On many social media pages related to the City of Pooler, GA, you may find the hashtag, #PoolerHasItAll. One thing that it doesn’t have is a mayor capable of exhibiting strong, effective, empathetic leadership in the face of a crisis that touches each citizen without regard to income, race, religion or political affiliation.Since this crisis began, Pooler Mayor Rebecca Benton has been derelict in her duties to reassure and comfort a confused, anxious and vulnerable citizenry. Since the United States was caught unawares to the magnitude of what has now been called a pandemic, Ms. Benton has not even once issued a video or radio statement – or even a newspaper statement. Regular communication from the mayor would be so very beneficial to this city of nearly 25,000 residents, reassuring us that leadership is hard at work and is at least present and cares for the people they serve.
All information released to the citizenry of Pooler, GA has come in the form of somewhat cold, unempathetic, non-assuring, typed statements posted to https://www.pooler-ga.gov. Some of the only on-going communication that any of us in Pooler have been presented with has come primarily from the Pooler Police Department via their Facebook page. This is problematic because it sends a message that the town is under the leadership of an appointed (as in not elected) law enforcement agency and not its duly elected officials. Pooler Councilman Aaron Higgins and Councilwoman Karen Williams have made good and earnest efforts to fill this vacuum of leadership, but their posts have largely been parrots of police department statements and press releases from the Governor, who in this crisis has been at least as feckless as our mayor. It should be noted that amidst criticism of her absence, Mayor Benton deleted her official Facebook page.
As one of many commercial hubs for the Coastal Empire, Pooler is host to dozens of local and chain retail businesses. We receive daily visitors from all surrounding municipalities such as Port Wentworth, Garden City, Rincon, Springfield, Guyton, Richmond Hill, Ellabell, Pembroke, and Savannah. This places the most vulnerable residents of Pooler at heightened risk as they venture out for essential trips to Wal-Mart, Publix, Food Lion, Bi-Lo and others.
It should deeply concern all of us in Pooler that the only reassuring, representative voice we have available to us during this time is Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. The trouble with this is Mayor Johnson, the Savannah City Council and Savannah City Manager exhibit no governance or authority over the City of Pooler, a separate and mutually exclusive municipality with mutually exclusive concerns – concerns that Mayor Benton ought to share deep in her heart.
Ms. Benton’s apparent abatement of her leadership duties as the duly elected mayor should frighten every single one of us who live and work in Pooler. It would be easy to have the thought, “Where will she be when it’s really really bad?” Well this is that time. This is that point. It’s REALLY REALLY bad and Mayor Benton is nowhere to be found.
Once we get through this, and I have strong faith that we will despite the mayor’s absence, I hope the residents of Pooler remember one thing – that they voted for someone born and raised in Pooler who has so little concern for her neighbors that she couldn’t be bothered to take 10 minutes to say to her neighbors, “I stand with you. You are not alone. We are in this together.”