Richmond Hill City Councilman Russ Carpenter officially announced that he is running for mayor before about 100 friends and supporters outside city hall Tuesday afternoon.
The two-term council member is the first to announce for the position. Current Mayor Harold Fowler is serving his second four-year term and cannot run again due to term limits. Carpenter is also prohibited from running for his council seat again due to term limits.
"I would not be running if it weren't for Mayor Fowler being prohibited from running again due to term limits," Carpenter said. "I wouldn't run against him."
Carpenter, a Richmond Hill native and social studies teacher at Richmond Hill High School, said he has been involved with local campaigns since he was a teenager and has always been interested in local politics.
"Whether or not you live in the city limits, or in the county, we are all part of what I call our hometown," Carpenter said. "Every day, we all travel through, shop, eat and buy groceries in the city limits, and what happens in this building (city hall) invariably affects us all."
Carpenter said Richmond Hill has many advantages that make it a desirable place to live, including hardworking people, historical significance, a respected school system and a low millage rate.
"Obviously, our secret is out," he joked, noting that South Bryan County is growing.
Carpenter noted that during his time as a council member, the city has added jobs, maintained "top-notch" police and fire departments, expanded recreational opportunities and worked to "lower and make more fair our business taxes and fees."
He said that if elected, his goals will include lowering water bills, attracting businesses, improving infrastructure and make city government "more efficient, accessible, friendly and community oriented."
Carpenter announced an impressive list of endorsements as he welcomed the crowd, with many of his backers present. The list includes Fowler and former Mayor Richard Davis. Carpenter called them both an "inspiration" and said anyone following them has "big shoes to fill."
Other backers include current councilmembers Jan Bass, Johnny Murphy and John Fesperman; former Bryan County Commissioners Chairman Jimmy Burnsed and current Chairman Carter Infinger; County Commissioners Noah Covington, Steve Myers and Brad Brookshire; former city council members Marilyn Hodges, Jimmy Hires, Theron Dareing, Betty Miner and Joanne Robinson Bickley; and former County Commissioner Toby Roberts.
Endorsements also come from Sheriff Clyde Smith, Clerk of Courts Becky Crowe and Tax Commissioner Carol Ann Coleman, as well as former state Rep. Ann Mueller, Rep. Ron Stephens and Sen. Ben Watson and Congressman Buddy Carter.
No other candidates for mayor or the two open city council seats have announced yet for the Nov. 7 election.