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Voters have local choices for May 20

Court clerk, 2 BOE, 2 commission seats contested

Voters have local choices for May 20

Voters have local choices for May 20

Heather Banks McNeal


This week's candidate qualifying for the May 20 primary elections made the contest official between Alvie Coes III and Heather Banks McNeal for Bulloch County clerk of courts and produced four races for school board and county commission seats.

Clerk contest

The statewide primaries offer choices for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. But the one local choice that all Bulloch County voters can help make is the special election for clerk of Superior Court, and because it is nonpartisan, all voters will be able to participate regardless of party choice. It's also the only race with no incumbent.

Coes, 28, says he is seeking the office to make a difference.

"I've lived here now for a few years and I care a lot about the direction that I see the community going, so if I see where I can be of service to help guide it even further in the right direction, then I think I have an obligation to do that," he said in a phone interview.

Now a facility and event services coordinator at Georgia Southern University, Coes was previously, from August 2011 to October 2012, the first executive director of the Heart & Hands Clinic. He has two master's degrees — one in business administration and one in higher education administration — plus a bachelor's degree in business administration with a human resources emphasis, all from GSU, and an associate degree in funeral services from Ogeechee Tech.

His work experience and education prepare him to be a good office administrator, he said. Legal aspects and specific tasks of the clerk of courts' work can be learned, Coes suggested, and he plans take advantage of training provided by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government for himself and the deputy clerks.

McNeal, 34, is a Bulloch County native and currently the county's DUI Court coordinator, a job she has held since 2011. She received her master's degree in public administration and her bachelor's in justice studies at GSU.

"Having worked in the court system for over 16 years, I have a keen understanding of how the various courts, agencies, and private businesses utilize the clerk's office, and how the clerk's office should respond to the needs of those entities and the citizens of our county," she said as part of an emailed response to questions.

McNeal served as deputy clerk for the Bulloch County Superior and State Courts from 1997-1999 and again for an interval in 2003. She also worked in the State Court solicitor's office and as the court's administrator. From 2007-2011, McNeal was human resources director for the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners.

Without prompting, both candidates complimented the work of interim Clerk of Courts Charles Sikes, who has been serving since last summer, when a GBI investigation into the mishandling of funds in the office prompted suspensions and later prosecution of several former employees. The previously elected clerk, Teresa Tucker, resigned effective Dec. 31 as part of an earlier guilty plea to two felony counts of violation of oath of public office.

"I think Mr. Sikes has done an excellent job stabilizing the office to this point, and now the next clerk needs to be able to transition us to that next level, and that's service, that's just professionalism, that's accountability to the taxpayers," Coes said.

McNeal mentioned the interim clerk in answering a question about how each candidate would ensure accountability and ethical behavior.

"I will continue to build upon the improvements that have already been made by Interim Clerk Charles Sikes," McNeal said. "Appropriate accounting principles, accepted business standards, superior customer service, and transparency will be implemented and enforced."

In his response, Coes mentioned better cash management, loss-prevention initiatives, a "best practices analysis" seeking proven ideas from court offices in other counties, and the possibility of a third-party audit to start a new term. The audit or something like it, Coes said, he hopes is already being done.

Board posts

Most other races emerged from a flurry of activity Friday morning before qualifying at the courthouse closed at noon.

Funeral director and funeral home part-owner Jacquavias "Jac" Roberson, 22, is challenging incumbent Anthony Simmons for county commissioner Seat 1-B in the Democratic primary. Benton Metal Depot owner and current Bulloch County Republican Party Chairman Jim Anderson Benton, 43, is challenging incumbent Robert Rushing for Seat 2-D in the Republican primary.

Meanwhile, for Board of Education, which is nonpartisan, BB&T banker Jimmy T. "Jay" Cook Jr. is challenging Anshul Jain in District 6, and retired educator Glennera Martin, 70, is challenging Vernon Littles in District 5.

Someone newly elected to one of the board posts would begin service Jan. 1. But the new clerk of courts can be sworn in soon after the May 20 special election results are certified.

BOE members Mike Sparks and Steve Hein and Commissioner Walter Gibson are also up for election, but remain unopposed.

Legislature

One of the state legislators representing Bulloch County has opposition. Denise G. Collins, a homemaker from Guyton, qualified Friday as an independent candidate for Georgia House District 159, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office website. This makes Collins a November general election challenger to Rep. Jon G. Burns, incumbent Republican from Newington.

Sen. Jack Hill and Reps. Butch Parrish and Jan Tankersley are unopposed.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

 

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