Candidates Weigh in on Issues Ahead of Nov. 3 Balloting
Early voting is underway in the November 3 general election and, in addition to state and national posts, a number of area races are in contention. The registration period for voting in the upcoming election ended October 5.
Those wishing to vote ahead of the November 3 election may visit the registrar/ board of elections offi ces in the county of their residence. Ballots allow for voting for individual candidates regardless of party affi liation. In Toombs County, two candidates are vying for the seat of Mayor of Vidalia, while two others are seeking election to a post on the County Commission. In Montgomery County, the race for the District 3, Post 1 seat on the County Commission will be decided. In Wheeler County, two candidates are squaring off in the race for sheriff, two are vying for coroner, and four are in the nonpartisan race for an at-large seat on the continued from page
Alamo City Council left vacant by the resignation of Tommy Spell.
The Advance asked candidates in the November 3 election to respond to a short questionnaire. Candidates responded to the following: Personal Profile
List your education, family, career, affiliations, etc.
Purpose and Qualification
Explain why you are seeking this office and what skills and/or expertise qualify you to hold this office.
Goals and Objectives
List three specific goals that you want to accomplish while in office and explain how you would achieve these goals.
Mayor of Vidalia, Nonpartisan Gregory Johnson
I was born and raised in Vidalia, graduated from Vidalia High School in 1981 and earned an associate degree from Long Beach City College. I am married to Tammie Williams-Jo h n s o n and we have two children, De r r i c k and Gregory. I own Jo h n s o n Roofing & Construction, Inc. and Elite Rentals, LLC. I am founder of the Boys & Girls Club of Toombs County and a member of its Executive Board. I am a graduate of Leadership Toombs/Montgomery and currently serve on the Million Pines Bank Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees for Southeastern Technical College. I have served as a member of the Vidalia Downtown Association and the Vidalia City Finance/Water & Sewer/ Police & Fire Committee, and as Chairman Deacon at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. I am a member of the Community Men in Action.
As Ward 2 Councilman on the Vidalia City Council, I’ve had the opportunity to learn how city government really operates administratively and legislatively. That knowledge will be needed to help Vidalia rise above where we are today and bring everyone along. There is great potential in our city now, but it’s not because of our city government, it’s because of you, the citizens of Vidalia. All In for Vidalia is our campaign message. It is a simple message but one I believe is really profound. It’s a message of pride, unity and teamwork. Specific skills and experience that have prepared me for the office of Mayor include grant-writing experience and budgeting with the Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County. I also have 20 years of contractor and negotiations experience with the federal government. Three goals that I want to accomplish while in office are: Create more affordable housing options in Vidalia. Home ownership is the American dream and a key cog in individuals living happy and productive lives. I will champion this effort by working with citizens, Habitat for Humanity, private developers, etc. to increase the number of quality, affordable housing opportunities. Facilitate economic development in Vidalia. This will be done by supporting multilateral agreements with the City of Lyons, Toombs County government, and other stakeholders that can advance Vidalia’s economic interests by expanding the Toombs County economy, e.g. attract new companies and new industries bringing job opportunities for citizens. Additionally, involvement in strategic planning with the Downtown Business Association, Vidalia Development Authority, and Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce will be essential work I undertake. Ensure Vidalia city government works efficiently and effectively, with integrity and responsiveness. This will be accomplished by working collaboratively with the City Councilmen and City Manager to ensure operations are orderly and the taxpayer’s dollar is utilized in a productive manner to better the city. Integrity and responsiveness will be addressed through formation of Mayor Advisory Boards. These boards will give voice to all people in the city, show transparency and a willingness to involve citizens in running the city.
I am a 1995 graduate of Vidalia High School where I played baseball and was blessed to be on the first Vidalia baseball team to win a state championship. I attended Clemson University on a baseball scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Communications.
After several years in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, I came home and went to work at the Paul Anderson Youth Home where I worked until 2007. Since then, I have been a Branch Manager for Vidalia Federal Savings Bank. I am currently a member of the Kiwanis Club, on the board of directors for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a member of the First United Methodist Church where I also teach Sunday School. In 2002 I married the love of my life, Marly Musgrove Roper and we have two amazing and full of life sons, Cutter (7) and Durham (4).
