Three Statesboro City Council seats are up for election Nov. 5, and the incumbents – District 2 Councilman Sam Lee Jones, District 3 Councilman Jeff Yawn and District 5 Councilman Derek Duke – all plan to seek re-election.
As with other nonpartisan city elections throughout Georgia, candidates must file their paperwork and pay their fees the week of Aug. 19-23. In Statesboro, candidate qualifying will be overseen by City Clerk Sue Starling at City Hall between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. those five days. The qualifying fee, 3 percent of a council member’s salary, is $227.
Both Jones and Yawn have served three and a half years so far. They joined the council in January 2016 after qualifying unopposed when two previous council members did not seek re-election in 2015.
“I do plan on seeking re-election,” Jones said this week. “I’ve helped build a good foundation, things are looking good for the city, and I look forward to serving and completing some things that we have started.”
Hiring a new police chief and a new city manager and making misdemeanor marijuana possession a usually cite-and-release offense instead of an always jailable one were city actions Jones said he is pleased to have participated in.
He noted that he recently made the motion for the city to apply for membership in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing and said he wants “to see that through, to help a lot of people in District 2 and the city of Statesboro.” He also advocates building a public pool where swimming lessons would be offered in his district.
An Afghanistan combat veteran with the National Guard, Jones retired in April 2015 as a staff sergeant after a 32-year military career that included past service in the Army and the Army Reserve. Now 59, he is self-employed as an independent insurance agent.
Yawn sounded a similar tone of wanting to help the city continue to make progress.
“I’m very excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish in my first term and excited about the opportunities that exist for our city in the next four years and look forward to supporting our community and our city staff in any way possible as the District 3 representative,” he said.
Yawn, 47, is executive director of Eagle Dining Services at Georgia Southern University, where he has worked for more than 12 years. Georgia Southern is also where he attained his business degree, in accounting. A lifelong Statesboro resident, he grew up working at the former Snooky's restaurant, owned by his parents, and later owned the former Archibald's restaurant.
Duke was elected by District 5 residents through a special election and runoff in May and June, 2018. That entitled him to fill the unexpired term, through this December, of Travis Chance, who had resigned from the council to move outside the city limits and before an unsuccessful bid for a county commission seat.
Duke now plans to seek a new four-year term of his own.
“I absolutely will, and I’m just very excited about the opportunity,” he said. “We’ve got so many good things going on now since I’ve come on the council that I want to continue with the same team if possible and particularly make a lot of progress with the good things in the city as well as the creek project.”
That was a reference to the Creek on the Blue Mile, a community initiative for which the city has received a commitment of a $5.5 million state direct investment and an up to $15.5 million Georgia Environmental Finance Authority line of credit.
Duke also said he has pursued “a great interest in public safety” since joining the council and will soon announce some safety enhancements for all citizens and particularly for Georgia Southern students.
Now 74, Duke retired from a 40-year career as an airline pilot, which overlapped a military career. He piloted combat missions during the Vietnam War and then remained in the Air Force Reserve, being called up to other missions before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the 1990s.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar, elected to a four-year term in 2017, and the other two council members are not up for election this year.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.