Revitalizing Statesboro – Double Eagle Mayor Leads Community to New Era

It’s an exciting time to be mayor of Statesboro, Georgia. Mayor Jonathan McCollar (’03, ’07) is busy with his “day job” as assistant director of the Liberty Campus plus his many mayoral duties. But he doesn’t mind all the work. Being at the helm for some of that largest development projects in Statesboro’s history is rewarding.

“It’s been amazing, just amazing,” said McCollar. “The future of Statesboro is great.”

The Creek on the Blue Mile, announced to much fanfare last December, is one such project. The development aims to revitalize about 36-acres in downtown Statesboro by turning a storm water drainage canal into a beautiful riverwalk-type area with new commercial and residential properties. The project helps frame the Blue Mile, the city’s historic corridor to downtown from Georgia Southern University.

“To be honest with you, the potential that this area has, and the impact it has on this community is phenomenal,” said McCollar. “It’s breathtaking when you really think about it.”

And the speed at which the development is progressing is fast, thanks to a collaboration with Georgia Southern and many involved community leaders and their organizations.

“We went from taking a project from something that was going to happen years down the line, to a project that’s ready to go almost immediately,” said McCollar. “And we would not have been able to do that if not for the resources and connections we got from working collaboratively with Georgia Southern.”

True Blue

A Statesboro native, McCollar is true blue through and through. With a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in public administration, the University has been an important part of most of his life. His wife Adrianne also works at Georgia Southern. They have five children ages 10–17.

McCollar commutes an hour each way to his job in Hinesville. But due to his flextime work arrangements with the University, he can be at the mayor’s office two afternoons a week. And thanks to hands-free technology, he’s able to stay abreast of city matters on his drive.

“I’m able to do meetings via my phone. Able to answer emails quickly. I have all of my phone calls that go to my desk at City Hall forwarded to my phone. So when a citizen calls, I’m the one that’s often picking up the phone. And they’re usually shocked,” he said.

Inspired by Georgia Southern

McCollar attributes his venture into politics to Georgia Southern. The mayor was inspired by Saba Jallow, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and international studies, a professor who had a major impact on him. Through Jallow, McCollar became involved with the Model African Union, a vehicle for University students to study the organization and performance of the African Union through a simulation of the body and briefings at African Embassies in Washington, D.C.

“What he introduced me to was public policy,” said McCollar. “And one of the  lessons that Dr. Jallow taught me was, if you’re going to get involved with public policy, make sure you have an understanding of what it looks like when it meets the common person. And from that point on I came to believe that through good public policy you can change the lives of people and create a high quality of life for individuals.”

In the short time he’s been mayor, McCollar has already been implementing changes to public policy. Some of those policies include the youth development commission known as SCYN (Statesboro Community Youth Network), a workforce development commission named Statesboro Works, and the One Boro Initiative, a diversity and inclusion commission. But he is insistent these accomplishments are the fruits of collaboration.

“On day one, we immediately hit the ground running,” he said. “And I say ‘we’ because it’s a team effort. I didn’t get here by myself. The policies that were created were done in a collaborative effort.”

Pebbles in the Lake: Creek on the Blue Mile, the West District and Tormenta Stadium Projects

The collaboration that is spawning the Creek on the Blue Mile is just one cog in the larger development wheel for Statesboro. Other projects include the West District, just off the Blue Mile in downtown, and the Tormenta FC soccer stadium, which includes plans for a major grocery store, retail spaces and hotel. These new projects combined aim to create over 750 jobs and expand the tax base by more than $250 million.

“What we were looking for was that pebble to throw into the lake to create this economic wake across the community,” said McCollar. “Well, Statesboro was fortunate enough not just to get one pebble, but got three. And we got these three pebbles in a 12-month time period.“

McCollar feels that the future of Statesboro is great, and it’s even better with collaboration from community organizations and Georgia Southern.

“I’m extremely excited because we want to create an environment where collaborative efforts go to create a better community overall. These are the types of things that Georgia Southern and their staff are extremely key in. And that’s the message that we want to send, that we are a progressive community that’s looking to put good people to work, and we are inviting great organizations to come and help us do that.”

When asked if Georgia Southern had a big impact on what he’s been able to achieve so far, McCollar is certain.

“If it was not for me meeting Dr. Jallow and having the opportunity to attend an event in D.C. where I saw policymakers trying to address real-life issues, I don’t think I would have ever been interested in running for public office,” he said. “Georgia Southern played a key role in where I am today.”

– Liz Walker

The Creek on the Blue Mile was inspired by a similar project in Frederick, Maryland. Frederick started with 1.5 miles of development 10 years ago. The project has now grown to exceed eight miles.