The first thing that I want to do is make sure that I continue honoring Jack Hill.District 4 Sen. Billy Hickman
STATESBORO — Even though his victorious campaign ended Aug. 11, Georgia District 4 Sen. Billy Hickman made another major promise Friday morning.
Hickman told nearly 200 supporters at a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony that he wants to see projects that his predecessor was working on bear fruit. Hickman succeeds Jack Hill, who died unexpectedly in April after serving the district nearly three decades.
“The first thing that I want to do is make sure that I continue honoring Jack Hill …. I actually started (Aug. 18),” Hickman said after taking the oath of office in front of the Bulloch County Annex. “I’m going to go around and meet with every city and county — the city managers and the mayors, and the county managers and the chairmen of the county commissioners — and I want to know what project Jack Hill was working on for y’all. I’ve got to know that.”
Hickman, 67, thanked God, his family and his campaign team for helping him to victory.
“We never changed our platform,” Hickman said. “From Day One, we were pro-God, pro-life and pro-Second Amendment. We never changed it and, thank the Lord, the Lord saw us through it and that’s what got us through it.”
On the campaign trail, Hickman said he laughed, cried and prayed with voters in their yards and businesses.
“It was so unbelievable to have those types of opportunities to be with people,” he said. “I loved it. I really did.”
Hickman said he asked people to pray for him before asking for their vote.
“I think the secret to our campaign was prayers, prayers, prayers,” he said.
Hickman voiced appreciation for the turnout for the ceremony, which was conducted at the Bulloch County Annex across the street from his place of worship, First Baptist Church. His pastor, John Waters, issued the opening remarks and led prayers. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Michael Boggs administered the oath of office.
“It’s just so tremendous to have y’all here today,” Hickman said. “You never know who is going to come or who is going to show up. I think I recognize everybody here even with their (COVID-19) mask on.”
Moving to issues plaguing District 4, Hickman said reducing the area’s poverty rate is a primary goal. He said he intends to seek ideas and input from government leaders in every District 4 county — Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans and Tattnall.
“I want them to tell us how we can help their communities grow,” he said. “I want to ask them about the double-digit poverty rates that we’ve got in every county in our district — anywhere from 10 percent to 29.7 percent. That means one in ten people in one county and one in three people in other counties are poverty-level or below.”
Hickman cited a Georgia Trend article that reported a statewide average per capita income of $46,000. He said that the highest among District 4 counties is $41,000 while the lowest is $28,000.
“I also want to ask them if they’re satisfied with the fact that our population base is diminishing,” he said. “We’ve got four of our six counties that are either losing population or stagnant. How are we going to get out of that?
“ We’re going to create jobs; we’re going to create good-paying jobs; we’re going to create jobs that people will be proud of so that our children will stay in the district.”
Hickman said the district’s students are receiving a good education.
“But the thing is, they are not coming back,” he said. “They are not doing back because we don’t have jobs in our district.”
During the campaign, Hickman frequently said that transportation, education and health care are keys to economic development. He later added broadband internet access.
“We’ve learned through this (COVID-19) situation with education that we have got to make a strong effort to expand broadband throughout the district,” he said.
Near the end of his speech, Hickman vowed to be a bold voice in the Senate.
“I’m going to tell people that I know there are two Georgias and sometimes three Georgias, but most of the time we know it’s two Georgias,” he said. “It’s the crowd up there (in Altanta) and the rest of us, and we’ve got to make sure that our people down here are getting the representation that we deserve and getting the appropriations that we deserve. I’m going to make sure that we put our community first over the Atlanta crowed because they have so many more people up there working for them.”