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Candidate profiles

POSTED: November 4, 2011 12:55 p.m.

The Rincon City Council elections are the only contested municipal elections in Effingham County this year. There are three seats up for election and seven candidates running for those seats.

The Herald sent each candidate a questionnaire, asking them about themselves and what they want to accomplish as members of Rincon City Council.

The election will be held Nov. 8 with polls open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. The top three vote-getters will be seated on city council.

The candidates will be presented in alphabetical order.

Reese Browher

Age:  35

Occupation: Social Studies Teacher at Effingham County High School

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon:
I was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., when my father was in seminary. Both my mom and dad are from Georgia. I have lived in Rincon for 28 years.

Previous political experience (how long have you served on city council/what other offices have you held or run for)
I have had the privilege to serve on city council in Rincon for nearly 12 years. I first ran for council when I was 19 years old. I lost that election; however, I gained valuable experience and decided to run again four years later, and that time I was successful.

Why you are running for office
I am running for office for several reasons. Chief among these reasons is because I enjoy working with our citizens to resolve any problem, issue, question, or concern they may have.  It does not matter to me whether a person has a simple drainage issue or a major problem, I view my job as a councilman seriously, and will do whatever is within my power to get a successful resolution for that person.  Secondly, I enjoy serving and being a part of government.  I teach government to high school students, and being involved with city council allows me to give my students a different perspective.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years
1. Ensure that the City of Rincon remains property tax free. Rincon has not had a property tax in 13 years 

2. Continue to focus on planning and ensuring that the city’s transportation, public safety, recreation, water, and wastewater needs are met. Within weeks, construction will begin on the Fort Howard Road project. The road will be widened and sidewalks will be added as a result of our current council’s dedication to the transportation and public safety needs of our city. 

3. Rincon needs to implement a recycling program.  I have been pushing for this for several years, and the City has explored several options; however, those options have not been financially or fiscally viable to our citizens or our City. The City is currently exploring the option to purchase land to set up a single site dropoff point.      

List what you consider to be the city’s top three accomplishments in the last four years
1. Rincon has remained property tax free and is in a sound financial position. 

2. Rincon purchased Lost Plantation Golf Course and we now can place our treated water on the course.  Also, this water can be used by our citizens for outside irrigation at a great cost savings to the citizens. 

3. Rincon has greatly expanded our recreation department over the last four years.  The Lions Club was purchased and is currently being renovated so that it may be used by the public.  Tennis courts were installed at Patriots Park which is behind the YMCA, and both Giles Park on 7th Street and Jaycee Veteran’s Park on Highway 21 have been expanded.  Two fields will be added to McCumber Park in the next year in addition to other expansion projects at that park.  Lastly, the interior and exterior of the Vernon C. Hinely Community Center has been refurbished. 

Gregory Brunson

Age: 53

Occupation: Founder and senior pastor of Church of the Harvest Ministries in Rincon.Brunson has been a resident of Rincon for 15 years. He and his wife Janette have three daughters and four grandchildren. He is a Gulf War veteran, having served in the Army, and has worked as an instructor, mentor and teacher of at-risk youth for 25 years. He has been director of the STAR Program for the Effingham County Board of Education and has served on the Effingham YMCA board of directors. He currently is on the board of directors of the United Way of Effingham County.

Why you are running for office
There is an absence of community voice that I would like to see returned to the decision making process of this city.

Planning with vision will cause our city to be comparable to our neighboring thriving cities.

The agenda that governed Rincon as a small town principality will not allow us to effectively move forward without a change.

First, let me say that the Mayor and current council have done an outstanding job concerning the growing needs of our city. They have placed us in a very marketable position as one the most attractive places to live and work in the low country. However, I feel that these are issues our city is facing:

1. Annexation and stabilization of city limits —How do we move forward in increasing the limits of our city and what are the benefits and liabilities in doing so.

2. Accessing our posture as a city in going after investors of big business/commerce, or utilizing other modems to acquire perspective business investors.

3. The need for family oriented venues and businesses such as family restaurants, bowling, movie theatres, youth arcades. 

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years
The most important question is where do we see our city in the next five to 10 years, and more importantly, what does it look like? With an ever increasing population will our vision take us past the point of catching up to the growth we have already experienced, or will we look at the upcoming years with preparation for the years to come? How aggressive do we want to become in seeking out investors that will bring commerce and businesses to our city? Commerce and businesses mean jobs and money in the hands of our people, and revenue to our city. There are lots of things that don’t need to change about the great city we live in, but there are a few things that must.

