All six seats on the Flemington City Council are up for election, and five incumbents and four new candidates are running for them.
Paul Hawkins is the only incumbent not seeking re-election and the retired electrician is running unopposed for mayor.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said there were only eight candidates.
Among council candidates, the top six vote-getters win seats. Here are profiles of the candidates:
Charles Richardson, 72, was born in Ridgeland, S.C., A retired educator, he taught in South Carolina and Georgia.
He graduated with an educational specialist degree in secondary education administration and supervision from Georgia Southern University. He earned his bachelor’s of science degree from East Tennessee State University and got his master’s in elementary education from Armstrong State University.
Richardson is married to Linda Cox Richardson. Together they have two sons.
The incumbent said his 40 years as an educator and past 12 years on the council means he has a lot to offer the citizens of Flemington. He added he has already attended and received training in city and governmental policies and procedures for Georgia.
Richardson said he wants to focus on the city’s finances.
"With new subdivisions approved for Flemington, we need to work on how our city income will be able to handle the cost of adding many new homes to our city’s responsibility," he said. "Though not my first choice for a solution, this expense may need to be supported with a tax of the Flemington residents to help pay for the increase in trash pickup, fire and police service, and other services we currently provide without cost to the residents."
Richardson said he would like to see continued work on the city’s roads and address traffic concerns.
"The solutions are complicated and will require help from everyone to find solutions," he said.
He said he is concerned about the safety of residents.
"We currently provide one Liberty County deputy for work in our city on a full time basis," he said. "We may need more in the near future. We also provide fire protection through the Hinesville Fire Department and need to continue this and other safety services for the residents."
Richardson said he wants what is best for the citizens.
"I am willing to work smart for solutions and willing to try for the impossible if needed with integrity and diligence," he said.
Palmer Dasher, 82, was born in Hinesville and has lived his whole life in Liberty County. He is retired from civil service at Fort Stewart and as assistant Liberty County administrator.
He graduated from Bradwell Institute and attended a few years of college. He is married and has one daughter and one granddaughter.
The incumbent said that as a citizen of Flemington he has a deep concern for the city.
"I am personally committed to our motto which is ‘Preserving our heritage; shaping our future’ and I have tried to carry it out to the best of my ability," he said. "I feel I still have the drive and capability to be an integral part of our city government."
Dasher said his years as a civil service management analyst and work for Liberty County qualifies him in dealing with an array of challenges, people and progress.
Dasher said one issue he would address is Flemington’s growth.
"At present, we have three rather sizable residential developments in varying stages of planning/completion," he said. "As expected, there are many associated challenges. One of the foremost is our desire to minimize negative impacts on existing and adjacent residences and certainly the quality of the homes being built."
He is also concerned about the traffic.
"At present the number of traffic accidents we have monthly at McLarry’s Curve is already too high and may continue to increase until the DOT project for the Highway 84 upgrade is completed," he said. "Until that time, we can only continue to stress traffic safety for all drivers. Patience and courtesy on everyone’s behalf will help."
Lastly, Dasher said he wants the city to continue services it presently provides in the most cost-effective manner possible.
"At present the citizens do not pay any (city) tax, plus the city provides (pays for) their dry trash pickup," he said. "It is my hope that we will continue to do so."
Dasher said he just wants what’s best for his community.
"I am sure if you ask ‘enough’ people you’d hear I am ‘outspoken’ and sometimes stubborn," he said. "But, in total honesty, I try to be fair. I believe in fairness for one and all. It’s my belief that rules, codes and ordinances are to be taken seriously and are not to be brushed aside for any particular individual or business. To paraphrase Martin Luther King... I don’t judge a man by his ‘cover’ but by his motives, intentions, and honesty — his trustworthiness. If you tell me you’re going to do ‘something,’ better do it, or we’ll have a problem."
The mother of two adult children Donnie Smith, 75, is retired from a Fort Stewart civilian job as logistics manager.
She was born in Long County and has lived in Liberty County for 55 years, 35 in Flemington.
The incumbent said serving on the council affords her an opportunity to impact the lives of Flemington residents positively.
