With less than two weeks remaining until District 2 voters determine the area’s representative on Statesboro City Council, challengers for the seat had an opportunity to state their cases for election Thursday.
Approximately 40 people attended a candidate forum in the Honey Bowen Building, where council hopefuls Sam Jones, Lance Turner and Donald Logan met with constituents and fielded a selection of questions pertaining to current city issues.
A seat reserved for incumbent City Councilman Gary Lewis remained empty during the event, as the councilman chose not to participate.
Candidates that were on-hand introduced themselves to voters, for the first time, without having to go door-to-door, and offered answers to citizen-created-questions on topics that ranged from Georgia Southern University to SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax).
Jones, a Statesboro native and member of the Georgia National Guard, was the first to have the floor.
“My quest today is to be the next city councilman for District 2. I want to show that I will always be accountable, accessible and a good steward,” he said. “I want to bridge the gap between officials and citizens. Citizens of District 2 want a change, and I want a change.”
Logan, a pastor and military veteran, used a two minute introduction to shed focus on his history within the city.
“I have been preparing for this since I came to Statesboro 28 years ago,” said Logan, who spoke about past runs for office — Logan pursued a mayoral seat in 1986 and a council seat in 1987. “25 years later. I am once again running for that same seat. My plans for District 2 in 2012 are exactly what my plans were in 1986” – a plan he calls “Target 1990” that is a four-year proposal intended to increase population, increase construction and stabilize the local economy, he said.
Turner, who operates Eagles Nest Learning Center in Statesboro and coaches track and field at Statesboro High School, said he wants change.
“I am not a politician, I have common sense. I have been in Statesboro the least amount of years as anyone up here; but it doesn’t take a long time to realize something new needs to happen,” said Turner. “I feel there is a lot in District 2 that needs to change. I also want to bridge the gap. I am always willing to answer any questions and am always open to new ideas.”
One after another, candidates offered their responses to questions presented by forum moderator Joe McGlamery, President of the Statesboro Herald – the Herald hosted the event.
Questions focused on current pertinent issues for city officials.
“We need graduates to stay in Statesboro, fall in love with the city, and do more for the community,” said Turner about increasing businesses within the city and District 2. “We need to let more people know about incentives that are available for starting business and get more students to stay in Statesboro.”
Jones and Logan also encouraged business-friendly ordinances to attract development.
Candidates were asked to identify their top three priorities, if elected.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Logan. “People are being laid off and everybody is getting rid of jobs. In District 2, we have buildings and facilities that can be remodeled and retooled.”
Jones said, “One: to be accountable to the people of District 2 and a good steward.”
“Secondly, to review ordinances so they can be more business friendly; and the third thing, to bridge the gap; so people can meet with me and express their concerns.”
Turner cited economic development and providing opportunities for young people transitioning into the workforce after high school as key goals.
“The third thing I would like to improve is senior and youth relations,” he said. “We need someone look out for seniors who do not have people to visit them – who can not get out and do the yard work that needs to be done. We also need someone to make sure children have everything they need.”
Each of the candidates expressed support for a one cent Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax to raise funds for the building and maintenance of parks, schools, roads, and other public facilities – a referendum to extend the tax for another six years appears on ballots this November.
The men also assured voters that the betterment of the City of Statesboro as a whole would be a focus, in addition to that of District 2.
Turner and Jones lauded an effort to strengthen the relationship between Statesboro and Georgia Southern University by establishing a downtown city campus.
“Together we achieve more,” said Jones. “I think [city campus] is a good thing and I think we can do more. I would welcome opportunities to work together with Georgia Southern students, Ogeechee Technical College students and East Georgia [Regional College] students.”
Logan was not as complimentary.
“Colleges are becoming a super landlord. Colleges are moving into downtown areas and my concern is that we are taking away from our city,” he said. “The university has its income and large, expansive finances. But what do we have?”
“We need to concentrate on building up our community. Let’s not give [the university] the majority of our space,” said Logan.
With a varied group of District 2 residents and Statesboro citizens attentively listening, candidates concluded the forum with their best pitches for becoming Statesboro’s newest member of council.
“I have been your neighbor for over 25 years and initiated many historical events in the history of Statesboro without knowing the process which governs,” said Logan. “How much more can I contribute by sitting in the council of movers and shakers, having credentials and official authority?”
“To me, this is common sense. I see things that need to be changed and I am willing to volunteer my time to help make those changes,” said Turner. “I feel like I can be the person that steps up as the next generation of leaders of this city that takes Statesboro to another level. I have fresh ideas and am looking for a fresh start.”
Election Day for the Statesboro city election is November 8. If none of the four candidates receives 50 percent, plus one, of votes cast in the race after all ballots are counted, there will be a runoff between the two top vote getters on Dec. 6.
In 2007, Lewis won the District 2 seat in an election that had 689 votes cast.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.