I am running for Mayor because for too long, we have been losing people who believe they must move away from Vidalia to find opportunity. This should not be the case! I want to help make Vidalia a city where it is possible for everyone to make a good living and raise a family. My entire life has been shaped by experiences that have developed the leadership skills and qualities needed to serve our City as mayor. For the past 9 years, I have served on the Vidalia City School Board. This includes working on a $35 million dollar budget with 350 employees. The City budget is roughly $8.7 million with 80 employees. As a former President of Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), a governing body that represents all 180 public school systems in Georgia, I have the experience of working with other elected officials, to facilitate and implement policies for the good of all. As President of GSBA, I spent time in both Washington, D.C., and in Atlanta building relationships with state and national leaders that will help fuel growth in our community. As your mayor, I will work tirelessly to ensure we all win. While Vidalia is a wonderful city, we have some challenges that we face going forward. I will work to ensure that we live in a safe community, bring growth to our city, and improve upon our infrastructure. These three goals work together. My number one priority is for us to be a safe community. We must support our local law enforcement offi cers through professional development training and supply them with the equipment to adequately serve and protect our community. Safety will help bring growth. For us to grow, we must always be developing our infrastructure to allow future expansion. We also grow by leveraging our airport, hospital, industrial parks, distance to I-16 and the port of Savannah. Infrastructure must always remain a priority. I would like to see us utilize our proximity to the Port of Savannah and the opportunity that can bring. 489 Toombs County Commission, District 2 Wendell Dixon, Republican
I am a graduate of Vidalia High School. I have a bachelor ‘s degree in economics from Georgia Southern College. I also have a three-year course of study certificate at the University of Georgia Banking School. My family includes my wife, Elaine, my son, Matt, my grandson, Ashton, and my daughterin- law, Kayla. I have been a banker in Vidalia for over 32 years. I am now the Market President/CEO of Peoples Bank in Vidalia and Lyons.
My affiliations include Head Usher First United Methodist Church, Member of Kiwanis Club, Liaison for the Vidalia Downtown Association, Liaison for the Toombs County Development Authority, State YMCA-Toombs County Finance Chairman, Sweet Onion Classic Board of Directors, Toombs County Commissioner for 8 years.
My past affiliations include: Vidalia Recreation Board, 10 years; Toombs County Development Authority Board, 10 years; Toombs-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board, 3 years; United Way Board, 5 years; Kiwanis Club Board, 5 years; and Vidalia Onion Festival Chairman 2004. Honors include Vidalia Citizen of the Year 2001, ABWA Business Associate of the Year 2001.
I originally ran for Commissioner back in 2012 to help smooth the relationship between our county and city governments. I also wanted to help our citizens have a better place to live and have more job opportunities available.
Skills that prepare me to hold this office include my experience serving on the Vidalia Recreation Board for 10 years where I was chairman for 4 of those years. I served 10 years on the Toombs County Development Board and was chairman for 2 years. I served 3 years as Vice President for the Executive Committee for The Toombs County Chamber Board. I have already served 8 years as Commissioner of District 2 in Toombs County.
My 32 years in banking helps with the finances and budgeting for Toombs County.
My goals and objectives are to: 1. Build a new courthouse.
2. Add a new 50-bed pod to our county jail.
3. Pave more of our 358 miles of dirt roads.
We will achieve these 3 goals by being able to pay for these using our SPLOST and T-SPLOST funds.
Editors Note: Dixon’s opponent, Dr. Samuel Rayapati, did not respond to the questionnaire.
Montgomery County Commission, District 3, Post 1 Thadeus Holloway, Democrat I am the son of the late Rev. Milbern McRae III and Marilyn McRae. I am married to Shirley Holloway (Army Veteran) and we have six children along with three grandchildren. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from Brewton-Parker College. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I obtained a master’s degree in education with a concentration in counseling and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Troy State University. After completing Troy State University, I enrolled at Argosy University to work toward a doctoral degree in counseling psychology. I am a master addictions counselor, a nationally certifi ed counselor, and a licensed professional counselor. I have over 15 years of experience in the mental health field. I am the owner of Road to Success Counseling located in Mount Vernon. I am a counselor and adjunct professor at Brewton-Parker College, as well as a board member for Tri-County Family Connection. I also serve on the CAU Advisory Team for the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. I am an active member of Prayer Mountain International Church located in Ailey.
