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Area residents welcome Miss Georgia back home

Carly Mathis receives a unique library card from the Lee County Library System.

Carly Mathis receives a unique library card from the Lee County Library System.

LEESBURG, Ga. — As Lee County Chamber of Commerce member Winston Oxford declared Sunday, “There must be something in the water in Leesburg.”

Already home to stars Buster Posey, Luke Bryan and Phillip Phillips, Leesburg now has a new celebrity to brag about: newly-crowned Miss Georgia, Carly Mathis.

After winning the coveted title June 22, Mathis’ life has been a whirlwind of travel and special appearances throughout the state. But no true Georgia girl ever forgets home, and Mathis played the part of a gracious hostess during a reception in her honor Sunday afternoon at Lee County’s Oakland Library.

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Laura Williams

Carly Mathis, receives the Homegrown Award from Lee County Chamber of Commerce members Winston Oxford, far left, and Jud Savelle, right.

“She’s been so busy these past few weeks, and today is a time that we can all welcome her home and say ‘Congratulations,’ ” said Children’s Miracle Network representative Amanda Berry.

And if there’s one thing south Georgians know how to do well, it’s wishing well to one of their own.

Among the numerous accolades presented to Mathis Sunday were proclamations from Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. Lee County Commissioner Rick Muggridge presented a proclamation on behalf of the Lee County Commission and declared Sunday to be “Carly Mathis Day.” State Rep. Ed Rynders wished Mathis good luck on behalf of the Georgia House of Representatives and looked forward to her scheduled visit when the session next convenes.

Lee County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jud Savelle, along with Oxford, made Mathis the fourth recipient of Leesburg’s “Homegrown Award,” and the Lee County Library System presented Mathis her own larger-than-life library card, joking, “I hope you can find a wallet that’s big enough.”

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Laura Williams

Carly Mathis receives a unique library card from the Lee County Library System.

Special words detailing Mathis’ integrity and quality of character came from former Deerfield-Windsor School Headmaster W.T. Henry, where Mathis is an alumnus. And Children’s Miracle Network advocate Berry recognized Mathis’ extensive work with the organization. With a pageant platform advocating healthy hearts and care for children, Mathis has spent many hours getting to know children in the hospital.

“She doesn’t just come in wearing her crown and smiling for pictures,” Berry said. “She gets down on the floor and spends time with them. Her apparent love for children is evident.” On behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Berry presented Mathis with the Committment to Children Award.

Mathis will compete for the Miss America crown on Sunday, Sept. 15., airing live on ABC.

“Football games air on the Saturday before, so there won’t be a conflict with what program to watch,” Mathis joked, a University of Georgia graduate and avid football fan herself.

Beginning in August, fans will be able to visit the Miss America organization’s official website — missamerica.org — and view personal videos made by each contestant. The lucky lady who receives the most votes for their video will automatically advance as one of the Top 15 finalists.

Standing in the heart of downtown Leesburg, Mathis notes in her video: “I believe Miss America should be an all-American girl — and as the hometown of San Francisco Giant Buster Posey, country singer Luke Bryan, and “American Idol” Phillip Phillips, you can’t find a more all-American town than Leesburg. I may be from a small town, but I have big dreams, just like those guys. And I never forget where I come from.”

As former headmaster Henry succinctly put it, “There’s no doubt in my mind — they better watch out at Miss America.”

Mathis is a good ol’ Georgia girl reaching for big dreams — and really, what could be more American?