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Wells wants to plan for Guyton's growth
9.13 jimmy wells 2
Jimmy Wells, with his wife Ronda and daughters Rachel, Rebecca and Jenna, is running for mayor of Guyton. - photo by Photo by Ralna Pearson

On the last day to qualify for the Nov. 6 election, Jimmy Wells made the last-minute decision to add his name to the ticket and give both incumbent Guyton mayor Michael Garvin and Fred Griffin some more competition.

Wells admitted he had not given it much thought beforehand. His family didn’t find out until he did.

Was his wife Ronda surprised?

“To say the least,” she shot back sarcastically.

Even Wells, 36, finds his decision a bit ironic considering that he is not one for politics.

“I’m not a politician,” he said.

So why run for the town’s highest office?

In a word: planning.

“If we don’t put the right ordinances in place to protect Guyton, we could lose our hometown feel,” he said.

The subcontracting director at Gulfstream said he is deeply concerned about the future of his adopted home.

He makes it very clear that the city needs to plan for it properly or end up with a community they’ll regret later.

“Growth is inevitable,” Wells said. “We’ve got one time to get it right; you can’t change it after it’s happened.”

He has seen first-hand what happens when a city doesn’t get it right that first time.

Born and raised in Savannah, he moved to his wife’s hometown of Barnesville, shortly after getting married. Like Guyton, it, too, was a small town on the verge of tremendous growth — with no ordinances in place to plan for it.

Wells explained that the kinds of business developments residents hate to see come, “undesirables” as he calls them, soon moved in to the city. These included junkyards and landfills.

Once they were there, city officials tried to rectify the problem by establishing various ordinances, but it was too late.
Wells is vehement about not letting that happen to Guyton.

He welcomes those businesses that will bring needed services and jobs into the community.

“I would love to have some industry here,” he said, noting that manufacturing would be excellent for the town.

Not only would this add jobs, but it would also increase the tax base, he explained.

Yet, business growth is not the only kind the city faces. Residential growth is already in full swing. Wells believes that the city needs to be able to support the growing number of residents.

“They’re coming, we just got to build it,” he laughed, reversing the common saying “if you build it, they will come.”

This will entail building up the police and fire departments.

“We need to be 24/7,” Wells remarked about the police. “We need to support our officers.”

He said more recreational outlets are needed in the city. He sees this up close through his daughters’ participation in sports.

“We don’t have any softball fields here,” he said.

Of course, recreation would cost the city, but Wells believes it can be brought about through another avenue.

“We could generate some volunteer spirit,” he said.

All the coaches are volunteers, for example, so getting others to donate their time and talents would be doable, too, he believes.

The city must focus on the future, he asserted.

“We got to think about things we’ve never thought about before,” he said. Planning can no longer be based on a population of 1,100, he added.

One of his planning concerns is a city not securing at least three bids for every project. It goes back to planning he explained. One or two bids are not enough.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said flatly.

He admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, no one does, but he sees a wealth of knowledge in those cities that have been where Guyton is now. He supports looking at and sharing with these municipalities to find out what mistakes they made and what successes they experienced in navigating their own growth.

“We’ve got to learn from other people,” Wells said.

And he knows a lot about learning. In December he will earn his Master of Business Administration from Mercer University. He’s been enrolled in the 16-month program full-time while also working full-time.

It’s just one of his many degrees, which include an associate’s in industrial management, completion of a two-year program in industrial mechanics, another associate’s in applied science and technology and a bachelor’s in business administration.

Needless to say, he said he brings a strong business sense to the mayor post. His decisions are guided by what is right for the company, whatever form it may take.

“I always do what’s in the best interest of the business,” he said in reference to his employer, Gulfstream, and all the other areas of his life.

Prior to entering the business field, he was a mechanic. However, he knew he had to make a change.

“I knew working at a saw mill seven days a week was not in the best interest of my family,” Wells said.

He coaches his daughter Rachel’s softball team and will soon start coaching his daughter Rebecca’s basketball team.
The 13-year-old twins attend Effingham Middle School, while his youngest daughter, Jenna, attends the West Chatham YMCA pre-K program in Pooler.

His wife Ronda works as the police clerk at Guyton’s police department. They have been married for 15 years.
He and his family are firmly planted in the historic small town and he hopes his daughters will start their families here, as well.

“We plan on being here for a long time,” he said.

Like Griffin, others had urged Wells to run for mayor. And if no one else will take up the job of planning the city’s growth successfully, he’s more than willing step in just as he’s doing now.

“I have been known to take one for the team,” he added with a good laugh.

Besides, the race needed a third candidate, Wells pointed out.

“We only had two bids,” he noted.