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Column: Acting on the people’s vision
Burns WEB
Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns

In life as in sports, it’s mostly mental over the physical: three-quarters relies on personal intellect, character and teamwork; the balance of manpower, materiel and money counts only for the remaining 25 percent. This “All-America” county is blessed with a championship attitude -- enthusiasm and a confidence, a trust that multiplies our advantages and negates our disadvantages. “Attitude is Altitude.”

We learned from the recent county council retreat that “trust” is the overwhelming attitude in our population, an empowered citizenry as the lifeblood of teamwork. Parents, coaches and teachers know that trust compels a habit of success, of striving and attaining. Such regard and respect among our citizens enables and demands a culture of critical self-examination and continual improvement. We have seen examples of candor, common purpose and lively communications among the champion Clemson Tigers and in the recent Super Bowl. Winners believe in one another enough to demand excellence from every other player on the team.

The county just completed its first steps in the new budget cycle at the retreat on Feb. 2. We heard from more than 900 citizens who responded overwhelmingly to the survey on our progress on VisionKershaw 2030. Candid feedback. The good and the not so good.

Here is what we learned: We in Kershaw County are at an inflection point (and perhaps even an exclamation point)! Much has been achieved, but it’s time to pause, to take stock and objectively and deliberately to adjust our game plan. Such practices of review and critique inform us to improve continually, to learn from the past and to sustain excellence going forward. Look for more affirmation on our actions and specific accomplishments as a county during the last several years. It is time for a good review. That is just part of good planning, operation and implementation of county government. But such a review is also needed because of the sheer amount of positive accomplishments that have occurred as a result of our work and effort the last several years. Change? Change is threatening to some, but a necessary component of success: make adjustments, not excuses. And in this dynamic world, things don’t tend to “stay fixed” without constant tending.

County council is at such a point, and the new year’s budget process begins on this basis: First, to look at what has been achieved -- an “All-America winning County;” new schools and improvements to the existing ones; vastly improved work forces; improvements to our economic industrial sites, with a new spec building; robust employment; expanded EMS, new parks and county services at peak levels in roads, waste and sewer; sheriff services; and preparations for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution at Historic Camden.

So where do we go now?

• Visioning. As is said, if you don’t care where you are going, any road will get you there. So, the wonderful VisionKershaw 2030 CORE team has begun to review its cachet of surveys, and will soon advise us if and where we need to renew, revise or re-energize the vision document. They need your help.

• Economic Development. Existing businesses have grown, and we are at near full employment; but we need to review our strategies, in this challenging global market, to attract and sustain new business here. Clearly, a trained and ready workforce is key, for which we thank Central Carolina Technical and the Kershaw County School District, and parents, too, for amazing success there. Yet, we need to look at our infrastructure, available inventory of buildings, and our site preparation -- and, then, where to place money for best effect. More on that later. Meanwhile, a hard look at state-level issues is needed, too -- challenges in industrial electricity rates and state tax policies and infrastructure are at the top of the list.

• Provision for Quality of Life. Economic development gives us resources for parks, and schools, and cultural activities and many more things. Yet, it would be a sad thing to win business and not to attend to a better life for all. We see council and citizens groups clamoring -- 80 percent! -- for parks, and trails and recreation choices for us all. Witness the recent initiative being led by Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter, Bob Giangiorgi of the Historic Camden Foundation Board of Trustees and Boys & Girls Club Board member Edwin Kohn. They are forming a citizens’ private-public partnership to advocate and to build walking, hiking, biking, running, and water trails all over Kershaw County as called for in the 2013 Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenways Plan. To you enthusiasts out there, get on board. It is going to be great!

There are other inflection points:

• A Community Health Improvement Plan, for one. We can focus on wellness, in mental health, in fitness, in the provision of medical care, and in eating and recreation habits across all our populations. We are aiming for a “Culture of Wellness.”

• Fire services is a bread and butter topic and taken for granted, but we need to applaud and provision our wonderful volunteer fire personnel, and improve on their manning and equipping. That moment of decision is upon us. The surveys made it clear, and the safety of our population is paramount.

• School security and safety. Likewise, the school district and sheriff are addressing innovative ways to improve our school educational results. We have great leadership and great ideas and resources to match, depending on legislation from the state. The district, sheriff and council have been and will continue to put money and personnel and materiel against this issue. Our kids are too precious to be at risk.

So, much to do and more than this article can convey. But the real inflection point is the new energy in the county … folks are more engaged than ever. The vital news is the support of the county for VisionKershaw 2030 -- the first signs were with the PLAY Foundation and on to support for economic development and the school referendum. There is real energy in our population -- citizens stepping up to provide solutions, an affirmation that the government is not the only or even the best solution to everything, but the servant to the will of an engaged and committed populace.