I am qualified to seek this post because of my experience as a business owner over the years, coupled with my experiences with serving on local and state boards; my ability to connect with the people in our community; and my experience in working with various agencies to solve issues. My experience as a trained listener will assist in hearing the concerns of the county, and making logical and balanced decisions that will benefit the growth of Montgomery County.
Regarding goals and objectives, the first thing will be to work alongside the other County Commissioners to address our untreated mental health and substance abuse population through programs and free medication programs.
The second thing would be to restart the transit program to those who do not have Medicaid or vehicles.
The third thing will be to assist in clearing criminal records of men and women with felony convictions as well as bringing mediation into the county judicial system. The goals will be achieved by working with the current Commissioners, grants, and exploring the yearly budget to see what can be strategically implemented over the course of time.
Ginger Morris, Republican
I am a lifelong resident of Montgomery County. My parents are Tommy Byrd and the late Virginia Byrd. I am married to Allen Morris and have two daughters, Jade and Jesslen Morris. My family attends Tabernacle Baptist Church.
I graduated from Montgomery County High School and att ended Brew ton Parker, Tift College and the University of Georgia for my undergraduate degree and Georgia Southern for my advanced degrees, including two master’s degrees and an educational specialist degree. I taught high school for 22 years and spent the next 11 years in administration as an assistant principal and principal before moving to the district level to become Federal Programs Director. I currently serve as the Assistant Superintendent for the Vidalia City School System. I have served on numerous boards over the years with one mission – create a vision and mission to insure goals are met and progress is seen by the ones we serve – YOU the public. I was a member of the Toombs Montgomery Leadership class of 2012 and recently served as president of the Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Board. I am and have been affiliated with the Georgia Association of Education Leadership, Georgia School Superintendent Association, Superintendent Professional Development Program, Georgia Council for Social Studies, Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Lambda Theta and Professional Association of Georgia Educators where I was awarded a “Top 40 Principal” in Georgia.I am also a first degree black belt in Taekwondo. I want to serve and give back to the community I call home. I have reached a point in my career where I feel my experience in working with others, setting and achieving goals, working within a budget; listening to the needs of the people and prioritizing those needs to benefit our community make me the perfect candidate for this position. I am qualified to hold this office because I know how to budget and pay bills on time. Character and integrity are important if I am going to represent our community and be in charge of the people’s money. Having lived here all my life, I know this community and they know me. I will be ready day one to work with the other commissioners to meet those needs as well as set forth a vision for the future to insure our community is thriving for the next generation. Goal one would be to analyze how the people’s money is spent and work to find other sources of funding such as grants to meet needs of our community. Goal two is to review the infrastructure of our county offices insuring alignment of procedures and practices across the offices, including updated technology, increased internet capability and a long-range plan to offer online services to our citizens where applicable. Goal three would be to work with all departments to develop objectives and initiatives that are both short term and long term to insure our citizens can track our progress in achieving these goals.
Wheeler County Sheriff Randy Rigdon, Republican, Incumbent I am married to Wendy Rigdon and we have four sons: Shea, Tegan, Aiden, and Brayson Rigdon. I am a certifi ed peace officer, chief of police, police instructor, firearms instructor, and RADAR operator. I attended South Georgia Co l l e g e and Valdosta State College, where I acquired my degree in criminal justice.
My career began with training through the CETA program, a federal program that paid individuals to train in specialized jobs. I received this training through the Bacon County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Russell Tanner. I have since worked at several different levels of law enforcement. I feel this diversity of experience has given me the ability to understand and manage the various levels of law enforcement and the problems that may arise at these levels. My purpose for seeking this office is to provide all the citizens of Wheeler County with a high quality of protection and law enforcement, while keeping cost effectiveness in mind.
I want to continue to improve equipment through grants and asset forfeiture funds similar to what we have accomplished in my first term. Another goal I have is for all officers to have more training on community centered policing, as well as deescalation and use of force changes. I want to ensure that I am as approachable as possible, so I will leave my number here so that if any citizen of Wheeler County has any questions, they know how to contact me. Cell phone #: 478-223-1203.
