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Mayoral candidates focus on future of Statesboro

Mayoral candidates focus on future of Statesboro

Mayoral candidates focus on future of Statesboro

With Statesboro Herald president Joe ...


With campaign season ramping up for candidates seeking the Statesboro mayor’s office, all four hopefuls shared a stage Thursday to voice their messages to interested voters.

Incumbent mayor Joe Brannen and challengers Jonathan McCollar, Jan Moore and Bill Thomas gathered to talk issues and meet citizens during a mayoral forum hosted by Ogeechee Technical College.

The forum was the first of two scheduled this month, both leading up to a Statesboro City Election on Nov. 5.

Nearly 100 people filled the Joseph Kennedy Auditorium to hear candidates discuss their thoughts on jobs, downtown revitalization and future economic growth.

Statesboro’s incumbent mayor — as did his competition — cited crime, particularly around Georgia Southern University, as one of the major issues currently affecting the city.

Brannen advocated for smart growth, while the city moves forward, and said city staff is working hard to maintain good working relationships with Bulloch County government officials and entertain solutions to resurrect a struggling South Main Street.

He said the key to building Statesboro’s economy in upcoming years is advertising to people what the city has to offer.

“I think we have to get our story out there. We have to show people what we have here, so they’ll want to bring in business and make Statesboro home,” Brannen said. “We have several resources — Georgia Southern, OTC and East Georgia College — that we can take advantage of and use.”

McCollar, campaigning on a “people over politics” platform, said he believes jobs — more precisely, the lack thereof — is Statesboro’s greatest challenge.

He advocated for workforce development programs in order to attract new business to Statesboro and said he’d like to see a city government that is more open to the public — one that “brings more people to the table.”

“I think that, for far too long, we have had a small group of individuals determining the destiny of this city,” McCollar said. “I feel that now is the opportunity to involve more people and define our future together.”

Moore said she would like to see the city make great strides to improve issues with crime, government transparency and its relationship with county leaders.

She too stressed the importance of new business — particularly at industrial parks — moving into Statesboro.

According to Moore, new jobs, new industry and economic growth all begin with the revitalization of Statesboro’s downtown. Making the city’s core an attractive place to live and visit is key for new residents and new business to locate in Bulloch County, she said.

“When industrial clients come to Statesboro they want to see a beautiful, safe downtown. (A revitalized downtown) will result in more industry and more full-time jobs,” Moore said. “If you bring together each of the stakeholders who all have an interest in our county seat being a revitalized and vibrant place, all of the time, then I think we can come up with a great plan to achieve just that.”

Thomas, like some of his peers, advocated a government that is more transparent and involves a greater number of citizens — he proposed streaming online all city council meetings, for those unable to make it to city hall. He supported the idea of involving Georgia Southern students in the process, making an effort to garner their input and said Statesboro should look at what comparable cities have done to create new jobs and encouraged a closer relationship between city and county governments.

“City officials need to start working with county officials. I think that the times Statesboro has done the best was when city and county officials were working in a cooperative way,” he said. “I think a greater emphasis needs to be put on (that relationship).”

Thursday’s forum was sponsored by the Statesboro Herald, Ogeechee Technical College and Hodges-Moore Funeral Home.

The entire forum was recorded, and will be available for viewing on statesboroherald.com.

A second forum for mayoral candidates, and District 1 City Council hopefuls, will be held Oct. 22 at the Averitt Center for the Arts, at 7 p.m.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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