William R. "Billy" Hickman Jr., a certified public accountant with 45 years experience in the Statesboro firm Dabbs, Hickman, Hill & Cannon, asserts that his knowledge of financial matters and planning for the future suit him well to serve District 4 in the Georgia Senate.
After joining the firm in 1974, Hickman has been a partner there since 1983 and served as managing partner from 1998 through 2008.
He has served in many leadership roles in community and professional organizations, but this is his first time seeking an elected public office.
In a special election coinciding with the regular statewide primaries June 9, voters will select a state senator to complete the final term, through this year, of the late Sen. Jack Hill. With five candidates in the race, two could go to an Aug. 11 runoff.
"I've never run for office before, but I've spent a lifetime in this district of building relationships and knowing people and doing things for people, and I felt like at my time in my life I was just really concerned that our district, which is so important for my livelihood and your livelihood and all, that we have good representation," Hickman told the Statesboro Herald.
The other candidates are family-practice physician Dr. Scott Bohlke of Brooklet; just-retired Middle Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer from Swainsboro in Emanuel County; Gulf War era Army veteran Neil Singleton from Collins in Tattnall County; and a soon-to-graduate law school student Stephen Jared Sammons, from Adrian in Emanuel County.
Sammons identifies as an independent candidate, while Hickman and the others are Republicans.
COVID and economy
When contacted for this series of profiles, several candidates referred to COVID-19 and its effects on the economy as issues of immediate concern. Hickman, who said that much of what he does in his work as an accountant is strategic planning, predicted that economic recovery will become as pressing a concern for the state as the medical phase of the pandemic.
“The current phase is the medical and health portion,” he said in an email Thursday night. “Folks just want to know they can get past the outbreak safely and stay healthy. I want to commend the first-responders and health care workers, like one of my opponents, Dr. Bohlke, for their jobs on the front lines.”
Hickman noted that he serves on the East Georgia Regional Medical Center board. So does Bohlke, who previously served a term as chief of the hospital’s medical staff. Hickman added that he wanted to “acknowledge the heroic efforts of health care professionals in mitigating the impact of the pandemic.”
The economic recovery phase will be next, and may last longer, he said.
“People are understandably worried about their jobs, schools and returning some sort of normalcy,” Hickman wrote in the email. “I believe my financial training as a CPA will benefit the citizens of the 4th District as the state balances the health of our citizens with the push to get the state back open for business.”
Noting that he grew up on the farm and calling agriculture Georgia’s number-one industry, Hickman said steps are needed to “protect our supply chain and logistics, necessary to plant, harvest and market.”
Hickman had mentioned Hill, who died suddenly April 6 after representing District 4 in the state Senate for almost 30 years, in a Monday social media message announcing his candidacy.
“The passing of Senator Jack Hill is a tremendous loss for our district and state," Hickman said there. "His knowledge and experience were unmatched, and he leaves shoes that will be incredibly tough to fill. But in these uncertain times, it's vital that we have a trusted, steady hand to represent our values at the Capitol.”
Hickman attained his Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from Georgia Southern, then College, in 1972.
Now 68, he has served as chairman of the boards of the Georgia Southern University Foundation, the United Way of Southeast Georgia and the First Baptist Church of Statesboro, among other organizations.
He has also chaired the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and served as president of the Downtown Rotary Club of Statesboro, the Ogeechee Technical College Foundation and the Southeast Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants.
He currently serves on the Excelsior Electric Membership Corporation board.
Hickman holds additional certification in financial forensics, the area of accounting related to court cases and fraud investigations. He is a frequent lecturer on forensic accounting and tax matters and has testified in county courts throughout the district as well as in federal courts.
He and his wife, Jo Ann, have been married for 45 years and have two sons and five grandsons.
A profile of candidate Kathy Palmer will appear in the Statesboro Herald’s April 21 edition.