GUYTON — Two longtime Guyton residents are seeking to become the volatile city’s next mayor.
One is Michael Garvin Sr., who formerly held the position for about a decade. The other is Guyton business owner Russell Deen, who is seeking elective office for the first time.
Both candidates in the Nov. 5 race tout their leadership and desire to provide stability. Guyton has had multiple police chiefs, fire chiefs and city managers in recent years.
“The city is pretty much losing what I would call the integrity of the city,” Garvin said.
The Guyton Fire Department recently disbanded because of a lack of personnel and the Guyton Police Department is down to a lone officer.
Fire service in the city is now provided by Effingham County Fire Rescue. Garvin thinks the city council might have moved hastily into that agreement. Deen believes it was a laudable option.
“Either you can work together and try to come to some resolution or you can fight every battle and die every battle,” Deen said.
The central issue behind the recent problems with the fire and police departments, Garvin said, has to do with a lack of leadership from the top. He believes that the city has been harmed by the current council’s inability to iron out differences among its members. He said that personal preferences need to be cast aside in favor of the city’s interests.
Garvin, who also has experience as a regular council member, and Planning and Zoning Board member, is in favor of community policing. He believes that Guyton needs a chief who understands small cities. He said that the Guyton Police Department was instituted during his former tenure as mayor.
He said that, although Effingham County has one of the best sheriff’s offices in the state, Guyton still needs local dedicated officers who know the community.
Deen expressed a desire to seek community input before deciding on the Guyton Police Department’s future.
He said, “One of the first things (I would do if elected) would be to talk to the county, see if we could get a consensus with the city council to bring in either the county or a new police chief — an experienced police chief. And if there’s a consensus there to do one or the other, talk to the citizens — a town hall meeting. If you want to be involved in this decision, come out. We want to hear everything everybody has to say.”
Garvin wants the city manager to be allowed to do his or her job without fear of getting fired or being “micromanaged” by the council. City Manager Daniel Hofman was recently terminated by current Mayor Jeff Lariscy after serving less than three months.
Deen agreed that the council shouldn’t micromanage any department.
He said, “You can’t have people calling up the (police) chief saying, ‘This ticket can’t be written’ or ‘This person’s not going to go to jail.’ That’s not how government works. We chose to have government as a system of rules and you don’t get to pick and choose the ones you like like the Guyton City Council likes to do.”
Deen expressed support for City Clerk Alison Bruton, who was named interim city manager last month.
“Alison has been an amazing city clerk,” he said. “She has struggled through many city managers who have not been up to snuff and what Guyton needed, and she has always ensured that (utility) bills are correct and that people get paid on time, and the city keeps moving forward.
“Her being appointed interim city manager is the best thing the city council has done in the last two years.”
Deen said other issues he intends to address as mayor include figuring out the city’s debt issues, solving internal problems with water bills and making sure that the city sponsors a monthly activity for citizens.
Deen hopes that the city can unite. Many of the current council’s votes frequently feature a racial rift.
"We need to figure out a way to work together,” he said. “It doesn't always have to be black and white. We all live in Guyton and we all want the water to work, and we all want the toilets to flush, and we all want a policeman to show up if we're scared, and we want the streetlights to come on, and we want to know that the million dollars we paid in taxes in the year was put to good use."