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Mayor Evans will not seek re-election
Margaret Evans has been the mayor of Sylvania since 1998, but at the conclusion of this calendar year another city resident will assume the position as Evans has announced she will not seek re-election for mayor in the upcoming November 2015 General Election.
Evans will retire on Dec. 31 when her present term expires.
“The reason I decided at this time not to run for re-election is because I thought about four more years and thought about the time I spend on this job and decided I wanted to be able to read a book, or play the piano, or go for a walk, or go to the beach or organize my house,” Evans said. “I haven’t done any of those things in a very long time. Not that I regret one minute. I just thought now was a pretty good time to begin.”
First elected to the Sylvania city council in 1980, Evans ran successfully every four years until she was first elected to a two-year term as mayor in 1998 in a special election to fill the two-year unexpired term of Sandy Hershey, who died during his term as mayor. She has run successfully every four years since.
The Sylvania General Election will elect a mayor and three council members on Nov. 3.
Qualifying for the seats begins Monday, Aug. 31, and closes during the afternoon hours of Friday, Sept. 4.
Thus far Preston Dees has openly announced his intentions to qualify for the mayor’s race. Dees resigned his seat on the Sylvania city council on Aug. 12. At the Aug. 18 council meeting, Clint Williams was appointed to Dees’ seat, while Joe Cleland was voted into the position of mayor pro tem, succeeding Dees, who had been a council member for 16 years.
Evans said her decision not to run again for mayor was not based on who may run against her.
Evans said even after her retirement she will continue to keep up with local, state and national affairs and stay in contact with state and national officials. Over the years, Evans said she has made numerous contacts and friends throughout Georgia.
“I have always maintained a very high rapport with all of our elected officials as well as other leaders in Screven County and the state of Georgia,” said Evans, a retired banker. “I have an excellent idea to convey to state officials for the upcoming legislative session. I am looking forward to being able to do that from along the sidelines instead of in the heat of the battle, however.
“I hope people with very high moral ethics and standards will show an interest to run for public office, and then work very hard to maintain good government that can only be realized fully in America,” Evans said.
State Rep. Jon Burns commended Evans for commitment toward Sylvania, Screven County and its citizens.
“Mayor Evans is a dedicated public servant and a dear friend,” said Burns, who serves as the majority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. “In addition to her successful business career, Miss Margaret has devoted over three decades of her life to serving the city of Sylvania. Due to her steadfast leadership, our local economy has grown, our downtown has been revitalized, and the future of our community is bright.
“We will miss Miss Margaret when her term ends, but I know she will continue to serve our community in important ways, as she has done her whole life,” Burns said. “As her friend, and on behalf of the people of the 159th House District, I want to thank Miss Margaret for her exemplary leadership and service to our community.”
“I am very grateful to my husband Osal and to all my other loyal supporters who have assisted me over the years,” Evans said. “I count it as an honor to have served as mayor of the city of Sylvania and will still be a definite cheerleader.”
Evans said the citizens of Sylvania and Screven County are wonderful people.
“I have so many wonderful friends who have reached out to me to help in so many ways. I have friends covering all categories,” she said. “I love Sylvania and Screven County and the people who live here. I still plan on being of service to those who need me — that goes way beyond a title.”
Evans said she has represented the people of the county and sought to assist when possible – and that includes when the city has been faced with power outages.
“It’s always been so interesting when I get a telephone call that inquires if I have power and needless to say, sometimes I don’t, and when I say I don’t, some act as if they can’t believe it,” she said. “I remember when we had the terrible ice storm. I actually asked the city manager to make sure our power at home was the last to be reinstated. Sometimes a small inconvenience might be a blessing for us all.”
The mayor said she has been a “huge supporter” of all the city staff and personnel with City Manager Stacy Mathis being the lone staff member under the jurisdiction of mayor and council.
“We have gone through some tough times in order to maintain low utility rates and still provide good services for our citizens, and our staff has willingly continued to carry their load,” Evans said.
Under Evans’ tenure as mayor, the city of Sylvania received a Federal Department of Transportation TE Grant for $900,000 with the city matching 20 percent for the revitalization of the Sylvania downtown.
The project began February 2002 and was completed in April of 2003 with new concrete sidewalks with brick striping, new pavement, and trees were included to line streets while greenery was added to the parks. The old fountain was replaced with an early 1900s period fountain.
