Voters Go to the Polls November 2
Vidalia Mayor’s Race, Lyons Council Seat Up for Grabs; Liquor Referendum in Alamo
Editor’s Note: In today’s edition of The Advance, profiles for candidates facing opposition begin on page 4A.
Voters will visit the polls next Tuesday to decide the winners in the Vidalia Mayor’s race and in the contest for the Ward 2 seat on the Lyons City Council, and a liquor referendum is up for a vote in Alamo. Otherwise, barring write-in votes, not much action is expected across the area because no other candidates face opposition this time around. In the City of Vidalia, candidates qualified for the posts of Mayor, two City Council seats and two School Board posts. Candidates qualified for three spots on the Lyons City Council and two atlarge seats on the Santa Claus City Council. In Montgomery County, incumbents were unopposed and in the City of Alamo in Wheeler County, three incumbents face no opposition, but a liquor referendum is on the ballot.
Vidalia Mayor’s Race
Vidalia Mayor Doug Roper is opposed by former Ward 2 Councilman Gregory Johnson. Roper, a branch manager for Vidalia Federal Savings Bank, defeated Gregory Johnson on November 3, 2020, to fill the unexpired term of Ronnie Dixon, who passed away on April 1, 2020. Roper resigned his Ward 1 seat on the Vidalia City School Board to run for Mayor. Andy Blount was appointed to fill Roper’s unexpired term on the School Board.
Johnson, a local business owner, stepped down from his City Council seat to seek the Mayor’s post, and a special election was held on March 16, 2021, to fill his unexpired term. Jennifer Evans, Transportation Manager for Operations at DOT Foods, defeated local businesswoman Carmela Spikes-Williams to win this race. Evans has qualified to seek re-election and is unopposed.
Vidalia City Council, School Board Local businessman Cecil Thompson, who has held his Ward 1 seat since 2002, is unopposed in his bid for reelection.
Vidalia City School Board Ward 2 representative Tim Truxel, Board Chair, and the Ward 4 representative Hal Chesser are unopposed. The Board of Education consists of five board members who are elected to four-year terms of office and represent constituents in the four city wards with one member at-large.
Lyons City Council In Lyons, four people qualified to seek three posts on the Lyons City Council. The incumbents in the Ward 1 and 4 Council seats, Tracy Johnson and John E. Moore, respectively, are unopposed. The incumbent in the Council 2 chair, Sonja Eason, is facing a former opponent from a 2020 race in which the voting margin was razor-thin. Eason qualified to run for the Ward 2 seat and will be facing a rematch with Cathy Benton.
Eason narrowly defeated Benton in a June 9, 2020, bid for the Council seat with 101 votes continued from page
to Benton’s 99 votes. A recount of the vote confirmed Eason’s win and she took her place on the Council as the first woman Lyons City Council member. Eason is now filling the Ward 2 seat on the Council that was left vacant with the death on December 5, 2019, of long-time Councilman Ben Mitchell. Alamo City Council and Referendum, Montgomery County In Wheeler County, incumbents in three atlarge Alamo City Council seats who qualified last week are unopposed. These posts are currently held by Bobby Cox, Harry Lewis, and Patricia Woodard. All of these posts are four-year terms. On November 2, the ballot will include a referendum to issue a license for the sale of alcohol by the drink, to be consumed on the premises only, at any qualifying establishment within the city limits of Alamo. In Montgomery County, posts 1-4 are open for election in the City of Ailey. The incumbents, L.C. Williams, Post 1; Curtis Smiley Post 2; Earl Bell, Post 3; and Rhett Thompson, Post 4, have no opposition. In Mount Vernon, the November 2 election for the City Council has been cancelled because the four qualifying candidates, William “Bill” Black, Harold Quarterman, Sr., Craig Snead, Sr. and Jerry “Hoppy” Sikes are unopposed.