"I believe Flemington’s unique status as a very desirable place to live in Liberty County is due in part to the work of the current and previous mayors and council members," she said. "Right now we are experiencing unprecedented growth with several residential developments on the horizon. While we wholeheartedly welcome new residents, my goal is to do everything possible to also sustain the small town feel of Flemington where neighbors help neighbors and everyone feels safe and secure."
Smith said due to the additional growth the city will need to expand its fire, emergency, garbage collection and other services.
"So far, we have been able to provide those services without taxation or fees," she said. "Continued growth will challenge us to be fiscally conservative in all areas so that we can continue this practice as long as possible. Bottom line is I want to work to provide a safe, drug-free, diverse community that will provide a positive environment in which families can thrive."
Smith said she has an extensive background managing people and resources.
"I have brought that knowledge and experience to bear during the more than 20 years I have served on the council," she said. "Collectively, our governing body has worked very hard to develop ordinances that guide development while being mindful of the rights of property owners and the inevitable growth within our city."
Smith said development is one thing she focuses on.
"Currently, three residential housing projects are in various stages of development and implementation," she said. "I have participated in workshops with the landowners, developers and residents to channel the growth in a way that will be most acceptable and beneficial to all parties. It is a slippery slope because most people do not like change.
"Ordinances are written to try to ensure fair and equitable consideration of all sides but it is almost impossible to please everyone. My approach is to apply the lawful ordinances as fairly and impartially as I can. I believe I have a duty to uphold the standards that the governing body set up and I intend to continue to do that. Of course, I am always open to suggestions and input from citizens."
She said she is also focused on traffic on Highway 84.
"Additional development will exacerbate the problem and unfortunately there is no quick fix," she said. "We will have a good start with the installation of the traffic light at McLarry’s Curve but, regretfully, that won’t happen until 2019."
She said the current mayor and council are working with the state on other traffic control measures.
"We have applied for and received state grants to fund the maintenance and repair of some major roadways in Flemington and make other improvements such as the right turn lane at the intersection of Highway 84 and Wallace Martin Drive," she said. "I will continue to support those type initiatives."
She also wants to ensure the community remains safe.
"With additional growth comes the threat of an increased crime rate," she said. "Flemington is a very safe community. The city employs a full-time deputy sheriff who patrols our streets and neighborhoods, supplemented as needed by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department when our deputy is off duty. His presence is a deterrent to criminal activity and consequently, Flemington has a very low crime rate. My goal is to continue this practice and expand dedicated law enforcement coverage if circumstances dictate. Our children deserve the right to grow up in a safe, drug-free environment and I will support any and all efforts to achieve that end."
Smith said she loves her city.
"It is a very special place with warm, caring neighbors and a sense of community pride that has persisted through the years," she said. "We have the best of both worlds here: we enjoy a rural feel and yet we have quick access to grocery stores and other retail businesses. I want to preserve Flemington’s history and share that history with others. I want it to continue to be a safe and inviting place to live and raise a family and I will work hard to achieve that end."
David Edwards, 58, is originally from Lawrenceville but the incumbent said Flemington has been home for some time. Edwards, a captain at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, has background in military and law enforcement leadership courses as well as Georgia Municipal Association courses.
Edwards is married and has five children.
He said he is running to help shape the future of the community.
"There’s been a lot going on within the city of Flemington," he said. "And I feel that I will be valuable in shaping the future and engaging citizens to be a part of Flemington. I have grown to be a part of this community for the past 10 years, and a member of the council for four years. I would like to continue to serve its citizens into the future, creating a community that the citizens can be proud of."
Edwards said he wants to create positive outcomes by making sure the city initiates a proper plan for growth.
"This issue is perhaps the most important because Flemington has plans to expand, and it will reflect what the city of Flemington is about in many ways," he said. "Planning and expanding future infrastructure will be an important issue in the coming years."
He said he would also like to develop a park.
"I think that children should have more opportunities to explore a local playground, and to spend time with family outdoors, exercising or biking," he said.
He said he would like to review ordinances and update some as needed.
