One Statesboro City Council district will have a race to the Nov. 7 election, but not the district that seemed likely to have one earlier this week. Lawton Sack signed up and paid the fee Friday afternoon to challenge incumbent Councilmember Paulette Chavers for the District 2 council seat.
Chavers had qualified Monday, so it’s District 2 that has a contest.
But District 3, from which Ginny Hendley had qualified as a first-time candidate Monday, does not have a race after all, and Hendley is unopposed to represent the district beginning in January. Incumbent District 3 Councilmember Venus Mack, who as recently as Aug. 15 said she was looking forward to four more years on the council, changed her mind and never signed up to seek re-election. The five-day candidate qualifying period ended at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“After much prayer and consideration, I would like to take a moment to announce that I will not be seeking re-election for the Statesboro City Council,” Mack posted on her council member Facebook page around that time Friday afternoon. “While Statesboro will always hold a special place in my heart, I've come to realize that this isn’t my forever home. The past four years have been an incredibly rewarding journey, and it's with the utmost respect that I've made the decision to step down.”
This was part of a longer statement in which Mack said she will serve the remainder of her term, through December. She listed a number of changes and initiatives she advocated for that have become realities, including the establishment of liquor stores in Statesboro, improvements to the parks, the Youth Connect program, the establishment of the city-hosted Statesboro Business Commission, the transit system and the recent, approximately 45% pay raise for council members after more than 16 years with no increase.
“These four years have been an incredible chapter in my life, and I'm immensely grateful for the opportunities I've had to make a difference,” she wrote.
Her statement that Statesboro is not her “forever home” means that she intends to relocate within the next four years, she replied in a text.
Chavers, Mack and District 5 Councilmember Shari Barr were all first elected to Statesboro City Council in the fall of 2019, when they outpolled and subsequently replaced the three men then serving on the council from their respective districts.
Barr emerged from qualifying this week unopposed for re-election.
But Chavers has a challenger, since Sack, chairman of the Bulloch County Republican Party, has in effect given up his seat on the county Board of Elections to run for a seat on the officially nonpartisan Statesboro City Council.
Now 46, he has lived in Bulloch County all his life and in Statesboro for the most recent three years and is a resident of the district.
“A lot of citizens encouraged me to put my name on the ballot,” Sack said Friday evening. “They felt like that with these tax increases in the county and the city and with the Board of Education especially that they needed a voice for both Republican and Democratic voters in the city of Statesboro and the county. I’ve preached for years about people getting involved in local politics and it was time to put that in action.”
He previously ran for a county commission seat about 20 years ago but was not elected.
“Now a resident of the city, I thought it was time to get involved locally here and make a change for all of the voters of District 2,” he said.
Georgia Republican Party rules indicate that Sack would have to give up his county party leadership role only if he wins the election, he said.
But under Georgia law, when he qualified to run for public office he automatically vacated the Elections Board seat, he said, adding that he intends to deliver a letter to several county officials. The county commissioners appointed him to the board earlier this year.
Chief financial officer of the local plumbing contractor James L. Oates III Enterprises, which has been his employer for 20 years, Sack graduated from Statesboro High School in 1995 and then attained a bachelor’s degree in information technology from Georgia Southern University.
Chavers, a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Refocus Counseling, also graduated from Statesboro High and attained both a bachelor’s degree in child and family development and a master’s in school counseling from Georgia Southern.
During her current term on City Council, Chavers served two years as mayor pro tempore by vote of the members.
She was not reached Friday evening for comment on her candidacy or having a challenger. The Statesboro Herald will seek to interview the candidates about issues for a later story.