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Growth was the overriding theme of Mayor Jonathan McCollar's State of the City Address

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar presented his State of the City address and sat down for questions from Grice Connect's Whitney Lavoie and GS Student Government Association President Blake Robinson. The extensive interview before a live audience covered a range of issues facing the City. Click on the picture to read the full report and watch a video of the address and Q&A.

“You cannot lead a people that you don’t love,” said Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar during his annual State of the City Address held Tuesday evening, February 28, 2024, in the Emma Kelly Theater downtown.

The event included the Mayor's address followed by a question and answer session led by Whitney Lavoie, Managing Editor, Grice Connect and Blake Robinson, President, GS Student Government Association.

Mayor Jonathan McCollar’s optimism for the City of Statesboro’s future was apparent throughout his address to residents. While acknowledging the slight spike in crime, the continuing work with at-risk youth, and the residential and business development in the city, he celebrated the unprecedented economic growth and community outreach that the Statesboro has accomplished over the last year. 

City Manager Charles Penny welcomed attendees to the Emma Kelly Theater in downtown Statesboro on Tuesday night for the annual State of the City Address and served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

Charles Penny, City Manager. DeWayne Grice

The colors were presented by Statesboro High School JROTC students, after which Penny introduced Chloe Jones, the Junior Mayor of the Statesboro Youth Council. Jones spoke about the recent accomplishments of the youth council including their work with the Statesboro Village Builders Initiative, expressing how inspired they are to continue advocating for youth that are at risk in our city.

Penny then introduced Mayor Jonathan McCollar, who began his State of the City presentation by thanking the Junior Mayor and council for their work, as well as recognizing the Statesboro High School JROTC program.

Jr. Mayor Chloe Jones. DeWayne Grice

“I am proud to submit to you tonight that the state of our city is stronger than it's ever been and the future is brighter than it's ever been,” the Mayor continued

Almost seven years ago, McCollar became the 21st mayor of Statesboro, and in that time, the nation and city have experienced growth and challenges, he says.


This time last year, in his address to the city after five years in office, the mayor reported a 70% reduction of violent time. McCollar was somewhat apprehensive to report a slight increase in certain categories of violent crime in the last year, as indicated by the annual reports from the Statesboro Police Department, but later said he wanted to speak the truth on these statistics because people deserve to know.

City Council responded to SPD's need for new technology by deploying the FLOCK license plate reading initiative that helped bring justice to a family in Statesboro that had lost a young member due to violent crime. McCollar says the system targets “bad actors” in the community while easing the “para-trooping" police practices of the decades past.

The City also made a historic investment into public safety and city staff, which has increased qualified applicants at Statesboro PD and FD, who are providing competitive salaries for public safety officers and filling the necessary positions to keep residents safe.

If you are qualified and committed to public safety jobs, the mayor encourages you to “look no further than Statesboro, Georgia” and submit your application.

The mayor says crime is a threat to the entire community, and it is all of our responsibility to hold each other accountable. “So if you see something, say something."

Mayor Jonathan McCollar. DeWayne Grice


He continued saying, “We must have the moral fortitude to take on one of the toughest fights,” referring to the poverty crisis Statesboro has suffered from throughout history.

The mayor says that poverty harms the stability and progress of the people, which is why this administration’s top priority is fighting against it and providing resources to underserved people.

Though this struggle is not over with Statesboro remaining home to families that continue to struggle in getting basic needs met, our town has seen a 30% decrease in its poverty rate, which the mayor celebrates.

More than two million boxes of food have been given to date to the people who struggle in our community through Feed the Boro. The City has partnered with the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners to build a soon to open new Statesboro Food Bank facility to continue this dedication to filling the peoples’ needs.

“The greatest ally we have is the hope for a better tomorrow,” said the Mayor.


Regarding the economic and business centered prospects of the city, the Mayor reports significant increases in opportunities for female and minority owned businesses.

Many millions of dollars in business revenue is flowing through our city creating new jobs, and with the construction of more than 3,400 homes in the near future, the mayor reports that we are living in one of the fastest growing economic regions in the nation.

There are a projected 23,000 jobs expected to come to the area with the construction of the Hyundai Metaplant and similar companies.

The mayor urges the public to grasp these opportunities by being proactive. He tells folks to reach out to Ogeechee Tech and receive their GEDs and other training certificates so they can qualify for these new higher paying jobs, stating if you already have those, reach into higher learning.

