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Candidate Forum Informs Voters

The Toombs County Republican Party hosted a Candidate Forum on Monday, May 13, at Southeastern Technical College to allow voters to hear from those running from office prior to the Local and State Primary/ Nonpar tisan Elections on May 21.

The event was originally planned for Thursday, May 9, but was postponed until May 13 because of the severe weather experienced by the area. All candidates were able to attend this new date except for Sheriff Candidate Rodney Wardlaw (I), who was unable to attend on Monday because of his son’s graduation.

Each candidate was given 5 minutes to share a prepared statement regarding their background and desire to run, then answered questions from both citizens and opposing candidates.

Coroner Candidates Ronald V. Hall (incumbent) and Kyle Wilkes spoke first, and each answered questions on their qualifications and plans as coroner.

Wilkes explained that though he did not have the same amount of experience as Hall, he was passionate about making the community a better place. “My whole life, I have been built to be a servant,” he emphasized. “Before I even knew what I wanted to do, I was built to be a servant. This is already a great county, but I want to help make it better.”

When asked by his opponent if he believed that being coroner had helped Hall’s business, Wilkes responded that he agreed with that statement. “I cannot stand here and say that I do not think it has helped him, because I do,” he explained, before going on to compliment Hall on his success, saying it came from more than just being coroner.

Hall clarified the role of a coroner, comparing the dynamic between coroners, law enforcement, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to the three branches of government. “I read somewhere that all a coroner does is pronounce you dead. There is a lot of people that believe that, [but] coroners are death investigators,” he remarked. “We determine the cause and manner of death based on what evidence suggests at the scene. Sometimes, it’s short and obvious, but sometimes, it’s lengthy and complicated.”

He also shared that if reelected, he would not do anything differently, as he felt that the current system was doing well. “I have served as your coroner for 19 years. I believe that we have created a fantastic relationship with Vidalia and Lyons Police Departments, Georgia State Patrol, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” he explained. “I think it is working well and would not change anything.”

Following Hall and Wilkes’s comments were Tax Commissioner Candidates Anna Wommack Holcombe and Jeandra Johnson.

Holcombe shared that her passion for the position, as she explained her goals to improve professionalism and communication within the office. She addressed questions regarding her past experiences working within the office, her knowledge of the field, and rumors of staff terminations if elected. “No one walks onto the job the first day knowing everything,” she explained. “I can promise that if elected, I will go to school and make sure I learn everything I need to do this job well. I previously left the office [for other reasons], but had I not run in 2020, I would still be working there today. I’m passionate about this.” She continued, stating that the office required 5 employees and that she had no plans to effectively run the office without those slots being filled.

Johnson emphasized that while working for current Tax Commissioner Brenda Williams, she had learned the field well, and knew the current laws and practices. She stated that if elected, she had no plans to eliminate any specific policies within the office, but did plan to address issues which the public had voiced about customer service. “This is a Tax Commissioner position, so you can only do so much. There are a lot of things I would love to change, but I have to go by the law,” she explained.

District 3 Commissioner Candidates Darriel Nobles (incumbent) and Daniel Caraway both addressed the audience and concerns regarding the protection of citizens’ safety and taxes.

Nobles told the audience that during his time as a commissioner, the county’s millage rate had been lowered, and that higher taxes were a result of other elements within government which the commissioners could not control. “If your taxes have gone up, it’s because your property values have gone up – we have nothing to do with that,” he explained. “Also, the school board’s millage rates have not been able to be lowered because they have to have a certain rate or they lose state funding. That’s why taxes are where they are.”

He responded to questions regarding the protection of natural resources from contamination, stating that he planned to ensure that all guidelines set by the Department of Natural Resources and other authorities were followed by those within the county.

Caraway shared that he had decided to run because of high taxes, and believed that unconventional options should be explored to find a solution for the issue. “I think out of the box,” he explained. “If you want change, vote for me.”

He also promised to ensure that safety guidelines for construction were met by those within the county, as he has experience working in a company and monitoring policy compliance. Sheriff Candidates Wesley Walker and Jordan Kight were the last to speak, and were joined by Carl Wardlaw III, who read a prepared statement on behalf of his brother, Rodney Wardlaw.

Kight highlighted his upbringing around law enforcement, sharing that he had learned what it takes to be sheriff from watching his father. “You can say law enforcement is in my blood,” he remarked. “People tell me that I’m following in my father’s footsteps, but I’m not; I’ve just continued from page

learned how to handle the position through him.”

When asked about an experience when he nor his father had called a citizen back when unavailable, Kight stated that often, he was busy with several tasks around the Sheriff’s Office, but always tried to return calls when things freed up.

Walker shared that he had experience through various parts of law enforcement, including parole, jail services, city police departments, and county sheriff’s offices. “I have worked for two different sheriffs and have learned a lot from them,” he explained. “I believe with the knowledge I’ve gained, I can serve this county well.”

When asked had he applied to any other jobs since taking the position as the Lyons Police Chief, Walker said that he had only applied to be on the Georgia Chiefs’ Association board, but had not applied for any other employment. “I have had places offer me jobs, but I have never taken them up on it,” he shared.

In the prepared statement written by Wardlaw, the candidate shared promises of tackling issues such as homelessness, the drug epidemic, and the rise of crime in the area. He emphasized the importance of community involvement, and stated that he was enthusiastic to work with other agencies in the area to improve the County.

Toombs County Republican Party Chairwoman Trish Poole closed the forum, explaining the importance of voting. “Your vote is your voice,” she remarked. “There are few elections that have as much direct impact on our lives as the local county and municipal elections. That is why it is important to be informed and use your voice to help decide the future of the area.”

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