(Note: A profile of the final Republican candidate running for Seat 2B — Sid Jones — will appear in the Friday edition of the Statesboro Herald.)
Bulloch County Commissioner Walter Gibson believes budgets and millage rates are of utmost importance to country residents and hopes his re-election to commission Seat 2B will allow him another term.
The Republican incumbent is challenged by Sid Jones and Travis Chance in the May 22 Republican primary. The winner will face Democratic challenger Adrienne Dobbs in the November general election.
"The management of Bulloch County's annual budget is one of our most important challenges, including the millage rates," Gibson told the Statesboro Herald. "Bulloch County's millage rate is the eighth lowest in departments, and our county continues to grow and increase in population, thus more services for more citizens."
In addition to maintaining a balanced budget and providing services, Gibson said some of the county's "most pressing challenges would be our dirt roads, paving roads and resurfacing, and the solid waste issues."
Solid waste issues are not going away, he said.
"If anything, they will continue to be a problem for the county and city, as well," he said. "We will have to continue working together, both the citizens and local government along with code enforcement and the sheriff's department" in order to overcome illegal dumping and littering.
"Many citizens have wonderful ideas, so I would propose we all get together in a workshop setting to develop goals for the future that are attainable," he said. "I also believe personally that the recycling centers that our citizens use are better than the standalone dumpsters beside the roadways."
More funding may be necessary to fix the problem.
"In order to keep good drivers and employees at these centers, it may require a pay increase," Gibson said. "The roadside dumpsters have created more problems than the manned centers, therefore additional manned centers would be a better way to go. Hopefully, this would stop some of the illegal and unsightly dumping."
Gibson said he would like to see a better relationship between the city and county governments.
"The art of working together only requires the desire. The tax-paying citizens of our city and county deserve only the best," he said.
Consistency is needed, he added.
"Considering the changes in leadership the city has had in the last several years, each new administration develops different priorities. When changes occur, it sometimes becomes difficult to form ideas and relationships on long-term issues," he said. "However, in the few times we have had differences, we quickly worked them out. Going forward we should both focus on and encourage economic development and work closely with our education institutions within the county so we can build and retain a responsible workforce."
Employment also is a major issue with the county, he said.
"Technology and globalization is changing the way business and industry operate," he said. "Local leaders need to develop a common focus to provide a balanced mix of commerce in our community."
He said this involves three strategies.
"We must train and retain a skilled workforce starting in K-12 and extending to a post-secondary education, taking advantage of the local institutions we have available," he said. "We must target and recruit new businesses that make an appropriate fit for our community and those businesses that are shaping the new economy, and finally, we must help recruit, retain and support the small businesses in our community, start-up and existing. We need to take advantage of our proximity to the Port of Savannah," he said.
Gibson said his experience should count in seeking re-election.
"If re-elected, I hope to continue to take advantage of my five-term tenure on the Board of Commissioners to maintain the existing spirit and the approach the county has always taken toward transparency and good government," he said. "The best pledge as an elected public servant, not politician, that I can make is to keep in touch with the tax-paying citizens and continue to make responsible decisions with honesty, courage and consideration for my fellow man."
Gibson and Dale Bussell Gibson have been married 42 years and have two adult children, a grandson and another grandchild on the way.
He and his wife are members of Pittman Park United Methodist Church, where he has served as chairman of trustees, president of Methodist Men, usher captain and on numerous other committees.
Gibson is a retired agriculture/forestry teacher from Statesboro High School whose hobbies include volunteering with various groups, working on his family farm in Charlton County, woodworking, traveling, reading and fishing.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.