Where to Vote
Voters in the City of Vidalia’s Mayoral Election will vote at the Vidalia Municipal Complex in downtown Vidalia. Voters in the Lyons City Council Ward 2 election will vote at Partin Park. In Alamo, voters will vote at the registrar’s office at the Community Center. Poll hours are 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Each candidate was asked to respond to the following questions: Personal Profile: List your education, family, career, affiliations, etc.
Purpose and Qualifications: Explain why you are seeking 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. Responses from each candidate follow:
Greg Johnson, Candidate for Mayor of Vidalia
I was elected to the City Council in 2017. I was born and raised in Vidalia. I am a 1981 graduate of Vidalia High School and a graduate of Long Beach City College in Long Beach, California. I am married to Tammie Johnson and we have two sons, Derrick and Gregory. I am owner of Johnson Roofing and Construction and Elite Rental Properties. I am founder of the Boys and Girls Club of Toombs County, a graduate of Leadership Toombs-Montgomery, Chairman Deacon at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, a member of Community Men in Action, currently serving on the Million Pines Bank Board of Trustees, and serving on the Southeastern Technical College Board of Trustees.
I am seeking this office because of the great people of Vidalia and Toombs County, and to give back to the community that’s been so giving to me and my family. I would like to focus on growing the City of Vidalia and making it work for all the citizens so that when companies are looking for a city to locate in, Vidalia/Toombs are part of their process. As a business owner, I have contracted with the federal government for the past 17 years. I know what it is like to have to make a payroll, bid on multimillion dollar projects and make sure all of the projects are completed on time. As a former City Councilman for two and a half years, I had the experience of working on the Finance and Personnel Committees, the Water and Sewer Committee, and Police and Fire Committee. Goals: To meet the needs of our City and the citizens within and be professional at all times. I would safeguard and spend the City’s money in the most cost efficient way. I would make sure we are making decisions that will grow Vidalia and not make it hard for our citizens.
I would like to grow the downtown area and establish more sustainable homes for our community. Doug Roper, Candidate for Mayor of Vidalia I am a native of Vidalia and have spent most of my adult life giving back to my community. I am a 1995 graduate of Vidalia High School (VHS). During my senior year, our baseball team won its first state championship and that season I accumulated several honors, including AA State Player of the Year, Savannah Morning News Player of the Year, and Macon Telegraph Player of the Year. I was also selected to play in the Junior Olympics, representing the South Team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Team Georgia in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Following high school I attended Clemson University on a baseball scholarship and was a member of our 1996 College World Series team. In 1999, I was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. I played two seasons in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, and Single A ball in the Sally League where I played for the Hagerstown Suns in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 2000 I graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Communication. After graduation, I returned to Vidalia and began working at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. In 2007, I transitioned to a career in banking with Vidalia Federal Savings Bank as Branch Manager in Lyons.
My community service has included serving on the Vidalia Onion Festival, on the Kiwanis Club Board of Directors and as President. I am a graduate of Leadership Toombs-Montgomery, and I served as Treasurer for Vidalia All-Sports Boosters, as a Board member and Chair of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as Community Coach for VHS baseball, as a nine-year member of the Vidalia Board of Education, and on several committees at Vidalia First United Methodist Church.
During my tenure on the school board, I represented all 180 state public school systems as Vice President, President Elect, President and Past President of the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA). I also served on several GSBA committees, including the Georgia Vision Project, and was selected as a delegate to represent Georgia at the Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. I have been married to Marly Roper for 18 years and we have two sons, Cutter, 9, and Durham, 6. This time last year, the citizens of Vidalia elected me to finish the unexpired term of the late Mayor Ronnie Dixon and to serve as the 25th Mayor of our City. The last 12 months have been fast paced, full of excitement and loaded with opportunities for our citizens to see they made the right choice, one that is producing the results driven by vision, work ethic, collaboration, and strategic planning. Right out of the gate, we had an opportunity to partner with a group called the Urban Revitalization Group (URG) that is currently transforming almost an entire block of properties on 5th Avenue between Symonds and White. This project is turning dilapidated, abandoned homes into opportunities for first-time homeowners. URG has strategically partnered with the Veterans Hospital and Women of Domestic Violence to place veterans and battered women in these newly-renovated homes and provide them with the opportunity to own them. Please, if you have not done so, go by and see this transformation with your own eyes. It is a footprint for what can be done throughout our community to turn blight into prosperity.
