Les Fussell and Marcus Thompson are running in the March 16 special election to fill the Richmond Hill Post 4 council seat vacated in January by Mark Ott.
The News sent questionnaires to both candidates and asked each to provide a brief biography. Both candidates are featured in this story,
Here’s how Fussell responded:(Thompson's answers will follow).
1. Why I am running for city council: I love this special city with its small town feel, the quality of life, its charm and the friendliness of our community. Richmond Hill is my home.
I want to continue to serve on City Council, to be part of completing the groundwork put in place as our city experiences strong growth over the next four to five years.
Working with city staff, partnering with developers and employing the unified development ordinances, we have the opportunity for our city to be a showcase for how smart, strategic and managed growth works. Development and growth is coming to the southern most areas of Richmond Hill and Bryan County, however we cannot compromise the quality of life we all enjoy today. It will take strong leadership focused on our future who can make tough decisions – I represent all of these things.
The good Lord led us to Richmond Hill following my retirement from the US Air Force in 1993. My wife, Janice, our two daughters, Sarrah and Katie, and I settled here and soon thereafter became very involved in the city through civic activities, schools and sports. Today our daughters and their families have made Richmond Hill their home as well. As the city began to grow and expand, I became concerned about the direction of growth and the potential loss of our precious history. This is why I became a Planning and Zoning (P& Z) Commissioner. I have served the city in this capacity for over 14 years and have a passion for working with likeminded people who want to invest in Richmond Hill either by bringing new businesses or providing homes for new residents to our city. I am proud to have been involved in crafting and approving the Unified Development Ordinance (2017). Most recently I participated in the review and approval of the Ford Avenue Historic District (2020) that will preserve the precious historic resources of Richmond Hill. As your City Councilman I will be able to continue this work.
2. What are the three biggest issues facing Richmond Hill and how would you solve those issues?
The three biggest issues in no particular order are infrastructure, services and cost.
- Infrastructure: All too often discussion about infrastructure focuses on roads. Safe, well maintained roads are critical and are at the top of my list of infrastructure priorities. Roads, streets and highways in Richmond Hill are the responsibility of many agencies – federal, state, county and city.
The recently opened I-95 and Belfast Keller Road interchange (Exit 83) is a good example of meeting the needs of our growing city. Additionally, the soon to be opened Great Ogeechee Parkway will connect Harris Trail Road with Belfast Keller Road. During my term on City Council I had the privilege of working on and approving this project. This parkway was designed to relieve higher traffic anticipated for this area as the southern portion of the city grows.
Infrastructure is more than just roads. Sanitary and storm water systems, water lines to homes and businesses, and the miles of piping, pump stations, and processing plants are a very large part of the city’s infrastructure.
Our city, like many others, has a lot of old piping that is in need of repair and/or replacement. The priority to address this aging underground infrastructure is increasing.
We must maintain vigilance in maintaining our underground infrastructure to avoid interruptions of service and costly repairs later. My solution for addressing these aging underground infrastructure systems is to evaluate, prioritize, and implement needed upgrades.
- Services: First responders are likely the most important visible service our city. Firefighting, Police, and Ambulance services are critical. No one should dial 911 during an emergency and have to wait an exorbitant amount of time for help to arrive.
The Fire Department and Police Department are forecast to add additional staff in mid-2021. The increased staff is directly related to growth and the need to extend service in new areas of the city. These added firefighters and police officers will ensure the departments maintain their current certification levels and ratings, essential to all citizens and businesses.
The ambulance service is a Bryan County service that serves all residents of Bryan County to include the city of Pembroke and Richmond Hill. A permanently staffed ambulance in the city is needed.
As your City Councilman, I will work with our Mayor, other Council members and County Commissioners to find a suitable solution where EMS personnel and an ambulance can be placed within the City.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Parks and Trees, Administration, the City Center, Conventions and Visitors Bureau, Planning and Zoning, and Public Works when talking about services. Each of these departments provides vital services that keep this city operating.
