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Delegation talks economics at annual ALPHA Center event

Posted: January 9, 2014 5:11 p.m.
Updated: January 10, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Newly elected Bethune Town Councilman Don Witham (far left) and Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy (behind Witham) were among the many local officials who enjoyed a buffet lunch during Wednesday’s legislative briefing at The ALPHA Center.

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Local government leaders and state legislators took the opportunity to meet with constituents Wednesday at The ALPHA Center’s 10th annual legislative briefing. ALPHA Center Executive Director Paul Napper welcomed the crowd and said the informal event was designed for people to have face-to-face discussions with their representatives in Columbia.

“This is not going to be a question and answer kind of thing. These people are going to be in the audience with you, so if you want to ask them a question just grab one of them. That’s how we do it in Kershaw County,” Napper said.

The packed room socialized and enjoyed a finger-food buffet before The ALPHA Center’s Bobby Jones took the podium to introduce the dignitaries in attendance. First was Kershaw County Council Chairman Gene Wise, who said expanding Central Carolina Technical College would result in a better prepared workforce, which would in turn attract more businesses to the county.

“This would be an exciting time, a game changer for Kershaw County to have this type of educational facility right off the expressway (I-20). That’s something that’s on our agenda for this year,” Wise said.

He went on to say economic development should involve retired business people who have the knowledge and experience to help bolster the local economy.

“We have a lot of people who have retired here, who grew up here, moved away and came back. We have a list of about 20 people who have led organizations globally,” Wise said. “We want to figure out how we can tap into their brains and figure out how we can utilize them to drive the economic development here.”

New Bethune Mayor Charles McCoy said the residents of his town voted for change in November, but that improvements require funding.

“I can make no bones about it, we’re looking for money. Our water system is dilapidated. We’ve got to do that, first thing,” McCoy said. “I’m looking forward to working with the council and the school board. I think we’re probably going to have a better working relationship than we did before.”

Camden Mayor Tony Scully invited everyone to an event at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 at the historic Robert Mills Courthouse on South Broad Street, when Greenville marketing firm Arnett Muldrow will make a presentation on how to promote Camden.

“We’re great the way we are. We have one of the most beautiful cities in America. We have the kindest people in America,” Scully said. “They’re just helping us bring it up a bit and welcome in people from all over the country and maybe all over the world.”

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-27) is a Camden native and praised his hometown.

“I draw my strength from this community, from the people in this room. I have traveled the length and the breadth of South Carolina and when I get frustrated with the state government and leaders who we all know are all too often incompetent, tied to the status quo and downright corrupt, I have to come home and think about what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Sheheen said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re democrats or republicans or what part of the county we’re from, we’re at our best when we’re working together to achieve things.”

Sheheen is also running for governor.

“I don’t make a lot of promises but, Bobby Jones, next year when we do this event, we’re going to do it in the Governor’s Mansion,” he said to cheers and applause.

State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk (D-52) next recognized Ann Martin for 33 years in state government.

“Ann Martin was the manager of the Block Building at The State House,” Funderburk said. “She had to deal with legislators, their staffs and the public in untold numbers. She had to coordinate all of that and it was quite a balancing act and she did it with such professionalism and with such a sense of humor.”

Funderburk, Sheheen and other Kershaw County delegation members Grady Brown (D-50) and Jimmy Bales (D-80) presented Martin a certificate praising her years of dedication. Those who know Martin broke out in laughter when Funderburk also presented her a box of Heath candy bars, her favorite.

Bales encouraged everyone to support Sheheen in  his gubernatorial campaign.

“We desperately need new leadership and I’ve had the privilege of serving with Vincent Sheheen in the House and I learned he is one of the brightest members. He contributed a lot and knew what he was talking about,” Bales said. “He studied the issues and he was well respected.”

Brown outlined what he sees as priorities for the near future.

“Something has got to be done about our roads and infrastructure system in this state. When we talk about where the money is being spent on highways in this state, go to Horry County, Florence County, Charleston County, Richland, Lexington, Anderson, Spartanburg, Greenville and York Counties. The rest of are just getting piecemeal,” Brown said.

He said South Carolina has not increased its gasoline tax since 1988 and he would not support a gas tax increase unless it included a provision that the revenue would be distributed fairly throughout the state.

“That’s something we’ve got to address if we’re going to move ahead and our roads are going to be compatible with our neighboring states,” Brown said.

Funderburk spoke last.

“I want to inspire us to seek aspirational goals where we’re looking to make this state better and we’re not just getting by and it’s not OK to just be more OK,” she said. “We want to be the best South Carolina that we can be. Thank you for what you’re doing here in Kershaw County.”



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