Current planning and zoning board member Ulysses Eaton may be new to Guyton politics, but he has roots in public office.
His mom, Pamela Eaton, has been a councilwoman for 12 years in Washington, and Eaton has spent more than a few nights at council meetings there and in Guyton.
When he moved to the small historic town a little under two years ago, he began attending the meetings to stay informed. After a couple of meetings and asking questions about what was going on, Marshall Reiser, planning and zoning board chairman, approached him about joining the board and later nominated him to the group.
“Marshall’s the one who’s gotten me involved in things,” Eaton said.
For more than a year now, he has been on the planning and zoning board, which fits his background. He’s a project manager with Choate Construction in Savannah and holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Presbyterian College in South Carolina.
In addition, he serves on the Leadership Effingham group sponsored by the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce.
For him, deciding to run for post 2 on the council is about public service more than public office.
“It’s been more, not necessarily (public) office, but helping the community in any way that I can. And as we settle down, it’s turning into public office is the way to do that and actually really make a change,” he said.
He was encouraged by others in town to consider running. From their push, he started looking at the opportunity closely and ended up siding with them. His family strongly supports his run, as well. His mom has been coaching him by telephone and his wife is his campaign manager.
Through his involvement in Guyton, Eaton has had a front-row seat to what’s going on there.
He said he sees what lies ahead for Guyton and is concerned.
“I see what’s about to happen with, number one, Effingham County and number two, how that’s going to affect Guyton,” he acknowledged.
The direction the city is headed in is good, he said, but it could be better.
“I think there are a lot of things, seeing what I’m see on planning and zoning, that we can do better now to secure ourselves as growth implodes on us,” Eaton said.
He believes that the current ordinances on the books need to be strengthened and re-prioritized.
“Put the measures in place that will accept the growth as it comes, but also protect what we have there currently,” Eaton said. “And kind of steer the growth as it happens.”
As is the case for many Guyton residents, water and sewer are two big concerns of his. However, his concern goes beyond capacity.
“Currently we have a very old water and sewer system,” he said. “And as it deteriorates, it’s going to cost the city money to repair, it’s going to cost the homeowners money through taxes and whatever to repair it.”
He supports putting a plan in place to address this inevitable need. He also favors the city looking into constructing its own wastewater treatment plant.
He also has taken note of the need for road resurfacing in Guyton. The city has a lot of ash roads, he added.
Beyond infrastructure, Eaton is also focused on the character of the city, particularly its historical significance. He advocates this being preserved and promoted. He and his family live in one of the city’s historic homes, one built in 1853.
He knows something about history as his hometown of Washington is steeped in it. Incorporated in 1780, the town has more antebellum homes than any other city its size in the state.
“The historic assets that we have in Guyton, being old homes, old buildings, old churches, you know, we’ve got to continue to preserve those as well as promote them,” Eaton said.
When he joined the planning and zoning board, the city was beginning its master plan of which connectivity is a part. He would really like to see the city concentrate more on this.
He suggested sidewalks along Highway 119 to enable residents to get to both Effingham High School and Effingham Middle School. It would also connect Springfield to Guyton.
Beautification is another part of his platform as he recommended that the corridors and entrances be landscaped.
“Make it so people remember Guyton,” said Eaton.
Civic groups or garden clubs could do the work and there are funds available through the government for this type of thing, he added.
“There are so many grants, federal and state grants out there that we could go after with these things,” he pointed out.
His beautification ideas extend to the trees. In his opinion, the tree ordinance could use strengthening.
“I think we should protect our trees a little bit more,” he admitted.
The Rails to Trails project plays a part in all three of his goals: improving connectivity, increasing beautification and promoting the city. He is a big supporter of the plan.
His 16 month-old son, Arcadian, will attend Guyton Elementary in a few years and having the trail there running through the median would enable his wife Linda to easily walk him to school, he explained, along with other families with children attending the school.
It would also make the city more appealing and the gazebo at the end would work really well with events like the annual “This and That” rummage sale that take place in the median.
The last piece of his platform is recycling. And he’s not the first official in the county to mention the need for it. In addition, Eaton said many fellow Guyton residents have voiced their desire for the service.
“All it can do is do good for the community,” Eaton said.
His mother started a curbside recycling program in Washington. He thinks it would work well in Guyton.
“I think it will, looking at the future here,” he said, noting that talking to other cities that have successful programs is essential.
And he is aware of the costs it will incur.
“Right up front it might be a cost or some sort of a burden to the city, but in the long run there might be grants in the future that we can apply for,” he acknowledged.
As the city grows it will definitely be good to have and it would add a little notoriety to Guyton if they could say that they were the first municipality in the county to start their own recycling program, noted Eaton.
Eaton and his wife moved to Guyton nearly two years ago. He and his wife relocated to Savannah after living in Chattanooga, Tenn., for three and a half years and in Atlanta before that for the same amount of time. They rode through Effingham County their first weekend in Savannah and fell in love with Guyton.
“It’s quiet and you know, small towns just feels more like a family,” noted Eaton.
They attend Guyton United Methodist Church, where he serves as a trustee and his wife works as the finance chairwoman. They are expecting their second child this month.
Whatever the outcome of the election, he is not approaching his campaign with a do or die attitude.
“If I don’t win, hey, I gave it a try, we’ll come back next time and give it another shot,” Eaton said. “I do think that through progressive thinking, which is kind of what I’ve built my platform on and energy that I can definitely be an asset for the community and all parts of the community.”
Ulysses Eaton’s platform:
Strengthen and re-prioritize current ordinances
Revitalize the infrastructure-water and sewer
Preservation and promotion of Guyton
Beautification of the city corridors
Promote a recycling program