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Yager-Rushton seeks District 4 council seat with goals for access, sustainability
Kristine Yager-Rushton

Kristine Yager-Rushton, a Statesboro resident and Council District 4 homeowner for the past 13 years, qualified this week as a candidate for City Council. Improving access to the downtown and the Georgia Southern campus for pedestrians and cyclists is one her goals.

"I would like to see Statesboro grow into an even better and more sustainable community," Yager-Rushton said in a phone interview. "It's been a delight living here, and good changes have happened, but we still have some work to be done.”

A mayoral race and a referendum on liquor stores will appear on the Nov. 2 ballots citywide. But District 4 voters alone will decide the contest between Yager-Rushton and incumbent John Riggs, who is completing his 12th year on the council and now seeking a fourth term.

Incidentally, each of Statesboro’s five council districts is supposed to contain roughly 6,000 residents, and District 4 is the most compact. It encompasses part of the university campus and a concentration of neighborhoods east of it across Fair Road.

Yager-Rushton knows Riggs, he has visited her home, and she has nothing against him, she said. They’re even the same age, 51.

But other residents had started encouraging her to run, especially after Riggs announced last spring that he did not intend to seek re-election. Also hearing encouragement from supporters, he changed his mind and announced his candidacy last week. So they both signed up and paid their qualifying fees Monday.

Interviewed Wednesday, Yager-Rushton talked about some things she would like to see more of.

“I'd like to see more sidewalks, bike lanes, improved accessibility between our downtown and campus, because both the downtown and campus have so much to offer the other one and our community is richer because of them both,” she said

Yager-Rushton is employed as a prospect researcher in University Advancement Services at Georgia Southern. She attained a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Iowa, which is also where she met her husband, Edward Rushton, a graduate student at the time. He is now associate professor of graphic design in Georgia Southern’s Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art.


Rural upbringing

Yager-Rushton grew up on farm near Audubon, Iowa, population now about 2,000.

“Statesboro reminds me of where I grew up.  Bigger of course!” she wrote in an email. “But we have a rather rural community and we rely on our farmers here.”

Her parents’ and grandparents’ Iowa farm was recognized as a “Century Farm,” meaning that it had been in the family for more than 100 years.

“So it is in my blood and I care,” Yager-Rushton wrote. “Farmers are stewards of the land they hold. We should all be stewards of the land we walk on this earth.”

One reason she and her husband chose to live where they do, near the university, is that he likes to bicycle to work. Likewise, Yager-Rushton is interested in improving “the accessibility of things” so Statesboro residents “don’t have to drive everywhere.” Less driving would be good for the environment, and bike lanes and sidewalks can help make cycling and walking safer, she notes.

For similar reasons, Yager-Rushton loves the fact that the city has a bus service in development, she added.


Community work

This is her first time running for an elected public office. But Yager-Rushton has served on the university’s Staff Council, which represents the non-faculty employees. She previously served about a year on the Mainstreet Farmers Market board. She is the most recent president of the Pine Cove Homeowners’ Association, but the largely informal group has not been very active lately, she said.

She and her husband are supporters of the Averitt Center for the Arts and have contributed for several exhibitions in its galleries. She volunteers for Donate Life Georgia, a nonprofit organization that works to register more organ, eye and tissue donors, and also for LifeLink Foundation, an organ transplant procurement agency serving Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico.


Issues ahead

The Statesboro Herald asked her about a few issues that may be of interest in the District 4 race. One was the city’s efforts at diversity and inclusiveness, including the council’s enactment last fall of a Nondiscrimination and Equity Ordinance.

Its first article forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as disability, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age or military status, in employment, housing, real estate and public accommodations.

“Honestly, I think they’ve done a really good job,” Yager-Rushton said.  “It sounds like they’re moving forward. There’s always more to be done.”

She noted that on the university staff, almost everyone, especially those involved in hiring processes and search committees, receives training on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The awareness has to be there, awareness of the unconscious bias that can happen, so I think the city is making great strides toward that,” Yager-Rushton said.

In the city’s ordinance, a second article created a margin of preference for minority- and female-owned local businesses in bids for city contracts. It was this section that Riggs said “discriminates” when he cast the only vote against the ordinance last fall. But he said that it also contained “many, many wonderful things” he wholly supported.

Other issues will be addressed in later stories about the candidates.