Two cities. Three candidates. Two seats.
That about sums up Tuesday's Election Day in Columbia County.
Voters in Harlem and Grovetown have two seats to fill on each city council. Of the three candidates in each race, the top two vote-getters will take the seats.
In Grovetown, a political newcomer faces a former city council member and one of the city's biggest supporters.
The city council run is the first political foray for Bruce Stoddard, a locksmith at Augusta State University. He wants to help keep the city's taxes low and hopes to bring more events to town.
"I'd like to see the city grow," he said. " I'd like to make a contribution."
Rosa Lee Owens' contribution to the city sits on Robinson Avenue - the Grovetown Museum. She hopes to bring more culture to the city.
"We can get rid of some of the ugly spots we have in the city and just really make our city a place for tourists," she said. "I'm one of those persons who believes that you have to work on things. They just don't happen. You have to put forth some effort."
George W. James is hoping to rejoin the city council. He was elected to two consecutive terms in 1988 and lost a bid for mayor two years ago. He wants the city to focus on maintaining and improving infrastructure.
"You want to be able to offer people good services," he said. "You want to make sure your infrastructure can handle the growth."
In Columbia County's other city, Harlem, an incumbent is facing a former county commissioner's son and a retired businessman.
Robin Root has been on city council for two years - serving as mayor pro-tem for the past year. She said that while growth is an important issue for Harlem, she feels it is even more important to preserve the family atmosphere the city enjoys.
Craig Brooks - the son of former county commissioner Lee Brooks - also feels that growth is critical. He said a businesslike approach to government would better serve residents. He would like to see Harlem actively recruit industries to operate outside city limits.
Robert Winters agrees that bringing in businesses would benefit Harlem; he just feels that consumer-driven establishments would better meet the needs of the city. One example he gave was a good fast food restaurant.
ROSA LEE OWENS
Profession: Retired teacher; current substitute teacher
Family: Two daughters
Previous political experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Columbia County Board of Education in 2000; created Grovetown Museum; sits on various local boards, including Columbia County's green space committee.
Biggest issue facing city in next four years: "My interest is bringing culture to Grovetown. We need to rebuild our status. In years past we were really known for class and culture, but we've lost that status. I'd like to see it return."
Profession: Locksmith at Augusta State University
Family: Wife, Paula; one daughter
Previous political experience: None
Biggest issue facing city in next four years: "I think we can still get the city to be a nice rural place to come, but I see an opportunity to grow. The biggest problem is balancing the rural atmosphere with the growth of the city."
GEORGE W. JAMES
Profession: Murray Biscuit Co. employee
Family: Wife, Sheilah; three daughters; three grandchildren
Previous political experience: Grovetown City Council, 1988-1991; ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1999
Biggest issue facing city in next four years: "We know we are going to grow. I think our biggest challenge will be to control our growth - not hinder it, but manage it well."
ROBIN ROOT (INCUMBENT)
PROFESSION: Stay-at-home mother
FAMILY: Husband, Todd; three children.
PREVIOUS POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Harlem city council for two years; mayor pro tem for one. On Oliver Hardy Festival Committee for nine years.
BIGGEST ISSUE FOR HARLEM: "To refurbish the downtown area and update the infrastructure."
PROFESSION: Retired, self-employed. Worked for Harlem water and sewer department for 16 months
FAMILY: Wife, Sandra. Three children, one grandchild.
PREVIOUS POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None
BIGGEST ISSUE FOR HARLEM: "I think we need more growth in the area, that's for sure. We could use a good fast food business."
PROFESSION: Purchasing analyst for John Deere
PREVIOUS POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Has assisted with running campaigns.
BIGGEST ISSUE FOR HARLEM: "I would like to see our city run like a business. We have a tendency to forget it's not our money we're spending."
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