WINNSBORO — A large crowd filled the Winnsboro Woman’s Club last Thursday for a forum with candidates running for mayor of Winnsboro and for Winnsboro Town Council. Winnsboro attorney Mike Kelly moderated the event, during which the candidates spoke on a variety of topics. What follows is a summary of points of the forum discussion.
Issues facing Winnsboro
Mayoral candidate Michael Davis saw the top two issues facing Winnsboro as water shortage and the lack of employment. He proposed working with other water companies, purchasing more water and the town digging its own wells to address the problem.
He cited the 10.8 percent unemployment rate compared to 9.7 percent nationwide and promised he’d create jobs and bring industry back, though he was vague on specifics.
Incumbent Mayor Roger Gaddy said he saw the top two issues as being water and the standard of living. He said the town has looked hard at alternative supplies like the reservoir and it has participated in the creation process for a regional water authority.
The task of securing water is labor intensive, not one Winnsboro can do alone, according to Gaddy. Gaddy hopes that the development of the Dru Blair School of Art brings an economic boost.
Bill Haslett, the third mayoral candidate, said if circumstances called for it, he would look out for the town’s water needs first rather than selling water. Haslett called Winnsboro a dying town and said that industry is not coming this way right now. He believes focus on history will be a major cog in economic recovery.
As mayor he promised to promote Winnsboro to the Handmade in America Group from Asheville, N.C., that has taken 10 small towns in the last 15 years and renovated buildings as well as placed industry there. He called on volunteerism to make a difference throughout the town and as a major tool of the Handmade in America efforts.
District 4 Town Council candidate Pam Smith said in her opinion the town council has not taken the time to work with the talented, educated, trained people in the community to utilize their talents to address quality of life and infrastructure issues. She pledged to work so Town Council communicates more with citizens.
Jack Wilkes, the incumbent for District 4, said water was an issue due to a severe six-year drought. He was concerned that as chairman of the finance committee it was costing the town more each year to do business.
He said the town lacked the tax base to support that trend and called for government to conserve money, as he complimented Town Manager Don Wood for his efforts to be frugal with town funds.
Sonya Kennedy, a candidate for District 2 Town Council, said she did not know of the water issues until 2011 but that it is the responsibility for the town to provide its residents with clean, fresh water. Kennedy said that since she has moved back to this area she sees Winnsboro as a stagnant town where there has been little change.
She called on town government to clean up Winnsboro, literally, comparing the town now to how it appeared in the late 1980s when it was cleaner and in better shape. She said she favors strong code enforcement to beautify the area and encourages people to take pride in their town.
Stan Klaus, also a candidate for District 2, said repairing infrastructure was job one and that he’d look to the Henderson Quarry for water and use the maximum amount from the reservoir. He mentioned sewer line repairs are needed in town.
He also wants to meet with downtown businesses for their input and ideas to promote the area and proposed setting up a committee similar to the economic downtown development committee Winnsboro had in the past. He said having input of businesses would help council to find funding and projects and put it all together for development.
Davis said while he had little political experience, he thought his time spent as an advocate to serve the community and improve Fairfield County made him the best choice for mayor. He wants to get the town back to its back-home Southern roots.
Gaddy cited eight years experience as mayor and his good relationship with the county council and school board. He said that proves he can work with people in a cooperative manner and move the town along in a controlled, precise, appropriate way.
Haslett touted his training having taken economic development training from the S.C. Municipal Association and of trips to the state municipal convention as well as trips he’s taken to other towns to learn from them, including time in Baltimore to study marketing historical properties similar to Winnsboro’s.
Smith said it is time for change and that she’d bring new ideas to council. She touted involvement with the county on the Friends of the Library Board and the Museum Commission. She pledged to work hard, listen to people and be accessible.
Wilkes touted his 12 years experience, his involvement in serious decisions for the town and the life lessons he learned along the way as public servant as reasons people should vote for him.
Kennedy promised to bring a new perspective to town council. She said her willingness to communicate, to compromise and be accessible and put residents’ needs first are reasons why she should be elected. She wants to be a voice to represent her priorities, vision and passion for Winnsboro.
Klaus reminded voters of his four years prior experience on town council. He sees his study of economic development at the College of Charleston and courses he took from the state municipal association as qualifying him for the position. The pride he has for Winnsboro is why he feels he can make a difference on town council.
The town municipal elections are April 2.