Two days into the five days of candidate qualifying, the only confirmed contest for a Statesboro City Council seat was the previously announced race in District 2.
Both District 2 incumbent Councilman Sam Lee Jones and announced challenger Paulette Chavers completed the paperwork and each paid the $227 candidacy fee Monday morning at City Hall. The council seats in districts 2, 3 and 5 are scheduled to be part of the Nov. 5 nonpartisan city election.
“I’ve helped build a good foundation, things are looking good for the city, and I look forward to serving and completing some things that we have started,” Jones said in a July interview.
But Chavers, with a message of change, hopes to replace Jones on the council.
“I feel like it’s time for a change, and I feel like it’s time for some advocacy for District 2,” Chavers said in a phone interview, also in July. “I just feel like District 2 is the district that’s kind of been overlooked, and it’s time for some positive light to be shed on that district.”
This is her first candidacy for a public office.
Hiring a new police chief and a new city manager and making misdemeanor marijuana possession a usually cite-and-release offense instead of an always jailable one were city actions Jones said he is pleased to have participated in.
He noted that he made the motion for the city to apply for membership in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing and said he wants “to see that through, to help a lot of people in District 2 and the city of Statesboro.” He also advocates building a public pool where swimming lessons would be offered in his district.
Jones, an Afghanistan combat veteran with the National Guard, retired in April 2015 as a staff sergeant after a 32-year military career that included past service in the Army and the Army Reserve. Now 59, he is self-employed as an independent insurance agent.
Changes are needed both in “social infrastructure,” meaning parks and recreation, and in actual physical infrastructure in District 2, Chavers said.
“If you look at parks and recreation over in the District 2, I feel like they’re below par and it’s time for a change so that we could have adequate recreation for the youth in District 2 without them traveling outside of the district to go to the county or Mill Creek,” she said.
She mentioned the presence of dilapidated buildings and the upkeep of sidewalks, streets and drainage structures as infrastructure concerns and indicated support for public transit and job creation efforts in the district to address poverty.
Chavers, 38, is a mental health therapist with her own firm, Refocus Counseling and Consulting LLC.
Specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, she does assessments to determine whether individuals have been traumatized, and if so what kind of therapy will be most beneficial.
Duke seeks full term
District 5 Councilman Derek Duke also qualified as a candidate Monday morning, and is seeking a full, four-year term to the seat he won in a special election and runoff in May and June 2018. That process awarded him only the remainder of former councilman Travis Chance’s term, to this Dec. 31.
“I want thank District 5 citizens for allowing me to serve them as their councilman, and I look forward to serving them and the city of Statesboro for a new full term,” Duke said in a statement emailed Monday.
“We have many traffic improvements underway to insure our roads and streets are safe and efficient (and) thus enjoyable for our citizens,” Duke added. “A major improvement in our city is underway with the Creek on the Blue Mile project and growth on the Blue Mile.”
He also wrote that he is helping initiate a new, “soon to be announced” enhanced public safety program in Statesboro “that will be among the finest in the nation,” but gave no details yet.
Another District 5 resident said she was considering becoming a candidate last week, but no challenger for Duke had signed up as of Tuesday.
District 3: None yet
In District 3, no candidate, not even incumbent Councilman Jeff Yawn, had signed up and paid the fee as of Tuesday, when Statesboro City Clerk Sue Starling issued a series of updates, the last at nearly 5 p.m. However, Yawn has said he plans to seek re-election, and the qualifying opportunity remains open 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily until 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Both Yawn and Jones took office at the beginning of 2016 after standing unopposed as first-time candidates – the actual election was cancelled – in fall 2015.
Starling is retiring as Statesboro city clerk effective Aug. 31. So overseeing this week’s election qualifying is one of her last remaining tasks in a 30-year career with the city, including 11 years as city clerk.
Statesboro’s Nov. 5 city election will not be held citywide, but only in districts with races for council seats. Mayor Jonathan McCollar was first elected in 2017 and so is halfway through a four-year term, as are District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum and District 4 Councilman John Riggs.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.