Toby Conner raised his right hand and took the oath of office Tuesday morning as the new Bulloch County commissioner for District 2, Seat B. Probate Judge Lorna DeLoach also swore in continuing Seat 1-B Commissioner Anthony Simmons and Seat 2-D Commissioner Timmy Rushing to new four-year terms.
The ceremony took place at the end of the Board of Commissioners’ brief 8:30 a.m. Dec. 20 regular meeting after the other commissioners also made some farewell presentations and remarks to outgoing Seat 2-B Commissioner Walter Gibson in honor of his 22 years of service on the board.
After Gibson, a Republican, announced last spring that he would not seek re-election, three Republican candidates and one Democrat vied for the seat. After placing second in the Republican primary in May, Conner won a primary runoff and then the November general election.
A full-time Bulloch County farmer and former Georgia Ports Authority stevedore, Conner takes his seat as the county faces potentially unprecedented growth from announced new manufacturing plants locating here and in neighboring counties. He hails from the Stilson-Leefield area and identified managed growth as a concern during his campaign.
After Tuesday’s ceremony, he was asked whether he has concerns for agriculture in the current situation.
“Of course, I’ve got concerns for all the citizens,” Conner said. “You know, you don’t have opinions anymore, you have concerns, being a commissioner. Your concern is for whatever concerns the people have, and there’s concern in the county over agriculture, there’s concern in the county over growth, … over populations in schools. There’s concerns in the county over many things because this growth is new for us. So we’re going to take them one at a time and day by day.”
His wife, Kelsey, held the Bible that her husband placed his hand on while affirming the set of disclosures and promises that DeLoach recited for each recently elected commissioner. The Conners also had their daughter, Mae, 3, and son, Lane, 9 along for the ceremony.
Re-elected as a Democrat against a young Republican challenger, Simmons is completing his 30th year as a commissioner and heading into a new four-year term. His wife, Joyce, held the Bible for him. They’ve been married 40 years and have an adult son, an adult daughter, and two grandchildren, with another due this week.
“I am going to try to continue to do what I’ve done for the past 30 years,” Simmons said. “I want to make Bulloch County shine, I want to make us the best place – which I do think we’re the best place to live – and with the Hyundai plant coming, Bulloch County is not going to look like Bulloch County does now … and I know we’re not going to be able to please everybody, but I want to make us shine in Georgia.”
Rushing’s 2nd term
Rushing, first elected in 2018, ran unopposed for a second term through this year’s Republican primary and the general election. His wife, Julie, held the Bible for him at Tuesday’s swearing-in.
“I think my first four years are going to be mighty easy beside these next four we’ve got to put in, with as much growth and all that’s going on in the county, and there’s several things me and all the other commissioners have got to figure out,” Rushing said. “We haven’t got all the answers because we don’t have all the questions. …
“It’s a new game for every one of us,” he concluded.
Before the swearing-in ceremony, Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson led a round of tributes for Gibson, beginning with the presentation of the board’s proclamation of special recognition.
Two key clauses state: “Walter Gibson exhibited professionalism and compassion in all aspects of the elected position during his tenure; and … has distinguished himself with his deep knowledge and abilities related to county government, and the expertise and leadership developed during his tenure has been invaluable to Bulloch County and its citizens.”
Gibson previously retired from a 32-year career as a vocational agriculture teacher, concluding at Statesboro High School, prior to his service as a county commissioner.
He was first elected to the seat in 2000.
The five other district-elected commissioners and Thompson each made remarks of appreciation and stood around Gibson as they gave him both a framed copy of the proclamation with the county seal affixed and his nameplate from the meeting dais.
Gibson’s wife, Dale, and one of their five grandchildren, Monroe Richardson, 7, attended the meeting.