Edward J. Bess, Democrat
I have over 17 years of law enforcement experience. My career has expanded over many years as an investigator in the areas of organized crime, vice, narcotics, human trafficking and community policing. I have also been a law enforcement instructor in several di f ferent functions for several years. I am currently the Assistant Chief of Police in another police agency where I manage dayto- day operations, budgetary issues, and community relations. I have a very large family that I care for very deeply. I’m also a proud military veteran with experience in military leadership as well.
My purpose is to build the community and the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office so that the citizens of Wheeler County continue to move forward in a progressive manner. My level of real-time experience as a law enforcement
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ment manager, police instructor and community relations coordinator combined with my ability to connect with people and solve problems makes me the best qualified choice for sheriff.
Regarding goals and objectives, I would like to help the people and businesses of Wheeler County build a better relationship with the law enforcement agencies in the area. I would also like to encourage more businesses to bring jobs and job training to Wheeler County. I would like to give the Law Enforcement Agencies in the area the opportunity to get the training and equipment that they need to better perform their jobs. I would like to receive funding to do more community outreach programs for the youth and adults. (Community Recreational Activities, Job and Educational Programs) Wheeler County Coroner The Rev. Dr. Marvin Howard, Democrat I am a 1977 graduate of D. F. Douglass High School in Montezuma and a graduate of Albany State College with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in middle grades education. I have a specialist degree in leadership from Troy State University and a doctorate in leadership from Nova Southeastern University. I am a retired school teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of an alternative school, and a school superintendent. I have been in education for 37 years. I have been a pastor for 39 years. Presently, I am the pastor of Corinth CME Church in McRae. I am the owner of Howard Mortuary (two locations, McRae and Warner Robins). I am the chairman of the Wheeler Democratic Committee, a member of the Wheeler County NAACP, a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and many more organizations. I am married to Susie A. McRae-Howard, a retired educator of 30 years. We have three children, Marvin Howard, Jr., Angel Howard, and Landon Wilson. I am seeking this office because I know that I can bring some much-needed change to this office. I have done this type of work for over 20 years. Most people do not know anything about this office, but I want to change that. The people need to know what this office is all about. My qualifications include having over 20 years in the funeral business. I am a student at Ogeechee Technical College seeking a degree in mortuary science. Regarding goals and objectives, my number one goal is to educate the citizens of Wheeler County on the responsibilities of the coroner. This will be accomplished by holding meetings in the county. My second goal is to develop a website for the Wheeler County coroner. This will be accomplished by contacting the necessary people who are skilled in that area. My third goal is to develop a mission statement: The mission of the Wheeler County Coroner's Office is to conduct honest and independent death investigations, and to work with all agencies to gather all information, facts and evidence, to protect and serve those who have gone before us, their families, and the general public. This is my promise!
Ted Mercer, Republican, Incumbent I am a lifelong resident of Wheeler County and a graduate of Wheeler County High School. I live in the Landsburg community where I grew up, just a thousand yards from the house where I was born. I worked as an EMT until 1994, and am a former truck driver. I have one son, Blake Alan Mercer, 31, who is employed in the financial department at Georgia Southern University. I am a member of the Masonic Lodge in Glenwood.
I enjoy helping people and at the time of a death, families need answers to their questions and they need understanding and comfort. I have served as the coroner for Wheeler County since being elected to the office in 1993 and was trained at the Georgia Public Safety Academy in Forsyth where I return annually for refresher courses. Over the years, as I have worked alongside first responders and public safety officials, I have learned a lot about team work. My background as an emergency medical technician has assisted me in working with people and the different situations I have encountered as coroner. My goals and objectives are, first, to continue the tradition of teamwork with local government, public safety officers and coroners throughout the area I serve. I have always enjoyed a good working relationship with public safety personnel, local government officials and would appreciate the opportunity to continue these relationships in another term as coroner. Secondly, I want to educate the public about the duties of the coroner’s office. I have lived here all of my life and I care about Wheeler County. I enjoy being here for the people of my community and I value my role as coroner. I would like to encourage citizens with questions about the coroner’s office to contact me. Also, I want to maintain the tradition of putting the needs of families who have lost loved ones at the forefront while doing my job as professionally as possible. I will continue to consider the feelings of victims’ families while also providing the information they may require.
