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Hartis to run for Kershaw County Council chair

Posted: December 23, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Eugene “Gene” Hartis, who recently retired as a Kershaw County magistrate, is announcing his intention to run for Kershaw County Council chairman as a Republican.

“I’m asking the people of Kershaw County to trust me,” he said.

Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Hartis moved to Kershaw County at the age of 5. He attended school in North Carolina and moved back to Kershaw County in 1981.

“Since then I’ve been interested” in the welfare of the county, he said. Hartis said he decided to retire from being magistrate a year and a half early so that he would be able to run in next year’s county council election.

Hartis discussed three main goals he brings to his campaign for chairman.

“My first goal is jobs and industry in Kershaw County,” Hartis said. “We have nowhere for our young people to stay in Kershaw County to work. I would like to see them stay in Kershaw County to live and to work. They’re leaving here and going to Richland County and Sumter County to work and it shouldn’t be that way.”

Hartis stated unemployment rates in the county have gotten lower from the month of October to the month of November and though that’s positive, it’s a trend the county has to continue working on.

“We need the figures to stay down and even get lower,” he said.

Hartis said he intends to meet with Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean to discuss ways to make the county more attractive to industrial prospects.

“I want to see what we have to offer,” he said. “We have to have the infrastructure at the sites ready to go.”

Along with promoting industrial growth, Hartis has other ideas for stimulating the county’s economy.

“Kershaw County has so much to offer,” he said. “This is a historical place … we should promote our history more than we do.”

He said the county could explore its history more and that could also be a draw for tourism and growth.

Hartis also said that, along with bringing industry and increasing historical awareness and tourism in the county, he also recognized the need to have “facilities to train these young folks” with necessary industrial-type skills, which will also be a driving force for attracting industry. Developing such facilities and training programs within the county, Hartis said, is his second goal.

“I believe Central Carolina (Technical College) is going to be one of our major success stories in Kershaw County. I believe it’s going to grow and I only see good things for Central Carolina,” he said.

Hartis said he wanted to one day have the main campus for Central Carolina located in Kershaw County. He also said he would support the existing workforce preparation programs in place in the school systems and would look for ways to expand them as well.

“I want to get something going in county council,” he said regarding developing the college. “I think we have missed opportunities.”

Another “missed opportunity” in Hartis’ eyes is recreation. He said his third goal is to improve the county’s recreation services.

“Recreation is important for young children; we have to have good recreation,” he said.

Hartis said the county has land and ball park facilities, but that they need better amenities, such as restrooms and bleachers, at the fields. Better facilities and the development of “a sports complex” would attract tourism to the area for sports tournaments, Hartis said.

He said he thinks the county’s recreation department is en route to making such improvements and that he plans to meet with Kershaw County Recreation Department Director Joe Eason to discuss other possibilities for improvement.

In June 2012, Hartis named Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews in a $4 million defamation lawsuit, claiming statements Matthews made before Kershaw County Council after taking office in January 2011 damaged his reputation. Although Matthews himself is no longer named in the suit, it is still pending against the sheriff’s office. An April court order granted a change of venue to Richland County.

Four other, similar lawsuits have all been settled out of court, including one filed by former Sheriff Steve McCaskill, for a total of $185,000.

Hartis and his wife, Fay, live in Kershaw County, “out in the country.” Fay is the assistant principal at Pine Tree Hill Elementary School. They have two children, Susan and Michael, who also live in Kershaw County, and two grandchildren.

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