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Saraf to challenge Lee
Five running for three council seats
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Springfield City Council candidates

Wanda Laning
Jeffery Northway

City Council
Jeff Ambrose (I)
Charles Hinely (I)
Allen Parker
Kenny Usher (I)

Rincon City Council candidates
Ken Lee (I)
George Saraf

City Council
Joseph Atkins
Scott Morgan (I)
Frank Owens
Levi Scott (I)
Teresa Witt

A current and former Rincon mayor are running for the seat, and six people have signed up to run for three city council seats.

Qualifying closed Friday afternoon. In the mayoral race, former mayor George Saraf will square off against current mayor, Ken Lee. With council member Ken Baxley deciding not to run again, Scott Morgan and Levi Scott are defending their seats and a former councilman, Frank Owens, is seeking another term. Joseph Neal Atkins and Teresa Witt are also trying out for council positions. Another potential candidate, Bernard Martin, picked up qualifying forms but did not return them.

Atkins, the Effingham County health administrator, said several issues caused him to consider running this term. He said that he had a problem with water in his backyard and after failing to get a straight answer as to who he should call to get help with the situation, finally put calls in to five council members — without getting a single call back.

“You know, I waited two weeks and not one of them called me back,” he said. “Not a single returned phone call and that so irritated me because I really felt like that I deserved at least, ‘I’m sorry Joe, it’s your developer, or I’ll talk to somebody with the city.’ I didn’t get any of that.

“If anybody ever calls me, whether they have a complaint about the Health Department or whether they have an ax to grind, I return every one of those calls.”

Said Witt: “I work in the community with children and their parents and some of the parents have voiced their concerns, like I have, about the city — what they haven’t done for us. And I myself decided to step up and be the voice for the people.  Some of the people that I’ve spoken to (said) that the mayor and council have not been sensitive to the public’s needs. They’re more concerned with their wants, their needs and what’s best for them – not what’s best for the community.”

Atkins said he loves Rincon, that it’s a beautiful place to raise a family and has great neighborhoods and wonderful schools. In spite of that, he said he’s disappointed in some of the things that have been happening involving city government.

He cited the Herman Woods case with the city.

“I just think that whole thing was handled badly,” Atkins said. “And I’m not defending him. Obviously if you destroy something that’s not yours willfully, that’s a mistake. But I think the city ends up looking like some kind of aggressor and then he ends up with a criminal record. The whole thing to me is a lose-lose proposition. And I just don’t understand why somebody didn’t say, even after they discovered the issue — ‘what can we do to make this right? Here’s what I can do legally.  but what can we work out so I don’t have to go there? At least to meet with the man.

Somebody should have sat down with him to say, what can we do?’”

Witt also raised the Woods situation.

“There were a lot of mistakes made there,” she said. “Everybody makes mistakes  — it builds character. But admit when you make a mistake, don’t cover it up.”

Another thing Atkins takes issue with is getting information from the city.

“I find it very difficult to extract information from the city of Rincon,” he said. “That’s one of my issues, I guess too, you know, the minutes of the meetings are not made public that I can find. I think you ought to publish them on your Web site. At least make it accessible.” He also said that although he hears city officials saying they wish they had a better working relationship with the county, that he attends many county commission meetings and has yet to see someone from the city of Rincon being there.

“They talk about wanting to partner,” he said. “It’s the biggest city in the county. You should have some sort of presence.”

Atkins also believes Rincon is poised for more growth.

“I think between EFACEC going in up above us, the possibility of something going down in that tract — the large tract they have off of I-95 and I-16 — I think we’re just in a prime location,” he said.

Said Witt: “It all depends on the recession. I believe if we can get through this, we can move forward and I’m not looking to move forward at a fast pace, but I’m looking to move forward and find out what the citizens want, and their needs, and work with that — not what the mayor and the council feel is best for them. We need positive change and forward thinking with the government and the community alike. 

“And I want the citizens to have an open line of communication with the city government, to see what their needs and wants are. I’d like to be part of that change.”