I strongly support the expansion and use of technologies and providing training to keep City staff proficient and prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.
- Cost: Cost is a big concern on everyone’s mind. My focus has always been and will continue to be on cost saving and efficiencies without defunding any department or diminishing any services.
As councilman, I will work diligently with city staff to seek ways to keep the level of service high and cost reasonable.
4. Why should voters choose you? Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
Relating this quote to City business, good decisions are not made on impulse but rather by studying the problem and being a good steward of our resources to preserve the quality of life, charm and appeal of this city as we grow. I have the experience and the leadership skills necessary to meet the challenges and responsibilities of this City Council position. As a senior manager in major corporations, I managed large staffs and million dollar budgets, I have the experience.
Experience is key. I have served the city effectively on Planning and Zoning. Now is the time my skills and knowledge are extremely important not a time for “learning on the job”.
Vote Les Fussell on March 16th or during early voting Feb 15 through March 12 and remember, “Les” is More!
Here’s how Thompson responded:
Bio: My family chose to move to Richmond Hill 7 years ago. Our decision was easy because of the sense of community, the quality of life and the excellent school system. Those are the same reasons so many of our residents love this city. Strong leadership on the city council will ensure that our city continues to meet the needs of all our residents. Sense of community is vitally important to me. Whether it’s strengthening young minds through mentoring programs, firming the foundation of my faith at a local church or staying fit at Crossfit Hightide, in Richmond Hill.
I am passionate about service in my family life, my church, and my professional life. I am a graduate of Leadership Savannah through Savannah Chamber of Commerce. I was a member of the Ambassador’s Council for the Pooler Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce. As a member of my church’s Kid’s Ministry, I have become an active member over the last 3 years. I have also been a basketball, soccer and softball coach for my daughter’s various teams here in Richmond Hill, and loved every minute of it.
I’m American by birthright and a citizen of Richmond Hill by choice.
My beliefs: Manly Deeds, Scholarship and love for all mankind.
My name is Marcus and a vote for me is a vote for all of US.
1. Why are you running for city council?
Richmond Hill is poised at a crossroads. We will continue to grow - to be more. Strong leadership, that listens to all constituencies, will allow our city to manage a balance between the new and the old, the growth while not losing our small town feel. I like a quote from Star Trek: “We must strive to be more than we are.”
I chose to make Richmond Hill my home. I haven’t lived here for decades. That experience brings different and new perspectives. I will be honored to be that voice on city council.
2. What are the three biggest issues facing Richmond Hill? - Growth. This issue is wide ranging from traffic to construction to schools. My daughter is a product of the schools here in the Hill. Has it all been smooth, no, but I like to say teamwork makes the dream work.
Together, us, my daughter, her teachers and administrators have molded our little one into a future pillar of this city, I’m hopeful. I want this for every resident whose children attend school in this beautiful city. Traffic and construction. I believe the city has done as good a job as any, but like anything in life, improvement must never stop.
- Representation. This is something that I’m passionate about. Our council should reflect our community. This is an opportunity for us to do just that. There is a possibility that this will be a history making election in our small but strong city. I’m honored and humbled to possibly be a part of it. Once you have representation, our community will become more and more cohesive, and that means we will grow even stronger.
-Taxes. Taxes are a necessary part of our lives, but the citizens of Richmond Hill are dutiful and will always do their part. It will be our jobs to make their part manageable.
3. How would you solve those issues?
- The city is on a good path. The further solution would begin with a conversation on how to improve what we are already doing. Working with planning and zoning and even getting ideas from our neighbors could yield a building block, or two.
- To keep ALL of Richmond Hill’s residents at the forefront. MarcUS for ALL of US. - I believe we can work to keep the same or lower by making sure the millage rate remains the same.
4. Why should voters choose you?
I always have been and always will be FOR ALL OF US. My parents lived through the civil rights era and taught us that fairness, justice and love for all is how we all win. I want to lift my city, our city, up. For when a rising tide raises all ships the sun will be that much brighter for us all.