He says these higher paying jobs and educational opportunities are the mechanism to end the generational poverty in our city.

Three years ago, Statesboro was the 37th largest city in Georgia and is now the 28th.

The mayor assures citizens that his administration will not leave any part of the city behind. With economic focus on historic neighborhood revitalization efforts, improvements to roads, parks, homes and sidewalks, and infrastructure to mitigate flooding while connecting older subdivisions to city water and sewer, the administration is pursuing a better city for the future for generations to come.

“We are at the precipice of this work,” he says while acknowledging that we are not yet finished with our work and it will take years to get to those goals.

Not long ago he says, our downtown district was dying.

Now buses take elderly residents to doctor’s offices and grocery stores, local business owners have moved into once vacant storefronts and are thriving, Georgia Southern’s Business Innovation Group is undergoing renovation, an art park was introduced, and just down the Willie McTell Trail, residents can now shop at the farmer's market in the beautiful new venue behind Visit Statesboro.

The live concert series last summer provided four free concerts to the community, and the success of the events was evident by the thousands of attendees. Due to the demand, the City has decided to extend the series into eight shows this year.

Audience at the State of the City address. DeWayne Grice


The mayor stressed multiple times throughout his speech the importance of investing in the youth, highlighting programs such as Youth Connect, which provides a five-week job training to high school students.

In January, the Georgia Municipal Association recognized the establishment of the Village Builders, commending them for providing resources to the neighborhoods of our community.

Mayor McCollar reminds us that we must invest in academics and quality time spent with our youth to prevent some of our most at-risk youth from falling into the pipeline of crime, but if ever was a community that could fix this issue, it is ours.

Regina Eason performing "Georgia on My Mind". DeWayne Grice


After a moving rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” by Regina Eason, the mayor opened a question and answer session with Grice Connect’s own Managing Editor Whitney Lavoie and Georgia Southern student Government Association President Blake Robinson, where he elaborated in further detail about the success and areas of improvement he mentioned during his city address. (See a brief summary of the questions and answers below. Watch the livestream at the end of the article for the full interview portion.)

Whitney - Good evening, I’m Whitney Lavoie, managing editor for Grice Connect, a hyper local, independent news site serving Statesboro and Bulloch County. While our main focus is bringing you the news you need when you need it, we also try our best to better connect our community, and that’s what I hope to accomplish tonight. Thank you, Mayor, for having me!

Blake - And I’m Blake Robinson, President of the Student Government Association at Georgia Southern University. I’m currently studying Political Science and Criminal Justice and I will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Sciences in Criminal Justice and Criminology.

Whitney - We’re happy to be here with Mayor McCollar to have an open conversation about Statesboro and what’s to come. So to get things started, let’s begin on a positive note: Looking back on the past year, what would you consider the City's biggest success story?

Mayor McCollar - In January of 2018 our poverty rate was 53%, today it is between 37-41%. This shows that the community is providing upward ladders of mobility for which we have the commissioners, educators, development authority, and many other folks to thank.

Blake - It’s no secret the growth that is coming to this region of our state. According to the latest population projections by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, Bulloch County is expected to grow to a population of around 92,000 people by 2026, when the next Mayoral term begins. With thousands of new jobs and people moving to this region, how are you and the city working to ensure that Statesboro grows sustainably?

Mayor McCollar - Jobs and housing are the key things you need to address in terms of sustainability, which are both growing in number in our city. We have been working towards this for years, and our predecessors saw this vision, and the mayor thanks them for their work. Beyond housing and jobs, the thriving public schools and higher education system put us in position to grow sustainably.

Whitney - With the growth that’s coming to Statesboro, some residents are concerned about the affordability of housing and preserving historic neighborhoods. Can you tell us more about the city’s strategy to responsibly expand housing options while preserving neighborhoods? 

Mayor McCollar - We have to address the fact that the definition of affordable housing has changed with home values having almost tripled in recent years. Historically, wages in this area have been suppressed, but our unified development code allows us to utilize older neighborhoods to address home affordability.

Blake - Affordable housing and poverty are two topics that go hand in hand. The latest Census data estimates that as much as 37% of Statesboro’s population currently lives in poverty. What is the city doing to combat poverty and support its impoverished residents?

Mayor McCollar -  The mayor “tilts his hat” to the village builders for taking resources into the neighborhood, expressing that as young people access information, so do their families, which helps to close the gap of opportunity lost when information is inaccessible.

People have to be informed to know about higher education and better job opportunities.

