By Tiffany King
Candidates of the contested races in Liberty County’s Nov. 8 election shared their thoughts on the election results, thanked their supporters and talked about what the future holds.
Donald Lovette, chairman of the county commissioners, defended his seat against challenger Matt Mattingly.
The unofficial results show Lovette with 9,645 votes, or 61.34 percent, and Mattingly receiving 6,080 votes, or 38.66 percent.
Lovette said in an email that he was humbled and honored to receive “a sound vote of confidence from citizens.”
“This validates the work the commissioners and I have done to promote civic engagement, promote and enhance our recreational and historic sites, improve our workforce and attract higher paying jobs, support and attract county wide retail growth, enhance local educational opportunities and to strength our ties with each municipality, each Authority, the Board of Education and Ft. Stewart. We also remain committed to supporting youth enrichment programs,” Lovette said.
Going forward, Lovette said he plans to have more town halls and try to communicate better with millennials. He said he also plans to identify financing for a new Health Department.
Lovette thanked residents for their support and encouraged people to get involved with city and county government.
“I want to ask them to help promote Liberty County. Be ‘Liberty County Proud.’ Liberty County has the right leadership team and the momentum to position our county as a competing commercial, historical and cultural arts center of Coastal Georgia. The best is yet to come!” Lovette wrote.
Mattingly congratulated Lovette on his win and then thanked his family and entire campaign team.
“I want to thank the thousands of voters who did vote for us,” Mattingly said. “We did better than what most people though we were going to do.”
Mattingly said he has requested to speak before the county commissioners and share ideas he had during the campaign to generate revenue for the county.
“I think the bottom line for Liberty County is money is going to solve our problems and issues. I think we have to look at what other counties are doing around us and start doing what they’re doing correctly for their citizens,” Mattingly said. “Become more proactive than reactive in our county.”
In the race for Liberty County sheriff, incumbent Steve Sikes was able to keep his seat, garnering 11,414 votes, or 73.17 percent, while challenger Robert Brooks Jr., received 4,186 votes, or 26.83 percent.
“I feel very honored and privileged to be sheriff of Liberty County,” Sikes said. “The turnout was fabulous across the whole county. I give God the glory to be sheriff and thank you.”
Brooks congratulated Sikes on his victory and called him “a great competitor.”
“I would like to thank my supporters for all their hard work and dedication. Unfortunately the results weren’t what we expected but we gave a great effort,” Brooks said. “Everyone worked hard and I’m proud of the results that we got.”
Brooks said he was proud that he went from obscurity to almost getting 5,000 votes.
His supporters want him run again for sheriff in four years, Brooks said, but he is unsure if that will happen in time. In the meantime he said wants the best for the county and Liberty County Sheriff’s Department.
Pat Bowen and Ted Eby faced each other again for District 4 commissioner. Bowen won with 1,928 votes, or 57.74 percent. Eby received 1,411 votes, 42.26 percent.
On the Re-Elect Pat Bowen Facebook page, Bowen wrote, “I just want to say thank you for all of your support these past few months. I could not have done this without you.”
Eby thanked his supporters and said he was surprised by the large turnout.
“I do hope the county moves forward in the right direction to help people,” Eby said. “I’m going to keep working in the county and keep building and see how things go in the next four years.”
There was another victory for elected officials on Tuesday. The Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax passed by a margin of 9,205 to 6,565, meaning more than 58 percent of voters said yes to SPLOST.
The tax is projected to earn $54 million over six years, which will be allocated to various projects in municipalities and county.
That’s a change from two years ago, when voters rejected renewing the 1 percent sales tax. But a SPLOST marketing campaign led by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce sought to inform voters about SPLOST and included a series town hall meetings, a video about the sales tax and more.
Lovette called the reinstatement of SPLOST “a great win for the county.”
“We are in the midst of the largest commercial growth in the Liberty County in recent years. As we speak there is renewed interest in development at I-95 at Midway and interest in property adjacent to the Oglethorpe Square Shopping Center,” Lovette said.
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown was excited to see the sales tax pass by a large margin. In an email he commended the SPLOST committee for their “superior job of educating the public.”
“It was really important to me that we gave all of our citizens the information they needed to make an informed decision and I feel that we more than accomplished the task,” Brown said. “I also want to commend all the people that came out to vote. You have done a great service to your county.”
Brown is anxious to see what SPLOST will do for Hinesville and the county. He thinks that the project list is strong and believes elected officials, including himself, will be “good stewards of the tax that our citizens have so graciously entrusted us with.”