The newest member of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners also will become its youngest.
Jamie DeLoach, a 34-year-old bank manager from Clyo, unseated Steve Mason for the District 3 post, winning 521-329.
The two other incumbents in Tuesday night’s general primary, District 2 commissioner Vera Jones and Phil Kieffer from District 5, held onto their seats in tight and very bitterly-contested races. Jones fended off a challenge from former county commission chairman Dusty Zeigler, and Kieffer edged former county administrator David Crawley to retain his post.
Jones beat Zeigler 573-469, and Kieffer won by a 457-373 margin. There were 4,987 cards cast in the election, a turnout of 17.8 percent.
“I think people appreciate the transparency and honesty that I have helped bring to their county government,” said Kieffer. “The citizens of the 5th District know that great things are happening. Many of the things I look forward to have already been set in motion. We recently took a very big step in regards to the Effingham Parkway, particularly the southern portion which will provide a new route to I-95 and Chatham County.”
Crawley said he did not run a dirty campaign at any time and said an ad stating his opponent was tied to a potential landfill deal was not of his doing and may have led to his defeat.
“I think it hurt me,” he said.
Crawley said what he discovered out on the campaign trail was the concern over taxes.
“A lot of people were concerned they were seeing their property values go up and the property taxes going up,” he said.
Crawley noted that if the property values go up but the millage rate remains constant, people will pay more in property taxes.
“They raised the budget last year, and they are proposing to do it again this year,” Crawley said. “When I was administrator, the budget was cut $4.5-$5 million, all without a millage rate increase.”
Kieffer said there is much to look forward to in the next four years.
“I am also eager to move forward with enhancements in recreation,” he added. “I want to see our county more focused on its facilities. The most recent SPLOST referendum approved by the voters appropriated much of the necessary funds. It is time for our board to step back and look at our county’s recreational needs and make sound plans that will serve the citizens well into the future. We have also made substantial strides in streamlining our administrative operations. We still have a lot of work left in this area. I will continue working to make sure that citizens’ interactions with county departments are pleasant and productive.”
Crawley was happy with the support he got going up against an incumbent with deep Effingham roots and especially since he has been the target of a Facebook page aimed at calling him into question.
“I’m pleased I was as well-received as I was,” he said. “I almost won an election against a guy who has been here his whole life.”
Mason thanked DeLoach for running a clean campaign and expressed his gratitude to his own supporters.
“I am disappointed in the voter turnout, as most are,” he said. “I also want to thank Jamie DeLoach on how he ran his campaign. I do not know Jamie well, but he did run a clean campaign, even with some telling him that he needed to get dirty. That is a sign of an honorable man. As far as I know there is no Web site about either one of us. I did talk with Jamie Tuesday night and offered to help him get up to speed if he wants and will assist in the change of the board in January. Jamie worked harder at the election and won. Is he a better candidate? I don’t think better, but I do believe capable.”
Mason considered not running for re-election.
“I actually feel relieved,” he said. “As some of you know, a few months ago, I had not decided to run again. It was the decision of other candidates to run in other races that gave me hope the current ‘bond of three’ may be broken, and almost was. My relief is I will not be stressed any longer over the dynamics of the current board.”
Mason said he will support DeLoach once he takes over and asked for others to do the same.
“Jamie will soon show us how he will represent our district and stand up on issues,” Mason said, “even when a decision has already been made, or will he align with the others. I think he will do well.”
Zeigler said he hopes the campaigns made people think about what the county commissioners are doing and how they go about doing it.
“The upside for me and the accomplishment of the campaign was to bring to the surface some of the real issues there on the board,” he said. “Maybe people will pay a little closer attention now.”
Zeigler also put forth his worries about a voting bloc on the commissioners controlling its actions and its decisions.
“People who encouraged me were concerned about the voting coalition on the board and some of the programs that have been eliminated,” he said. “I am still leery of what is going to happen with the board with the Grandview lawsuit. I know the players; I know the history; I can connect the dots. I’m concerned. Going forward, I am very leery of what is going to happen with the water-sewer refinancing and the impact fees. I am concerned as a taxpayer about all these things.
“Hopefully, there is some awareness that resonates out of all of this.”