Qualifying starts today in Leesburg, Smithville

LEESBURG -- Municipal qualifying in the cities of Leesburg and Smithville begins today with three positions to be decided in each community.

Posts 4, 5 and 6 on the Leesburg City Council and Wards 1 and 2 as well as the mayor's office in Smithville will be decided in the Nov. 8 general election.

Qualifying, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today through Friday, will be held at the City Hall in each community.

"Qualifying will be conducted by officials in both cities, but we'll verify (the candidates) here," Lee Board of Elections and Registration Supervisor Veronica Johnson said. "They have a list of registered voters (and, thus, qualified candidates) in both cities, but we'll double-check each candidate who qualifies to make sure there are no issues with anyone who decides to run."

Bobby Wilson is the incumbent Post 4 Leesburg councilman, while Sidney Johnson and Rhonda Futch currently hold the Post 5 and 6 seats, respectively.

"I could have walked away, but I feel that I have enough fuel left in the tank for four more years of service," Wilson, who has served on the council since 1974, said. "I don't really consider myself a politician; I consider myself a public servant and I've tried to feed everyone from the same spoon -- rich, poor, black, white -- while in office."

Wilson said issues like getting water and sewer to the new school being built on Robert B. Lee Drive, stormwater issues off U.S. Highway 19, traffic congestion, renovation of the historic train depot, building a new Public Works maintenance shop and other water matters will be crucial in the city over the next four years.

Futch, who has served on the council for slightly less than a year after winning a special election to finish the unexpired term of former councilman Steve Kitchens, said she hasn't decided whether to seek a full term in office.

"What has bewildered me about serving on the council is that it takes a lot of your time -- a lot more than I ever thought it would -- to do the job right," she said. "A lot of that I put on myself because I don't believe in just being on a board to fill a seat.

"I'm going to use the weekend to talk with my family and other board members before deciding whether to commit to another four years in office. I feel like we've accomplished a lot since I've been on the council, and the city is going in the right direction."

Jerry Myrick is the incumbent mayor of Smithville, and he, along with Ward 1 Commissioner James Champion and Ward 2 Commissioner Williemae Davis, are expected to seek re-election.

Attempts to reach all three were unsuccessful, and Clerk of Courts Yolanda Clark said she was unsure of the candidates' intentions.

Leesburg City Clerk Casey Moore said she hasn't heard of anyone planning to challenge any of the incumbent council members.

"To my knowledge, they're the only ones planning to run," Moore said. "That doesn't mean someone won't sign up once qualifying starts."

Qualifying fees for the Leesburg Council seats are $54, while fees in Smithville are $25 for the mayor's office and $15 for a commission seat.

Voters in both Leesburg and Smithville may check their voter registration status, absentee ballot status, polling location and find other information online at www.sos.ga.gov/mvp. The website is part of the state's MVP (My Voter Page) campaign.