Debbie Mixon and Dr. Bill McCown are representing Gordon County Schools as Team Seven and these two career educators are expected to teach everybody a thing or two as they hit the stage with “All Shook Up,” an Evis classic guaranteed to get some hips in action. Mixon also choreographed the opening number and facilitated many dance rehearsals.
A physical education teacher at Tolbert Elementary, Mixon has been a certified aerobics instructor since 1992. She currently leads Zumba classes at Fitness First of Calhoun, which has placed three contestants in the dance competition. In addition to her professional teaching credentials, she is certified by AFAA, ISCA and Zumba. She is a graduate of Calhoun High School, Jacksonville State University and Lincoln Memorial. She also appeared in “Dearly Departed” presented by Calhoun’s Little Theater.
An athlete in her own right, she is a die-hard Florida fan and plays golf for recreation. She is the middle of three daughters, grew up on an Air Force base in California and participates in fundraisers for United Way, Relay for Life and the American Heart Association. She belongs to North Pointe Church in Adairsville.
Dr. Bill McCown is Superintendent of Gordon County Schools and has nearly thirty years of experience in education. He has held positions in Cobb, Coweta, Paulding and Gordon Counties. A hands-on leader with a warm and enthusiastic personality, he supports Gordon County Young Farmers, Gordon County Board of Health and the Gordon County Hospital Foundation.
Married to Christy McCown for 24 years, McCown has three children: Molly Anne, Katie and Phillip. McCown is an Auburn graduate. His oldest daughter, Molly Anne, is a 22-year-old Auburn graduate employed by the Capella Hotel Group while 19-year-old Katie is an Auburn student. Son Phillip is currently enrolled at Gordon Central High School and plans to attend Auburn.
McCown agreed to compete in Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars because of the work that United Way does in Gordon County, especially for the young people around which his career revolves.
LaRae Pennel and Andy Baxter are winding up the competition as Team Eight, dancing to “Wind It Up” by Gwen Stefani. Pennel is the only professional dancer competing in the event but Baxter has no dancing experience. With her professional reputation at stake, Pennel good-naturedly forced Baxter into a formidable rehearsal schedule that puts him on stage 40 pounds lighter than when practice began.
A native of Calhoun, Pennel graduated from Calhoun High School and owns City Ballet in downtown Calhoun. Married to Dr. Ted Pennel, with whom she has daughter IsaBella, her blended family includes three other children named Buck, Sam and Malone, a daughter-in-law named Amanda and two grandchildren, Eli and Emmie Jean. She has been married to Dr. Pennel for six years and they are active members of Heritage Baptist Church. She is the only child of Lamar and Margaret Dean.
Pennel studied and performed in New York City and has danced in shows across the United States as well as in the Caribbean, South America and Japan. She has appeared in two movies, an America Fitness commercial and was a spokes model for the Chevrolet Corporation. At the beginning of her dance career, she performed with Six Flags over Georgia. In 1985, she was injured in an accident that put her dance career in jeopardy and worked as a flight attendant with Delta, then as a real estate sales professional with Century 21 but eventually was able to return to her dance career. After dancing professionally for years, she opened City Ballet 12 years ago.
Local photographer Andy Baxter comes to the contest with absolutely no dance experience and jokes that his greatest ambition in this competition is to make it through alive. He is the owner of Andy Baxter Photography and operates his business from the baxter/dean studio on Wall Street. He was born and raised in Gordon County, graduated from Calhoun High School and is married to Brooke Baxter. He and his wife have two children, Luca and Rocco. Five-year-old Luca is currently taking dance lessons at City Ballet while 3-year-old Rocco is a preschool student at the Ann Jones Memorial Preschool at Calhoun First Baptist.
Baxter is a member of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce and a premium sponsor of its local spending campaign, Keep It In The County. He is coordinating a Runway Show in April that will benefit the American Cancer Society.
The oldest of Brian and Vicki Baxter’s four sons, he is dancing in honor of his late grandmother, Pauline Davis Baxter, who passed away in December 2011.
Mixon, McCown, Pennel and Baxter are dancing to raise funds for two organizations they all four consider important to Gordon County. Those wishing to support the teams individually or the event in general may offer their contributions online at the United Way of Gordon County website (www.gordoncountyunitedway.org) or by presenting their donations at the United Way Office at the Calhoun Depot. All donations will be used for the benefit of Gordon County.