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Opinion

It is time for Edgefield County to leap, not crawl, into the new decade: Part 1


A Column by the Editor
web posted January 13, 2010
COLUMN – It is a New Year, that wonderful time of year when people shed the old and look towards the new. A time when their lives, minds, and goals are recalculated and resolutions to better one’s life are on the front burner. A renewal of the inner spirit in all of us. That is something I think our county is awakening to this year and it would be a tragedy to see that not bring forth great changes our county so desperately needs. Some of those changes have already been made.

The first change is the news of Alton Brown of White County Georgia verbally accepting the job as the next County Administrator. A highly qualified executive with experience and no connections to Edgefield County are the two assets no county administrator in the past 20 years could claim. That can only be a good thing.

With the budget planning to get underway next month, there is no doubt Chairman Monroe Kneece and Councilwoman Genia Blackwell on the Finance Committee will be aided by Brown’s involvement. No doubt, he will have to hit the ground running in February to avoid another stalemate such as last year’s talks when a budget could not be passed.

While others were seeing doom and gloom, Councilwoman Blackwell stated she saw the shortfalls as a “positive”, a chance to cut the “fat” from the budget and rein in costs and did just that. Councilwoman Blackwell took the two budgets and reconciled them and was able to win passage and provided no tax increase, no benefit cuts to employees, and no reduction in services while cutting over $600,000.

However, with that good news behind us, we should set our sights even higher to bring this county leaping into the new decade. And first on that agenda item should be the abolishment of two unfruitful endeavors that in the past decade has cost county taxpayers around $460,000 and provided basically nothing in return, the Edgefield-Aiken Economic Development Partnership and the Edgefield County Economic Committee, which have both outlived their uselessness.

Currently we supply the Partnership $46,000 a year to try to recruit industry to Edgefield County. Fred Humes does a fair job for Aiken County’s portion of their funding, which is larger, but he just cannot seem to place Edgefield County as a priority for our funding.

The ECEC has no authority and brings nothing to the table. Ironically, the Chairman of the Committee, Bettis Rainsford, oversaw his latest development hit with a multi-million dollar foreclosure last year and a repeat at the Pine Ridge Development he oversaw this year. Nearly two pages of Mount Vintage properties also just went up for tax sales due to unpaid property taxes. Some still remain to be sold. To top it off, records from Augusta Richmond County show he owes $230,620.46 in unpaid property taxes for property he owns there.

And this is who’s “economic advice” is leading this committee? Lead it? He should not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a meeting being held.     

So what would work? Accountability for the money being spent at a time when budget restrictions are only getting tighter, let’s get what we pay for.

With the same $46,000 the county could hire our own “in-house” economic development envoy that actually has nothing but Edgefield County at heart and is not divided between two counties as to loyalty.

We already have someone I believe would be uniquely qualified for that position and could do it with ease and still hold down his current self-owned business commitments, Former County Administrator turned realtor John Pettigrew.

He has the skill to sell - be it cars, real estate, why not our county? We all know he loves this county and he would be a great ambassador trying to sell prospective industry leaders on locating here. Let’s face it, he’s a lawyer turned politician turned used car salesman, turned realtor. This guy could sell a Muslim a pig farm. 

Too often we hear our county leaders proclaim, “We’ve always done it this way”. Well, quite honestly, we’ve lagged behind surrounding counties for doing it “that way” for the last twenty years. It is time for a change for the positive.

For the first time I see things moving in a very positive direction with new candidates already elected and a list of others seeking to serve to help take the reins from the old guard and usher in new ideas, new direction, from those with executive experience who are willing to give of their advanced degrees, abilities and services to make that happen.

I have always said that change is inevitable, but progress is not. This time I see change and progress having a chance to run hand in hand.






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