"We need to readdress outdated ordinances, and adapt them to reflect present day needs," he said.
Edwards said his military background and love of his community will serve the city well.
"I helped to defend our country having served in the U.S. Army for 20 years," he said. "Serving in overseas assignments, and working with various demographics has helped me better understand citizens, no matter where they are from."
Elliott Godwin, 69, was born in Lancaster, Pa., and has lived in Hinesville and Flemington for 30 years.
He retired from the Army after serving 22 years. He is also retired from the Georgia Department of Corrections, the National Guard Youth Challenge Program and a retired federal contractor who was stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.
The candidate graduated high school in Lancaster and attended Central Texas College, majoring in business administration. He also graduated from the Army’s Senior Non-Commissioned Officers Academy.
Godwin said he is a member of the Ancient Arabic Egyptian Order of the Noble Mystic Shrine.
"We do charity work for the community," he said. "We spend endless hours giving back to the great community ranging from back-to-school drives to mentoring young men and women to be better throughout life. We also support the senior citizens."
He said he also has 30 years managing budgets as high as $60 million annually.
Godwin is married to Toni M. Godwin. He has a son and step-daughter.
He said he is running because Flemington is an extraordinary city.
"And I want it to stay that way and greatly improve," he said. "I believe that many Flemington residents share the same prospective and I think that we deserve more of a voice in city affairs. I want to serve on the city council in order to be that voice. We have tremendous assets our natural settings, our historic heritage, and talented people who are thoroughly engaged in community affairs."
He said as a Flemington homeowner and taxpayer he would like to see amenities to enrich the lives of all residents.
"First I would like to address a city park … as it is much needed for the families of the city," he said. "We currently don’t have a city park for our residents."
He also wants to voice ideas, questions and problems raised by residents to the attention of council members.
He added he would like to attract more businesses such as hotels and restaurants.
"(Residents) find themselves either traveling to Hinesville or Savannah to find anything that interests them," he said. "I want people to know that I care about the city which I have been residing in for the past 14 years. I have been active in the past with council activities and also developments within the city. I believe that my ideas are important to take us further in the future."
Gail Fox Evans
Gail Fox Evans, 71, was born in Savannah and raised in Flemington. The incumbent worked in Atlanta and Denver for a number of years after college prior to returning in 1979.
She is a retired bank officer with 32 years experience.
She is a graduate of Bradwell Institute and received a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Georgia.
Evans and her husband Richard Evans have been married for 40 years. They have two daughters.
"I feel an obligation to serve on our city council and to have responsible, informed and unbiased input into what happens in our community," Evans said. "It is each resident’s privilege to help shape our community as a whole. I have been privileged to serve on city council, and I hope the voters will re-elect me so that I can continue to work with the mayor and other council members to ensure that Flemington continues to be a desirable place to live for all of us."
Evans has served on the council for almost 20 years.
"It has been an ongoing learning experience," she said. "Cities are not static entities, and this job requires that officials continuously analyze demographics and conditions to plan for any changes that are needed. I have been involved in these processes all through my tenure as we have worked with planners and consultants to design a framework of ordinances to guide us in our decisions."
Evans said she was the city’s finance officer two years before a city clerk was hired.
"This experience gave me a better understanding of city operations," she said. "In addition to my experience with the city, my professional experience has been primarily in various positions in banking including management, finances, public relations, marketing and human resources."
She said that gave her perspectives from various points, including business, consumer, employer and employee, and their needs, and helps her make decisions affecting everyone involved.
"I believe I listen to the concerns of all and make ethical, informed decisions guided by the law and our ordinances, as well as the wishes of our residents," she said.
Evans said managing quality growth in Flemington will continue to be important.
"We have established a framework which allows Flemington to retain its unique character while allowing for residential and commercial development," she said. "Flemington’s zoning ordinance and the comprehensive land use plan for Flemington and Liberty County provide that framework. While it is a delicate balance, I believe we can have quality growth and respect our environment and heritage if we apply our ordinances and regulations consistently and uniformly so that Flemington will continue to be a desirable place to live."
She also said the city needs to address funding.
