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State of City: McCollar touts youth and ‘inclusive excellence’ progress
But first highlights public safety achievements, Statesboro’s role in region’s industrial boom
Courtesy of City of Statesboro Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar answers questions put to him by a pair of onstage interviewers as part of his 2023 State of the City event, Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar answers questions put to him by a pair of onstage interviewers as part of his 2023 State of the City event, Tuesday, Feb. 28. (Courtesy of City of Statesboro

In his 2023 State of the City address, Mayor Jonathan McCollar again highlighted Statesboro’s youth initiatives and efforts at “inclusive excellence.” But first, he touted public safety achievements and the city’s role in the boom of new industries coming to the region.

More than 100 people attended the State of the City event Tuesday evening, Feb. 28, in the Carol A. Carter Recital Hall on Georgia Southern University’s original campus. The mayor also used the occasion to present an honorific key to the city to South Georgia Tormenta FC and its owners, Darin and Netra Van Tassell, in recognition of the Statesboro-based, professional soccer club’s history-making pair of championship wins by its USL League One men’s team and USL W League women’s team in 2022.

Key to City.jpg
Mayor Jonathan McCollar, left, awards the Key to the City of Statesboro to Tormenta FC soccer franchise owners Darin Van Tassell, center, and Netra Van Tassell, right, in front of Tormenta players and staff on the Carol A. Carter Recital Hall stage. After giving his 2023 State of the City speech Tuesday night, McCollar presented the key in recognition of Tomenta's historic success in 2022, the first time a club won both the USL League One men's and USL W League women's championships in a single year. (Courtesy of City of Statesboro)

Early in his remarks, McCollar spoke of the COVID-19 pandemic as “a very dark time” of world and local tragedy and of a movement for social justice and the contentious 2020-21 national elections as concurrent upheavals.

“Statesboro, we have experienced so much in a very short window of time, and yet we have come out of all of that stronger than we have ever been,” he said.

This, the mayor suggested, led to renewed recognition of priorities for the city.


Public safety

“Understanding that the highest priority for the citizens of Statesboro was to have a city that was safe and a great place to raise a family, we made the necessary investments into our Police Department by supporting the need for advanced technology, such as the Fusus system,” McCollar  said.

Fusus is a contracted video-sharing service that has created a network of security cameras at cooperating locations such businesses, apartment complexes and churches that can be monitored in real time by dispatchers at Statesboro Police Department headquarters.

Additionally, the city government has invested in support of police officers’ “need for great equipment and vehicles that allow them to spend more time serving than behind the desk,” he said.

Echoing information presented the previous week in the SPD’s annual report, McCollar noted that the reported number of major violent crimes in Statesboro dropped by 40% in a single year, comparing 2022 to 2021. He said this had been part of a 76% reduction over the past five years.

Those were references to aggregate totals of four major kinds of violent crime. Numbers for some of the crimes – aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide – fluctuated up and down during that period.

McCollar said he also wanted to tip his hat to the Statesboro Fire Department, which he noted covers not just the city, but a five-mile radius of its two stations, extending into unincorporated areas of Bulloch County.

“Over the past year our Fire Department has handled over 1,250 calls for service and in doing so they have saved more than $120 million in property and held a response time (averaging) just over six minutes to anywhere inside the city of Statesboro and within our five-mile district,” McCollar said.

Calls for service include all types of calls answered by the department, not just fires.

After two or three previous tries, the SFD was recently awarded a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to add more frontline firefighters.

“I don’t think it’s lost on any of us that we’re a city and a region that’s growing, and it is with that understanding that the Fire Department went and secured a SAFER grant that will provide $2 million … to pay for an additional 12 brand-new firefighters,” McCollar said.

He led separate rounds of applause for the city’s two public safety departments.


Industrial boom

Before referring to Hyundai Motor Group’s planned $5.5 billion, 8,100-employee electric vehicle Meta Plant now under construction in northern Bryan County as central to “the largest economic boom that the state of Georgia has ever seen,” McCollar noted that boom’s Bulloch County waves.

In the past 12 months, four industries, including two that are Hyundai suppliers and two that are not, made commitments to build plants in Bulloch. Two of the plants are being built in the Development Authority of Bulloch County’s I-16 interchange site, now known as Bruce Yawn Commerce Park.

“Nearly 12 years ago, a partnership between the city of Statesboro, the Bulloch County Development Authority and the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners was born,” McCollar said.

He noted that the local governments spent more than $10 million to secure and prepare land for the commerce park and that the city’s responsibility had been to built out the water, sewer and natural gas infrastructure.

“Statesboro, what we have now seen is that a $10 million investment has now yielded four companies that will employ an estimated 1,400 people and a record-breaking nearly $1 billion of economic investment,” McCollar said, to applause.


Youth development

“Now more than ever we must work to build the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

This led into an update on the city’s youth initiatives, a major theme of his past years’ speeches.

In 2018, City Council adopted the Statesboro Youth Commission, an advisory and advocacy group proposed by McCollar, then in his first year in office, and volunteers. In 2021, the city launched its summer Youth Connect program, providing five-week, stipend-paid workplace learning experiences to high school students.

Last fall, the city hired a program director and launched the Village Builders program to provide mentoring and support services to children in targeted neighborhoods. In February, City Council additionally established a Youth Council.


Inclusive excellence

Also back in 2018, City Council adopted the One Boro Commission, a volunteer panel intended to promote diversity and inclusion.

“Right now the largest economic boom that the state of Georgia has ever seen is unfolding in our own back yard, and it is hailing from South Korea,” McCollar said. “Soon our community is going to become even more diverse as our South Korean friends begin to choose our beloved community as their new home. …

“Those that understand inclusive excellence and belonging recognize that this subject matter is much deeper than the color of one’s skin or who one chooses to love,” he said. “In a world that’s becoming much more globalized and technologically interconnected, inclusive excellence and belonging simply makes good economic sense.”

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