South Carolina’s mayors want Gov. Nikki Haley to hear a unified yet local voice when it comes to economic development. This week, about 40 mayors from across the state came to Columbia to meet with the governor in her office.
Orangeburg Mayor Paul Miller, president of the Municipal Association of SC, led the delegation that asked what they can do individually and collectively to help with the state’s economic development efforts. Miller told the governor:
We as mayors serve the same constituents you do and have the same goals in mind – to bring good jobs and provide a high quality of life so businesses will want to come to and remain in our state…Our cities and towns want to be partners with you and the state in recruiting and retaining businesses.
Bill Young is the mayor of Walterboro. He says his fellow mayors’ unique and direct relationship with their constituents makes their viewpoint unique–and important.
You know we genuinely deal with the day-to-day problems, everything from providing water service and police and fire protection to all of the other myriad of things that we have to do for our citizens. So we’re in the trenches and closest to the citizens and the guy that our people go to when they need something.
Young and other mayor says this may be the first time in state history that a group of mayor has gathered to try to work with the governor. “We hope this meeting will open up a good relationship between our group and the governor and that together we can get some things accomplished,” says Young.
This week, the group heard from the governor about the need for economic development in all areas of the state, including the smaller towns and rural areas. What resonated with Young, who is a retired teacher, was her concern for what he calls “equalizing education financing across the state by student.”
According to Mayor Randy Randall of Clinton, this was a starting point:
Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham says the group that met with the governor was diverse, representing both small towns and larger cities. He says, once they reinforce this relationship, he is hoping to have a direct connection with the governor’s office.
I think she is working hard to come up with some new ideas and new approaches. If that’s the case , then we need to be a part of helping some of those initiatives. There are some big state issues out there and I think the mayors have a pretty good perspective on those issues. We’re hoping that her words will turn into some action and we want to be part of putting that into action.
According to Reba Campbell of the Municipal Association of SC, the association’s board recently moved to establish an organization of mayors within that organization to provide opportunities to more fully engage in advocating for issues that affect cities and towns; to network, share ideas and best practices with other mayors; and to take part in educational activities.
The group will be formally established at the MASC annual meeting on June 16-19.