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:


Gary Norton (Incumbent)


Linda Smith (Incumbent)

Jo Smith


Gabrielle Nelson

Alfonso Ribot


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.


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.



TYBEE ISLAND, GA. – September 30, 2021 – The Tybee Post Theater is slated to host “Lights Up: A Broadway Revue,” a performance by soprano Jessica Fishenfeld, mezzo-soprano Sara Zoe Budnik, baritone Trevor Martin and pianist Justin Addington. Join this dynamic vocal trio at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 at the historic Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave. on Tybee Island, to celebrate the return of Broadway and live performances in the United States.

“Lights Up: A Broadway Revue” pulls together songs and tales from new and old Broadway shows, featuring songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Wicked, Frozen, Phantom of the Opera, and more! The vocalists featured in this performance are familiar faces to Savannah’s music scene, with all three individuals having competed in the Savannah-based American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC). In addition, Fishenfeld and Budnik perform as Featured Artists with the Savannah VOICE Festival (SVF).

“Savannah is a great place for artists to call home and Sara, Trevor and I are grateful to the Tybee Post Theater for developing this show with us,” said Fishenfeld. “We are excited for the opportunity to create live music and look forward to welcoming our guests on Oct. 24 for this eloquently created program.”

The Tybee Theater, Inc., is a 501 (3) © non-profit corporation formed in 2001 and dedicated to restoring and operating the Tybee Post Theater as a performing arts and cultural center that is an integral part of the island community, enhances the cultural experience, encourages and attracts visitors, and improves the overall quality of life. To learn more about the Tybee Post Theatre, please visit www.tybeeposttheater.org.

Tickets to “Lights Up: A Broadway Revue” start at $25 each. For more information about the performance or to purchase tickets, please visit https://tybeeposttheater.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=536



For media inquiries, please contact Kristyn Fielding at kristyn@lesleyfrancispr.com or 229-393-6457, Lesley Francis at lesley@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-429-3950, or the team at 912-417-LFPR (5377).


Justin L. Addington is the Minister of Music at the historic First Baptist Church of Savannah, GA. Highlights of his twenty-plus year career as a church musician include the development of a nationally recognized concert series, performances of numerous major works with orchestra, the release of a professionally recorded organ CD, and choir tours to England, Italy, Austria, and Carnegie Hall. Justin received a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) in Music Education/Vocal Performance from Limestone College in Gaffney, SC. While at Limestone, Justin won first place in the South Carolina NATS Competition for Musical Theatre, and in 2012 he was named the college’s Young Alumnus of the Year. Justin received a Masters of Church Music in Choral Conducting from Concordia University Wisconsin, and a Doctorate of Theology in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute in Jacksonville, FL. Justin maintains an active schedule as a recitalist, accompanist, lecturer, clinician, composer, and consultant. In addition to his work as a church musician, Justin has also taught music in the public schools, served as a board member for several non-profit arts organizations, and worked as an actor and musical director/pianist for numerous semi-professional and community theater companies.

Sara Zoe Budnik is a vocalist from New York City who hops from genre to genre. Sara Zoe has performed in cabaret venues, regional theatres, toured nationally, and performed across the seas via world cruise. Broadway World described Sara Zoe’s Mezzo-Soprano vocals as “Moving” and “Soulful” and that her performance “exudes a warmth that is hard to describe.” As a proud member of the USO Show Troupe, Sara Zoe has the honor of saluting America’s military through music that ranges from big band to Americana to today’s top 40 hits. Sara Zoe is also one of Savannah’s newest residents! After being a semi-finalist in the American Traditions Competition in February of 2020, she fell in love with Savannah and moved here from NYC! She also performed at the Savannah VOICE Festival’s ninth season: LIVE! You can see more of Sara Zoe at hellosarazoe.com

Jessica Fishenfeld, soprano and actor “triumphed” (NY Observer) in her New York City Opera debut in the World Premiere of Stonewall, with “clean coloratura” (Opera News) and “spunky personality” (Opera Wire). She made her off-Broadway debut as Brünnhilde in Das Barbecü. Amid the mass pandemic closures of 2020, she produced and performed in Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino, 20th Anniversary Virtual Concert, “one of the slickest, best-produced virtual concerts to come out of the last ten months” (Broadway World), among Broadway and Cabaret luminaries. She also appeared virtually with the New York Festival of Song, OmniArts Foundation, Center for Contemporary Opera, Teatro Grattacielo, Savannah VOICE Festival, etc. She recently starred in the world- and NY- Premieres at Circle in the Square and National Sawdust and won Semi-Finalist prizes in the 2021 American Traditions Competition and 2019 Lotte Lenya Competition. Other highlights include soloist appearances at Carnegie Hall, Birdland Jazz Club, and more. Visit jessicafishenfeld.com for more and keep in touch on IG @jecafish for the latest news!