We also had the opportunity to purchase a piece of real estate to transform the future trajectory of our downtown. For months, we worked with a community partner and were able to purchase the Econo Inn with the intended purpose of redeveloping this part of our downtown. Furthermore, we were in a position to purchase the Captain’s Corner property that will have a dual impact on our Recreation Department. This allows us to expand our services across from our Ed Smith Complex and give us clarity with how we intend to develop our Regional Sports Complex on Ezra Taylor Road into a multipurpose field complex.
We started a Downtown Development Authority (DDA) that proved very timely with the purchase of the Econo Inn site and will play a further role in the development of our downtown. Last, but certainly not least, we have begun to put in place a plan to address our issues with brown water. While we realize our issues have not occurred overnight, nor will they be solved overnight, we believe now is the time to begin addressing the issue. We are leveraging federal dollars with a state grant application in an effort to invest between $2 and $6 million into our infrastructure. While this type issue is not as attractive as some projects because the work is literally out of sight and in the ground, it is vitally important for future growth and development that we begin addressing this issue and moving toward long-term solutions. I hope our citizens will look at this body of work as an example of the skills and qualifications desired in their Mayor and reelect me to continue to serve our great City.
In the last 12 months, we, as elected officials, have moved with great purpose, vision and efficiency, but that does not mean our work is done. There are multiple areas within our departments that will require a continued and measured watch to ensure quality of life for all of our citizens. Making sure our first responders are equipped with the proper equipment and training must always remain a top priority for those of us in leadership. Collaborative efforts from all stakeholders within our community must also remain a top priority and keeping clear, open lines of communication among citizens and elected officials is essential for trust and equal representation.
With that being said, areas that would be a top priority for me in a full term would be as follows. I believe we absolutely must continue to address the homeless and transient population within our community. Our citizens, no matter who they are or where they reside, have the right to feel safe and secure at any time and any location within our community. Until we have achieved that goal, there is work to be done. To address this issue, it will take a community-wide effort and an outside-of-the-box approach to achieve our desired results. One of the more complex issues we face, often under the radar for many of our citizens, is our City cemeteries. While the issues and answers are daunting to say the least, the time is now for us to work with key interest groups and find a solution that will best serve our community for years to come.
For far too long, our community has been without golf. It is our desire to change that. We understand that with golf comes economic growth and development, an opportunity for our youth to compete for their respective high schools, and a leisurely activity many adults enjoy. We have for some time now been mapping out a plan to bring this great sport back to Vidalia. At this moment in time, we do not have all of the pieces of the puzzle together, but rest assured, we have been and will continue to work the best possible plan to make it a reality. Let me be clear, we will need the community’s help, but I have full confidence that our community wants to see golf back as much as we do, and we will be counting on you when the time is right.
I served on the Vidalia Board of Education for nine years before I was elected Mayor, and during that time I learned there is a direct correlation between children not reading on grade level by the third grade and incarceration rates. Our community needs an Early Childhood Learning Center. My desire is to see our leadership come together, from all spectrums, and find a way to collaboratively open a Center where children from birth to three years old can get the developmental tools they need to set them on the track to educational success. Lastly, we have a litter problem and it is bad. It saddens me to travel the city I love and see the disrespect it is shown by those that also call it home. The amount of trash on the sides of our roads is a direct reflection on all of us whether we are guilty of contributing to the problem or not. Until all of our citizens have the same level of pride, we must find a solution to this issue, as well. Please reelect me as your Mayor on November 2 and allow me the opportunity to continue serving you and the community we all love.