"Flemington currently collects no city taxes," she said. "We must continue to address the challenge of funding services as the city grows. Police protection, emergency services, including fire and EMS, garbage collection, mosquito control, roadway maintenance, roadway and traffic safety improvements are provided at great cost. I want to continue to search for funding sources to help defray these costs in a way that is fair to all."
And with the growth, Evans said traffic safety also is important.
"Some scheduled safety improvements have now been delayed by Georgia Department of Transportation," she said. "We must continue to push for these improvements, which include a traffic light on McLarry’s Curve, especially in light of continuing development on the horizon. Flemington is the gateway to one of the main access points for Fort Stewart which creates traffic backups in the morning and the afternoon on Old Sunbury Road. Also, several schools are accessed via Flemington, creating heavy traffic at peak times. Truck traffic on Highway 84 is a continuing concern and only seems to get heavier."
Evans said she cares about Flemington and its residents.
"I take very seriously my responsibility to them," she said. "I believe I have in the past and will continue to make decisions in the best interest of Flemington and that promote and facilitate the public health, safety and welfare of our residents and those who pass through our community."
Rene Harwell, 57, was born in Hinesville and has lived in Flemington for 22 years. She is the director of marketing and public relations for Liberty Regional Medical Center. She earned a degree at the University of Georgia School of Banking and Finance. She is married and has one adult son.
She said living in Flemington has made her passionate about its growth and management.
"I believe I will be able to contribute well in this planning going forward," she said.
Harwell said she has served on boards and civic groups that have broadened her experiences in dealing with issues. She was a past member of the Rotary Club of Hinesville, past board member and chairwoman of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and represents Flemington on the Keep Liberty Beautiful board.
"My experience over the years in the fields of finance, telecommunications and healthcare has provided me with many of the appropriate skills which will be necessary in this elected position," she said. "These careers have provided me with extensive experience with budget and finance as well as marketing skills. This type of experience over the past 40 years will provide me with the skills necessary to assist our other council members in making the best decisions for our community."
If elected, Harwell said she wants the city to preserve the quality of life for residents with solutions for increased traffic, as well as the impact on the city’s infrastructure, especially with planned developments.
She said she wants services currently provided to remain affordable.
"Amidst the projected growth, I’d like to strive to ensure Flemington continues to provide the necessary services, planning and management for our residents without a reduction in services or an increase in cost, if at all possible," she said. "So that it grows at a reasonable rate while preserving that small town, safe, community feel so that residents and businesses will continue to locate to our city."
Harwell said she wants Flemington to stand out.
"I believe I will be able to use my marketing skills to help Flemington stand out among the municipalities of our county," she added. "Even though considerable effort has been put forth by current and past administrations, Flemington is sometimes confused with the community of Fleming due to the similarities in the names, and not differentiated from the city of Hinesville instead of its own city status."
Harwell said she will serve respectfully and ethically if elected.
"With honor and integrity," she said. "I will give 100 percent to the city and its residents, while making myself available to them to address any concerns and recommendations they may have at any time."
Keith Moran and his wife Grace have lived in Flemington, for more than 23 years. Together they have three daughters and four grandchildren.
Moran earned his master’s of public administration degree at Columbus State University. He retired as chief deputy of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in 2012. He retired as a chief warrant officer 3 from the Army in 1992.
Moran said his nature is to help others and currently he spends most of his time helping family and spending time with his grandchildren.
He said his years of military and law enforcement service accentuated his skills in the various areas of city, state and federal agencies and local government.
"I am running for councilman to help support Mayor (Paul) Hawkins and the other council members with governing the daily operations…," Moran said. "During my two careers, I worked in areas of personnel management, budget, litigation, policies and of course law enforcement. Now, I have the time to give back to my community, my home."
He said he wants to continue a life of service.
"The preservation of Flemington’s history and ensuring it is a safe place to live, work and raise our families is very important to me," he said. "When voting on improvements with infrastructure, community growth and city finances I will always think of the citizens first and the future of Flemington."
Timothy Byler is also running for a seat, but an apparent email glitch kept him from getting our request for information. His reponses will be run later.