‘Watching from the sidelines:’ Mayor of Garden City officially steps down to focus on his family

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:20 PM EDT
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GARDEN CITY, Ga. (WTOC) - Wednesday was the last day on the job for the mayor of Garden City.

Mayor Don Bethune made the sudden announcement of his early departure two weeks ago. WTOC was the first to share the news.

He sat down in an exclusive one-on-one with WTOC this week to talk about what led up to his decision.

Bethune said his daughter has stage four cancer and she needs him now more than ever.

“Family comes first without a doubt,” he said.

‘Watching from the sidelines’, Mayor of Garden City officially steps down to focus on his family
‘Watching from the sidelines’, Mayor of Garden City officially steps down to focus on his family(Mayor Don Bethune)

The outgoing mayor served Garden City for years, but when family calls, he answers.

“When my daughter developed a stage four cancer and it was a type that was very rare and very aggressive….that was thyroid cancer and I knew my family needed me.”

A public servant for most of his life...

“When it got to that part it was easy.”

From the Savannah Fire Department to Garden City councilmember and a second term as mayor, he said it was time.

Reflecting on his nearly 13 years of service, Bethune said he did his best.

“I’ve enjoyed being mayor. I’ve been humbled that the residents elected me. I tried to do a very good job, tried to work hard, but some of my biggest enjoyment is all the houses I worked on.”

‘Not a politician’ is something he stands by. He said he has always just been a concerned citizen trying to do what’s best for them.

“We’ve made tremendous strides in our benefits and in the job market that we’re in...that’s what it takes.”

One of the decisions he’s most proud of – raising pay for city employees, paying 100% of their healthcare, retirement at 55 years old, extra vacation days and health insurance after retirement.

He’s also leaving with a few months left on the city’s industrial rezoning moratorium. The city has been pushing for more housing, now they’re catching the eye of Hyundai developers trying to get housing for their employees.

“They’ve been very interested. They’ve liked what Garden City has shown. A lot of times for housing projects, the city or county might not be excited about it. We’re excited about housing. I want to be able to tell builders, we want you to come to Garden City.”

The mayor is ready to pass the baton to soon-to-be Interim Mayor Bruce Campbell. His parting words of advice...

“You’re going to have to step up the mark and keep your phone close by.”

What’s Next

Now, council has to appoint a new councilmember and mayor pro tem.

There won’t be a special election.

Campbell will be sworn in on September 8.

At the September 19 meeting, council will nominate their own candidates. Whoever has the most votes will get the seat.

It won’t be advertised, just by word of mouth, according to the mayor.

From there, they’ll elect a new mayor pro tem. That could be a current council member or the newly elected member.

More development coming soon...

Garden City has some big developments in the works.

The city is making progress with Chatham Area Transit to get more bus stops added on Highway 21.

If a deal goes through, they said they’ll be the first city to pay for CAT services.

70 apartments will be built off Dean Forest Road behind city hall.

A partnership with the Georgia Ports on the mega rail project continues.

After WTOC’s interview with Mayor Bethune, he said a GoFundMe was set up for his daughter’s cancer treatments.