I don’t come with a political agenda nor an axe to grind, but with a heart that wants the very best for all people. I look forward to standing at the gate of our city, and serving you as one your elected councilmen.

Harry Capwell

Age: 43

Occupation: Self employed landscaper (owner of Rare Earth Mgt. Inc)

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon:  Born in Chatham County, grew up in Port Wentworth, lived in Rincon for nine years, in Effingham 15 years.

Four children — three girls ages 23, 20, 14, and one boy, 17 years old. Married to Amy Stegin Capwell.

Previous political experience (what other offices have you held or run for):  Haven’t held any political offices.

Why you are running for office:  I’m running for office in Rincon because I think the people of Rincon are ready for some new things to happen for the better of the city. I will be the voice for them. I will always do what is the best for the people and the city.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years:  Hire new city manager (local person that knows our city), low water bills and bring new industry to Rincon.

James Dasher

Age: 48

Occupation: Associate Broker, Heidt Burns Real Estate Consultants

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon: Born in Vidalia. Lived in Rincon/Effingham for 36 years

Previous political experience (what other offices have you held or run for): Elected to the Effingham County Board of Education for two terms, eight years.

Why you are running for office:     

I have been involved in civic clubs and the community for 29 years. I have coached ball with our recreation department, served as Past President of the Rincon Lions Club, PTA President for four years and elected to the BOE for eight years. I enjoy being involved and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to give back to the community that has been so good to me and my family.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years:
I’m not running with a personal agenda. I want to be a team player and work with the mayor and council in keeping Rincon progressing forward. I would like to see first of all, stability in the city manager’s position. We need to find the right person and the right personality for our citizens. A candidate may interview real well and have great credentials, but we need someone that can relate to our culture and our citizens. 

Secondly, I want see Rincon business friendly when businesses are looking at our town as a possible place to expand and grow their businesses. We need to have an active group pursuing business and industry for our area. Creating incentives for businesses to locate here. Rincon and our county benefits tremendously from our sales tax and we need to keep that money in our community. The way that we do this is to attract restaurants and businesses to our area.

Thirdly, I would like to see Rincon get through the legal battles and litigation that we are currently faced with. Litigation and lawsuits cost our citizens a lot of money and the attorneys will drag these suits out as long as they can make another buck. We need the black cloud of lawsuits off of Rincon and put them behind us. Rincon is progressing and has progressed in so many areas during the past few years. We have a lot to look forward to and the accomplishments made are many and the future is bright for Rincon as long as we keep it progressing positively with common sense leadership.

List what you consider to be the city’s top three accomplishments in the last four years:
Rincon has great leadership at the top with Mayor Ken Lee. Mayor Lee has regained the respect and camaraderie with the EPD which is crucial for the growth of Rincon.

Second, the acquisition of Lost Plantation Golf Course to allow Rincon a place to send their reuse water and actually get paid for it. The golf course will turn out to be a great investment for Rincon in the future as it can be sold back into the private sector at a higher rate than what Rincon purchased it for.

Thirdly, hiring Chief Mike Bohannon as Police chief simply shows that we have great local people to fill key positions for our city. Chief Bohannon has taken a department with issues and has turned it around to the positive. Rincon had in the past received so much negative press from our police department and Chief Bohannon has done a fantastic job to turn the department around and continue to protect and serve the citizens.

George A. Saraf

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon:Born and raised in Savannah. I’ve lived in Rincon since 1968.

Previous political experience (how long have you served on city council/what other offices have you held or run for):
I served three and a half years as a city councilman and I served 14 years as mayor. I was elected to serve as chairman on the GMA first district board.

Why you are running for office:
Future taxation, enhancing the quality of life for all the citizens of Rincon, last but not least, to hire the right person for the city manager’s job.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years:
Those stated above and anything else that may arise to make sure it will benefit  the most people and that it will be affordable.

List what you consider to be the city’s top three accomplishments in the last four years:
Isolating elected officials and employees from the general-public who pay their salaries, automated phone system so that we can hear (I’m away from my desk or on the phone, leave a message.) I’ve also noticed a lot of new equipment. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Paul V. Wendelken

Age:  44

Occupation:  Owner/Agent - The Wendelken Agency (Allstate Insurance Company)

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon:  Born in Savannah.  Lived in Rincon for 44 years.

