The only contested race is for the Bryan County Board of Commissioners’ District 5 seat currently held by Jimmy Henderson.
Henderson is running for re-election and is facing a challenge from the man he unseated four years ago, two-term commissioner Rick Gardner.
The county’s fifth district includes portions of Richmond Hill between Highway 17 and Belfast Siding Road.
Here’s a look at both candidates:
Background: Henderson is 60 and has been married to his wife, Susan, for 37 years. They have two sons and six
“I come from one of Bryan County’s pioneering families,” Henderson said. “My family’s been here over 200 years.”
He describes himself as semi-retired after having worked for more than 30 years with Hobart.
He is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and vice president of the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation. He attends Savannah Christian Church.
Why he’s running:
“When I ran originally, I was against tax increases and I wanted to meet the people of Bryan County. I wanted to get involved,” Henderson said. “That’s what I’ve done. I’ve voted against tax increases and I’ve been involved in several projects that have been started.
“I’d like to see them completed and paid for. And being very conservative, I’d like to see the county completely out of debt at some point and we have a plan to do that.”
Top priorities for District 5:
“Drainage, roads and jobs,” Henderson said. “We’re actively improving our drainage all the time. We’re not dong much paving on roads because TSPLOST didn’t pass, but we’re keeping up maintenance on the roads and working on drainage. I get more calls about drainage than anything else.”
Top priorities for county:
“Working on paying down our debt and jobs. We need jobs. With Caesarstone coming in and Daniel Defense expanding that’s helped, but jobs have to remain a big priority,” Henderson said.
“And I’m also concerned about our waters. I’ve been to every meeting they’ve had on the King America pollution of the Ogeechee River … I was the only one from the commission there.”
What separates him from other politicians:
“First, I’m a better listener than I am a talker,” Henderson said. “Most politicians will talk you to death. I’ll listen to what people have to say and try to find a good outcome.
“Second, I’m probably the most personable commissioner we’ve had in some time. When people call me with any problem I go to that person myself. I find out what’s going on and we’ll take appropriate action to try and fix it. Sometimes we can’t do that, but I explain we’ll stick with it until we get it completed. Anybody who has actually called me will say I’ve done exactly that.
“And third, the day after the election, my signs will all be picked up,” he continued. “I picked mine up last time, picked every one of them up on the same day. I’ll do the same thing this time, win or lose.”
Background: Gardner, 62, is a longtime resident of Bryan County. He and wife Carla have raised four children in Richmond Hill and have six grandchildren and another on the way.
Gardner spent 22 years as an Army aviator, piloting both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft before retiring and then another 22 years as a small business owner.
His family attends Richmond Hill United Methodist Church and he is currently serving as president of the Richmond Hill Lions Club. Gardner is also a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Gardner has a lengthy resume that includes eight years as county commissioner and certification and advanced certification as a county commissioner through the University of Georgia during his time on the board.
He also completed the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia leadership course. He’s also a graduate of Leadership Bryan, Leadership Southeast, Institute of Georgia Environmental Leadership and Georgia Academy of Economics regional economic and leadership development courses.
Gardner continues to serve on the Coastal Georgia Regional Water Planning Council and the DNR’s Coastal Marshlands Protection and Shore Selection Committees.
Why he’s seeking office:
Gardner pointed to his long residency in Bryan County — “since the early 1970s” and previous experience on the commission as key to helping the county face the challenges that lie ahead. “Currently we have five commissioners with three years of experience or less on the board,” he said. “I feel both the citizens of this district and Bryan County as a whole will benefit from my years on the board.”
Top priorities for District 5:
Gardner cited transportation as the top issue facing the district, particularly once the new I-95 interchange comes to Belfast Siding.
“We’ve got to get ready for that amount of traffic — and the kicker in there with 144 being widened, all that’s going to throw an awful lot of traffic on Harris Trail and Belfast Siding,” Gardner said.
Top priorities for county:
“The issue is predominately an economic one,” Gardner said, noting the county needs to broaden its tax base to help keep property taxes low.
“We have to do more in Atlanta and do more nationwide in making the county look more attractive (to business and industry) so we can attract and keep jobs right here in Bryan County and not have them go to Chatham County or Liberty County.”
Other top issues for Gardner include the environment, taxes and recreation.
What sets him apart from other politicians:
“I don’t consider myself a politician. I consider myself a servant,” Gardner said. “I’ve reached the ripe old age of 62. I’ve retired from business and retired from the military. My whole future will be about serving the citizens of Bryan County.
“I have the experience and the time to be able to devote to the responsibilities that come to the job. It does boil back down to that.
“Each and every one of the commissioners on the board work hard to do what they think is right,” he continued. “The issue is the learning curve, and understanding the process of budgets and meeting the needs of our citizens.