A candidate forum Tuesday evening at Richmond Hill City Center was mostly cordial until the very end, when the three candidates for vice chairman of the Bryan County Board of Education spoke.
Drew Humphreys and Karen Krupp made what appeared to be veiled speculations about the motives behind Audrey Singleton’s candidacy.
“I don’t have a hidden agenda and won’t give priority to one school over another,” Humphreys said. “I do not own, manage or profit from a business that is impacted by decisions the board makes.”
Krupp added that she will not “benefit personally or professionally from being on the board.”
Singleton, the owner of Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool, spent most of her allotted three minutes addressing the issue.
“This is disturbing to me,” she said. “There is a lot of misinformation being spread related to my business.”
The issue behind the comments is the board’s decision last year to continue providing bus transportation to and from school for younger students who attend private day care before and after classes.
These bus runs include Singleton’s business, but they also stop at the YMCA of Richmond Hill and other locations.
“Some parents have jobs that require them to leave for work before the bus comes and get home after the bus drops students off,” Singleton said. “These are kids who are too young to be home alone.”
Singleton said she and other day-care providers met with school officials last year when they were considering changing the policy.
“We met and pleaded our case about how damaging it would be to cancel this service,” she said. “There is no revenge motive here. This type of false and negative campaigning is what keeps people from getting involved.”
The forum, hosted by the Bryan County Republican Party and the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, drew about 200 people.
Jennifer Cox and Billy Reynolds, candidates for probate judge, both stressed the need for compassion when dealing with wills and estates.
Cox said her experience as CEO of a hospice and her affiliation with Richmond Hill Funeral Home give her an important perspective.
Reynolds, Richmond Hill police chief for the past 31 years, said he has been “flattered” by people saying they will not vote for him because they appreciate his role with the city.
“We have one of the most elite police departments in the state, but I’ll be retiring either way,” he said.
Sheriff Clyde Smith, running for his sixth full term, said it is more difficult to be sheriff than to run for the office.
“I’ll make you two promises,” he said. “To do the best job I can and always do what’s right.”
His challenger, Cleve White, is a former Bryan County and Effingham County deputy. He said he would work to provide all deputies with Tasers, in-car computers and more training.
“They need the tools to keep them safe and be more effective at their jobs,” he said.
The three candidates for solicitor general — Andrew Johnson, Chet Gregg and Don Montgomery — spent time explaining what the position does and who is most qualified.
“Let’s not talk fuzzy math,” Gregg said. “I’m the only candidate who has lived and had a practice in Bryan County for 10 years. I understand Bryan County values.”
Johnson, a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, said he is the only candidate trained in Georgia law.
Montgomery pointed out that current Solicitor General Ray Smith for the past year has tapped him as his fill-in on numerous occasions.
“This race is about choosing someone to protect Bryan County,” he said. “I’ve already been chosen to do that.”
Tim Gaylor, running for chairman of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners, said he has not accepted any campaign donations and will work for the best interests of the county.
“As a business owner, I won’t need to coordinate days off to attend meetings,” he said. “I’ll be available on a level not ever seen before from a chairman.”
Gaylor also pledged to donate his first year’s salary of $9,500 to create a college scholarship fund for Bryan County students and challenged other commissioners to do the same.
Carter Infinger, who was elected District 4 county commissioner in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, also is running for chairman. He had to resign from the board in March because of state law that prohibits a person from seeking elected office while holding a different elected office.
“We need an experienced leader,” he said. “We can’t put this in the hands of a political neophyte.”
Dennis Seger, seeking a third term on the school board from District 2, promised that he will continue to be available at all times to listen to constituent concerns. His challenger, Pauline Phifer, did not attend the forum, but a proxy said she is focused on vocational education, teacher retention and student discipline.