Editor’s note: Edward Winter, who is running for District 4 did not respond to questions. The following candidate profiles are run by office, with the challenger for office first up.
Sharon Lewis -- Mayoral candidate.
Lewis is a lifelong resident of Pembroke. Here’s how she answered our questionnaire.
“I am a 1981 graduate of Bryan County High School. I have been employed with the state of Georgia for over 27 years, 15 of those years with the Department of Family And Children’s Services as the family services worker. Over my years with the state I have seen, aided and assisted many families from every community, as well as from one end of the spectrum to the other.
When provided with the right tools, assistance,and support people are more apt to help themselves to make their life and the life of their loved ones better; this starts the domino effect of making positive changes in the community.”
“We feed the low income families and assisted many families during the Christmas holidays. I was over Project Share which also helped during difficult times. I have also taught parenting classes to adults.
With the Department of Corrections we assist Hendrix Park with setting up for the haunted house and help to keep the park clean, we also have helped in the Tattnall County school system for many years. I’m married to Elijah Lewis III and have been for the last 28 years. We have four daughters, two are educators. I have five grandchildren and one dog, a yorkshire named Noah.
I’m a member of House of God Church of Pembroke, where I sing in the adult choir and serve as the decorator of all events.”
Here’s why she’s running for mayor: “Pembroke is my home and I only want the best for the citizens of our city. I feel that as mayor I will serve with dignity and represent the city in a professional manner.
I have a vision and integrity to keep the city moving forward while at the same time keeping the small town charm. My desire is to serve the citizens of Pembroke as a native of Pembroke and a graduate of Bryan County High school I only want the best for our city.”
She elaborated: “I want the opportunity to work with the city council, employees and citizens to bring Pembroke to it’s full potential. It’s about the future, building for the future every single day. I genuinely believe I can do a good job. There’s a lot of potential in our city and there are many challenges. I have a passion for building a positive relationship with the community, citizens, businesses, and entrepreneurs so working together with the city council we will vote on and possibly adopt new policies, bylaws, and programs geared toward citizens and youth to reflect the changing needs of our city, especially our youth. I can work with anyone. I am a careful-decision maker, able to hear all sides and make informed decisions.
Pembroke has moved forward. Mayor (Judy) Cook has done a good job, laying the foundation and putting up the frame work. Now its time for me along with the city council to finishing building on up. It’s time to start telling our children they matter by working closely with the public schools and investing in their education. It’s time to start telling our citizens they matter by providing them the best services possible, including highly trained police and fire department. I just want to make a difference in the city that I live in.”
Three biggest issues and how to tackle them?
“Transportation: Make sure everyone in the city is aware of the transportation that’s already in place, the coastal courier that charges a small fee to take them to work or doctor’s appointments.”
“Youth programs: By rebuilding the recreation department, making the Michael Foxworth gym accessible to all kids. I’d create a career mentorship for every high schooler, increase city support for structured after school activities with high quality programs offered during out of school hours, and work on youth program development through recreation, social life prevention, and intervention.”
“Third, move slowly, in increments.”
Judy Cook -- Incumbent mayor.
Here’s Cook’s response to our questionnaire: “I’m a lifelong resident of Bryan County, a graduate of Bryan County High School, and a member of the Pembroke Christian Church.
My husband of over 50 years Jimmy Cook and I have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I have over 40 years of experience in Pembroke City government, with 16 of those years as Mayor. I’ve participated in local, state and federal programs for grants, training, planning and infrastructure expansion. I have certifications from the Georgia Municipal Association as a Municipal Clerk, Finance Officer, Planning and Zoning Administrator, Municipal Court Clerk and Elected Official. That’s a lot of “I”s, but what I’m really proud of is the “We”s. The citizens of Pembroke have supported me and their government all these years.
We’ve accomplished a lot, and together we can continue moving forward.”
Why she’s running: “As I said, we (the citizens and their government) have a lot left to do. We have several projects underway that have been in the works for two, five, even ten years and I see no reason to slow down now. The city of Pembroke is on the brink of serious growth. I believe the 2020 Census will reflect this growth in population.
I want us to be prepared and enjoy that momentum rather than constantly struggling to get ahead of it. The City needs stability in order to capitalize on this continued progress and the relationships we’ve built.
Three big issues: “I mentioned the 2020 census. I believe this will be the most pressing issue in the first 100 days of 2020.
An accurate census determines non-partisan council districts, determines state and federal funding, and grant formulas. It is part of the GDOT formula that allocates paving funds and a host of other things that affect how the city plans and grows. I want to address this by marketing the census as a positive thing, encouraging the public to participate, and providing assistance at City Hall for those who need help with the process.
“Another big issue is affordable housing and business recruitment.
We have made great strides in the last four years toward affordable housing for seniors (Ash Branch Manor on the site of the old Bryan County Elementary School) but I want affordable housing for young professionals and working people. Everyone wants to talk business recruitment but businesses, especially restaurants, locate based on population. If we want new businesses, we must attract potential customers and those potential customers won’t relocate to Pembroke unless they can afford to live here. I want to address this by continuing to build relationships and bridges between landowners and potential developers as well as marketing Pembroke as a growing community with a lot to offer.
“Finally, I want to focus on our youth and job training. Not only do we have to attract people, but we need to make Pembroke attractive to the people already living here. We cannot sit idly by and continue to watch our young people grow up here, get an education and then leave because they can’t find a job. We need to grow our partnerships and support the Board of Education (the city’s largest employer) to get young people the skills they need to succeed, and also support the Development Authority of Bryan County to attract opportunities for those skills to be put to work locally. I want to do our part by expanding our summer internship program so we can attract and train future city workers, police officers and firefighters.”
Tiffany Walraven -- Incumbent in District 4.
