Murray loses force for progress

‘He always worked to make the community better’


Illya Copeland loved his work and he enjoyed the place he lived.

“Illya loved living in the mountains,” said Steve Smith, chairman of the board of the Industrial Authority of Murray County. “He loved in the summer to ride up the mountain several times a week on his motorcycle or drive his Jeep on dirt roads.”

Copeland, the 48-year-old executive director of the Industrial Authority, was killed on Friday evening in a single-vehicle accident on Ga. Hwy. 52, near the intersection with Cliffmine Road, on Fort Mountain.

Georgia State Trooper Shaun Southerland told The Times that Copeland was driving a Honda VTX 1300 west on Ga. Hwy 52 when he “failed to negotiate a curve” and crashed.

Several of Copeland’s relatives were following in a car. They didn’t see what caused the accident but did see both the motorcycle and Copeland on the roadway.

The relatives, who had some medical training, performed CPR on Copeland. He was transported to AdventHealth Murray, where he was pronounced dead.

The news stunned the people who knew him.

County Commissioner Greg Hogan said he met Copeland in 2017 when Copeland was hired to work in Murray County. Hogan said he quickly came to like and respect Copeland.

“He is going to be missed,” said Hogan. “Illya did a lot of good things for Murray County.”

Elyse Davis, Northwest Georgia community development manager for Georgia Power, worked closely on numerous economic development projects. She considered Copeland a friend and superb at his work.

“Illya was always considerate and professional,” Davis said. “We became very good friends.”

“He worked extra hard to make sure that all of Georgia and the world knew about Murray County. He wanted everyone to know that Murray County was open for business.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone who worked any harder,” she said. “Illya’s death is going to leave a big void in this region.”

Copeland served with several other local organizations

He directed the Murray County Chamber of Commerce on an interim basis when that organization was between presidents. He also served on the board of the Downtown Development Authority in Chatsworth.

“Illya tried to help everybody,” said Hogan. “He volunteered for about everything. He was a good guy.”

Davis said one of her fondest memories of her friend was his response to the deadly tornadoes which struck Murray County in March.

“Illya did everything he could to try and help out,” she recalled.

Nicole Densmore, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, described Copeland’s passing as “a deep loss for our community.”

“He was an easy person to get to like and made friends easily,” Densmore said.  “He made Murray County a better place to live through his work and just by being a part of the community.”

Smith said he would be serving as the “point of contact” with the Industrial Authority until a replacement for Copeland was hired.

“It won’t happen quickly,” Smith said. “We’ll call a board meeting soon to start the process but it won’t be a quick process.”



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