Trevor Martin is a versatile performer, with credits spanning Musical Theater and Operatic repertoire. As an advocate for new opera, his world, and regional premiere highlights include: Prof. Milton (Voir Dire), Mark Twain (TESLA), The Muse (When Adonis Calls), Paul (Amelia), Belletti (Barnum’s Bird), JFK cover (JFK). Other operatic favorites include: Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva – Le nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Marcello (La bohème), Escamillo (Carmen), Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Elder Mclean (Susannah). He has performed with companies such as Beth Morrison Projects, Center for Contemporary Opera, Madison Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Virginia Opera, Opera in the Heights, Asheville Lyric Opera, Opera North, Circle in the Square Theatre, Wolfbane Productions, City Springs Theatre Company, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Revival Theatre Company, and Sharon Playhouse. He won the prestigious Lotte Lenya Competition and was a quarterfinalist in the American Traditions Vocal Competition.

The American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) celebrates and preserves all styles of classic American music. The organization promotes these songs by producing annual vocal competitions in Savannah, Georgia, that awards in cash prizes. The ATC is committed to serving the greater Savannah community. The organization provides musical education, exposure and performances for Savannah locals of all ages. This nonprofit arts institution was born of the desire to foster and preserve traditions of musical expression, which have been significant in the culture of the United States, by celebrating the repertoire that represents both the art and the popular cultures of our country.

Savannah VOICE Festival (SVF) is a nonprofit arts organization in the state of Georgia. The Festival brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah area through a two-week celebration of concerts, events, and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year. Focusing on arts awareness and audience development in the performing arts, it offers music from opera, musical theatre, and popular song



SAVANNAH, GA. – Sept. 28, 2021 – Savannah Ballet Theatre (SBT) is slated to present its production of Sleepy Hollow, based on Washington Irving’s classic tale, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29 and 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30 at the Tybee Post Theatre, 10 Van Horne Ave. on Tybee Island. SBT’s original one-act adaptation of Sleepy Hollow, created by SBT artistic director Suzanne Braddy, has delighted audiences and Savannah area critics since its premiere in 2018.  

Sleepy Hollow, set in upstate New York, tells the story of Ichabod Crane and the legend of the Headless Horseman. This classic tale of superstition and rivalry is transformed through SBT’s signature storytelling by fusing American colonial fantasy with special effects and the talent of SBT’s professional dancers.

“We are thrilled to return to live performances at the historic Tybee Post Theater and invite Savannah to support this original production,” said artistic director Suzanne Braddy. “The storyline is easy to follow, the music is engaging, and this family-friendly ballet is sure to be a fall favorite!”

SBT is Savannah and southeast Georgia’s only professional dance company. Their mission is to develop and showcase the talent of dedicated Savannah dancers alongside top professional dancers who train in the studio and engage in educational outreach and promotion of the art of dance within the community.

Join SBT for this gothic tale, perfect for all ages, filled with mystery and suspense. To purchase tickets, please visit www.tybeeposttheater.showare.com or call 912-472-4790.

For more information about Sleepy Hollow or the Savannah Ballet Theatre & School of Dance, please visit www.savannahballettheatre.org.


For media inquiries, please contact Kristyn Fielding at kristyn@lesleyfrancispr.com or 229-393-6457, Lesley Francis at lesley@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-429-3950, or the team at 912-417-LFPR (5377).



SAVANNAH, GA – April 21, 2021 – Savannah Ballet Theatre (SBT) has received funding to support innovative educational programs in 2021, including the filming and dissemination of children’s ballet, Peter and The Wolf. This symphonic fairy tale was created by Russian composer Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev in 1936 to familiarize children with individual instruments of the orchestra and inspire their interest in music. SBT will introduce students at Savannah Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) to ballet with a fresh take on this beloved children’s performance.

SBT has received a $52,000 grant from the City of Savannah Arts and Culture Education (ACE) to support the continued growth of its educational outreach programs for local students which is supporting the Peter and The Wolf initiative. Savannah’s Arts and Culture Enrichment program (ACE) is intended to integrate arts, culture, heritage, design, and other creative disciplines as strategies that strengthen the City of Savannah’s economic, physical, and social vitality. In addition, SBT has been granted $5,000 from the Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) to support its educational programs.

Rebecca Martin Dugal, Artistic Program Coordinator and a Company Dancer at SBT says, “We are extremely grateful to the City of Savannah and Georgia Council for the Arts for their generous support. We have not been able to present live performances since December 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in the loss of much-needed revenue through ticket sales. We are excited to resume our educational outreach to schools virtually through Peter and The Wolf, and hope to resume in-person outreach later this year, if safe to do so.”

