Around the time the outcome became certain, cheers from Jonathan McCollar’s watch party, turned victory party, at Luetta Moore Park could be heard back at the election office in the County Annex off North Main Street.
For the second time in four years, a candidate secured a place in local history through being elected mayor of Statesboro. McCollar, who captured almost 53 percent of the votes Tuesday, will be Statesboro’s first African-American mayor. In January, he will succeed Mayor Jan Moore, who became Statesboro’s first female mayor after winning a close runoff in late 2013 against none other than Jonathan McCollar.
This time, despite the presence of a third candidate, John Grotheer, in the contest, McCollar won without a runoff. Moore took 41.7 percent of the votes; Grotheer, 5.1 percent. The vote count was McCollar 1,076; Moore 847; Grotheer 104.
“It’s unbelievable. I just feel so humble right now,” McCollar said. “It’s unbelievable for the city to come together the way that it did and rally around this People over Politics movement the way that it did. It was amazing, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring our city together, to move our city forward and just try to make it a great place for everybody within the city.”
“People over Politics,” seen on T-shirts worn by supporters, has been McCollar’s slogan for what he calls a movement rather than a campaign. Identifying poverty as Statesboro’s greatest challenge, he has called for launching youth programs and efforts to bring more jobs to Statesboro.
McCollar, 43, has lived in Statesboro all his life. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Georgia Southern University and is assistant campus director for Armstrong State University’s Liberty Campus in Hinesville.
Asked how he will meet the demands of being mayor while in that job, he said he has been “extremely transparent” with his employer.
“Now we’ll sit down and have the conversation, and then hopefully we’ll be able to come to a happy median within the conversation,” he said.
He also noted that other mayors have had full-time jobs while mayor. Moore is vice president for economic development at Ogeechee Technical College.
Glass ceiling broken
Asked if any special responsibility will come with being Statesboro’s first African-American mayor, McCollar said, “It’s exciting, but at the same time my focus is on being a great mayor for all the people, but there is a certain responsibility that comes whenever your break a glass ceiling.”
McCollar’s wife, Adrienne McCollar, came and gave him a hug and a high-five while he was being interviewed.
“I am so proud of this man right here, and I’m proud of this city,” she said.
She is a facilities director for Georgia Southern. They are raising their five school-age children in Statesboro.
Four years earlier, it was Moore who celebrated.
This time she ran on a record that included development of Statesboro’s first long-range strategic plan, recovery in the city’s finances with the rebuilding of its general-fund balance, and recent job gains in local industries. In the latter half of her term the city has hired a new city manager and police chief. The city also overhauled its regulation of places that sell and serve alcohol, particularly aimed at underage drinking.
“I thank the people of Statesboro for giving me the opportunity to serve my hometown as their mayor,” Moore said in a statement provided Tuesday evening. “We made a difference. Statesboro is on firmer footing in every aspect of city government than it was four years ago. I’m excited and hopeful for what the future holds.”
Grotheer, when informed earlier of his third-place finish, expressed congratulations to both Moore and McCollar for running a good race and said he wished them both well in their future endeavors.
“I met Mr. McCollar for the first time while campaigning,” Grotheer added. “I thought he was a fine gentleman. He’s very qualified, and I think he’ll make a good mayor, and I wish him the best of success.”
Turnout in the city election was 15.8 percent, with 2,035 of Statesboro’s 12,849 registered voters participating.
Meanwhile, almost 81 percent of voters in a separate but simultaneous Bulloch County special election approved a five-year extension of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or ESPLOST. This 1 percent tax funds capital spending for the public schools, with purchases from school buses to classroom technology and playground equipment proposed.
“We are very excited about the opportunities this provides us,” Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson said in an emailed statement. “And we are very appreciative of the trust and support this community has provided us.”
Turnout in the ESPLOST special election was 9.85 percent, with 3,675 of Bulloch County’s 37,296 registered voters participating. The vote count was 2,953 “yes” to 694 “no.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.