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Lee touts City of Guyton progress
Joseph Lee
Joseph Lee - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We are just doing some positive things now and I think that's what the citizens want us to do.
Post 3 Councilman Joseph Lee

GUYTON — Guyton City Councilman Joseph Lee doesn’t need to give campaign speeches any longer but he still has lots to say. 

“This is the best city council I’ve ever worked with,” the first-term Post 3 incumbent said.

Lee said the City of Guyton has achieved stability in numerous areas since Russ Deen became mayor in 2020. Marshall Reiser (Post 1) and Hursula Pelote (Post 2) also joined the council at that time.

“(In the first two years of my term), we didn’t accomplish anything,” Lee said. “Right now, though, we are accomplishing a whole lot. We are getting our streets in order and we are trying to get our water and sewer plant back on track.

“We are just doing some positive things now and I think that’s what the citizens want us to do.”

Lee is running unopposed Nov. 3 following the disqualification of challenger Theodore Hamby.  Hamby’s residency status was questioned by Guyton residents Michael Garvin and Tamela Mydell.

Following on investigation and hearing, Elections Superintendent Meketa Brown ruled Sept. 13 that Hamby hasn’t maintained uninterrupted residency in Guyton since Nov. 2, 2020. Council candidates are required to live in Guyton for at least one year before taking office.

With a second term in hand, Lee said he will continue to focus on improving Guyton’s recreational facilities and opportunities.

“Right now, we are thinking of bringing our ballfields back,” Lee said. “We are trying to get lights and stuff back in the fields. In our gym, we have gotten new windows in.”

The city’s parks have also been upgraded, Lee said.

“We redid the basketball court,” he added. “Recreation is really picking up. We have a long ways to go on it but we are headed in the right direction.”

Lee said the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted recreational opportunities for residents of all ages.

“We don’t want to get a whole lot of people around each other right now,” he said.

Lee hopes a Zumba class for the elderly will resume at the start of 2022.

“We are also going to let people start practicing basketball in our gym,” Lee said. “We are trying to do positive things for our citizens in Guyton.”

The Guyton Police Department, on the verge of collapse in 2020, has made great strides, Lee said.

“We want to go to 24 hours of service,” he said.

The department, including Chief James Breletic, is up to seven officers. It is backed by the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.

“People are bragging on our police department,” Lee said. “We try to get them out there to introduce themselves to the citizens. When they see people are stressed, the try to help them out.

“I have no complaints with our police department and our chief is doing real good. It has come a long ways.”

Lee said the city council is trying to get another spray field, something it needs in order to maintain growth in the city. Two of its three spray fields will soon be unusable due to a change in the FEMA Flood Plain Map, lowering Guyton’s capacity to spray wastewater from 150,000 gallons per day to just 50,000 gallons per day.

“I think we will have our new spray field in the next year or year and a half,” Lee said. “Then we will be able to get more stores. I know we will have more businesses coming in here.

“As far as wastewater and sewer goes, we are looking positive on that.”

The council has enhanced recreation, public safety, transportation and wastewater treatment over the last couple years without raising city taxes, Lee added.

Lee is pleased with the recent hiring of Brown as city clerk and expects a new city manager to be hired soon. Mike Eskew has filled that job on an interim basis following the March resignation of Bill Sawyer due to a medical concern.

“I think Mrs. Brown was a very good pick and I think she will do good things for the city,” Lee said. “We will start working on the city manager (hiring process) next month. When we get that resolved, we will be fully staffed then.”

Looking ahead to his second term, Lee said he is eager to continue to work with Deen, Reiser, Pelote and the candidate that secures the Post 4 seat currently held by Michael Johnson. Johnson is facing Andy Harville on Nov. 3.

“I am willing to work with whoever wins the election,” Lee said.