It’s official: Greg Bennett is running for mayor. His announcement today follows up an article that appeared in last week’s edition of The Crossroads Chronicle explaining his mulling over getting involved in politics.
Although impossible to say exactly when the talks began, many citizens from both the City of Swainsboro and unincorporated areas of the county have, in the recent past, discussed the __-year-old’s leadership abilities and whether or not he would (or should) seek a public office, namely the role of mayor. Bennett stated last week on the record he was, for a long time, definitively against running for office, but that began to change in the last few months.
The information released in The Chronicle on August 11, he says, was merely to let people in on his thought process as it related to the possibility of running because his once “hard no” had turned into a “maybe.” Now, a week later, it’s a “yes.”
Other than reaching that important decision, Bennett has taken few steps to start his campaign. No campaign signs have been ordered, no social media presence has been established, and no official campaign events have been scheduled. He says those measures will be taken in due time, but for now, he’s focused on quicker, yet more significant to-do items. For instance, he paid his qualifying dues on Tuesday. Most importantly, he’s ready to get to work building a solid campaign foundation. That, of course, will come down to teaching voters about his ambitions, which can be summed up in the simple yet meaningful campaign slogan selected on Monday: “Changing It Together.”
“The biggest thing I want people to know is I’m not running for one side of town. I’m running for the whole town. I want the entire town to be better, not just one part of it,” Bennett explained. “I realize, though, the kind of changes we need can’t be done by one person. I’m running as one person, yes, but it’s going to take everybody. We’re going to have to change it together.”
Bennett went on to admit he wants to see a number of changes take place. He shared with The Crossroads on Monday afternoon his biggest ambitions for the City of Swainsboro. If elected mayor, he wants to address, first and foremost, the budget.
“A group of us citizens got together for six months and looked over the financials on our own time not for the recognition but because we wanted better for our city. We gave the city options, and those suggested fixes are still sitting on people’s desk. I want to cut $1.5 million over the course of the next five years. There are ways we could bring our millage rate down significantly and slowly without hurting anybody’s pocket,” Bennett said. “I also believe Swainsboro is big enough to hire a financial officer. If it will save us more money than it costs us to hire that person, we should hire one. A financial officer should be able to tell us where we’re wasting money, and this person should be able to find us money by seeking and writing grants as well. I also want to work with the county to streamline overlapping services and help, to a degree, alleviate the city’s financial responsibility to provide those same services. I’ve already talked to the county, and there are some ways we can do that.”
Bennett also wants to take a more traditional approach to insurance coverage for city employees. In his research, he says he has found a nearly identical policy for half the price.
“I don’t want to scare anyone who works for the city into thinking I’m going to come in and try to take their insurance away. The idea is to adjust the salaries so take-home pay stays the same. For new hires, though, we can fix it immediately.”
Furthermore, Bennett, with his years of starting projects, bringing them to fruition, and maintaining them successfully, believes he can help address the interactive triangle that is jobs, taxes, and homes.
“We need jobs here, we need places for people to live here, and we need affordable taxes here,” he continued. “All of those things work together. If we have jobs but nowhere for the workforce to live, that doesn’t do us any good. If we have places for our workers to live but our taxes are too expensive, they’re not going to come here. If they do come here, they won’t stay. If we have places to live and our taxes get better, what good are those things if people don’t have jobs to pay their rent or their mortgage or their tax bill? It’s all intertwined, and we have to fix it.”
He also wants to try and save the City of Swainsboro some 15 to 25 percent on water operations by reverting to a system run in-house as opposed to a contracted company.
On a small tangent related to the water operation, Bennett plans to take a look at water bills and compare them to other communities to confirm whether Swainsboro is or is not in line with that of other towns.
When asked about the city’s COVID funds, Bennett says he would like to see the city hold onto those dollars until after the election so the most up-to-date administration, whoever that ends up being, can use those funds in a wholesome way that will benefit the entire town, not specific areas of the city.
Most of all, he wants to renew Swainsboro’s creativity, ambition, and sense of pride. Ideally, a Swainsboro under his leadership would become a place where the townspeople open their own businesses, even if they have to seek help to do it, and the City of Swainsboro won’t in any way hinder the process. Similarly, Bennett wants to cultivate an environment where everyone gets involved and feels comfortable voicing their opinions. Most of all, he wants to see Swainsboro beautified on the surface and grow beneath it.
“Imagine… If we had some new leadership, what would that do for our county seat and our county as a whole? Would we have a little more pep in our step? Would we be prouder and spruce up the look of our town? Would new businesses come here? Would we get our friends to move here and ask our families to move back? I believe after a while, people get complacent. Complacency is never good. Sometimes you need a shake-up. I have the utmost respect for the other two people campaigning for mayor; public service isn’t an easy task. It’s selfless, and it’s voluntary. I commend everyone who has shown initiative in the past, today, and in the future. I just really believe my approach to Swainsboro is going to be totally different than anybody else’s, and I really believe we have the power right now, starting today, to change it together.
“My number one rule is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That’s why I invest and build different kinds of businesses. I turned around and realized I’ve put all my eggs in the Swainsboro basket. I can’t let Swainsboro fail, and if we don’t change it together now, it will. We have a window to fix it right now.”
As for what the public can expect moving forward, Bennett is going public today in this article and committing he will not be taking a salary, nor will he be soliciting campaign funds. If, for some reason, he is required to accept a salary or campaign funds, he says those dollars will instead be funneled back into the community.
In closing, Bennett would like to take this opportunity to extend his thanks publicly to the group of citizens who were part of the makeshift financial auditing group. He would also like to give a special nod of gratitude in response to the warm welcome he received from various members of the community following last week’s story.
Look to The Chronicle to continue election coverage over the next few months. Election Day will be Tuesday, November 2.