In Georgia, regular city elections are held in odd-numbered years, and in Statesboro, the mayor’s office and the City Council seats in Districts 1 and 4 are up for election in 2021.
As required of cities by Georgia law and State Election Board rules, the council set qualifying fees for these offices in January. Statesboro City Clerk Leah Harden then posted notices in the Herald last Thursday and Saturday stating the candidate fees and the qualifying period, which doesn’t arrive until mid-August, for the election Nov. 2.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar said, in a phone interview Friday, that he intends to seek re-election. So did District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum and District 4 Councilman John Riggs on Monday, although with the decision deadline still six months away, Boyum said “at this point” and Riggs used the phrase “at this moment.”
“Absolutely,” McCollar said Friday. “I believe that we’ve made a lot of progress in this administration and we have a lot of projects that we’ve got to see through to the finish.”
McCollar took office at the beginning of 2018, calling for unity and saying, “Statesboro is all about us.” Statesboro’s first African-American mayor, he had won a majority of votes in a contest with its first female mayor, Jan Moore, and a third candidate in November 2017, after losing to Moore four years earlier. Now 46, McCollar works for Georgia Southern University as assistant campus director of the Liberty Campus in Hinesville.
What he sees as the city’s three biggest achievements during his tenure so far are improvements to the city infrastructure, including street paving, sidewalk construction and drainage projects; a “visionary plan for neighborhood revitalization;” and economic growth, with “more new businesses in our city,” he said.
The neighborhood revitalization drive grew from Statesboro’s admission to the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, or GICH, in 2019 and has now progressed to the council’s recent adoption of an Urban Redevelopment Plan, pursuit of federal grants to assist homeowners and pending decisions on a proposed new maintenance code.
Georgia Trend magazine and the Georgia Municipal Association recently recognized Statesboro as one of nine “Visionary Cities” of 2021 for these efforts.
Boyum in District 1
Boyum was first elected to the council in a December 2012 special election runoff, where McCollar finished second in what was originally a four-candidate race in District 1. Boyum was then elected to his first full four-year term in November 2013, and to another, unopposed, in November 2017.
“Over the past nine years I’ve had the pleasure to serve the citizens of Statesboro during unprecedented growth of the city,” Boyum said. “We’ve seen the establishment of the City Campus downtown, expansion of our commercial and retail sector, and we’ve even got a new Publix coming. At this point I plan on seeking re-election for the District 1 seat.”
He has been active in Georgia Municipal Association training and leadership activities on behalf of the city. In 2019, Boyum served on the GMA’s Member Services Advisory Board.
In January 2020, he was appointed to the Georgia Municipal Training Board to represented GMA District 12, corresponding to the 12th Congressional District. Boyum is now vice chair of this board, which includes 14 elected officials from cities across the state and provides guidance and leadership on training matters to both the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the GMA.
Last summer, he attained a GMA Certificate of Distinction, indicating his completion of more than 204 training hours in city government matters. He is also a graduate of the Robert E. Knox Leadership Institute, also through GMA.
Riggs in District 4
John Riggs is the longest-serving current council member and now in his 12th year representing District 4. He served as mayor pro tempore by choice of the other council members in 2018 and 2019.
“I fully intend to seek re-election, at this moment,” Riggs said Monday.
He said “not this council member,” to a mention that council members sometimes leave their district posts to run for mayor. Boyum had offered his “at this point,” statement without commenting on the possibility of running for another office when that was mentioned to him.
In the past few years, Riggs has advocated increased funding for the Statesboro Police Department to hire more officers. Crime remains the issue he is most concerned about, he said.
“Our murder rate has jumped more than 400 percent,” Riggs said, referring to the nine homicides in Statesboro in 2020.
With one killing already in January, the community could be on track to a similar number this year, he commented.
“When you think about 76 officers – if we have that many on staff; I mean, that’s how many we’re funded for – and you look at how many calls, how many wrecks, how many things they respond to, we just don’t have enough. …,” Riggs said, adding, “We have a great police force. They are highly trained and very well motivated.”
He noted that one SPD officer did not shoot back when a suspect in a drug investigation shot at him in late 2020. SPD Chief Mike Broadhead praised the officer for exercising good judgment in the particular circumstances and following his training.
“That’s what we need and that’s what we have,” Riggs said Monday. “We just need more of them.”
Statesboro’s city elections are nonpartisan. The qualifying period for candidates for mayor and the two council seats will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 16, and end at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20. The qualifying fees, based on 3% of the annual salary for each office, are $560 for mayoral and $227 for council candidates.