One of three Liberty County commissioners up for re-election is running unopposed in the May 20 Democratic primary.
District 2 Commissioner Justin Frasier, who heads the Young Democrats of Liberty County, is unopposed. He was first elected to the commission two years ago. Commission Chairman Donald Lovette gave up the District 2 seat then to run for chairman, prompting the special election that brought in Frasier.
District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. is being challenged by Jack Waters. Horace Fleming Sr., who had qualified for the seat, withdrew on March 11, according to the voter registration office.
Mike Arnold is challenging District 3 Commissioner Connie Thrift.
The candidates recently spoke with the Courier about their goals.
Frasier wants to increase economic development and revenue generating projects. He said his accomplishments in office include the Madison Drive and Olive Street intersection project and the county’s new minority/woman business-enterprise policy. The policy ensures minority and women-owned and operated businesses receive equal opportunity to county procurement and contracting.
He is vice chairman of the Hinesville Development Authority and the Regional Water Resource Council. Frasier also serves on several boards with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
He studied law and legal studies at Morris Brown College, received a paralegal certification from the University of Georgia and is currently studying public administration at Savannah State University. Frasier is employed as a paralegal at Eichholz Law Firm. He is the son of Hinesville Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and has two children of his own.
Waters, 67, ran for county commission eight years ago. A retired Heritage Bank vice president, he has lived on Liberty County’s coast since 1987. His wife, Linda Waters, owns Cakes Unlimited in Savannah.
“I’ve always been a team-builder,” Waters said. He intends to work in partnership with the other commissioners and will agree to “agreeably disagree” when necessary. Waters said his business background should serve the county well. The former banker – who also has a background in forestry – intends to offer residents the “best roads, recreation and fire protection the county can afford,” while protecting taxpayers from additional financial burdens.
Waters said he’d like to schedule community meetings to give taxpayers a chance to tell him what they want. He also wants to preserve and promote the county’s heritage and coastal environment.
Stevens has served on the commission for 15 years. He retired from Interstate Paper in Riceboro and is employed at Moody’s Funeral Home in Claxton.
If re-elected, the commissioner wants to finish existing projects like the rural water system in the Holmestown-Screven Fork area. He also wants to refurbish the gym at the Liberty County Community Complex, and build a pavilion and walking trails there.
Stevens said he is working with fellow commissioners to enhance fire services. He will continue to “seek funding for the boat landing in the Colonel Island area,” and “restore county employee wages to be comparable with other counties.” Stevens also would like to establish a county youth commission.
Arnold, a 1980 Bradwell graduate, worked as a security specialist for the Department of Defense and as a locksmith for 31 years at Fort Stewart. His wife, Janell, works for Liberty County Probate Court.
He retired three years ago, and recently was chairman on the county’s fire authority.
Arnold said he would give taxpayers “a voice” and work to improve Liberty County’s fire protection services.
The first-time candidate said many county residents are unable to attend commission meetings and therefore are not aware of the commission’s decisions, adding that some residents have never met their district’s commissioner.
“I want to be sure the people see me,” he said. “I want to know what residents’ concerns are. Right now I don’t think people are asked that. I’d be a fulltime county commissioner, not a part-time commissioner.”
Arnold said the county formulated a fire plan five years ago but not enough SPLOST funds are going to the plan. He worries volunteer firefighters – as dedicated as they are – cannot save rural residents’ homes.
Arnold said the commission is making a mistake by not paying Hinesville to help fight fires. He added that the fire station the county built in Gum Branch should be manned 24-hours a day, and not just on a volunteer basis.
Thrift is serving her third term as commissioner. She and her husband, John Thrift, have been married for 35 years. The couple has two grown sons. The Thrifts opened their family-run auto repair business in 1978.
“My number one priority is to represent the citizens of District 3 and continue to improve the quality of life in our community,” Thrift said.
She said she worked to acquire a federal grant to enhance fire protection on the county’s west end.
“With these funds we were able to build Fire Station 15,” Thrift said. “This station is equipped with fire trucks and equipment purchased with SPLOST funds. No funding was taken out of the general fund for this project. The first phase of this project has taken a little over a year. We are continuing to look at all avenues in bringing on paid staff to this station.”
She said she is grateful to the volunteers at Station 15.
Thrift sits on the commission’s finance committee and said she puts in long hours to produce a balanced budget.
“I have worked judiciously to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money,” she said. “There are mandated services that we, as citizens, have to fund (through) the general fund. As a taxpayer, this is not a task that I take lightly.”
Thrift said SPLOST funds enabled her and fellow commissioners to pave Deveraux, Vandiver, Busbee, Moody, and County Line roads and widen and overlay asphalt on Rye Patch Road.
Thrift serves as chairman on the Liberty County Board of Health. In that role, she said she worked with the board to acquire $500,000 to create Diversity Health Center. The center serves low-income residents.