The mayor alluded to the history of the United States excluding people of color from home-buying aid, which suppressed the economic mobility of those communities and contributed to the generational poverty we still see today.

Whitney - Even with the current growth trends, the City is experiencing some of the lowest crime rates we’ve seen in a long time, which we, of course, hope will continue. Much of this seems to be attributed to a focus on more community policing and technology. We know the city has invested heavily in public safety, so can you expand a bit and share with us how businesses and citizens can join these efforts?

Mayor McCollar - “Every citizen has a responsibility to help keep their community safe,” said the mayor, reiterating that all crime is a threat to community stability. He says crime creates more crime.

In 2023 the city had four homicides and there has been one so far in 2024, all of which were young black males under 20 (with the exception of one who was 39) who left school early. The mayor says we have to work together to keep these at risk individuals from falling through the cracks in the academic and economic mobility system.

The mayor says there are only three ways to survive in capitalism: by working, getting assistance, or committing crimes, and we have to do what we can to keep youth from falling down that criminal path.

Blake - In my time attending Georgia Southern, I have been no stranger to City Hall or the County Annex. I am also no stranger to my hometown City Hall and County Annex. In my hometown, Valdosta, Georgia, which is similar to Statesboro in many ways, I notice that our City and County Governments co-exist well. This relationship has proven to be very beneficial in many ways. Our governments co-exist so well, in fact, that City Hall and our County Annex share a property. With that said, how are the City of Statesboro and Bulloch County working to co-exist to bring about the most beneficial outcomes for the citizens of both the city and the county?

Mayor McCollar - Possibly the biggest misconception is that the city and county don’t get along, when in fact they work together on many projects such as our parks and the new food bank. 

They are working through serious issues every day, and our leaders are people that are passionate about different ideas and ways to fix problems, so they are going to disagree sometimes but still find solutions.

He says our leaders are in these positions because they have strong personalities that are able to withstand the intense negotiations that public office requires of them. He is grateful for County Commission Chair Roy Thompson and all his family does for Statesboro and Bulloch County. There is no animosity.

Whitney - In your book People over Politics, you really share the challenges of growing up as a young black male in the City. When you became mayor, many of the challenges you faced as a child still existed. We have seen you become hyper-focused on correcting these from parks to sidewalks. You launched the Village Builders program, which is a powerful, one of a kind program working to remove barriers for some of our city’s highest risk kids, even recently earning the GMA Visionary City Award for Statesboro. You often say challenges facing our city are an “all of us” problem. Our own experience with you in mentoring one of your Youth Connect students has been enlightening for us and for him. Can you tell us more about how all of us can engage with you in this effort?

Mayor McCollar - We need to start where you are, with the kids in your household and circle. His message to business owners is that their organizations need to have some kind of mentoring program, and if not, they are doing a disservice to the city. He says we have a responsibility to build their confidence and expose the kids to new ideas. The mayor learned through higher education that he could be a leader.

He says the kids cannot be protected from everything because they need to build character, stating, “The best thing that's ever occurred in my life is failing.”

He expressed his opinion that “politics suck” while recognizing that we have to be aware as a society when we are being manipulated for political gain

Every citizen wants a home, food, safety, and some money to save no matter what color or who you are, he says.

The divisive nature in our political world that is pushing us to get worked up in feelings and think negatively about our fellow Americans, is manipulation, says McCollar, exclaiming that truth matters more than anything.

Blake - With an institution like Georgia Southern in a small town like Statesboro, I have noticed that there is oftentimes some push back to student involvement in the affairs of the city. I have, however, in my time knowing you, noticed your efforts to engage students with the greater Statesboro Community. What do you think the benefits of engaging students in city affairs may bring to the city itself as Statesboro continues to grow?

Mayor McCollar - Georgia Southern is an institution of highly talented young people and educators that must be used to benefit the community.

Young people are fearless, creative, and hard workers. He says, “We would not be in this space without the students of Georgia Southern.”

Unique to this administration is investment into youth, neighborhood revitalization, rebuilding parks, public transportation, and revamping old ordinances to bring our community into modern times.

All these things happened because young people wanted change, he said, “without vision, we suffer.”

The equity package laid reserves for female and minority businesses, stating that the city expects 20% of contractual services to go to them. In prior years only 9% did, and local businesses that were capable of doing the work were not getting the opportunities.

