Members of the Rocky Ford Town Council hope an upcoming special election will bring new leadership to the town riddled with financial and legal challenges.
Two residents - a former councilman and a retired veteran - will face off Tuesday in a race for the mayor's seat. The position has been vacant since November, when Barry Durden resigned as mayor, citing health reasons.
Ken Mock, 33, recently resigned his position as a councilman to run for mayor. He is challenged by longtime resident Danny Burke, 65.
Rocky Ford resident Andrew Dudley is running unopposed for Mock's vacated council seat, according to Screven County Probate Court. Dudley could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The town has battled financial troubles since early 2013, when Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents began looking into allegations of unpaid ticket fees in March of that year. The council fired the town clerk at the time, Beth Collins Smith, and Jimmy Hankinson, who was mayor at the time, said there were unpaid fines dating back to 2003. Hankinson resigned a short time later.
The investigation was turned over to the FBI in July. Statesboro FBI agents will not comment on the probe, saying they can't because the case is still open and under investigation.
After Hankinson's resignation, Durden took over the mayor's seat, and Teresa Mock was later hired as the town clerk. Mock resigned without explanation a week after Durden resigned in November.
The mayor's seat has been unfilled since then, and council members have taken up the slack, handling the town's business "as best we can," said council member Willette Mock, who is also Ken Mock's mother.
Rocky Ford council members recently hired Heather Boykin as the new town clerk.
Willette Mock and two other council members - Mayor Pro-Tem Kathleen Rowland and Bobbie Valeiko - met Monday in anticipation of a council meeting, but when the fourth member of the council, Harry Lee Emory, did not show up, the meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum. The fifth council seat is still vacant because of Ken Mock's resignation.
Ken Mock said if elected, he hopes to work towards bringing the town back to financial security.
"If elected mayor, I hope to continue work with the town council to improve the overall financial and well-being of our small town," he said. He hopes to work toward improvements on "our roads and streets and improve the town as a whole."
He is single, self-employed, and was serving a fifth year after completing his first term as councilman before he resigned. He enjoys softball and golf.
Burke has run for mayor before.
"I lost by one vote," he told the Statesboro Herald Tuesday.
If elected, Burke said he intends to work on recovering money allegedly stolen from the town after the FBI completes its investigation. He also hopes to "work on the pothole problem," solicit a dollar store-type business to come to the area, and "work on the train problem" caused when a train regularly blocks the town's Main Street, he said.
Burke is married to wife Teresa, and the couple have two adult children. He enjoys hunting and fishing.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.