The George-Anne 2017-2018 Statesboro Citizen of the Year

Matthew Enfinger

Jonathan McCollar made history by becoming Statesboro’s first African American mayor on Nov. 7, 2017.

Raised in Statesboro, McCollar attended and graduated from Statesboro High School in 1992 and received his bachelors of arts degree in history from Georgia Southern University.

From then McCollar’s story of leadership and civil service begins.

Pivotal moments

McCollar said one of the pivotal moments in his life was when he was 18 years old and decided to leave Statesboro to pursue his education at Albany State University.

“I think the most empowering thing there was with me being a person of color, seeing individuals that looked like me in powerful positions,” McCollar said. “The smartest kid in the class looked like me. The professor looked like me. The president of the university looked like me. That was very helpful for me coming from a community where growing up I never saw anybody that looked like me in any form of a powerful position.”

McCollar later returned to Statesboro to complete his undergraduate education at Georgia Southern University in 2004 and later received his Masters Degree in Public Administration in 2007.

McCollar said while in Statesboro he continued to volunteer in the community with the local Boys and Girls Club and as a lay coach for Portal Middle School’s girl’s basketball team.

“God has blessed me to learn to be a part of a lot of young people’s lives but sometimes I believe the universe puts you into a situation that you can’t fix in order for you to learn something about yourself.”

McCollar later became the director of the alternative school in Bulloch County and created the Resurrection Project to help underprivileged teens.

“It was exposed to me what the real problem was and the real problem was the fact that these kids did not have resources,” McCollar said.”And so I began to ask the question: What are the resources? Who are the people that have the resources? How do we get the resources?”

McCollar said his career in politics began in 2008 when he decided to run for State Representative to bring more resources to local schools.

An election 10 years in the making

McCollar said the beginning his career in politics was the product of a random act of kindness. In 2008, McCollar traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to apply to run for State Representative however upon arrival he was informed that he did not have the appropriate forms and funds to apply for the qualifying fee.

“This guy that was standing next to him was listening to the conversation and he walked with me and we just started talking vicariously and asked ‘Why do you want to run?’ and we just talked. He then cut me a check for $400 on the spot to pay my qualifying fees to run for State Rep.”

McCollar said to this day he does not know who the man is.

“Without that moment I don’t think that I would be sitting here right now,” McCollar said.

McCollar went on to run for several positions including County Commission in 2010, City Council in 2012 and his first campaign as Mayor in 2013.

Although McCollar lost every race, he was determined to serve the public and viewed each loss as moving closer to winning.

“We’ve been going door to door,” McCollar said. “We’ve been registering people to vote and educating people about the issues. Each time that we run, we get a little bit closer to winning.”

McCollar said over the next four years he continued to register people to vote and remained active in the community. In 2016, McCollar ran one of the largest on the ground presidential campaigns for former candidate Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. McCollar described his experience as a pivotal point in her political career.

“That experience was like me going to Harvard and learning political campaigning from the best minds,” McCollar said.

McCollar said his involvement in the Clinton campaign prepared him to campaign for Mayor of Statesboro in 2017.

On Nov. 7 2017, McCollar was declared the next mayor of Statesboro. McCollar received McCollar received 1,076 votes out of a total of 2031 votes. 

“What I had realized was that the campaign had become much bigger than me and it began to take on a life of its own,” McCollar said. “The thing that was the most significant to me was that nearly 60 percent of the people that when to the poles voted for change.”

First African American Mayor

McCollar said while it is humbling to be part of Statesboro’s history as the first African American Mayor, he view himself as more than a black mayor.

“I don’t think about me being a black mayor,” McCollar said. “I just see myself as just being Jonathan. I recognize that I am a black male but when it comes to this office I don’t think about it like that. I know the greater community does but I don’t think about myself like that because I feel that this is part of my destiny.”

Matthew Enfinger, The George-Anne News Editor, [email protected]