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PORT WENTWORTH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ANNOUNCES 2021 CANDIDATES’ FORUM

SAVANNAH, GA. – October 12, 2021 – The Port Wentworth Chamber of Commerce is hosting a 2021 Candidates Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 26, from 7-9 p.m. at the Wingate by Wyndham (formerly the Holiday Inn Express), located at 7210 Georgia Highway 21, Port Wentworth. This event will comply with COVID-19 emergency protocols, including a mask requirement and socially distanced seating arrangements during the forum.

The forum is open to all candidates running for office in the City of Port Wentworth and offers residents a chance to meet the candidates and learn more about their campaign platforms and values. Lynwood Griner declined to participate, and Mayor Gary Norton and Linda Smith did not respond to their invitations.

“The purpose of this forum is so that members of the community can gain answers and have all the information and knowledge they need to make informed choices in the upcoming election,” said Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Vice Chair Vicki Waters. “This forum will provide a safe space to learn with limited attendance, socially distanced seating, and a strictly enforced mask mandate.”  

The forum will be moderated by WTOC’s Dawn Baker, beginning with opening statements from each candidate. Baker will follow the opening statements with a question-and-answer session, using pre-approved questions submitted before the forum. The first and fourth questions will be general questions that each candidate will be permitted to answer. The second and third questions will be district-specific. The event will conclude with closing statements. Time limits will apply to the candidates’ statements and answers. 

The City of Port Wentworth’s Municipal Election will be held on Nov. 2, 2021, with polls open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. The following candidates have qualified for the election:

MAYOR:

Gary Norton (Incumbent)

AT-LARGE COUNCIL MEMBER:

Linda Smith (Incumbent)

Jo Smith

DISTRICT 1 COUNCIL MEMBER:

Gabrielle Nelson

Alfonso Ribot

DISTRICT 3 COUNCIL MEMBER:

Rufus Bright

Lynwood Griner

Janet Hester

The public is encouraged to attend in support of their community and the elected officials who serve it. Questions for the candidates are submitted in advance of the event with the goal of obtaining relevant information from the candidates in a fair manner. All questions must be submitted in advance by going to: https://bit.ly/2YwEPOg

The Chamber of Commerce is an unbiased, nonpartisan organization that hosts the Candidates Forum as a community service. For more information about the Port Wentworth Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.visitportwentworth.com or call 912-965-1999.

-ENDS-

For media inquiries, please contact Hollie Barnidge at hollie@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-272-8651 or Lesley Francis at lesley@francis.com or 912-429-3950 or the team at 912-417-LFPR (5377).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are the bios for candidates who agreed to participate in the forum. Lynwood Griner declined to participate, and Mayor Gary Norton and Linda Smith did not respond to their invitations.

Jo Smith has over 30 years of professional business experience. After working for two Fortune 500 companies in management roles, she opened and operated three successful companies – two of which garnered annual revenues in excess of $1 million a year and employed over 120 employees. Smith also worked on a major grant project with the second-largest university in the state. Smith’s most recent company dealt exclusively with government contracting; she has won and executed over two dozen state contracts.

Smith’s municipal government knowledge and experience includes four years on the board of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) oversight committee and five years on the board of the “Buy Local” initiative, where her main contribution was speaking PTAs, school foundations and booster clubs to encourage the patronization of local businesses. Currently, Smith runs a nonprofit (pending IRS status) serving the people of Port Wentworth.

Gabrielle Nelson, a native Georgian, was born in Savannah, educated in the Chatham County public school system and graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University. At the age of 22, Nelson built her first home from the ground up in Port Wentworth. Eight years later, she and her husband built a larger home in the same area of Port Wentworth.

Nelson has served on the Port Wentworth Planning Commission for most of the past two years and has worked for 12 years in different positions within the local government of Chatham County. She currently manages the IT Helpdesk and procurement division, where she oversees purchasing and provides financial input regarding her departmental budget.

Alfonso Ribot was born to Puerto Rican parents in Paterson, New Jersey. He currently lives in Port Wentworth and has been living in the Savannah area since 2009. He and his wife, Susana Ribot, have six children: Gabriel, Emanuel, Alfonso Jr., Erwin,  Melissa and Priscilla. Ribot is a member and leader at Compassion Christian Church Hispanic Campus in Savannah.

Ribot earned a Bachelor’s Degree in human resources development and training from Northeastern Illinois University and a Master’s in Business Administration from South University. He is an Armed Forces Veteran who retired in July 2005 after over 24 years of service, during which he traveled to 40 of the 50 U.S. states, as well as Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. Ribot is the founder and former president/CEO of the Metropolitan Savannah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MSAVHCC). He previously worked with the U.S. Census Bureau, Atlanta Regional Census Center, as a partnership specialist in the South Georgia region. His most recent project entailed working on a partnership with St Joseph’s/Candler hospital and other chamber partners to start mobile vaccination units at four mobile home locations in Garden City and Savannah.

Rufus W. Bright, a minister, was educated in the Chatham County Public School System and graduated from Jenkins High School in 1975. Bright served in the United States Air Force and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and an Associate’s Degree in education. He also attended Midwestern Christian Institute in Mount Clemens, Michigan, and earned a Bachelor’s of Religious Education, a Associate’s of Christian Education, an official ordination certificate, and Bible school teacher/advanced Bible school teacher certificates.

After his education, Bright returned to Coastal Georgia and has worked at the 50th Street Church of Christ, Tara Nursing Home, and the Chatham County Jail’s Prison Ministry. He has also served on the executive committee of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP and is a member of the NAACP Prison Support Systems Committee. Bright currently serves as the minister at the Church of Christ in Hardeeville, S.C., where he has been for four years.

Janet Hester and her husband, Steven Hester, own Hester Farms in Port Wentworth. She envisions the city becoming home to a recreation facility that promotes healthy lifestyles and builds community. She’d also like to see more food growers and increased local support for the growers.

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