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Candidates sound off at GOP function
Wade Price, candidate for the District 2 seat on the Bryan County Board of Commissioners, speaks about local issues Thursday at the GOP-hosted candidate meet and greet at Beef O’ Brady’s in Richmond Hill. - photo by Photo by Caitlyn Boza
Candidates running for local offices in next month’s primary gathered Thursday at a community meet and greet to discuss policy issues relevant to Bryan County and glad-hand potential constituents.
The meet and greet was hosted by the Bryan County Republican Party and was held at the Beef O’ Brady’s in Richmond Hill. Fiscal policy, environmental conservation and conservative values were among the most mentioned topics of the evening.
All six candidates seeking election to the Bryan County Board of Commissioners attended the function. Wade Price and Ted Akins, each hoping to win the District 2 seat, were in attendance, as were Chris Morse and Butch Broome for District 4 and Rick Gardner and Jimmy Henderson for District 5.
For the Bryan County Board of Education, Eddie Warren and Paine Bacon were both present. Warren, an incumbent, is running uncontested for the position of Chairman, and Bacon is running against Mindy Boyette for the District 1 seat.  
All candidates seeking local seats are Republicans, and the community turnout for Thursday’s event was high with standing room only. Many asked questions of the candidates and took the opportunity to speak with them after the formal speeches.
Shaun Balcomb, a Richmond Hill High School student who will be starting a new chapter of Young Republicans in the fall, said he was impressed by the candidates.
“I think it went good,” he said following the candidates’ talks. “I hope the right people make it to the right place because that’s what it’s all about. I really hope conservative values pull through.”
Each candidate was given five minutes to speak to the crowd about their campaign and two minutes to field any comments or questions.
Price, for District 2 on the county board, was the first candidate to speak. A father of five, his platform rests on family values and town unity.
“I just want to be there for the people,” he said. “I want to be their voice. I’m not a politician, but people asked me to run and told me I’d do a good job, so I’m here to try.” 
When asked about the possibility of any upcoming tax increases, Price responded, “I don’t really know where we stand. I need to do my research and figure that out. I hate to see taxes or anything go up, really though.”
Price’s opponent Akins said he believes conservative fiscal responsibility is what the county needs from its board of commissioners.
“I’m against raising taxes. I’m for fiscal responsibility,” he said. “I think we need to get back to basics, and I’d like to use my expertise to help do that.”
Akins, owner of Ted Akins Realty in Black Creek, currently serves as the chairman of the Bryan County Development Authority and, in the past, has served as chairman of the Bryan County Planning and Zoning Commission. 
District 4’s county commission hopefuls were the next to speak. Broome, Fish Tales Restaurant, said his campaign focuses heavily on community involvement and wetlands conservation.
He said he believes his skill as a business owner and his chairmanship at Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization, have prepared him for the role of county commissioner.
“My experience has taught me why government should be run like a business, and that family is important,” he said.
An active member of the Booster Club and the Richmond Hill Recreation Association, Broome touted his involvement in the community as an advantage for the county.
“Bryan County needs a workhorse, someone who is used to working with the troops in the trenches, so to speak, and that’s me,” he said.
Morse, Broome’s opposition for the District 4 seat, previously ran for county commissioner in 2006. This time, he has built his platform on the pursuit of an improved infrastructure and industry growth in Bryan County.
If elected, Morse said he will push for improved roads, traffic conditions, environmental conservation and lower taxes for homeowners in Bryan County.
He said he also believes that local government should focus on job creation and industry growth.
“We need good jobs to give our youth a good future in Bryan County,” he said, “We need to show them there’s more to do with their hands than text-messaging.”
Gardner, who is defending his seat for District 5, said he is hoping to be re-elected to a second consecutive term.
If re-elected, he said his priorities for his second term would include: increased communication between North and South Bryan County; environmental leadership; and the implementation of new tax reforms.
Gardner cited the tax homestead exemption program as an achievement that was reached during his tenure, and he explained that there is more to be done.
“These are the type of reforms that we need to continue working for.”
Henderson, an avid outdoorsmen and Bryan County native, is running against Gardner. Henderson claimed that his candidacy is a result of his involvement with the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation.
“Getting involved with hunting and fishing laws gave me a taste for government involvement,” he said.
Henderson said he is particularly concerned with the potential impact of a new wastewater treatment plant on the Laurel View River in Liberty County.
“I have lived, fished and crabbed in that area since I was a kid, and I can’t imagine what all that sewage will do. The environment is a big priority for me,” he said.
The board of education candidates were the next group to present their views.
Warren, longstanding member of the board and current chairman spoke of the impact of budget cuts on planning and policy and of his desire to ensure that the quality of education in Bryan County will not suffer as a result.
“Things are on a roll, and I don’t want them to stop,” he said of the board’s progress.
Bacon, a certified public accountant in Savannah and member of the Accountancy Board at Georgia Southern University, said his financial background qualifies him for the job.
“I have experience in governmental finance, and that’s something I can really bring to the board of education that my opponent cannot.”
Bacon, whose wife is school counselor and daughter is a high school student in Bryan County, also explained that he has a vested interest in the success of Bryan County schools.
“A child miseducated is a child lost, and that’s something we can’t have in this county,” he said.
School board candidates Boyette for District 1 seat and current board member Joe Pecenka for the District 4 seat were not in attendance.
Larry Barker, chairman of the Bryan County Republican Party and host of Thursday’s event, commented on the caliber of the candidates running for office this year.
“I got tired of all the yo-yos and scalawags trampling on our Constitution. The people in this room who are running give me hope for the future of this country,” he said
The general primary election will be held July 20 in Bryan County, but early voting will be open until July 16 at the Bryan County Courthouse voter registration office, located at 141 South College St., Pembroke. Hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information, call the voter registration office or visit
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