Currently celebrating their 21st season of serving the greater Savannah community, SBT was established in 1998 under the artistic direction of Suzanne Braddy. Recognized as the premiere dance company in Southeast Georgia, SBT normally presents a full season of classical and contemporary dance every year. These two grants will help support SBT’s low-sensory performances of their fall shows and The Nutcracker, if determined safe to be performed in-person. These sensory-friendly performances are designed specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities, or other disabilities, and are another way SBT reached out to new audiences, to spread the joy of dance throughout Savannah. SBT is proud to be the first professional arts organization in Savannah to offer this innovative and accessible experiences.

Savannah Ballet Theatre is committed to creating and curating artistically forceful new productions which are based on adaptations of popular stories and movies. SBT is Savannah and southeast Georgia’s only professional dance company. It is their mission to develop and showcase the talent of dedicated Savannah dancers alongside top professional dancers who train in the studio, and to engage in educational outreach and promotion of the art of dance within the community.

For more information about SBT’s sponsorship program or to donate, please email donate@savannahballettheatre.org or call 912-200-9406 or visit the website www.savannahballettheatre.org.


For media inquiries, please contact Kristyn Fielding at kristyn@lesleyfrancispr.com or 229-393-6457 or Lesley Francis at lesley@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-429-3950 or the team at 912-417-LFPR (5377).



SAVANNAH, GA – Embargoed: 10:30 a.m. March 11, 2021 – Pritty: The Animation – the first-ever, Black, queer animated short film based in Savannah is launching its Kickstarter Long Story Short campaign on Thursday, March 11 to reach their next stretch goal of $125,000 on the path to raising 1.6M for the total production budget.

Keith F. Miller, Jr.,an award-winning educator, artist, researcher, and Savannah native wrote a soon-to-be published LGBTQ+ novel inspired by the complexity of growing up Black and queer in the Deep South. Founder of Healing By Any Means, a creative consultancy and production company that powers people, projects, and research at the heart of systems and narrative change using art, media, and healing-focused pedagogy, Keith crossed paths with a NYU filmmaker, Terrance Daye, and together, they reimagined a chapter of his novel into a short film – Pritty: The Animation.

To donate to the Campaign, please visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/prittyfilm/pritty-the-animation.

This story was created in response to a startling, ever-present truth: boys and young men of color face innumerable obstacles that prevent them from living long, full, healthy, and productive, emotionally-rich lives. Miller believes there is a correlation be­tween the limited range of queer youth of color representation on screen and the staggering number of suicide attempts LGBTQ+ youth around the country. Unfortunately, most queer coming-of-age films habitually reproduce trau­mas onscreen without visualizing futures beyond the “coming out” experience.

Pritty: The Animation aims to address this disparity by showcasing youth of color, specifically Black men, in an unconventional light. Instead of perpetuating the same narrative of Black boys fighting, belittling, and harming one another, viewers experience a front-row seat of a different reality and narrative of them at play, discovering themselves, being vulnerable and healing in the process. This intentional approach of visualizing that “When Black and Brown youth play, they heal” stems from Miller’s own research and work as an educator at the Deep Center. Today, few, if any, animated queer coming-of-age stories exist for Black men. Pritty aims to fill this gap and expand a necessary conversation around what it means to be a Black boy coming-of-age in America.

“Putting this together in the middle of a pandemic – there were so many reasons to give up, but we are a team of dreamers and talented, queer POC artists who just don’t know when to stop,” said Pritty: The Animation Director Terrance Daye. “We believe that the Black kids we create this art for are worth the big asks, time, and money that it takes to put a production like this together. That is why we could not stop making this film and that is why we had to keep dreaming.”

The animation direction brings Miller’s childhood depiction of Savannah to life through the use of lush, romantic landscapes, textured ambient sounds and distinctly Black character designs to create a sense of immersive realism through traditional 2D animation. The production team is partnering with Powerhouse Animation Studios in Texas for Animation Production. As part of Kickstarter’s Long Story Short campaign, the team will spend the rest of March crowdsourcing enough funds to reach their next stretch goal of $125,000 with hopes of eventually reaching the 1.6M budget to produce the full 20-minute animated film in their desired artistic style.

“Our stories, our culture, our communities, our hoods deserve to occupy the center, and this animation is a reminder of that,” said Executive Producer Keith Miller. “Savannah has always been a place of dreaming for me, a way to imagine what’s possible beyond the trauma I and many other youth of color have experienced every day, which is why Pritty: The Animation must exist. We need everyone’s help to ensure we reach our goal to complete the animated short film. And as history asks us how we will respond in this moment, how we will create our own legacy, no donation is too small. All funds will go toward the wonderful village it’s going to take to bring this story to life and show that Savannah, the state of Georgia, and the Deep South is capable of so much more than people think. Whether queer or not, a person of color or not, we all need this so we can heal, together.”

– ENDS –

For media inquiries, please contact Crystal Vogel at crystal@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-509-1510 or Lesley Francis at lesley@lesleyfrancispr.com or 912-429-3950 or the team at 912-417-LFPR (5377).