Cathy Benton, Candidate for Ward Set 2, Lyons City Council I was born and raised in Toombs County and am a graduate of Toombs County High School. I have an Associate Degree in Accounting. I have been married over 20 years to Russell Benton and we have four kids together and three wonderful grandkids. I have a 25-year career in banking and am currently working with Peoples Bank where I am the Compliance Officer, Operations Manager. I serve on the following boards: Lyons Housing Authority, Toombs County Library, Lyons Main Street Board and the Executive Board and as Finance and Audit Chairperson for Action Pact, formerly known as Concerted Services Inc. I am a graduate of the Leadership Toombs- Montgomery where I was able to gain knowledge about the community and what it has to offer. I worship at St. Luke AME Church in Lyons where I have been an active member and served since my youth. I am currently serving as the financial secretary and an officer of the Steward Board for St. Luke Church, and I have willingly provided my services to the Lord and my church in this capacity for over 20 years. I love the City of Lyons. I want Lyons to be a city where everyone feels like they belong, are safe and know that they have a better tomorrow. The City of Lyons has given me a lot. There are so many people that have poured into me continued from page
and I believe that it is time for me to step up and serve the community. I will always take time to listen to the concerns and ideas of the people in Ward 2.
As your Councilwoman, I will always know that it is you I am working for and will never hide from you. My phone number is 912-308-1230. I will be available to the people I serve. I will be a voice for Ward 2, not a voice for any other interest group. A community that doesn't grow will eventually die and I don't want that for my community. We need to be attracting new industry and helping our current businesses to grow. I know and believe that I can provide the service, leadership and vision that my community needs in order to help move us forward.
One of my goals is to keep my constituents informed. I plan to provide quarterly information to the people I serve so that they will know what is going on within the city where they live and what is being voted on in our meetings. I will also not only provide communication to the people, but I will be getting out in the community seeking feedback and input from the people I serve.
I also plan to work with the Council so that we can give attention to the areas in our community that seem like they have been forgotten. Street repair, community services, and public safety are something that all our citizens should expect and deserve. We will continue to work and improve Vincent Faison Park so that it can be utilized for more functions. I will look for ways and opportunities to provide better housing. We will make improvements to the downtown area to help attract people to shop, and I will support and maintain its revitalization. Sonja Eason, Candidate for Ward 2 Seat, Lyons City Council I attended grade school in Toombs County. My family later moved to Augusta where I graduated from T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School. After graduating from high school, I attended Fort Valley State College. I moved back to Lyons in 1991 and returned to college to complete my degree at Georgia Southern University. I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Economics.
I am the Human Resources Director at Action Pact, a local community action agency. Some of my community affiliations are: former member of the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, the Lyons Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, Mock Interview Team Board and a graduate of the Economic Leadership Development Class of Toombs County. I serve as Church Administrator/ Overseer of Surrendered Lives Ministries. I am married to Carlos Eason, and we are the proud parents of Brandon, Yanee', Ashley, Carlos, Jr., and Cari. We have one grandson, Ashton, who is our pride and joy. As the incumbent for Ward 2, I am the first African-American woman to hold a position on the Lyons City Council. I was elected in June 2020 to fill an unexpired term of the late Councilman Ben Mitchell. Over the past year, I've learned a lot about how city government operates and my experience and knowledge qualifies me to continue to hold this office as Councilwoman of Ward 2.
Though there's a lot of work to be done in our City, some of the things I'd like to get accomplished are: Break the divide and build a better rapport between the citizens and the Council staff. From my experience, I've noticed that I only hear from citizens when there's an issue. I'd like to collaborate, gain their input and support them to create inclusiveness so that we can work together in order to make our community stronger.
Continue to be responsive to the citizens’ needs as quickly as possible and ensure that they know that they can count on me to be their voice and get their issues handled in a timely manner. Continue making improvements. Over the past year, I've had several calls from citizens with water/ sewer issues, minor street and paving issues, and things of that nature. I'd also like to continue the work at Faison Park to get it fully operational and begin/ complete the work on Pecan and Mimosa Streets in my Ward. Major work is needed there, and we have obtained a grant to assist in that effort.