The 2020 General Election is coming up on Tuesday, November 3. The only local race happening is the run for the At Large Folkston City Council seat formerly held by the late Stanley Golaszewski. The Herald sent questions to candidates Jim Gowen and Raymond Roberts. Below are the answers that were provided in alphabetical order.

Jim Gowen

Biographical info

My name is Jim Gowen.  My wife of 14 years, Mandy Gowen, is originally from Cullman, AL.  We have two daughters, Julianna (10) and Charlie (7).  

I graduated from Charlton County High School in 1997.  Following High School, I attended the University of Georgia and graduated from the Business School as a Marketing major, with an emphasis on Forest Business.  

I am a member of Folkston United Methodist Church, volunteering my time working with different groups and projects.  Coaching our youth in recreational sports is a passion of mine. I’ve coached over 20 recreation teams in football, t-ball, baseball, softball and recently added soccer to the mix.  

As a Forester for Gowen Timber Company, I buy timber from local landowners, work with loggers to cut timber and sell to area mills.   In addition, I also teach a Forestry class to High School students through Coastal Pines Technical College. 

Why did you decide to run for this office? 

I decided to run for City Council for my family.  As a father of young children, I want to make sure my voice is heard on issues that concern the future of the city.  My goal is to do all I can to ensure the city prospers and is a good option for them in the future, when they are looking for a place to start a career and raise a family. 

Why do you think you are the best candidate for the job? 

As a local small business owner, I have worked with budgets, security and employee retention.  I feel there are many commonalities between keeping the lights on at a small business, and working with others to efficiently operate the city of Folkston.

What is the most important issue facing the city of Folkston today?

The future of D. Ray James Correctional Facility is a very important issue for our city.  The GEO Group has employed our citizens and has provided much needed jobs for our community growing our local economy.  The additional tax revenue generated from the prison helps our city and county meet their budgets every year.  In addition, the prison has also supported the community with food drives and scholarships.  We need to do whatever is in our power to keep the prison operational.  

If elected, what changes do you think need to be made? 

While there’s always work to be done, I am anxious to work with our Mayor, present City Council, and County Commissioners, as a unit, to brainstorm ways to help our hometown thrive.  A few areas I would like to focus my efforts on, specifically, but not limited to supporting law enforcement and first responders; growing rail-watch and Okefenokee tourism; increase small business opportunities; supporting parks and recreation development; and reinforcing littering laws.

Raymond Roberts

Biographical info

My name is Raymond Roberts. I was born and raised in Camden County, GA. I am a 1969 graduate of Ralph Johnson Bunch School of Woodbine, GA.  I have been a resident of Folkston, Ga for over 44 years where I reside with my wife Della Houston Roberts of Folkston. We have five sons: Raymond Jr., Theodore, Julian, Rodriecous and Travis, all of whom are pursuing productive careers with their own families.

I was employed by Gilman Paper company of Camden County for 39 years, until the company closed.  I was then employed by Masonite Door Fab for 9 years until I retired.

I’m a member of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church where I serve as the Assistant Pastor to Rev. Ronnie Pollock. I served as the president of the local NAACP for 15 years.  I am very involved in the community through church, civic  and community events;  including school, sports and the many subjects of concern for our county and city.

Why did you decide to run for this office?   

 I decided to run for City Council At-Large to do more to help Charlton County by working diligently on continuing unity with the City and County officials. Although I have always worked in my community and given back, being elected into this position will allow me to contribute in a different way. It will allow me the opportunity to be in a position to advocate and be a voice for the  people of our community.

Why do you think you are the best candidate for this job?                

My previous  experience serving on the Local Union 446 board as Chief Shop Stewart with Gilman Paper Company, leading the local NAACP and working within other social and civic organizations have equipped me with the leadership, motivation and tenacity to help move our city forward. I am confident in my ability to listen respectfully, weigh differing opinions, and take into consideration what’s best for the community as a whole.

What is the most important issue facing the City?

The citizens of the city are concerned about the future of the employment rate. More specifically, the future of one of the largest employers, GEO Prison, is in question. The concern lies around the longevity of its existence and the possibility of job losses which would have a huge economic impact on many households. Should this happen, we must also realize the domino effect that would also impact our local businesses. Another major concern facing the city is an increase in taxes.

If elected, what changes do you think need to be made?

There needs to be ongoing research and increased growth for small businesses. The City Chief and County Sheriff must continue to work collaboratively to keep open communication to bridge any current gaps in our system. We must continue to listen to the citizens who are seeking to enhance The Beauty of Our City.  Organizing and executing a “Citizen Clean Up Day In Your Community” would be a great way to bring everyone together. Ensure that our youth will take enough pride in our city to work alongside local residents to promote and maintain the upkeep of our city.