Here’s how Walraven answered the question on her background:
As a City Councilwoman, I have served the citizens of Pembroke in District 4 since 2008 when I was elected at the age of 26. As the granddaughter of the late Alton and Mary McCoy, Former Pembroke City Councilman and Mayor J. Harry Owens and former Pembroke City Councilwoman Elvie Owens and the daughter of Marcia McCoy and the late Terry A. McCoy, I have a long history of family service and leadership. My dad served on the Development Authority of Bryan County for 20+ years where he served as the Vice Chairman and was a part of the conceptualization and building of Interstate Centre I and II. I am married to Joseph Walraven of Cartersville, Georgia and we have 3 beautiful children, Madelyn, 11, Lily Margaret, 7, and Jeremiah, 4. All three children attend Bryan County Schools in Pembroke. I was raised in Pembroke and was fortunate to have also been a Bryan County student from Kindergarten through 12th grade. As a graduate of Bryan County High School in 2001, I attended The University of Georgia and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Biological Sciences, Interdisciplinary Certificate of Leadership and Service, and Masters of Public Administration.
I returned to Pembroke in 2006 to help with the family business and I am currently the 3rd generation to serve as leadership within Owens Supply Company.
“In addition to a full time commitment within the family business, I have worked tirelessly to better the quality of life and opportunities for all citizens of Pembroke with involvement on the local and state levels. I was recently named to the Georgia Municipal Association’s 20 under 40 Cohort. Extensive training and networking has enabled me and my fellow Council members and Mayor to bring opportunities to our citizens that would have otherwise been out of reach. I also serve as the Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority of Pembroke, Chairman of the Pembroke Georgia Initiative for Community Housing Team, At Large Member of The Georgia Municipal Association Municipal Training Board, and formerly served on the Georgia Municipal Association Board of Directors. I am a graduate of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Women’s Leadership Academy, Harold B. Holtz Municipal Leadership Institute, and Georgia Academy for Economic Development. I have also been active in service to the Bryan County School System as the former President of the Lanier Primary School PTO and Bryan County Elementary School PTO. As a Georgia Master 4-H’er, I truly believe in working with and growing our youth to become influential members of society with skills in citizenship, leadership, and communication.
“Throughout college, I dedicated five summers as a 4-H Camp Counselor at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp and Jekyll Island 4-H Camp. I am currently an active volunteer for the Bryan County 4-H Program and Bryan County 4-H BB Team.
“I am a member of the East Main Street Church of God in Statesboro, Georgia and serve as a media technician for the church on a volunteer basis. “ Why she said she’s running. “Since childhood, my desire to better the quality of life and opportunities for citizens in my home community has been a dream.
Over the past twelve years, I have worked tremendously hard to represent the citizens of Pembroke with integrity and honesty and it is my sincerest hope that our city puts their faith in me to continue that path. I bring strength, character, experience, leadership, and knowledge to the table as I represent the citizens of this city. We have a wonderful community that is rich in history and full of generous and compassionate people.
I am 1000 percent committed to improving our city so that it becomes a place where people want to live, work, and play all while maintaining and enhancing our unique and historical charm. Change and growth are inevitable, but I believe in directing that change and growth in a way that honors Pembroke’s past and secures a bright future.
“Economic development is key to sustainability for our community. Development of housing, bringing in and growing businesses, and creating jobs is key. As Chairman of the DDA and Mainstreet Boards, I have worked hand in hand with our director to cultivate a dedicated business community that strives to serve our citizens with goods, services, and job opportunities. As a partner in a locally owned and operated business, I understand the value of shopping local and keeping jobs local.
“Throughout my three terms in office, I have been given the opportunity to serve on several state boards and committees.
This involvement has allowed our city government to build strong relationships with state representatives, which has translated into increased opportunities for Pembroke. I have also been asked to present at conferences on a yearly basis, showcasing Pembroke’s accomplishments and earning recognition for our small city at the state level. Her big three issues.
“Growth: While South Bryan County has seen exponential growth in the past 15-20 years, the North end of the county will experience some type of growth in the years to come. While growth for Pembroke is inevitable, it is important that we are prepared for how we want our community to grow.
We must have the correct zoning in place, downtown development and preservation plans, revitalization plans, and policies for new development. It is vital that our election officials and personnel have the drive and vision to ensure that these plans and policies are enforced.
“Affordable Housing: Through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, our city has worked tremendously hard over the past 6 years to identify the needs within our city concerning housing. The Community Housing Assessment in 2013 allowed us to inventory our current housing stock based upon a list of criteria. The assessment is mapped on GIS and will be performed again by the end of 2020 so that it can be updated. The inventory has allowed City Officials, City Personnel, and GICH Team Members the ability to focus on the exact needs of our city as we move forward with planning. As part of this program, we have been afforded the opportunity to bring developments to our city with grant funding to ensure that our residents have quality living conditions and quality services for their homes.
As the lead for our Georgia Initiative for Community Housing Team, I plan to continue to work with developers, state officials, The Georgia Department of Community Affairs and other agencies for acquisition of grants and funding to meet our citizens’ needs. Over the past 6 years, this program has brought over $29 million dollars in funding to increase the quality of our water systems, build 60 workforce townhome units, 4 new construction homes, and 75 senior housing units within our city.
“Downtown Development: Increased business and development opportunities within the downtown area is vital to the sustainability and growth of our city. As we move forward into 2020, our Downtown Development Authority will be focusing on recruitment of new businesses to bring life back to our downtown. We will also focus on working with our current business owners in frequent round table discussions to determine how we can partner together to reach the residents of North Bryan County in a greater capacity.
“The issues of growth, affordable housing, and downtown development must be addressed through alternative funding sources outside of our city’s tax base. Growth for our community should be an asset to our citizens and not a financial burden.”