Alamo City Council Non-Partisan, At-Large Post Phyllis Adams I am a graduate of Telfair High School. My husband is A.M. Buddy Adams, Jr., and we have three children and four grandchildren. I have been in retail agriculture for 31 years. I am a member of Alamo First Baptist Church, the Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce. I am seeking a seat on the Alamo City Council as a service to the community I am proud to call home. I have been a resident of Wheeler Co u n t y for 36 years and a resident and home owner in the city of Alamo since 1999. My career in the retail agriculture industry has provided me with a great deal of experience and training during the past 31 years. I have had the opportunity to work with cost budgets, operational duties, administrative procedures, profit and loss, etc.
My goals and objects include maintaining a healthy city budget. This can be achieved by making proactive decisions regarding managing and spending. We have a wonderful town. Taking care of what we have—maintaining our roads, buildings and infrastructure—is vital in order to continue to move forward and to maintain our small town appeal. I also want us to make decisions that best serve the entire community. In making policy decisions, we (the commission) can operate as a group to communicate the merits of each idea as it relates to an issue.
I received a high school diploma from Seminole Community College and a business diploma from Oconee Fall Line Te c h n i cal College. I am so blessed with my family. I have a beautiful wife and nine-yearold daughter. They are my strength, joy, and peace. I have an amazing talent for business. I came into a town where businesses struggle and have established several. Even with the pandemic going on, we have held our own. I am a husband, father, minister of the gospel of Christ, Wheeler County Sheriff Office Chaplain, Pray Georgia Regional Ambassador, and stand for Pro-Life.
I desire to be a part of the vision to see our town grow. I will be an equal opportunity council member to the citizens of Alamo. My strength is in business, and I have strategies to move the city of Alamo forward. My goals and objects include being a voice for local businesses. I want to help establish and increase new businesses in our city. I want to help our city government grow in unity. I would achieve these first by prayer, then strong communication, and finally by building strong relationships.
I am married to Julie Ricks. We have three children, Erin, 13, Kiley, 10, and Rley, 10. I spent 15 years at Wheeler Co r r e c tional Facility and the past six years with the Wheeler County Board of Education where I am the kitchen manager.
I am a lifelong citizen of Wheeler County and have been a citizen of Alamo for the past 29 years. I am looking forward to getting Alamo back on track to move forward into the future. I will work hard to get Alamo in a better place for my kids and the next generation. We have to bring in more businesses for jobs and income for the city. We need more things for families and kids to do. We all need to come together as a town and move forward. We all have a voice no matter how old or young. With your vote I will listen and try my best to get it done. So, let’s make Alamo the best we can for the future.
I am a native of Statesboro and have been a resident of Alamo since 2014. I and my husband, Charles, have been married for 34 years. I retired from the DeKalb County School System in 2013 after 30 years of service. I attended Valdosta State University and currently serve as a property manager for Investors Management Company. I am also a founding member/manager for American Dream Builders, LLC. My devotion to changing the lives of others has led to a lifetime of volunteerism to youth athletic associations, local school boards, religious organizations and pride and joy of being a member of the Big Sister’s Mentoring Program since 1994.
My belief is that anyone can be an agent of change is what spurs their civic engagement. In 2017, I was elected to fill a remaining term on the Alamo City Council. During my tenure, I was instrumental in creating an annual employee performance measure and worked with the conversion to a more accountable gas card system. I have helped several nonprofits obtain grants and funding support while living in the Atlanta area.
One of my primary goals is to work on beautifying downtown Alamo. I believe with all my heart that a city’s “charm is the gateway to attract more residents and businesses to the area. Building a coalition of support which includes the mayor’s office, other council members, business owners, and community members is the key to this ongoing effort. Closely related to my primary goal is the valuable role code enforcement plays in maintaining the aesthetics of the city. While in office I will work to ensure that codes keep the city well maintained and its citizens safe are being enforced. Additionally, I want to ensure that the city continues to upgrade its virtual services platform. I believe the “small town appeal” of Alamo doesn’t mean that the city can’t be on the cutting-edge of technology in its business practices. I would love to see a group of citizens help identify areas of concern and work with the City Council to implement virtual technology when it is feasible.