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Wallace announces county commissioner bid

POSTED: February 8, 2018 12:37 p.m.
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Gene Wallace

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Gene Wallace today announced his intent to run for the Bryan County Board of Commissioners in District 5.

Wallace, who is in the process of retiring from his dental practice, said he would focus on responsible growth and better cooperation between the county and the city of Richmond Hill if elected.

“I don’t think we should grow just for the sake of growing,” he said. “In 20 years I don’t want my kids asking where we went wrong.”

You can read more about his stances on issues on his campaign website, www.genewallace.com.

Bryan County’s population in 1980 was about 7,000. It is approaching 40,000 now and expected to be 60,000 by 2040, with most of that growth on the south end.

Wallace opened his dental practice in Richmond Hill in 1982 and has observed what has happened since then.

“We can’t just say no more growth,” he said. “People want to live here. It’s a beautiful area and we have great schools. We’ve just gotten the cart ahead of the horse.”

Wallace remembers when he was the only health care provider of any kind in the area.

“I had people coming and asking if I could sew up a cut on their arm,” he laughed. “I’ve also realized that I’m working on the children and grandchildren of my original patients.

“I’ve wanted to run for a while now, but I didn’t want every patient visit to turn into a discussion of all these issues,” Wallace added. “But I do know that I’ve had 30-plus years of talking to people about what is going on and I feel I have a good understanding of people’s concerns.”

Wallace said South Bryan has been good to him and his family and he wants to give back to the community.

“I don’t have a dog in any hunt, but I have a lot to offer,” he said, noting that as a business owner he understands budgeting and responsible spending.

One of Wallace’s goals if elected is to increase communication between the county, city and school system.

“I was glad to see they worked so well together to get Highway 144 back on track,” he said of the recent announcement that GDOT would expand the road from two lanes to four lanes.

Wallace also thinks the county should agree with the city and Coastal Electric to bury overhead power lines along Highway 144 from Timber Trail to Belfast River Road as part of the widening process. Richmond Hill City Council has already agreed to the project, but commissioners have not reached a consensus on the matter.

“The city and county don’t have to agree on everything, but there are some issues they need to work together on that will benefit everyone,” he said. “Every city resident is also a county resident.”

The first-time candidate also said he would like to see the county move forward on intersection upgrades, particularly at Harris Trail and Belfast River and Belfast River at Belfast Keller.

“If T-SPLOST passes, and I hope it does, we need to devote a big chunk of that money to transportation upgrades,” he said.

The transportation-specific special purpose local option sales tax will be on the May 22 ballot.

Wallace said he plans to qualify to run as a Republican. Commissioner Rick Gardner currently holds the seat, although he has not announced if he plans to run for re-election. District 2, currently held by Wade Price, is also up for grabs this election cycle, as is District 4, currently held by Brad Brookshire. Each is a four-year term. Brookshire won his seat in 2016 in a special election to fill the remainder of Carter Infinger’s term. Infinger, who was re-elected in 2014, had to step down in 2016 to run for commissoners chairman.

Qualifying is March 5-9, with the primary set for May 22 and the runoff on July 24. The general election is Nov. 6.

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