By Lou Phelps, SDN
Sept 30, 2011 – There are only 42 days until the City of Savannah’s local elections on Nov. 8, but candidate George “Ruel” Joyner Jr. doesn’t know if he’ll be on the ballot. The Savannah businessman who is trying to defeat Alderman Van Johnson for his seat in District 1, found out last week that his residency is being challenged.
A hearing was held Thursday before Savannah Clerk of Council Dianne Reese, who is also the Superintendent of Municipal Elections. After hearing evidence, Reese told Joyner that she would announce a decision within 7 to 10 days.
Joyner is the owner of 24e, a Broughton Street furniture store, above which he maintains an apartment that he claims is a residence, and therefore makes him eligible to run in District 1. Both his driver’s license and voter’s registration use the 24 E. Broughton St. address, he told Reese at the hearing.
But Joyner has a home at 207 Barley Rd. on Oatland Island where he lives, others contend. He purchased the home in 1999, valued at the time at $113,500 dollars. In 2008, he made approximately $100,000 in improvements, and with the increase in the value of the lot, his home is now valued at a total of $426,000 by the Chatham County Board of Assessors. He also owns an abutting vacant lot valued at $155,000 currently.
Joyner posed for a photospread about his home last year in South Magazine. But that was last year.
He is the current president of the Downtown Business Association, Joyner was encouraged to run by many in the business community, and he says the challenge is politically motivated. He maintains that there are other members of the current City Council who have multiple addresses. Many in Savannah own homes at Tybee Island, for example, as well as a home in Savannah's Historic district, and can elect which address to identify as their 'home' and place of voter registration.
The challenge was filed by Kenneth Dunham, a resident of Savannah’s Westside, who acknowledges that he is a supporter of Johnson, and claims that Joyner is not a city resident. Oatland Island is not in District 1, or even within the city limits.
Joyner’s position is that the City Charter requires six month residency prior to qualifying to run, and does not use the term a “primary residence.”
Tonia Miller, a resident at 408 Cleland St. in Savannah in the Belmar Terrace Subdivision, is also a candidate for District 1. She is a former teacher at Shuman Middle School and is the owner of Success, Inc,, a non-profit tutoring company she founded.
After the hearing, Joyner posted on his Facebook page: “We had our hearing. My paper work is in order and in full. I have legitimate residency in the first district of Savannah Ga. It is now up to the Court Clerk. She will notify me within 7 to 10 days. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. I even spoke with Mr. Dunham after the hearing and am looking forward to working with him to make the West Side of Savannah better. The people deserve it.”
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