“Because of the pride of business owners and following the lead of the city, they have refurbished the facades of their businesses, paid for partly with grants furnished by the Downtown Development Authority from profit derived from the sale of historic cookbooks,” Evans said. “This has resulted in almost all of the downtown buildings being filled with businesses.”
Soon after the downtown renovation was completed, the city of Sylvania hired Hilda Boykin as its Downtown Development/Better Hometown director and established the Soda Shop Art Gallery under the supervision of Boykin. The gallery is totally supported by volunteers. The city leased the DDA building on Main Street and also the building that housed the Soda Shop Art Gallery in the beginning, and then purchased the two buildings afterwards.
“All the talent evidenced inside the art gallery originates in Screven County,” Evans said.
Sylvania, while Evans has been mayor, annexed 787.86 acres into the city which prevented the city from being landlocked. With a new bypass on the Savannah River Parkway, the city recognized the opportunity to boost the economy by annexing, she said.
House Bill 1558 was adopted to change the corporate boundaries of the city of Sylvania in March 2006. The annexation became effective Jan. 1, 2007.
Sylvania has continued to receive “Better Hometown Designation” annually and also recently the designation of “Classic Main Street” under the leadership of Boykin. Evans said the program has been made possible through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Sylvania also became a City of Ethics under Evans’ tenure.
Seven years ago the city of Sylvania built an outdoor theater for public gatherings. It was funded by grants and other city funds. The Cail Community Center also was remodeled to bring it more up-to-date for public use.
Over the years, Evans has worked to save the Georgia/South Carolina Welcome Center on U.S. Highway 301 and has campaigned to widen U.S. Highway 301 to four lanes from the Georgia state line to Statesboro.
With Evans serving on the Coastal Regional transportation roundtable and executive committee, Screven County voted in favor of the TSPLOST, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, three years ago which would have provided funds to widen U.S. Highway 301 to four lanes from Sylvania to Statesboro, had the majority of the other counties in Screven County’s region also passed the measure.
Evans said passing the TSPLOST would have significantly affected the local economy.
With other elected officials and city staff, Sylvania has maintained a balanced budget with low long-term debt during Evans’ term as mayor.
“The city maintains low utility rates, keeping our residential rates along and in some cases below state averages and also has a very low millage rate with no ad valorem tax for citizens over 65 years of age,” Evans said. “I am an advocate for ‘smart growth’ while maintaining integrity and quality of life for all citizens. I always depend on wisdom, guidance and vision from God to look after the health, welfare and safety of my constituents.
“The city of Sylvania and all its elected officials certainly work together with the Screven County Economic Development Authority in every way possible to assist in making Sylvania and Screven County an attractive, great place to live and work,” she said. “I am a very strong advocate and supporter of Screven County’s quality education. One of my favorite pastimes is to read books to children at the Screven County Library and the Community Christian School.”
Evans is active in the Georgia Municipal Association where she has served as president of the 12th District and also on the GMA Board of Directors along with many other positions over the years. She was inducted into the Georgia Municipal Hall of Fame in 2009.
The mayor said she has been called upon constantly to contact elected officials on behalf of good government. She was appointed to the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2005 and at the end of that term was reappointed to the position by Gov. Nathan Deal as she represents the mayors from the state of Georgia.
She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Coastal Regional Commission and on the commission’s budget committee. She also was named as the Georgia State Downtown/Better Hometown “Volunteer of the Year” in 2013 by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Evans is a 2007 graduate of the Robert E. Knox Jr. Municipal Leadership Institute held at the University of Georgia. She has been chairperson of the National Day of Prayer for the City of Sylvania for 22 years where both an annual Prayer Breakfast for Youth and community leaders is held before school and also a morning Community Service later in the morning.
She has served as a charter member of Friends of Screven County Animals where hundreds of animals’ lives “have not only been saved, but their quality of life greatly enhanced.”
In 2010, Evans was named the Rotary Citizen of the Year and received a commendation from the Georgia State Legislature through a resolution presented by State Rep. Burns.
The mayor was instrumental in Sylvania receiving a $100,000 Federal Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant with a $25,000 local match to be used to define the Revolutionary War Battle of Brier Creek Battlesite in Screven County. The project would pinpoint the graves of the 150 American Patriots buried at the location which now is known as the Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area.