The three candidates placed different things first when asked during Monday evening’s forum to name two accomplishments they would like to be noted for after serving as Statesboro’s mayor for the next four years.
Mayor Jan Moore mentioned recreation first. First-time challenger John Grotheer listed public safety as top priority. Jonathan McCollar, whose first campaign for mayor four years ago came down to a close runoff with Moore, said he wants to sow the seeds of a robust economy. The Statesboro Herald organized the forum, which was cosponsored by American Roofing Company and held at the William James Educational Complex with cooperation from the Bulloch County Schools. A few more than 50 people attended.
“I’m very passionate about recreation,” Moore said. “I think great things come from recreation. I think great things come from kids playing, and we need to bring recreation back into our parks. That’s absolutely what I want to see. I don’t want to drive by parks anymore and see nobody in them.”
She has previously said that, although the county is responsible for recreation programming, most of it has been concentrated at Mill Creek Regional Park and she wants more programs offered at smaller parks in Statesboro.
“We’ve also got to return the vibrancy to our city,” Moore said. “When I say vibrancy, I mean in retail development, commercial development, park development, housing redevelopment. All of those things need to happen. People need to drive through Statesboro, Georgia and say, ‘You know what, this is where I want to live. People are out there playing. There are great jobs here …’ That’s what I want to see.”
“I have a list of many, and it is difficult to narrow it down to two,” Grotheer said. “I think first and foremost on my mind is public safety, because without public safety many parts of the community can fail.”
He added that he believes the city has good public safety efforts underway and said he is grateful that Moore and City Council recently acted to give police officers raises “in order for them to be competitive and provide the best service possible to citizens as far as protecting them.”
Another achievement Grotheer suggested he wants to be known for is “collaboration among all the bodies, that being the county, Georgia Southern, the Board of Education on planning issues.
“And the city should lead the collaboration efforts with other entities and agencies to present a unified front, and should embrace collaboration to promote sustainable, quality growth, including wise management of our infrastructure, education, recreation and economic development,” Grotheer said.
“The first is planting the seed for a robust and diverse economy,” McCollar said in answer to the question. “I think there is a lot of opportunity in small business growth right here in Statesboro, Georgia. Most people across the nation work for small businesses, and I believe that if we can create some creative solutions … that would be a great piece of that.”
He noted the success of North Carolina’s Research Triangle – the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area with its three universities – and said leaders in Statesboro need to “think outside the box.”
“We’ve got to look down the pipeline and see what’s coming, and in this new age, in this new economy, we’ve got to begin to look at green jobs and new energy jobs, we’ve got to look at technological jobs. …,” McCollar said. “We’ve got to prepare our city and our people to be able to do those jobs as they come.”
McCollar listed youth development as his second area of aspiration.
“Right now the city is currently not doing anything remotely close to the vision that I have for youth development in this community,” he said, again calling for creation of a local Children’s Zone.
The Harlem Children’s Zone is a nonprofit organization in New York City that has been a model for programs in other cities.
As at previous events, McCollar linked most issues to overcoming poverty, which he identifies as the central challenge facing Statesboro.
“Many of the questions that we’re receiving come from the fundamental issue that far too many people in this city are living below poverty,” he said Monday.
In her opening remarks, Moore appeared to agree that poverty is an issue in Statesboro, telling the audience that if she is re-elected, “You will begin to see the beginning of the end of poverty in this community,” from foundations and cooperation already in place.
None of the candidates promised not to raise the property tax millage rate again in the next four years when asked whether they would do so. In answer to another question, all agreed that the mayor and council should not be involved in day-to-day operations of city departments.
In answering a question about what it means to be an American and how as mayor the candidates would ensure that local people can share in the American dream, Grotheer said, “I’m proud to be an American, and I want to do everything I can to help those who are less fortunate and share the kindness and the spirit and the love to everyone regardless of their background.”
Moore, vice president for economic development at Ogeechee Technical College, has an Education Specialist degree and a master’s of education. McCollar, now assistant campus director for Armstrong State University’s Liberty Campus in Hinesville, holds a Master of Public Administration. Grotheer, whose top degree is a Master of Business Administration, recently retired after a 20-year career in which he was city clerk and finance director for the city of Covington and then finance director and interim county administrator for Bryan County.
Grotheer has been a Statesboro resident since February 2014. McCollar and Moore grew up here.
Video of the forum will be available for on-demand viewing, beginning Tuesday afternoon, at www.statesboroherald.com.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.