Preliminary data for the 2020 Census indicates Emanuel County grew only .75 percent in 10 years.
According to early numbers, Emanuel now has 22,768 residents, up just slightly from 22,598 10 years ago.
While any increase is good, the results are far from what the local census committee was hoping to find. The “Strive for 25” Campaign, as many in the community may recall, aimed to prove that Emanuel County had grown to a population of 25,000, and the push to get locals to report in the census was strong and steady because the findings would determine important matters such as district boundaries for elections and future funding.
County Administrator Guy Singletary was one of the leaders of that effort, and he has a concern about the number recorded by the latest census for Emanuel and is exploring the potential for an appeal.
The particular census block in question pertains to the dormitories at East Georgia State College. Bobcat Villas, which is technically inside the city limits, houses a few hundred students. However, the data returned to Emanuel only indicates approximately 10 to 30 people living in the area of Thigpen Drive and Lambs Bridge Road.
As customary with the census process, the bureau in charge provided information to county leaders like Singletary about how the appeal procedure worked in the previous census. Singletary has reviewed this information and is planning to move forward to make sure the entire population of Emanuel is accounted for.
If the college’s students were not, in fact, counted, that leads to another concern.
“Some people might say that because those students only live here temporarily, they shouldn’t be counted or should be counted somewhere else, but I don’t think that’s true,” Singletary said. “If it was, Bulloch and Clark counties’ census numbers wouldn’t be what they are. If we missed our students here, what’s to say we didn’t miss a 75-person nursing home? Or the rehabilitation center in Garfield, for example? These places are people’s residences, even if it is temporary sometimes. They should be included in our census, and we want to make sure they are because the findings determine some pretty important matters.”
Three other points of note remain about the census.
Swainsboro as a city has grown by approximately 148 people in the last 10 years.
Additionally, Emanuel County was one of the few areas in the Heart of Georgia Region that grew at all. According to the latest census, some—surprisingly including Toombs County—decreased.
Lastly, Emanuel County did a little better on self-returns this round as opposed to the last, which means the messaging and work of the Strive for 25 Campaign must’ve been somewhat effective, despite a lower number overall than what its leaders were hoping to find.
On that note, Singletary said he feels the goal of 25,000 wasn’t overly ambitious. Contrarily, he still thinks that kind of growth is out there—it just may have been difficult to accurately track in the midst of a pandemic.
“The census workers were trying to wrap this up in March or April of 2020. Back then, coronavirus was still new and unknown. I think we were even on lockdown at some point then,” Singletary continued. “Because of that, I’m not sure the overall picture is accurate. I’m not saying the data is wrong because of effort; that’s not the case. The census workers had a tough job, but I wonder how accurate the entire 2020 Census was because of what they were up against.”
In closing, the county administrator is pleased by the fact that Emanuel grew at all.
“Growth is good, but I don’t want us to become a county with 50,000 people. Personally, I believe we’re in the sweet spot. We have to steadily grow to keep up with the state so that we continue to get funding, which is often determined by population. I think we’re doing that. We just have to make sure we’re counting for all the growth that’s out there.”