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Voters back at polls for two BC races
Profiles of candidates

Bryan County voters are going back to the polls to decide two races that did not have clear winners in the May primaries.

Election Day for the primary runoffs is July 26, but early voting has already started.

One of th races to be decided is school board vice chairwoman, which is being sought by Karen Krupp and Audrey Singleton. In May, Krupp finished first with just less than 40 percent of the vote. Singleton garnered just more than 35 percent. The remainder went to a third candidate.

The other race is for solicitor general. The candidates are Don Montgomery, who won 35 percent of the vote in May, and Andrew Johnson, who edged out a third candidate, with 32 percent of the vote.

Only eight votes separated Johnson from Chet Gregg in May. That is less than a percentage point. A recount of ballots the week after the primary did not change the result.

Early voting runs through July 22.

Below are profiles of the candidates that ran before the May primaries.

BOE vice chairwoman

Karen Krupp

Karen Krupp started volunteering in local schools when her children started attending, and for the past six years has worked as a substitute teacher. For her, running for school board is the next step in the process.

Krupp is facing Audrey Singleton in the July 26 run-off. Current Vice Chairman Joe Pecenka chose not to seek re-election.

"I started off as a volunteer and got more involved as our kids got older," Krupp said. "I resigned from substitute teaching, however, when I qualified to run because I felt like there was too much of a gray area there."

Krupp said part of the reason she and her husband moved to Richmond Hill was because of the schools.

"Bryan County schools are amazing," she said. "There are a lot of people who work in Chatham County but live here because of the schools, and good schools help keep our property values up."

On the campaign trail, Krupp said she has made an effort to reach out to the north end of the county to learn what education concerns exist there, too.

"People in North Bryan have some different issues, and the vice chair has to be a voice for them, too," she said.

Two issues Krupp said she has heard about most from parents across the district is the rate of growth and busing.

"We’ve been here nine years, and the growth seems like it’s been a constant the whole time," she said. "Along with that comes issues with transportation."

Bryan County Schools has been searching for additional bus drivers this year and offers a $100 bonus each month to all drivers with perfect attendance.

"With the two new elementary schools that opened, there was some changes in start times, but I’ve heard some kids are sitting four to a seat because there aren’t enough buses. We have to keep up with this growth."

Part of that growth includes the future of Richmond Hill High School.

"People keep asking if we need one high school or two," she said. "It’s a valid question, but it will come down to what we can afford."

Audrey Singleton

Audrey Singleton says she understands education after owning Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool since 1994, but she also understands what it is like to pay taxes as a business owner and homeowner.

"The board’s challenge is how to spend that tax money wisely," she said.

Singleton is facing Karen Krupp in the July 26 runoff. Current Vice Chairman Joe Pecenka chose not to seek re-election.

"We have to understand that our community is growing, and we have to build new schools," she said. "The question is how we do that without raising property taxes."

Bryan County Schools has a budget of more than $60 million, the largest amount of any government entity in the county.

"It’s a big budget and the question is, where does all the money go?" Singleton said. "I have the financial background as a business owner to understand that."

Singleton said she also is no stranger to education policy and is a longtime board member of the Georgia Child Care Association.

"I’m familiar with how education regulations are crafted and how they work in practice," she said.

Singleton is no stranger to growth, either.

"We started out with 34 kids in 1994," she said. "We built a new facility in the middle of a recession, and we’ve had more than 4,000 students over the years. I know that you have to have a vision to go along with growth or else you won’t be prepared for it."

Singleton also noted that the board has taken steps to that end by developing long-range plans.

"Our schools have a regional reputation, and that’s great for local businesses and home values. But most of the new families moving here have school-age kids, and so planning is more critical than ever," she said. "In order to make that happen, we have to start now."

Singleton said Bryan County is unique in that it is divided geographically, but it should not be academically.

"We have to look at the whole county and how we shape our schools," she said. "Every child should have access to a quality education."

Solicitor general

Andrew Johnson

In his 10 years as an attorney, Andrew Johnson has been a public defender, city attorney and city court judge, all of which he says have prepared him to be the next Bryan County solicitor general.

Johnson is facing Don Montgomery in the July 26 runoff. Incumbent Ray Smith is not seeking re-election and instead is running unopposed for Bryan County State Court judge.

"I believe I have the skills, training and education to do the job," Johnson said.

Solicitors general in Georgia prosecute criminal misdemeanor, traffic and ordinance violations in state and magistrate courts.

"My philosophy is that I treat people the way they want to be treated," Johnson said. "A lot of people who get traffic tickets work 40 hours or more a week, they have kids. They aren’t criminals and don’t need to be treated like one."

Johnson said a lot of teenagers and young adults who receive misdemeanor citations are experiencing their first brush with the law.

"It requires some creative solutions so their record doesn’t follow them for the rest of their life," he said. "Even a speeding ticket for a kid who wants to join the military is a big deal."

Johnson said if elected, he would like to pursue the type of pretrial diversion program for young offenders that Chatham County has.

"If it’s not a serious offense, you don’t want it to ruin their life," he said.

Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Clemson University and his law degree from the University of Georgia. He has practiced in Bryan County for 10 years.

"My dad was a police officer in Massachusetts when I was growing up, and I’d go to court with him sometimes," Johnson said. "I found it interesting and knew this was something I wanted to do."

Don Montgomery

Two decades ago, when he was named Police Officer of the Year for his work in Maryland’s Baltimore County, a reporter asked Don Montgomery what he wanted to be doing 20 years later. Montgomery’s answer was to be a prosecutor.

"I got tired of seeing repeat offenders get off with a slap on the wrist," he said. "So I decided to go to law school."

Montgomery is facing Andrew Johnson in the July 26 runoff. Incumbent Ray Smith is not seeking re-election and instead is running unopposed for Bryan County State Court judge.

"I’ve been Ray’s fill-in since last year, so it seemed natural to run for the job once I heard he was running for judge," Montgomery said.

Solicitors general in Georgia prosecute criminal misdemeanor, traffic and ordinance violations in state and magistrate courts.

While working in law enforcement, Montgomery attended night school at the University of Maryland Law School. His first position was as an assistant prosecutor in Chatham County.

"I’ve prosecuted more than 5,000 cases in eight different jurisdictions," he said. "Being able to present a case to a jury is a big skill for a prosecutor, and I’m the only candidate for this race who has done that in Georgia."

Montgomery said he thinks Bryan County could benefit from a diversion program and has started to implement one in cases he’s handled while filling in for Smith.

"You still have to punish someone who does something wrong, but if you don’t change their behavior, it can become like a revolving door with them," he said. "It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it does work, it saves money all the way around."

Montgomery has also taught evidence certification and testimony procedures to police officers in four departments.

"The two skills a solicitor general needs are jury trial experience and a good relationship with law enforcement," he said. "I have both."

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