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Eight candidates on Bethune ballot

Posted: October 22, 2013 7:28 p.m.
Updated: October 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Don Witham is one of four Bethune Town Council candidates, out of eight, who submitted pictures to or had pictures taken by the C-I for this story.

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Eight candidates, including three incumbents, will be on the ballot Nov. 5 for the mayoral and two other seats on Bethune Town Council. A “meet the candidates” forum is slated for Oct. 29 at the Bethune Woman’s Club where the candidates will gather to present platforms and answer residents’ questions.

Mayor Carlisle Davis and Councilman Jimmy Steen are running for reelection. Charles McCoy is running against Davis for the mayor’s seat. Those running for either Steen’s or a seat being vacated by current Councilwoman Gayle Beasley are former councilmen John Heflin and Don Witham, and residents John Fulmer, Linda Short and Richard Watts.

David, Steen and Short did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.

McCoy is a retired superintendant for a Birmingham construction company, and has lived in Bethune for 42 years. He said he brings 25 years experience of “working with people” with him, and stated that he has satisfied a lot of people in his line of work and knows a good deal about compromise.

“My main thing,” he said, “is to clean up the town to get more business here.”

McCoy added that business has been lost in Bethune, “some to fire” and some due to the fact, as he stated, that “downtown isn’t a clean atmosphere. We want it to catch the eyes of people passing through. We need to give the town a facelift.” McCoy aims to attract new residents while also making current residents proud of their hometown.

McCoy said his philosophy of “treating others the way I want to be treated” has provided positive relationships between himself and everyone with whom he has worked. He added that he and Davis are friends and he has “nothing against” the current mayor.

Fulmer is a retired Kershaw County School District science teacher and retired football and track coach. He has lived in Bethune for 16 years and says he knows a lot of people.

“I want this town to be a good place to raise a family,” Fulmer said, mentioning that it’s important to him to build a town that gives “people a good impression when they ride by.”

Fulmer says one of his main concerns is finding grants to “help alleviate some of the town’s infrastructure problems.” Finding grants, he believes, will help the town’s appearance, attracting more small businesses to Bethune.

Also, Fulmer stated that grants would help replace the town’s water system.

“Our water system is very old and we’d like grants to help fix it,” he said.

Fulmer said he also wants to protect the longevity of Bethune Elementary School (BES) and hopes to make council “more open with its citizens,” he said.

“I want to hold open town meetings with citizens once a quarter, with an open forum in addition to the monthly town council meetings,” Fulmer said.

John Heflin, 42, dean of students at Camden Military Academy (CMA) and life-long Bethune resident, previously served on Bethune Town Council for eight years. He has also served on the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County Committee and the Safe School Community Board for Kershaw County.

Heflin’s list of goals for Bethune begins with increasing “transparency in town government so people know what’s going on in town.” Heflin said he would like more accountability in the town’s government.

“I’d like to see expanded police protection,” he stated.

He said that, through grants, Bethune “should have around-the-clock police protection. Our chief is doing a fine job … we need to keep a visible defense in that area,” referring to recent burglaries in the town that personally affected him.

Heflin said he would work towards achieving an upgraded water system, which he says is “long overdue” in the town, along with locating proper funding for this task.

“I’ve been looking at alternative fuels,” he said, mentioning that he had researched a solar power station in Rockingham, N.C.

“I want to take advantage of the experience of our farmers and farmland in order to promote research and development for alternative fuel sources,” he said, adding that “solar power can’t be outsourced. These things are not a dream. However, it’s a road map to the future.”

Affordable housing is another of his concerns.

“More people would choose to live in Bethune if there were affordable housing here,” Helfin said.

He also talked about protecting BES.

“Each town deserves a school. I appreciate the efforts of the BES improvement council and the (school district) and look forward to working with them to find solutions,” he said.

Heflin’s final area of attention would be economic development and revitalization of the downtown area. He said that he visited Lake City, which is “a good example of what could happen in Bethune with the proper grants in place to restore infrastructure and dilapidated buildings.”

Heflin’s slogan is “Together we can make a difference” and adds to that the rhetorical question, “Why not us? Why not Bethune?”

Watts, Bethune’s current fire department chief, is also employed as a medical transporter, has lived in Bethune for 35 years and says this election will be his “first venture into the world of public office. I want this town to grow. I don’t want to see it go under.”

Watts’ goal is to work with the mayor and council to improve Bethune.

“The town used to have an EMS and fire department, he said, adding that now the county funds the fire department. “This town has enough revenue to support itself (in that area). I also know that we need to revamp the water system.”

Witham, a retired Sonoco sales representative who previously served on council, has lived in Bethune for more than 40 years.

“I have been involved with the PTA at the old elementary and high school. I’m heavily involved with the Bethune Lion’s Club and local Elk’s lodge, I’m actually president of the Lion’s Club, and I’ve served as the Kershaw Recreation Commission chair for several years. I served 13 years on the KershawHealth board of trustees and I served two years of a four-year town council term,” Witham said.

He explained that he chose to step down from his previous time on council because he was concurrently elected to the hospital board and felt he was needed to help more in that position at that time.

“I’m concerned about Bethune,” he said. “The impact of losing the high school is affecting the town. You can see that.”

Witham said the town fought for many years to keep the high school, but eventually lost it.

“We must fight to save BES,” he said, pointing out that when a community loses a school, the impact is not seen immediately, but over time the loss is realized.

Witham said he has many goals including repairing the water system infrastructure.

“It’s in a bad state and it’s time to do something about it,” he said, and suggested he would look to grants to help fund these repairs.

“Secondly,” he stated, “Bethune’s town government has to be involved in Kershaw County Council and (the school district) by attending their meetings.”

Witham said he wants council to become more involved with the Santee Lynches Council of Governments and to have meetings “where the town’s citizens can ask questions of the mayor and council and get some answers.”

He also wants to continue to take care of the town’s security.

“Glen’s a good man for the job,” Witham said, referring to Bethune Police Chief Glen Davis, “but how it was done was a problem. The procedures for meetings should be clear cut. We should have good policies in place.”

He also stated that he wants council to listen more to citizens.

“They have good ideas,” he said. “We can’t shut our people out.”


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