Given Bryan County’s booming but unequal population growth over the past decades, some worried residents in slower growing North Bryan could lose a seat on the county commission and school board when the latest round of reapportionment and redistricting come around.
They won’t, if state legislators give the go-ahead to a five-district map which doesn’t look that much different from the current one. It’s also one in which each district is similar in population.
The most noticeable change on a map of the proposed districts has District 1 increasing in acreage to include most of North Bryan apart from a small portion near Blitchton.
Despite it’s larger size, the population of the proposed District 1, currently represented by County Commissioner Noah Covington and Board of Education Member Pam Gunter, would fall by 1.36 percent to 8,825 – making it the least populated district in the county.
District 2, represented at the moment by Commissioner Wade Price and BOE Member Dennis Seger, includes Blitchton and goes into South Bryan to include areas along Highway 17 from the Ogeechee to the Liberty County line. Despite the loss of a portion of North Bryan around Black Creek, it’s 8,973 residents would represent a .29 percent increase from the current District 2.
Districts 3 and 4 in South Bryan, which include much of Richmond Hill and some of the coast, will both grow by more than 1 percent and be nearly identical in terms of population, with 9,048 and 9,046 residents, respectively. They’re currently represented by commissioners Dallas Daniels (D-3) and Andrew Johnson (D-4) and school board members Derrick Miller (D-3) and Marianne Smith (D-4).
District 5, represented by Commissioner Dr. Gene Wallace and BOE Member David Schwartz, will lose a few residents as its boundary is redrawn slightly to make more room for District 4. The district’s population will fall 1.13 percent to 8,846.
With a total population of 44,738 according to the Census, the ideal district size would be 8,947 residents, according to the county and school board’s consultant, Taylor English Duma.
Why this, why now?
Bryan County Assistant County Administrator Kathryn Downs said reapportionment and redistricting are population based and occur after each census.
“Reapportionment and redistricting are the processes that ensure that citizens within a political subdivision are allowed equal representation,” Downs said in an email, noting District 1 “increased in geographic size because the population growth in other areas has outpaced any growth we have experienced in the northern portion of the county from 2010 to 2020. In other words, it took a greater geographic area to get close to the ideal district size of 8,947 people.”
Downs added that the proposed districts keeps incumbents in their districts and also balances population numbers “to a total deviation of just under 2.5 percent.”
“The proposed map does split a few voting precincts, but it does so on major roadways and/ or tries to keep neighborhoods together if there wasn’t a good roadway or other boundary to split on,” she said. Bryan County’s proposed districts have been approved by the state’s reapportionment Office, and county officials say the next step is for Rep. Ron Stephens to “facilitate the passage and adoption of the plan into law by the Georgia General Assembly so they may be used for the 2022 elections.”