With less than a month until election day, the winner in the race for the Columbia County Board of Commissioners open seat will be the person who can galvanize support the quickest.
Five candidates qualified to run for the District 4 slot, which became vacant a few weeks ago when Mark Devoti moved away with another year left on his seat.
With many citing infrastructure improvements as the one of the most pressing issue facing the district, the candidates say they are planning grassroots campaigns to reach voters before the Nov. 4 special election.
"I just wanted to pay back Columbia County for being a good community to live in," said Lee Anderson, one of the candidates.
Anderson, who said he felt like he was the most qualified candidate on the ballot because he is the only one who has served in a countywide political position, said the expansion of water and sewer lines in the district was a top priority. He also said he believes economic development is another important topic for the area.
"I'm a firm believer in that we need to go out and sell Columbia County more to large companies, plants and industries to reduce the tax burden of people of Columbia County," Anderson said.
John Bentley also said he thinks the pending closure of the county's landfill is important to the district's residents who will have to drive their garbage somewhere else if they drop off their own trash now. He also pointed to moving ambulances closer and changing the county's role in sewer service as key issues.
"The cities have got issues with sewer, and we're going to have to work something out with the county," Bentley said. "I've worked (in the past) with both mayors and the commission and many of the department heads."
George James said the county's overall growth is an area that needs close attention.
"The top priority for the county as a whole is managing our growth as best we can and making sure we have everything in place that we can handle our growth," James said.
He said his previous experience on the Grovetown City Council would help reduce any friction between the county and city entities.
"I'll be able to help Grovetown and Harlem and the county work even closer than we ever have before," James said.
Sam Jones said District 4 needs a stable presence on the Board of Commissioners and added that he would plan to run again next year for the seat if he is elected next month.
"Everyone that knows me knows that I'm a fiscal conservative and like to make decision based on facts and not emotions," Jones said.
He said the physical infrastructure needs of the district as well as the potential consolidation of fire services are major issues he would examine.
Rosa Lee Owens describes herself as a committed citizen of the district who has spoken out in the past about issues she supports, such as the construction of a new middle school.
"I haven't just begun expressing my opinion and finding out what needs to be done," she said. "I believe District 4 needs more funds allocated toward us."
She also said extending water lines and road paving to outlying parts of the district are important issues.
"We're not living in a primitive society," she said, "and we need to look at those things and express those needs."
Occupation: Farmer and businessman
Political experience: Columbia County school board member, 1984 to 1992, including term as chairman
Community Involvement: Current president of Columbia County Farm Bureau; served on Farm Bureau's state board of directors; member of Cattlemen's Association; volunteer with current School Business Partner program
Family: Married, two children
Occupation: Nurse at Doctors Hospital's emergency room; retired military
Political experience: Harlem Mayor for two years
Community Involvement: None
Family: Married, four children
Occupation: Maintenance buyer for Murray Biscuit Co.
Political experience: Grovetown City Councilman for six years Community Involvement: former vice president of Grovetown Planning and Zoning Board; 3rd vice president of District 7 of Georgia Municipal Association
Family: Married, three daughters
Occupation: Ordained minister, and licensed marriage and family therapist
Political experience: None
Community Involvement: Helped start Columbia County Clean and Beautify; current Area 1 chairman for the state Republican Party's 9th District; former member of Statesboro's Main Street/Downtown Development Authority Family: Married, two children
Rosa Lee Owens
Occupation: Retired schoolteacher
Political experience: None
Community Involvement: prior Greenspace committee member for three years; helped create the Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem; past president of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international education organization
Family: Widowed, two daughters; one son who is deceased
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