"The backbone of my department is my volunteers," Laughinghouse said.

"I have a core group of approximately 35 individuals who I can call on at a moment’s notice for a myriad of things — putting up Christmas decorations, designing a brochure, directing the next production of the Jefferson Community Theatre. There would be no Main Street Jefferson without the volunteers."

Laughinghouse started out as manager of Better Hometown Jefferson, a program of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, in 2006. Earlier this year, as Jefferson’s population grew beyond 5,000 residents, the program was reclassified to Main Street Jefferson.

Her main responsibilities are promoting, organizing and designing events and programs that attract visitors to the downtown corridor, maintaining the area’s historical integrity and boosting economic development.

"I truly love my job. I love the fact that I get paid to do what I love. How many people can say that?" Laughinghouse said. "Of course, I love the planning and organization involved in the job, but I really like the fact that the job is so varied in its duties and responsibilities."

Although she didn’t know it then, Laughinghouse has been preparing for her current role for most of her life.

"I started college as a special education major and ended up a journalism major. I was never really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but even in high school and college I was always — as my husband jokingly says — ‘in charge of something,’" she said.

"Drum major in high school, class president and editor of the yearbook in college, etc. All during my working career, I’ve enjoyed organizing and planning anything. You name it and I’ve probably planned or helped plan it — weddings, fundraising events, even helped with the Jefferson Christmas Parade way back in 1980 as a Jefferson Junior Woman. I guess the knack of planning and organization was a perfect lead into this job."

Prior to joining the city of Jefferson government, Laughinghouse worked at a local investment office, the University of Georgia Political Science Department and even the General Electric Co.

When she’s not busy with her Main Street responsibilities, Laughinghouse’s hobbies are as varied as her working history.

"When I’m not working, I’m still busy — that’s what I get for having too many hobbies and interests. My husband and I enjoy camping. Let me explain camping: We camp in a 35-foot trailer, not a tent — been there, done that. We have moved our camper to Lake Burton, and we try to get there at least one weekend each month," Laughinghouse said.

"My entire family, my husband, Greg, and son Jason and I love racing. We have been to everything from the 24 Hours of Daytona to the opening race at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson. When it’s just me, I love reading, genealogy and antiquing. Mention an antique auction, estate sale or book sale, and I am ready to go."