By HOLLI DEAL SAXON
Bulloch County farmer Toby Conner believes citizens should take more interest in local government, and if elected to the Bulloch County Commission, he plans to find ways to encourage them to do so.
Conner is one of three Republicans and one Democrat candidate vying for the Bulloch County Commission District 2B seat, to be vacated by longtime Commissioner Walter Gibson, at the end of the year.
The 37-year-old has farmed all his life, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather in tending land in the Stilson-Leefield area, but for 17 years he worked with the Georgia Ports Authority as a stevedore.
“People have been telling me I ought to run for commissioner, but I said I would not do it while working for the Ports Authority and farming at the same time,” he said.
Now a full-time farmer, Conner answered questions from a reporter while at the same time driving a tractor and planting corn. He said now is the time to run for office.
“The Stilson-Leefield area needs representation,” he said, “and there are some things that I feel I have better ideas about than what is going on.”
He was quick to say the current commission “is doing a fine job, but it is time for the younger citizens to step up and take responsibility.”
Conner feels it is important to get younger people interested in the county’s future, and said better communication and publicizing events and issues more would promote community involvement.
“We want to make the county as good as it can be, and get people involved,” he said. “We need to communicate more, get out in the field and put out a face they can recognize. Let people get to know the commissioners.”
Conner said the most important issue he sees is managing the county’s growth and keeping up with its needs regarding infrastructure and services.
“We need to focus on where we are spending our money."
With the rush of new businesses and development, the emergency services in the county have struggled to keep up, he said.
“We are busting at the seams and have forgotten our infrastructure. It is time to step back and focus on EMS, Fire and the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office,” Conner said.
The need for added fire services and personnel, EMTs and equipment and more road deputies is a real concern and more funds should be directed in those areas, he said.
Conner and his wife Kelsey have two children, ages 8 and 2. He enjoys hunting, fishing and being involved with his son’s football and baseball teams as a coach with Bulloch County Parks and Recreation.
Conner will appear on the Republican ballot in the May 24 Primary Election, facing off against challengers Jennifer Campbell Mock and Travis Chance. Early voting is underway. There is but one Democratic candidate to appear on the ballot; Jake Hallman. The May 24 election, and possibly a June 21 runoff election, will determine Hallman’s opponent Nov. 8.