Because of COVID-19 restrictions, candidates for the State Senate District 4 Seat, previously occupied by Jack Hill, have been unable to campaign in traditional fashion here in Candler County.
Last week, Metter Advertiser reached out to the candidates via email to get their thoughts on issues and concerns directly related to Candler County.
Here are their responses:
Tell us a little about yourself
Scott Bohlke: I am from Jacksonville, FL, and attended the University of Georgia on a baseball scholarship. I spent 1-1/2 years in the Atlanta Braves minor leagues and went to medical school at MCG in Augusta and then did training in Columbus, GA. From there I spent four years in the US Air Force in Montgomery, AL.
I have been in Brooklet, GA, for the past 21 years as a family physician and owner of an independent practice. I am married with four children, all of which have graduated or will graduate from Georgia Southern.
Billy Hickman:I am a Republican businessman and Certified Public Accountant running for Senate District 4. I am a lifelong resident in the district that has tirelessly served to make our communities a better place – from helping my clients to serving in numerous volunteer positions.
I am running to use my business experience to get our economy back on track and to put our communities first. That is why my campaign is supported by our local communities -- not outside special interests -- and I will always fight for them and put our people ahead of Atlanta and the special interest groups under the Gold Dome.
I have been married to my wife Jo Ann for 45 years and we have two sons and five grandchildren. We are members of First Baptist Church in Statesboro.
Kathy Palmer:I am Candler County’s recently retired Superior Court Judge. It was an honor to serve the citizens of Candler County for almost 20 years, and I look forward to further service as your State Senator. I am a conservative Republican and want to work to grow prosperity for our rural area and all of Georgia. I’m a wife, mother, grandmother and a church, community and statewide volunteer with a passion for politics. I have the highest respect for our system of government and want to work full-time to keep it strong and protect our rights.
Jared Sammons:I’ve spent most of my life here in the 4th District. I was born in Augusta. For the next 18 years of my life, I lived just outside Adrian’s city limits.
I went to Emanuel County’s public schools, starting in Adrian and finishing in Swainsboro. Fortunately, and with the help of a lot of people, I went to the University of Georgia. There, I was in the Honors Program and majored in Political Science. I graduated a semester early but still got to experience the Bulldogs for a fourth season. (Unfortunately, that was spoiled by Alabama).
I entered a market that saw an unequal recovery among the large cities versus the smaller cities and rural areas. After searching locally and beyond, I landed a job with Lockheed Martin in Marietta.
After working at Lockheed, I accepted a scholarship from Washington and Lee University School of Law, I graduated via mail in May. I learned how the law and the political system impact people’s daily life, and that impact is greatest at the state level.
I’m home again and want to help the people and places that gave so much to me, especially in these uncertain times.
Neil Singleton:I am a U.S. Army Veteran and currently rated at 70% disability. I am married to Jill Singleton, a teacher in Tattnall County, and we live with our daughter Reagan. We have two adult children, Tony and Savannah, and one grandchild, Liam.
I have been in this race since September 2019, before any other candidates entered. I started out wanting this seat after being a Foster Parent in Georgia and seeing how that system is broken, and I am now on a quest for so much more.
I am Pro Gun, Pro Taxpayer, Pro God. I am PRO Constitution, period.
How have your past career experiences prepared you for service in the Georgia Senate?
Scott Bohlke: As a family physician in a small town, I have worked with all kinds of people. My practice is a cross section of this district and keeps me well informed.
I have been involved at the state level as the past-president of the Medical Association of Georgia which advocates for patients, physicians and the most healthcare issues. I have served four years on the Bulloch County school board, from 2006-2010, and currently serve on the Georgia Healthcare Workforce Board, which attempts to guide young healthcare professionals to locate in under-served counties in Georgia.
There are four such counties in this district that qualify. I have been involved at many levels and am able to relate to all kinds of people.
All of these experiences, as well as my day-to-day interaction with my patients, have prepared me to serve this district.
Billy Hickman:We are facing tough times. The coronavirus has taken a toll on our economy and our state’s budget. With 45 years in business as a CPA, working with families, businesses and farmers across this district, I have the unmatched experience to address those challenges by protecting our community and priorities in the budget process and getting our economy back on track.