Previous political experience (how long have you served on city council/what other offices have you held or run for):   
Rincon City Council - 16 years.  Also served on  Rincon Planning and Zoning Committee.

Why you are running for office:    
I am running for office because I enjoy being a part of city government and trying to make a difference in people›s lives as it pertains to the services that the city provides. I’m dedicated to the job and try to represent the best interests of the citizens of Rincon.  I grew up in Rincon and am raising a family here.  I want Rincon to continue to grow. 

Owning a business here in Rincon also gives me the opportunity to see things from the business perspective and how it relates to the things we are trying to accomplish. I have played a part in some major projects while on Council and would like to see them through to completion, as well, as future projects that are in the planning stages.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years:   
My first priority is for the City to continue without City property taxes.  We haven›t had them since 1998 and one of my goals is to continue that for as long as possible.  Another priority is Public Safety (Police and Fire). Our police department is growing and we need to continue to provide them the means necessary to fight crime here in Rincon.   We are starting to have some major crimes occur here in Rincon and we need to be vigilant in trying to stop as much criminal activity as we can.  The fire department is also growing and we now have paid firefighters that are supplemented by a loyal and dedicated group of volunteers. Our fire department is as well-equipped as any around and our goal is to lower our ISO rating which will lower insurance premiums for homeowners, landlords, businesses and industry.  

Another priority is our sewer/re-use systems. We have upgraded and expanded our wastewater treatment plant to the tune of millions of dollars in preparing for our future.  We purchased Lost Plantation Golf Course and will be irrigating the course and lawns in Lost Plantation with treated wastewater (re-use) which will keep us from putting the re-use in the Savannah River and also allow residents to transition off drinking water and onto re-use water for the irrigation of their lawns.

List what you consider to be the city’s top three accomplishments in the last four years:    
The biggest accomplishment in the last four years would be the negotiations and ultimate agreement with Effingham County, city of Springfield, city of Guyton and the city of Rincon on the House Bill 489 Service Delivery Strategy. It is a 10-year strategy so it was very important to make sure it was right.  It took months of negotiations but it allowed us all to reach agreement on what services are provided by the cities that may duplicate what’s provided by the county.  The cost of any of the duplicated services will come back as a credit to the cities or will be accounted for on the county property tax bills as a millage rate that is lower for the residents of those cities (providing those services) than for the residents of the unincorporated areas. City residents may potentially have a lower county property tax bill than residents of the county. 

The second biggest accomplishment of the last four years was the purchase of the golf course and irrigation project that will allow us to use re-use water to irrigate the golf course and also the lawns in and around Lost Plantation.  This will allow us to discontinue discharging into the Savannah River and will help residents who water their lawn with drinking water to have a lower water bill by watering with re-use water.  This accomplishment also allows us to meet a goal of EPD, which is to have entities reduce their discharge in the Savannah River. 

The third biggest accomplishment would be hiring some paid firefighters. Rincon Fire Department has always been very well-equipped and now we are able to provide 24 hour coverage with at least one paid firefighter and daytime coverage with 2 additional paid firefighters supplemented by an excellent group of volunteers who respond day and night to fires, accidents and medical calls. 

Having been a volunteer firefighter with Rincon Fire, I understand what they go through and I am proud of what we have accomplished with our fire department.

Teresa Witt

Age:   46

Occupation: Local business manager, dealing in sales and loans

Place of birth/how long have you lived in Rincon:  Mount Kisco, New York.  I have been a resident of Rincon for almost 12 years.

Previous political experience:  I have never served in a non-student related office.

Why you are running for office:
I have had a very strong interest in local politics since observing the city council’s actions over the past decade. I truly have never had political aspirations of any kind, but I am tired of seeing these locally elected politicians pursue their own agendas.

List your top three objectives/priorities for the city in the next four years
Hire qualified and competent personnel capable of performing the duties they would be assigned and then allow them to do their job without unnecessary political influence or interference (no micro-managing).

Having the residents’ best interests in mind when voting on issues.

Focus on actual municipal issues and improvements rather than trying to keep total control of non-political aspects.

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