Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect that Post 4 councilman Les Fussell is running for a full term in office rather than reelection. Since he was appointed to fulfill the remainder of a term, Fussell has not been elected and so cannot be reelected. The Bryan County News apologies for any confusion and regrets the error.
Richmond Hill Post 4 Councilman Les Fussell said Thursday he’s running for a full term in office.
Fussell, appointed in February to replace two-term councilwoman Jan Bass after she stepped down to move to Tennessee, made the announcement outside City Hall in front of friends, family and other city officials.
The retired Air Force veteran and program manager at Gulfstream listed traffic and growth as the city’s biggest issues – growth he expects to continue. But Fussell said the city is well prepared to handle future growth, in part because of a passage in 2017 of a comprehensive set of land use ordinances he helped create during 12 years on the planning commission.
“I can tell you those ordinances are going to change the face of how Richmond Hill continues to develop,” Fussell told those in the audience during a brief speech that lasted about 15 minutes.
He voiced support for a new library – Richmond Hill is providing land for the county on which to build the facility at its new Town Centre further east on Highway 144 – and an aquatics center, reminding those who attended his announcement that such a center was first raised 15 years ago. Fussell also pointed out the city’s work to improve its parks and recreation as well as such infrastructure as water and sewer.
“From a road map thing, the city has planned and prepared well for what’s coming, we’ve just got to manage it,” he said, citing his education and experience as a manager and an independent thinker who likes to look at all sides of a problem.
“I’m not a yes man. I do like to be very thorough and think about what is going on,” said Fussell, who attended Groves High School and has a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle University, as well as management certification from James Madison University. He’s a graduate of Leadership Bryan and also has undergone training through the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Georgia Municipal Association.
Fussell said he and his wife Janice moved to Richmond Hill in 1993 to be closer to their parents, who lived in Garden City.
His children attended Richmond Hill High School and he’s got grandchildren there now, and his family is “very embedded in this city,” Fussell said, noting he first got involved in city government when development ramped up.
“When we started looking for a house in Richmond Hill, the community was just so warm and friendly,” he said. “At that time, Dinky Miner had a story on the corner (of Highways 17 and 144) and Hardees was there, and that was pretty much the center of town. I got involved with planning and zoning after being here about eight years because development started, and people started moving to Richmond Hill as more subdivisions were being created.”
Fussell said he “didn’t want to just be someone saying no, didn’t want to just say not in my back yard, but I wanted to make a difference and I got involved, got appointed to planning and zoning and I’ve been a commissioner, a chairman and a vice chair, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I can probably count on one hand the number of meetings I missed.”
That involvement is something Fussell said he hopes to see from residents now.
“Our biggest goal is to include citizens in the decision making process,” he said. “I want to hear from all the people. I want them to tell me what they want, and what they don’t want.”
Fussell said he’s already heard a lot about one thing people want, and it may come as growth continues.
“I can’t bring a Chick-Fil-A here,” he said. “I think they will eventually come, I think, when the number are there.”
Fussell said Thursday he’s the second of the city’s two appointed councilmen to announce plans to run for a full term, following one apparently made on social media by Bill Donahue, a Ford Plantation resident appointed in March to serve out the remainder of former Council John Fesperman’s term after Fesperman took a job in Columbus.
“We’ve got a great team on city council and I’ve enjoyed working them, the mayor, the staff, the department heads,” Fussell said. “It’s a great thing to be a part of.”
Posts 2, 3 and 4 are up for election Nov. 5. Qualifying for the seats begins at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 19 and ends 4:30 p.m. Aug. 23. The qualifying fee is $150.