Kathy Palmer:As an attorney and a judge, I have worked my entire career at the Georgia Legislature monitoring, analyzing, advising and advocating for legislation including family law, criminal law, judicial budgets, agriculture and 4-H. I have presented before legislative committees including Appropriations and am trained in the legislative process. As an experienced advocate and decision maker, I possess the skills to be a strong voice for Candler County.
Jared Sammons:My legal experience is probably most applicable as I will be making laws and policies that impact everyone.
During law school, I worked at the Small Business Administration’s regulatory section, where I created rules and took notice and comment to process them. I also spent time in jobs ranging from corporate America to state government to a grocery store, so I learned a lot about the mechanisms of how these operate and the different experiences people have within these parts of life.
The role of a senator, though, is much more. I have been involved in school and community groups, which gave me an appreciation to listen and understand people and their issues to make me a better legislator.
Neil Singleton:I have owned a business and know how to budget. I use common sense approaches like most low and mid-level income Americans and Georgians do.
We need more common sense in the Senate and someone willing to stand up and (say) no more.
What are the biggest concerns you hear from the Candler County community and how do you respond to those concerns?
Scott Bohlke:Several things I hear from the Candler County community are tied to healthcare. First is maintaining an efficient, viable and excellent hospital to serve the needs of the patients. Second is access to medical care from an outpatient perspective as well as specialty physician coverage. Also a great educational system is vital to this community, and I am proud to have a former Candler County superintendent Tom Bigwood to advise me on all things in the educational arena.
With all of this in place, promoting business will follow suit and getting the local economy going again after the COVID-19 pandemic will be critical. We do this by retraining the workforce, many of these through technical college, bringing back industry from out of the country back to this area and partnering with larger entities to provide goods and services that we will need in the post COVID-19 world.
Last but not least is providing the agricultural community a level playing field to compete on the global scale. I believe if they have that, they can compete with anyone.
Billy Hickman: I have spent lots of time in Candler County – in business and over the course of my campaign. I am honored to have the support of so many hard working Georgians in this community and truly appreciate their feedback.
Folks are concerned about COVID-19 and how we are going to get our economy back on track. I am the proven conservative leader with real business and finance experience to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our families, businesses, and economy.
Economic development is a big concern, and it’s an issue that I think ties in directly to education. Not only do we need to make sure our communities are courting industry, but we need to match that with a quality education system that gives every student the means to succeed in a 21st century workforce.
Lastly, people want to know that somebody is fighting for them. My campaign is supported by our local communities, and that is who I will be accountable to – not the special interests. I will always put our people ahead of Atlanta and the special interest groups under the Gold Dome.
Kathy Palmer:The hospital is a main concern. While opinions vary about financial support from the taxpayers, everyone seems to agree that the hospital is essential to the well-being of the county. The financial difficulties faced by rural hospitals are ongoing. I will work diligently with the county officials to keep the hospital open and on sound financial footing.
Safely reopening from the quarantine is a concern. We must work together to be certain everyone is following safe practices which includes being a responsible consumer. I will work with local and state officials to assist both small and large businesses in this process.
Jared Sammons:The ineffectiveness of government that leads to bad policies and outcomes. These bad policies impact our rural healthcare, our jobs, and our communities. I plan to introduce beneficial policies that can help everyone, not a select few, hoping that those few will help everyone else.
Neil Singleton:Health-care. We need expanded telemedicine capabilities and to bring back more “house visits” from doctors.
State retirement employees have not seen a COLA raise on a decade. We need to fix this ASAP. As of now, retirees are about $11,000 a year behind where they should be on average.
What needs do you find unique to rural Southeast Georgia, and how do you plan to address those needs?
Scott Bohlke:This State Senate District 4 is such a diverse area. It has the needs of infrastructure for Effingham with the exponential growth and traffic and school congestion. It has a major university in Georgia Southern and great technical college at Ogeechee Tech. It has multiple state prisons that require a great and sufficient law force to maintain order. The district has the most row crops in the state and a dominant agricultural community. But most important to me are the people. They are just great, hard working folks who take pride in their community, family, schools, churches and neighbors.
