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Edgefield County’s shining stars lead us nowhere

web posted May 12, 2008
COLUMN – I just have to wonder about those in control of our county and the decisions they make. Only in Edgefield County could such an upside down local government exist. Our Tax Assessor cannot pass the test to be a State Licensed Appraiser, yet she is paid over $50,000 a year while we hire a Licensed Appraiser to be our Building Director when he is not licensed to be one.

Building Director Mike Reed, who was once the Edgefield County Tax Assessor, left for a job in Aiken County and former County Administrator Wayne Adams hired LaKeisha Bryant to take his place. Everyone knows LaKeisha, she’s the one that inflated your property values two years ago (for many 100 to 300%) and was supported by our current county council.

I wonder how she seems to take more days off than any county employee while claiming comp time she can’t earn as a department head? I know it has nothing to do with the record revenues her work created for the county.

Former Building Director Howard Gibson left Edgefield County for a new job in Alabama last year and Planning and Zoning Director Guy Mueller, who already has the qualifications, is overlooked for the position to bring Mike Reed back to Edgefield County in a job he is not licensed to perform. Reed, information suggest, still has not obtained the required license for the position.

But Reed is required to assist Tax Assessor Lakeisha Bryant, who is not properly licensed for her job, in order for her to perform the job Reed is qualified to hold. Not to mention that the county council approved an additional staff member last year, at taxpayer expense, for Ms. Bryant because she could not keep up with the workload. Before Mike Reed and the additional staffer were hired, the county paid a licensed Appraiser almost $50,000 a year to “assist” Ms. Bryant in doing her job.

Now that all makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

Who allows this insanity to continue year after year? Our current County Council members.

Who enforces the convoluted mess our county government is in? The County Council’s direct hire as County Administrator - John Pettigrew. Mr. Pettigrew, who was not listed as a qualified applicant for the position of Administrator by the Upper Savannah Council on Governments who performed the screenings, was bumped ahead of three highly qualified and experienced administrators vying for the job.

Not only did our county leaders see fit to tap Pettigrew over qualified applicants, they gave him an $11,000 raise within minutes of hiring him at the advertised $64,000 salary.

So we have Pettigrew hired as the new county administrator and getting more than a 17% increase in pay when he had the job for only two minutes while the low level county employees, those who have worked many years and are usually overqualified for their jobs, get a measly 1% pay increase each year. It is easy to see where our county leaders priorities lay.

District 2 County Councilman Everett Kitchens, who wanted to take away Christmas Bonuses for county employees and replace them with a turkey, made the motion in October of 2006 to give Pettigrew the instant increase. The increase in pay for Pettigrew, if directed at county employees, could have almost doubled their bonuses.

But do not blame just Councilman Kitchens for such a dim-witted idea; it was approved by the County Council as a whole. They equally carry the same amount of responsibility when it comes to how this county is run.

I have no idea why Edgefield County cannot grow economically. We have such highly qualified people leading our county from the top down. Multi-million dollar industries should be knocking our door down to be a part of our wonderfully governed county.

They don’t, because what happens in Edgefield County does not go unnoticed by those watching from the outside. These very successful industry leaders can spot ineptness a mile away and will continue to steer clear of doing business in the county. Our record of drawing jobs to Edgefield County is pathetic.

Until we elect those well acquainted with multi-million dollar industries that can deal with them as an equal, hire qualified professional upper management employees, and set a higher standard for Edgefield County instead of looking at what other failing counties are doing and emulate their economic policies, we will continue to look like the beggar on the street corner pleading for a pittance as they pass us by.

Edgefield County is my home and I am optimistic about our future. However, I am also a firm believer in that if you always do what you always done you will get what you have always gotten - stagnation, high unemployment, and higher taxes.

It is time we change things.

I have also learned that some county councilmen are telling people, while campaigning; they lowered your taxes because your tax bill went down this year. The County Council raised county taxes by increasing the millage rate and the property assessments at the same time. Usually when one goes up the other goes down, but not in Edgefield County.

The truth is they had absolutely nothing to do with total property tax bills being lowered. If they claim they did, it is not true.

County School Operation taxes (on average about 45-60% of your property taxes) went down when it was taken over by the state with a 1-cent increase in the sales tax, something the county council has no control over. State voters approved that two years ago in a referendum.

Related Columns:

"Hi, I'm your veteran county councilman and I need your vote"
web posted April 28, 2008

The Great Duck Dinner

web posted April 21, 2008


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