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Rewind: Top stories of 2023
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As we do at the end of each year, the Bryan County News looks back at the top stories that defined the year. 2023 featured strong economic growth, changes in political leadership and pleasant surprises for some high school athletes and their fans. 

Here are a few stories that graced the pages and website of Bryan County News:

Hyundai a ‘steroid shot’ into already fast growing Bryan County

By Jeff Whitten, Former Editor Jun 22, 2023 

There were moments during the Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 State of the Community breakfast when the county’s booming, zooming growth wasn’t being talked about by panelists.

They were few and far between, however. From the outset, when new RHBC Chamber CEO Summer Beal told those seated around tables in the Richmond Hill City Center she was “excited to be joining the chamber in the fastest growing county in Georgia,” the topic of growth dominated the roughly two-hour event, which annually brings local business and government leaders together.

And if there was a recurring theme within the recurring theme, it was Hyundai and it’s electric vehicle plant. Moderator Ralph Forbes, an engineer by trade, set the tone early, saying Hyundai’s 2022 decision to build its $5.45 billion Metaplant America in Black Creek “injected a steroid shot into the fastest growing county in Georgia.”

And so it went from there, though there was one early detour away from the topic at hand, as panelists ranging from Development Authority of Bryan County CEO Anna Chafin, Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher and Bryan County Administrator Ben Taylor were asked to give heir thoughts on “One Bryan”– a slogan created some years back by school officials to assure North Bryan parents both ends of the county were being treated equally.

Chafin said “One Bryan” from the DABC standpoint was illustrated by having board members and industries in both North Bryan and South Bryan. “The development authority serves the entire county,” she said.

But Taylor circled back to Hyundai, using his moment to show the company’s impact on the tax base, after abatements and incentives end the South Korean automaker and related industries are expected to add some $8.5 billion to that base.

“That compares,” Taylor said, “to a tax base now of only $1.5 billion.”

That money will help fund infrastructure projects such as roads and essential services such as fire, EMS and law enforcement, he said, enabling the county to “hire people to man those stations and ride in those patrol cars and whatnots.”

And, Taylor added, the need for such services is only going to increase.

“Our population sits at about 50,000 right now,” he said. “It’s projected to be 66,000 in 2030 and 84,000 in 2050.”


Zeigler wins Pembroke mayoral race

Story from Nov. 9, 2023: 

Tiffany Zeigler, previously the Pembroke Mayor Pro-Tem, defeated Sharroll Fanslau in a landslide victory (381 votes to 107) on election night to become Pembroke’s newest mayor following the retirement of Judy Cook. Zeigler, a Pembroke native, has served on its city council for 16 years, and has worked as both its Downtown Development Authority Chair and Housing Chair. Her campaign largely centered on promising to maintain Pembroke’s small-town charm and character while embracing the inevitable growth that will come with big projects like the Hyundai Metaplant on neighboring Highway 280 in Black Creek.


Bryan County football team secures first region title

By Mike Brown, Sports Correspondent, Oct. 28, 2023

 It’s been a record setting season for Bryan County football and Friday night more fell at Redskins Stadium as the Redskins won their first ever region championship in football with a 66-8 victory over winless Savannah High.

“It feels good,” Coach Cherard Freeman said. “It’s been a long time coming here at Bryan County.”

“These boys have stuck with it, the coaching staff has stuck with it,” Freeman said. “They have really worked hard; they’ve earned it. They took some whippings early in their high school career but they’ve showed you they never did quit.”

“They continued to work hard, they believed in the system, they believed in the coaches and we got it.”

The Region 3A-D1 title was assured when Screven County beat Claxton, 280, while the Redskins (8-1, 3-0) were winning easily. Bryan County will conclude regular season play when it hosts Claxton (2-7, 1-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

In beating the Blue Jackets the Redskins matched the school record for most wins in a season and senior running back Erin Greene said he doesn’t expect any letdown against arch-rival Claxton. Only 15 miles separate the two teams.

“We expected to win tonight and to win big,” Greene said. “Winning the region means everything to us.”


Bryan superintendent gets one-year extension

By Jeff Whitten,  Former Editor, Aug 3, 2023 

Longtime Bryan County School Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher is heading into the new school year with an amended contract after the school board approved an extension at its July 27 meeting.

It’s the second 12-month extension of his 2021 contract in as many years for Brooksher, who started in Bryan County in 2012. Superintendents usually operate under three-year contracts, and the most recent amendment to Brooksher’s contract extends his employment with Bryan County Schools through June 2026.

As part of a lengthy statement issued on behalf of the Board of Education, Chairwoman Amy Murphy said board members were “excited to recognize and express our gratitude,” to Brooksher, “for his 11 years of service to Bryan County Schools.”

The extension did not give Brooksher a raise. He earned $310,202 and an additional $4,651 in travel expenses in 2022, according to

By contrast, former Gwinnett County superintendent Alvin Wilbanks earned $641,955 in 2021, and former Pickens County superintendent Richard Townsend was paid $507,659 in 2021. Both are no longer with the districts that employed them.

The BOE statement listed a number of reasons why the board extended his contract. Brooksher oversees a system with 1,600 employees and an estimated 10,600 students.


Davis remembered as man who loved life, his family and city

By Jeff Whitten, Former Editor, Feb. 3, 2023 

Richard Davis, Richmond Hill’s longest serving mayor, was remembered during his funeral service Thursday at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church as a man who “had an overflow of love in his heart and a desire to do what is right and honorable.”

Davis, 87, died Sunday. He was buried at Richmond Hill First Baptist Church Cemetery after a funeral procession down Ford Avenue, a road he pushed the state to get widened, to the city hall he helped design near a park he fought for and helped create.

But despite spending 31 years in office and served from 1989 to 2010 as mayor, Davis’ life was about “more than mayor-ing,” RHUMC Pastor Jay Tucker said, noting that Davis and his wife Christine were married 65 years and “folks, that says a lot. Someone needs to sit down with her and figure out the secrets of life.”

Still, Tucker, noted, while Davis was in office the city and its residents were was “his No. 1 priority.”

“He never went on vacation,” Tucker said, adding that the Davis family “would go on vacation with friends and family and leave him here. And if a storm was coming, be it Matthew or David, he wouldn’t leave, he saw it as his duty to stay. He absolutely loved this city.”


Richmond Hill's Independence Day celebration

By Mark Swendra, Chief of Digital Operations/Reporter, July 2, 2023

 Thousands gathered at JF Gregory Park Saturday night for Richmond Hill’s annual Independence Day celebration.

The Swingin’ Medallions was the headline musical group and as you’ll see from the video and photos the audience had quite the good time.

Away from the bandshell, kids kept cool on water slide inflatables and people of all ages took in the many food and craft vendors as well as a classic car show and carnival rides.

The night ended with a spectacular fireworks show.


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