The process for candidates to qualify for elected posts in five Chatham County municipalities closed Friday. Residents of Bloomingdale, Port Wentworth, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island and Vernonburg will go to the polls to choose leaders on Nov. 2.
Bloomingdale, Thunderbolt and Vernonburg’s entire council is up for election, as are the mayors in all three cities. Port Wentworth residents will vote for mayor and three council seats, and Tybee Islanders will cast ballots for three council seats.
Here are the candidates who qualified, according to documents filed with the Chatham County Board of Elections and respective municipalities.
Check SavannahNow.com for additional qualifiers and updated bios of the candidates.
At-Large council member:
Bruce Campbell previously served on city council from 2011 to 2020 and has been a Garden City resident for 30 years. He is the owner and operator of TC’s Barber and Beauty Shop and also a pastor of the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Donna Williams is a business development liaison for Center Parc Credit Union and is a founding member of the Garden City Neighborhood Association. She’s lived in the city for about 20 years and is part of multiple community organizations including Garden City Convention Visitors Bureau and the Lions Club.
District 1 council member:
Marcia Daniel (incumbent) is retired and has served on city council since 2014. Before retiring she worked as an accountant. She currently manages the finances for her Silk Hope Baptist Church, which she grew up in. Daniel is also part of Garden City’s comprehensive plan committee.
District 5 council member:
Kimberly Tice (Incumbent) is serving her second term on council and has lived in the city for 43 years. She’s been part of the Garden City Housing Team for seven years and previously served on the planning and zoning committee. She’s now retired and wants to continue focusing on bettering the community.
Christopher Figiel works in hospitality management and has lived in Garden City for a year. He has experience raising funds for nonprofits in the local community including the Savannah Humane Society, the Savannah Harbor Foundation and One Hope Foundation.
Corey Foreman is an army veteran who runs Handyman of Savannah, a home improvement and repair company. He’s currently finishing a bachelor’s degree in economics at Georgia Southern University and is a founding member of the Garden City Neighborhood Association. Foreman has lived in the city for two years.
Todd Payne, a resident of nearly eight years, works as a truck driver and equipment operator at TNT Express. He also does construction and repairs with the Garden City Housing Team. One of the main issues he’s concerned about is making Garden City a more livable community.
Gary Norton (Incumbent) was born and raised in Port Wentworth and works at International Paper. He previously served on city council from 2009 to 2011. Norton was ordained a deacon at North Salem Baptist Church in 1990 where he served on the board for six years.
Julius Hall resides in the Rice Hope subdivision and has been a resident of Port Wentworth for almost seven years. He sits on the Chatham County Democratic Committee board and runs the media company All Things Relevant Media.
At-Large council member:
Linda Smith (Incumbent) is currently retired from Chatham County but works part-time at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Savannah. She is also on the citizen review panel for Chatham County Juvenile Court and volunteers with Westview Nursing Home and the Ed Young Senior Citizen Center. Linda served on the city’s Board of Zoning and Appeals and the Planning Commission for 15 years.
JoEllen Smith is a small business owner in logistics and business consulting and lives in the Rice Hope neighborhood. Smith is a member of the Chatham County Democratic Committee and previously served on the SPLOST oversight committee of her previous county.
District 1 council member: (seat was vacated early)
Gabrielle Nelson sits on the city planning commission member and works in Chatham County’s IT department. She’s worked for Chatham County for 13 years and is also part of the Chatham County Democratic Committee board. She’s lived in Port Wentworth for 13 years.
Alfonso Ribot is CEO of the Metropolitan Savannah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and has lived in Port Wentworth for nine months. Before that, he worked with the U.S. Census Bureau as a bilingual partnership specialist.
District 3 council member:
Rufus Bright is a retired construction worker and veteran of the Vietnam war who now serves as a pastor for Hardeeville Church of Christ. He is also Vice President of the Port Wentworth planning commission. He’s lived in the city for the past seven years.
Lynwood Griner (Incumbent) spent most of his childhood with relatives in Port Wentworth. He owns a small trucking company, LRG Transport Inc and has served as a jailor at the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and with the Bloomingdale, Garden City, and Rincon police departments and Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Janet Hester is a longtime resident of Port Wentworth and lives in the Meinhard Community, where she tends a family farm. Though this is her first time running for a local government seat, she has been an active member of local politics and regularly attends city council meetings.
Dana Williams is in his first term on city council and is part of the water and sewer ad hoc committee. He’s been a Thunderbolt resident since 2006 and runs Rutland Tire & Wheel in Rincon. He’s also the vice president of Georgia Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association.
Beth E. Goette (Incumbent) served as the mayor for the past eight years and previously served as a council member for 12 years. Her and her family has lived in Thunderbolt for 48 years. She was recently elected to serve one year as Vice President for the Georgia Municipal Association District 12.
Council member (six seats):
Edward M. Drohan, III (incumbent) is finishing his second term on council and is also part of the water and sewer ad hoc committee. He’s lived in Thunderbolt for 14 years and is a practicing clinical psychologist.
Lawrence Ward (Incumbent) has been on the town’s council for one and a half years and has lived in Thunderbolt for 14 years. He is retired but works per diem for Mercer Medical School as a standardized patient and is part of the city’s Beautification Committee.