Whitney - Projects like the Blue Mile and the Creek on the Blue Mile are keys to making our city attractive to newcomers and retaining young adults in our community. And we’ve seen that those investments and others to come are already paying dividends. Now with over 4,000 new homes planned for the city and enrollment again increasing at Georgia Southern, just as you said in your address: the secret seems to be out that Statesboro is a great place to live, work, and play. Something tells me you’re just getting started on innovative growth projects that will add key amenities to our City. What can you share with us about some of the exciting things to come in the Boro?

Mayor McCollar - Events like the concert series are so simple, but important, continuing with the sentiment that Statesboro should have tapped into this history of music sooner.

We will continue to embrace the modern innovative ideas, and the concerts are a step in that direction, he says.

The mayor says there are so many things in the “pipeline” that we must develop into full fruition while staying prepared for new opportunities.

Whitney - As we talk about the exciting things to come for Statesboro, it’s important to also look back and reflect on the past. The Statesboro City Council and its One Boro commission have been working with the Equal Justice Initiative over the past year to bring awareness to some of the darker moments in Statesboro’s history. Can you share a bit about this collaborative effort? 

Mayor McCollar -  This institute is shedding light on the criminal justice system that has been unfair to people of color and in this effort, Statesboro made markers for 9 lynching victims in our community.

The mayor says as a Generation X member, he cannot forget that he is a part of the first generation of people of color to be born with all of their rights.

He says he is fed up with politicians saying the same things and never answering the tough questions. McCollar laments that our nation’s founding documents are a dream of a shining city and there is no light in the impurity of lies.

We observe that history is a cycle, and the mayor exemplifies that Germany does not try to cover its past and we should not either. He says that those politicians are more interested in staying in power than doing what is right.

Blake - To go back to Higher Education for a moment; as Georgia Southern continues to grow, how do you see the city and the university working together to help grow Statesboro?

The mayor says that Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero is very involved in local work and puts his efforts on the line for change.

The mayor exemplified the partnership between the university and the city in two project locations: Main street lighting and flags and the South end of the city, where a whole new campus and business district collaboration exists.

McCollar reminds us that the destinies of Georgia Southern and Statesboro are intertwined.

Whitney - Looking toward the future of Statesboro, what is your vision for where we will be as a community in the next 5-10 years?

Mayor McCollar - The Mayor said, “My vision has not changed.” The city should be a thriving economic hub that focuses on inclusion.

With the introduction of women council members that were excluded for 200 years, McCollar says we are reaching those goals. The mayor says that the women on the council bring insight and sharpness that its never had before, recounting that since they joined,  the city has skyrocketed. He says they came with purpose.

Moving forward there should never be a day that the council doesn’t have diversity, the mayor says.

Whitney - Thank you, Mayor, for giving us a glimpse into some of the exciting things to come for the City of Statesboro. 

Community recognition

Following the Q&A, Mayor McCollar returned to the podium to make recognitions.

Christmas Toy Drive

Charles Penny said, "For years, the Home for the Holidays toy drive has helped meet the needs of children in our city.  This past year, over 200 children were served with toys and gift cards for clothes. They raised $7,500 from community organizations and businesses to support this effort. They honored each of these organizations in attendance including:

  • Statesboro Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc
  • Restoring the Breach, Inc.
  • Statesboro Uplift Foundation, Inc.
  • Lambda Pi Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
  • Beta Gamma Gamma Foundation
  • Beta Gamma Gamma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
  • Xi Mu Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
  • Chi Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • The Truthful Lodge #375 Portal, Georgia 
Representatives from organizations who helped make the City's annual toy drive a success. DeWayne Grice

Medal of Honor 

The family of Carrie Howard received the City's highest award presented by the Mayor, the Medal of Honor.

"This award is long overdue. Mrs. Howard has been a warrior for the Whitesville community and Statesboro for decades. She cared about the environment and stood against disfranchisement. Thank you for sharing her with us. We modeled ourselves after her. She spoke truth to power. Our City owes a great debt to her 90 year life. She loved the people. She had the heart of a lion and she did not back down, no matter what space she was in. She sought knowledge and addressed new issues," said Mayor McCollar.

Members of Carrie Howard's family with the Mayor. DeWayne Grice

Her family accepted the award in her honor and memory and echoed that she always stood for right and rights of people.

Mr. Penny thanked Mrs. Howard for her spirit and guidance and invited the audience to enjoy refreshments in the main gallery.  The reception was catered by Devine Elegance.

Live stream

CLICK HERE to watch the entire program.