“True republicanism is the sovereignty of the people. There are natural and imprescriptible rights which an entire nation has no right to violate.”
― Marquis De Lafayette
Statesboro, Georgia – A college town, home of Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical College. About an hour from Savannah, the city houses thousands that are furthering their education, gaining invaluable skills to contribute to society, or simply living here permanently. It is a very southern-hospitality driven community.
Approximately 43% of the population of the City of Statesboro is between the age of 18 and 25. It is with this knowledge that in the year 2000, city leadership, led by then State Representative Robert Lane, changed the City Charter to increase the age limit on running for City Council to 25 and Mayor to 30. Statesboro is one of the few cities to have such a requirement of 25 years old and 30 to serve. The average age for these offices across Georgia is 21.
HB 1460 amended provisions of the pre-2000 city charter. It solidified efforts to end all attempts for “college kids” to influence local politics here in the city. This was an intentional effort by leaders after Aaron Nicely, then GSU Student Body President, ran for City Council – District 4. Though he was unsuccessful, the political establishment made sure that such a challenge would not happen again. “I just felt that an age candidate would have more experience, maturity, and more capable of handling the job,” Joe Brannen, who won the seat against Nicely, added when interviewed by Dr. Erik Brooks.
Ironically, this was not the first, or last, attempt to exclude Eagle Nation and it’s many students from the political process. In 2007, a group of Statesboro residents, who named themselves “Statesboro Citizens for Good Government” challenged about 800 voter registration applications, as they claimed they were illegally registered in Statesboro, as they had permanent residences back home with their families. Many were first-time voters, and were staying on campus, however, no law required students to register in one place or the other. They just had to be registered where they were currently living at. The students were eventually able to register and vote, however it left an impression on a toxic culture that wanted the money and investment of the students into the community, but did not want their voices.
If someone is not mature or experienced enough to lead the community in the form of public office, then that is for the voters to decide. This is not grounds to rejecting the candidacy of almost a half of your entire community. Nor is it the responsibility of elected officials to legislate complacency and outlaw their right to serve.
If a 17-year old can enlist in the United States Armed Forces, and serve this country honorably, s/he should be able to also come back home and run for office. That is the beauty of democracy. Statesboro prides itself on being a great community, and it might very well be so. However, in the words of Thomas Paine, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” Unfortunately, we have been getting it wrong for 16 years.
As we approach the new legislative session and upcoming municipal elections, we have an opportunity to get it right. Contact your local official on the Statesboro City Council today and have them discuss this subject at the next Council meeting.