David P. Crenshaw (Incumbent) has been on Thunderbolt’s council for 12 years and has lived in the town since 2002. He is most concerned about Thunderbolt’s infrastructure, especially how they are drawing water.
Bethany Skipper has lived in the Town of Thunderbolt with her husband for five years. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business from the University of Indiana and has been practicing as a Licensed Massage Therapist for about 4 years. This will be her first time running for public office.
James P. Lavin has lived in Thunderbolt for the last 21 years and is recently retired. He worked as a maintenance supervisor at energy infrastructure company, Kinder Morgan. Lavin is running for local office for the first time and is an elder at Islands Christian Church.
Brooks Barbaree (Incumbent) is a public educator and has lived in Thunderbolt for about four years. He was appointed to city council February of this year. Barbaree works as a teacher for the Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Academy, serving students with special needs.
Council member (three seats):
Elaine McGruder has lived on Tybee’s north end for almost three years. She currently serves on the city’s planning committee. McGruder is retired but worked as a criminal defense attorney for 25 years. She served on the Atlanta City Council from 1979 to 1989. She is most concerned about quality of life issues.
Monty Parks (Incumbent) has been on Tybee’s council for two terms. Prior to that he chaired the Tybee planning commission and served on several other city committees. Parks lives in the mid-island area and is an active volunteer with several nonprofit organizations.
Marie Rodriguez has lived on the island for almost 30 years and served on the ethics commission before running for council. Rodriguez is a pet-sitter and fundraised for the city’s animal control building. She has helped spay and neuter almost 1,000 cats. She was also previously a civilian liaison for the Tybee Island police department.
Michael “Spec” Hosti (Incumbent) is in his second stint on Tybee City Council, having previously served in the 1990s. He’s been a Tybee Island resident since 1956 and is a co-owner of the Cockspur Grill. Hosti retired from the National Park Service at Fort Pulaski after working there for 38 years.
Brian West is a healthcare consultant and taught healthcare administration for five years at South University. He’s lived on Tybee for 11 years in the mid-island area and is concerned about island growth.
Mack Kitchens has lived on Tybee Island since 1993. He is a builder licensed in three states including Georgia. Kitchens works with the city’s lifeguards, Ocean Rescue, to improve response times and advocates for better equipment in public safety meetings.
Ben Rozier (Incumbent) has been a resident of Bloomingdale for 24 years. He served as mayor from 2002 to 2005 and was elected again in 2013 and has been mayor since. Rozier owns Southern Hospitality Baggage Delivery Service, located in the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Before diving into local politics, he was a police officer in surrounding cities and counties.
Dennis Baxter has been a resident of Bloomingdale for 51 years and was appointed to council November of last year. Baxter was the city manager for Pooler for 17 years and previously served on Bloomingdale’s council for a term in 2009. He is retired and is a member of the First Baptist Church.
Council (six seats):
Ernest Grizzard (Incumbent) has lived in Bloomingdale for 77 years and is in his second term on council. He is also part of the public safety committee and special events committee. Grizzard is an army veteran and worked in construction before he retired.
Glenda Key has lived in the city for 37 years and, as a former hair salon owner, used to give free haircuts to senior citizens before the pandemic hit. Key quit her salon business to become her mother’s caretaker and now also helps with her husband’s contracting business, Key Custom Construction.
Juan (John) Arias has been a Bloomingdale resident for almost three years and runs an interior shop, Bloomingdale Sewtech. Before retiring, he worked for Gulfstream Aerospace for 22 years in various positions, working his way up to project manager. Arias said he often hosts luncheons for Bloomingdale’s fire fighters, police department and other city workers and is eager to give back to the community.
Terry W. Jones is a lifelong resident of Bloomingdale and is the Manager of Sales and Services for a heavy equipment company, Sun Machinery Company. He helped found the city’s Recreation Department and worked as the chairman of the recreation committee for 14 years.
Mike Hargroves grew up in Bloomingdale and taught K-12 for 18 years. After retiring in 2019, he went back to substitute teaching as that was his calling, Hargroves said. He is also president of the Bloomingdale Lions Club and this will be his first time running for city council.
David Otakie (Incumbent) is in his first term on council and also serves in the city’s public safety and public works departments. He’s lived in Bloomingdale for six years and works in law enforcement, specifically with Homeland Security. Otakie is concerned about managing growth in the city.
Jimmy Hungerpiller (Incumbent) has served as the Vernonburg chief executive for 18 years. Hungerpiller said he lived in the town for most of his life. He’s now retired and spends time with his family and addresses community concerns. One of the top concerns residents have, he said, is the cleanliness of the Vernon River, the watershed the town borders.
has served on council for eight years and works as an opthamologist. He’s lived in the town for 19 years and wants to protect the river and the traditional way of life in Vernonburg.
Josh Mckenzie (Incumbent) has been on council for two years and has lived in Vernonburg for seven. He works as a radiation oncologist and is concerned about public safety, environmental protection and the general well-being of residents.
Laura Lawton (Incumbent) is a retired educator and has been on council for two years. She’s a lifetime resident of Vernonburg and advocates for public safety and environmental protection.
Holmes Bell (Incumbent) works as a civil engineer and has served eight years on council. He’s been a resident for 13 years and champions environmental protection.
Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.