Sam Jones, seeking re-election to Statesboro City Council in District 2, asserts that he will continue to “bridge the gap.” He now offers experience working with other city officials, after decades of involvement with community organizations, he said.
Jones faces a challenge from Paulette Chavers in the Nov. 5 election. Early voting is now underway for districts 2, 3 and 5. Both candidates identify recreational facilities as a concern of District 2 residents, and Jones specifically proposes construction of a pool at Luetta Moore Park.
“Well, there’s a number of reasons I feel they should choose me. One of them is experience,” Jones said in an interview this week. “In addition to having three and a half years being a member of the City Council, for over 30 years I have been active in the community.”
He has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County and remains a Habitat supporter. In past years, he served as a Bulloch County NAACP vice president and secretary. He and his wife, Margaret Lee Jones, founded Southeast Georgia Jail and Prison Ministry.
“In addition to that, over the three years and a half, I have developed a relationship with the other council members that enables me to get things done,” Sam Jones said. “We get the job done, and I like to consider myself one able to bridge the gap.”
“Bridging the Gap,” meaning between District 2 and the city government, was a slogan he first used when he ran for council in 2011. One of four candidates that year, he didn’t win. But in 2015, Jones qualified as the only candidate when longtime council member Gary Lewis did not seek re-election.
Now 59, Jones retired in 2015 from a 32-year military career that included two years of wartime National Guard service in Afghanistan and previous time in the Guard, the Army and the Army Reserve. He worked five years for the Georgia Department of Corrections and two years for the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.
Jones is an associate minister at Jordan Missionary Baptist Church. He attained an associate degree in ministry through Guido Bible Institute and the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association. He holds an associate degree in accounting from Ogeechee Technical College and said he has now completed coursework for a bachelor’s in business management from Georgia Southern University.
Married 29 years, the Joneses have three grown children and four grandchildren.
Parks and Rec
For at least two years, Jones has been suggesting that a public swimming pool should be installed at Luetta Moore Park, where the community center building is on the site of a long filled-in previous pool.
“That will give the young people something to do so they can be more engaged,” he said. “I’d like to see a pool there so they can learn how to swim.”
Jones also suggests that tutoring should be offered at the community center.
“I think there’s a big need for young kids to learn how to read … so I’d like to utilize that building,” Jones said. “We have a lot of people in the community who agree with me, and they’re ready to volunteer to help our youth become better readers, so which they reach the third grade they can pass that third-grade exit exam.”
He said “it’s been proven” that children who cannot read at grade level by third grade are likely to end up in prison.
All candidates were asked about city input in the county-operated Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.
“Absolutely, the city and its citizens need to play a role, as we have been talking about that for three years and a half now,” Jones said. “And I think now with a new administration, people are listening, people are hearing, and we’re moving in the right direction. I foresee the city and the county working together to make Statesboro parks and recreation what it needs to be, and I believe it’s always a team effort.”
Efforts toward a city bus system have now progressed from a feasibility study to an implementation study. Next, the city will apply for federal grants, which officials say will be necessary on a continuing basis for Statesboro to afford public transit.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Jones said. “In fact, I was the one who initiated the motion that we spend that money and do a study, because as I talk to the citizens here in Statesboro, especially in District 2, there’s a need for it.”
“The Creek on the Blue Mile is a big project, and it can be done, but it’s just going to take some time,” Jones said.
He said he believes the engineering team recently contracted to do a detailed study will come back with a plan the city can help make a reality.
“It’s going to take a team effort, not just the city but the city, the county and the private sector to continue,” Jones said. “Basically the private sector has been very engaged, and that’s a good thing, because when rains here in Statesboro, especially on South Main, it’s a problem, so it needs to be addressed.”
“Statesboro overall is a safe community,” Jones said.
He quoted Chief of Police Mike Broadhead’s repeated assertion that he would feel safe walking from one end of Statesboro to the other in civilian clothes.
“I agree, Statesboro is basically a safe place for a majority of people,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, it’s not safe for our young people when they get off track. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep them on track. The majority of them are doing well, but we’ve got a handful of people that need some help, need some assistance to get them back on track so it will be safe for everybody.”
Programs at the parks are one way to keep youth on track, he said.
Jones mentioned a camera system also touted by District 5 Councilman Derek Duke. So far it is a traffic camera system in one area of town, near the Georgia Southern campus.
“We’re working on making Statesboro a safer place by implementing some security systems that would help make it easier and more effective for the police to serve and protect our citizens,” Jones said.