PROSPERITY — Derek Underwood is the mayor of Prosperity, a little town in South Carolina with a population a little under 1,200 people.
Born on April 29, 1973 in Athens, Ga., Underwood was raised as an only child and the oldest grandchild on both his mother’s and father’s side in Newberry. Underwood’s mother was a school teacher, while his father worked at a nuclear power plant, then working insurance and as an electrician.
As a child, Underwood enjoyed biking around the city of Newberry. He also enjoyed fishing, water skiing, or just playing backyard baseball with his friends. At the age of 11, Underwood lost his mother and got his first taste of adversity.
With Underwood’s father working two jobs, he said he learned how to take care of himself at an early age, even though he had his father and grandparents looking out for him. Growing up, Underwood dreamed of being a big musician. He played bass and lead guitar in multiple bands throughout high school and college.
Underwood graduated from Newberry High School in 1991. He had never had a problem in school making decent to above average grades, but chose the path of the Navy after graduation.
Underwood attended Nuclear Field A Naval School. After serving his time with the Navy, Underwood continued his education at Clemson University where he majored in history. While in college, Underwood said he idolized Winston Churchill, reading a lot of books on him over the span of his college career. Graduating from Clemson in 1996, Underwood had a degree in food science.
Before becoming the mayor of Prosperity, Underwood spent eight years as a member of the town council. Four of those years, he spent as the mayor’s pro tem. The mayor pro tem is the town administrator and is appointed by the mayor. The pro tem is in charge of making sure the town runs smoothly.
If anything should happen and the mayor steps down, the pro tem is appointed the mayor position. Content with being a part of making a difference in his community, Underwood said he never thought of being mayor. It wasn’t until former Mayor Bruce Connelly asked if he would be interested in the position, did he begin to consider the idea. Connelly encouraged Underwood, saying he’d been doing a good job as pro tem and that he should consider running for mayor.
Underwood explained that the only requirements for running for mayor were that you must be at least 18 years of age and be a resident living within the town’s limits. While running for mayor Underwood said he constantly heard that he was too young for the position, he wasn’t from prosperity and that his last name wasn’t a typical prosperity mayor last name.
The mayor Underwood was up against had been mayor for 16 years. Although the odds didn’t seem to be in his favor, Underwood said he never gave up hope. He described his campaign as strong, going from door to door in Prosperity, being sure he met the locals and that people knew who he was.
Underwood’s hard work paid off, as he has been mayor for four years now. Besides his position as mayor, Underwood works full time at the State Department of Agriculture.
On his time off, Underwood enjoys spending time with his two daughters, Bailey and Brook. Bailey is 13 and enjoys cheering, and Brook, nine, plays soccer. Underwood says he also enjoys landscaping, collecting unique art and watching college football.
Sharon Irwin is a Newberry College student studying the field of communications.