Tuesday while voters across Statesboro finish choosing whether to allow liquor stores in the city limits and who will be mayor the next four years, only Council District 4 voters are choosing between challenger Kristine “Kris” Yager-Rushton and incumbent John Riggs as their City Council member.
Now in his 12th year on the council, Riggs is its longest-serving current member. In a phone call last week, he identified public safety as his top concern, and in particular hiring more police officers, when asked what he hopes to help the city accomplish if elected to a fourth term.
"Well, as you know, we had another murder the night before, at The Vault, our third murder this year," Riggs said. "We need more police officers."
A self-employed real estate appraiser, Riggs served as mayor pro tempore in 2018 and 2019 by choice of the other council members. During the past several years, he has repeatedly called for increased police and fire department staffing and pay.
Yager-Rushton, a Council District 4 homeowner and resident for 13 years, is employed as a prospect researcher in University Advancement Services at Georgia Southern University. She has identified improved accessibility to downtown from the campus area, particularly through bike lanes and sidewalks, as one of her goals for the city. She also speaks of stewardship and sustainable use of land and resources as an area of concern.
"I would like to see Statesboro grow into an even better and more sustainable community," Yager-Rushton said in an August interview. "It's been a delight living here, and good changes have happened, but we still have some work to be done.”
She has not sought elected public office before. But she has served on the university’s Staff Council and in leadership and volunteer roles with several nonprofit organizations.
In June when the City Council members voted 3-2 to place the liquor store referendum on the current ballot, Riggs cast one of the two "no" votes. The reason, he said, was that he felt the decision was "too rushed" and wanted the mayor and council to spell out the proposed rules, such as where package shops will be allowed and the minimum distance between them and away from places such as churches and schools, before putting the yes-no question to the public.
But last week he said he is "not against the people having their say," and believes the referendum will pass.
"If the liquor referendum passes ... all of the tax revenue that we get from that, I will push to have every bit of that revenue used on public safety and alcohol abuse, drug abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, that kind of stuff," Riggs said.
In the earlier interview, Yager-Rushton indicated that she also sees public safety as an important issue. She said she loves the fact that a Statesboro Fire Department station is near the neighborhood where she and her husband reside and is reassured to see a police car turn down the street "every now and then."
"Safety is always going to be a good topic," Yager-Rushton said. "It's one that we should be aware of. We need to pay them adequately, pay them well and make sure that they're compensated. We need our firefighters and police for our own protection, for the safety of the whole community and of our neighborhoods."
Polls open all day
Election Day voting is open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, for registered voters who are Statesboro residents and did not vote early. There are two different Statesboro voting places, assigned to voters by where their homes are located.
Voters in both precincts are deciding the mayoral race between incumbent Jonathan McCollar and challenger Ernest Larry Lawton and on the liquor store referendum.
Residents of Voting Precinct 1, encompassing City Council Districts 1 and 2, vote at the William James Educational Complex, headquarters of the Bulloch County Board of Education, at 150 Williams Road. Councilman Phil Boyum is unopposed for re-election on District 1 voters' ballots.
Residents of Voting Precinct 2, encompassing City Council Districts 3, 4 and 5, vote at Pittman Park United Methodist Church, 1102 Fair Road. So the choice between Riggs and Yager-Rushton is assigned only to this precinct and even there appears only on District 4 voters' ballots.
The other three council members are in the middle of their terms and so do not appear on this year's ballots.
Brooklet, Register and Portal also have city elections underway, with Election Day voting 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. A story listing the candidates and ballot questions in each, and identifying the voting places in each town, appeared in the Oct. 30 edition and remains online at www.statesboroherald.com. Voters can check their city voting precinct location online through the state My Voter Page, www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.