So how does one address all of these needs? Simple answer is to listen and use common sense. That is what I attempt to do each day in my practice and will continue to do so if elected.
Billy Hickman: Agriculture is the number 1 industry in Georgia and is certainly a significant part of our local economy. We need a State Senator who is working to deliver results for our farmers – not the citizens of Atlanta or special interests.
As somebody who has been around agriculture their whole life, I understand the importance of the livestock, produce, commodities, and products that we produce and the need to support and empower this key industry.
Our region is blessed to have Georgia Southern University and several technical colleges that educate and equip students with the skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce. This is a huge asset for our region, and I look forward to continuing to support these institutions and make sure our communities have jobs available for these trained graduates.
There are so many great things going on in our region – agriculture, industry, healthcare, education – we need to utilize these assets in order to continue expanding existing businesses, bringing in new industries, and making sure that our children have the same opportunities to get a good job in the area – so they aren’t forced to move to Atlanta.
We must continue working to expand rural broadband. The COVID-19 pandemic has only showed the need more than ever. I will be a champion for this in the Senate.
Kathy Palmer:Funding for schools is a struggle in our rural area as our tax base is low. I will work to be certain all federal and state dollars available are pursued and brought to our counties for funding a strong public school system.
Advocating for broadband service to reach everyone in rural Georgia is a top priority for me. I will push for continued funding under the recently enacted broadband service legislation which was sponsored by Senator Jack Hill.
Jared Sammons:I think most issues are, at least in some respects, interrelated but now and in the past, Economic growth. We were left behind in the last recovery, and we can’t let misguided and ineffective policies be the answer again because it will leave us even further behind Atlanta and the rest of the country. This helps alleviate many of the other issues.
Neil Singleton:We are in the midst of bringing to light a serious issue in education. We are going to find that our local schools are going to be doing more online education than ever before. Rural Georgia is so far behind with broadband access that we are going to fail our children if it is not fixed.
Another unique issue that we are healthcare poor, meaning that we have limited access to surgeons, mental health professionals and PCP offices that are local.
Is there any message you wish to convey to voters in Candler County?
Scott Bohlke:This district and state lost a great person with the unexpected passing of Jack Hill. Nobody will be able to fill his shoes. His mastery of the budget and ability to explain the details to all individuals/groups will be deeply missed.
My goal is twofold. First if elected, my greatest contribution as a first term Senator would be in the healthcare arena. This is something that I have been doing for almost 15 years and have built relationships at the state level. Second, attempt to make this a long term project if fortunate to be elected for multiple terms. This would allow me to build the relationships and connections that are needed to keep this area receiving the attention that it deserves.
I appreciate the opportunity to respond and the consideration from the people of Candler County.
Billy Hickman: I’m a conservative businessman and CPA who will be a steady, trusted hand to navigate our district through these uncertain times and get our economy roaring again.
I have the time to commit to this position, and I will be able to effectively serve our families for more than the 40-day legislative session. My record of service to our area proves my deep commitment and passion to fighting for this district. I am running to put our communities first – not the special interest groups and Atlanta.
I will fight against big government and the radical left to protect our values and God-given rights. I will always stand for life, our right to bear arms, and our God-given rights.
Kathy Palmer:I am a trained and experienced advocate and problem solver. I have made many difficult decisions in complex cases for almost 20 years and am ready to put all my skills and abilities to work full time for you.
My lifetime of service in many areas has taught me that service to others is the most fulfilling work of all. I would appreciate your vote and support.
Jared Sammons:If you ever wanted something different that is reasonable and I believe better, then you should vote for me. I have the citizen’s interest and only their interest in mind, but for me to help, I need your vote. Please do so and let us get to work.
Neil Singleton:I am the only candidate that has self funded 99.9% of this campaign. I am the only candidate that has stated I will refuse my salary every year. The only candidate that has sworn off all donations, lobbyist, no corporations and no wealthy influences. I will never take their money.
I am the only candidate to condemn tax breaks for Hollywood and large corporations.
If I fail you, I will resign.