GUYTON — Candidates for two Guyton City Council seats are out campaigning and talking about what they want to see happen in their city.
Running for the Post 1 seat are Tamela Mydell and Marshall Reiser. Michael Gerwig, Andy Harville, Sam Hartis and Hursula Pelote are eyeing the Post 2 spot.
Reiser, making his second run for a council seat, said he has served on the Guyton Planning and Zoning Board, giving him some insight into how the city runs.
“I wanted to get involved, I’d love to get Guyton going in the right direction,” he said.
Reiser said that he thinks the Guyton fire and police departments have lacked leadership.
He said, “We’ve had so much turnover with police, with fire, and really at the city manager level, but you have to look at that and say, ‘What is the common denominator?’”
As an example, he cited the recent search for a new police chief.
“We just had a very qualified police chief candidate who was recommended by one of our council who was on the committee to find a police chief,” Reiser said. “Then, after that councilman recommended him, he voted against him in the city council.”
Reiser also said that the fire department had been on a downward spiral, finally resulting in Guyton handing over fire protection responsibilities to Effingham County. He said the result seems to be a good thing but doesn’t think the issue was handled very well.
“I think the solution is for the council to work together and just move forward,” Reiser said. “It seems like there’s too many impasses at the council level where things will not be accomplished and sometimes you have to compromise and move forward.”
Another one of Reiser’s concerns is how Guyton residents will pay for the new city wastewater treatment plant. He said that aside from the regular city budget of $1 million, obligation for the plant is another $3 million a year over a period from 2024 to 2028. He’s not sure where that money will be found. He said the solution is going to be through managed growth.
Reiser says his goals for the city include a more well-run government, a stable police department and to protect the city from unmanaged growth. He is proud of his town and said, “We really do have a little hidden gem that sometimes gets taken for granted.”
Mydell, owner of a Guyton restaurant, said she was spurred to seek a council seat because of the problems she faced when trying to establish her business – problems that she has seen other entrepreneurs encounter.
She said, “I want to be a voice for every citizen in Guyton and, being a voice for every citizen in Guyton, it doesn’t matter what economic background you come from, what race you are, whether you’re a senior citizen, a single mother, or are just starting out a family — they need a voice.”
In regards to the perpetual problems with the fire and police departments, Mydell said the needs of the citizenry has been supplanted by personal agendas of council members.
“A city of our size or even bigger has no place for personal agendas,” she said.
Mydell said that she doesn’t want to see continual tax increases placed on the citizens in order to pay for the wastewater treatment plant. She said she would like to go back and look at how the plant was originally set up and how it was originally to be paid for. She also an expert in such matters could be brought in to explain to citizens how the debt should be paid.
In addition, Mydell said that she wants to see ditches being dug, stop signs being cleared of foliage and simple things she hears citizens talking about handled. She said she wants to be able to work with whoever is on the city council and to be able to agree to disagree. She also thinks having a woman’s prospective would be helpful.
“I just feel that a lot of it is communication and that’s the part that I want to come in with — with communication,” she said.
Gerwig is retired from grounds maintenance in Maryland where he was a supervisor for 48 years. He and his wife moved to Effingham county in 2014. He ran for a council seat two years ago and has remained focused on city matters, events around the city and small business.
He said, "My plan was to get more involved in the city council, get more involved in the city, get to know what the problems are, get to know the people."
Gerwig though the Guyton Fire Department was a money pit.
"The citizens of this city cannot afford to maintain a fire department,” he said.
He explained that it's expensive to maintain the trucks and upgrade equipment.
In regard to the police department, Gerwig said, "This city is in danger.” The department is down to one officer.
Gerwig thinks it might be best for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office to take over law enforcement within the city. He said Guyton needs stability.
Gerwig said his goals are, "to conduct city business professionally and fair for everyone and not the 10 percent who voted and not the 10 percent who think they control this city. It has to be for everyone. You might agree to disagree but we have to move forward and we have to stabilize."
He also said he would like to see entrances to the city be made prettier.
Harville has been in Effingham County since 1993 and Guyton since 2012. He went to South Effingham High School and currently serves as sales manager for Pineora Handi House.
He said he decided to run for a council seat because of things he became aware of while working with the fire department.
Harvell said, "The police department is in shambles and we either need to move forward with, maybe, the county or see what we need to do about staying local. I prefer to stay local but as of right now we're really not moving forward with anything."
The candidate expressed support for Richard Zapal as police chief. Zapal is a highly respected former Savannah police officer with 36 years of law enforcement experience.
"We definitely need a leadership figure in the police department. Right now we do not (have one),” he said. “We need somebody with experience, plain and simple."
Harville said that his goals for the city are getting the police department moving in the right direction. He said it would bring in revenue for the city. He thinks believes that having the county take over fire protection was probably the right thing to do. He would also like to see Guyton's drainage issues addressed.
Hartis said his background is mostly in property management. He has managed properties from New York to Miami, he said He and his wife chose to live here primarily because of the good schools in he area. He said that his first effort to seek public office was prompted because it is apparent that things need to change in Guyton.
He said, "It sounded like there was a lot of infighting and bad decisions and I think that's what needs to change. I think things should be done, not on personal interest, but on the interest of all, not the interest of a small group or a group that happens to be friends with or related to those making the decisions."
Hartis went on to say that when decisions aren’t made in the right way in the beginning they can have dire consequences years or decades down the road.
He said the solution to Guyton’s problems starts with effective leadership and building a base from which to grow.
Hartis said, " It seems to be a very good, safe place — a wonderful place to raise a family — (and it has) excellent schools. I'd like to expand on that, bring growth — control the growth to the area."
He also said, "I'd like to bring forth my experience and willingness to make things better for all. I've got a great track record/history as far as working and doing things successfully from a business point of view and I believe that's what seems to be lacking."
Pelote is a retired teacher in the Effingham County School District. She also spent some time handling benefits and payroll for the system, which she said would be good experience for working with city budgets and personnel.
This is her first time to run for public office.
Pelote said, “I always said I would like to run for this and I could do that and get things done, and it's always been in me but I was always working and raising children."
She said Guyton is her community and she has lived in it all her life.
"I think we have improved tremendously but we still need more work to be done,” she said.
Pelote thinks personnel problems have plagued the fire and police departments. She said she thinks people are talking “at' each other rather than to each other.
"They're not talking to one another to find out what the problem is,” she said.
Regarding fire services, she said going with the county right now seems to be the only real choice. She thinks they need to “go back to the drawing board” when it comes to the police department.
She said, “The police department in Guyton does not need to be dissolved, it needs to be built back up."
Pelote’s goals for the city includes the addition of sidewalks — something she said has been promised in the past.
Flooding in some areas of the city is also another concern that she would like to see addressed. She said she always wants the city to hire a city manager and thinks that City Clerk Alison Bruton has been doing a good job in the interim. She also would like to see local children be able to play basketball and conduct other activities in the old city gym again.