WHITMIRE — The Whitmire Jaycees held a stump meeting on Tuesday inviting all the candidates in Newberry, Union and Laurens counties to speak on how they could improve local government.
The night was filled with questions answered by the candidates running in the election on Nov. 6.
Sen. Ronnie Cromer and District 40 Rep. Walt McLeod appeared unopposed for the state district mainly to say thank you and encouraging people to vote.
The unopposed in Newberry who appeared at the debate are Sheriff Lee Foster, Clerk of Court Jackie Bowers, Auditor Donna Lominack, Coroner Craig Newton, School Board Ike Bledsdoe and Whitmire town councilperson Cassie Fowler.
Even though they are unopposed, they took the opportunity to thank everyone who voted for them as well as encouraging people to vote.
Foster said, “This year, you’ve go to look at your ballot. If you vote a straight party ticket, you may miss out.”
While Newberry does not have any petition candidates, the other two counties did which is what Foster was referencing to.
“It should be about the people, not the party,” Foster said.
However, in moving on to the candidates who are facing opposition, the Newberry candidates who appeared at the debate in Whitmire are: Karen Lindler and Jackie Haltiwanger for treasurer, Tim Carroll and Scott Cain for county council one and Chrystal Harsha and Billy Hollingsworth for Whitmire mayor.
Harsha and Hollingsworth, both current council members, both agreed that cuts must be made in order to meet the next fiscal year budget.
Harsha said, “We need to make cuts. We have got to balance the budget. We need to sit down and look at it. For example, how many street lights do we pay for?”
Hollingsworth said, “We need to bring in more revenue or make cuts. We’re forced to make decisions and do what needs to be done. The people may not be happy with it.”
In regards to the economy, Hollingsworth said, “The way we get things done is with people out there. We must work with the existing buildings. It takes a community working together.”
“There’s no magic way to make Whitmire grow, but we’ve got to work together. I believe in accountability.”
Harsha said, “As a community, we need to get people involved and look outside the box. We have lots of places for small businesses (and) I’d like us to work at that. It’s going to be difficult to get someone to Renfro (the old plant).”
The two mayoral candidates are both friends, Harsha explains, “I wanted to give people of Whitmire a choice.”
On the issue of transparency, both candidates agree that the Town of Whitmire is transparent.
However, Harsha said, “I would like to see more people come to the (town council) meetings. We are transparent. People need to take advantage of coming (to meetings) and asking (questions). We provide what people ask for and we abide by the law.”
Hollingsworth echoed the fact that the town is transparent, “We are transparent now.”
When approached with a question about overcoming the good old boy government system, both disagreed that Whitmire was one.
“We have three women on town council and no closed doors. Everything is open. People can ask questions,” Harsha said.
County Council One
Scott and Carroll also faced off in defending how they would get Whitmire in better shape.
Carroll said, “We have a good plant and we need to concentrate on what we do have.”
Carroll mentioned the millions of dollars in grants, awards and one cent sales projects he’s helped secure as mayor of Whitmire, the six new police cars, new sewer line and the revamping of the waste and water plant.
“If we can do that to Whitmire, we can do that to all of the county,” said Carroll who also emphasised the need for a 24-hour ambulance service.
Cain said, “Whitmire has not had new business in the past 10 years. Residents are medium to low income, according to the latest HUD. We need good leaders.”
Cain also mentioned the unemployment is a 10 to 1 ratio according the Upper Savannah employment agency and there needs to be more pro active leadership.
Marketing is also something that Cain feels is needed and they can market the Whitmire Community school and the residential opportunities as well as coming up with short and long-term growth plans.
“Economic development is a passion of mine. With proactive leadership, we can be a jewel,” said Cain.
The other opposed candidates to speak at the debate were Haltiwanger and Lindler.
Lindler is the current treasurer and has been for the past 24 years.
Lindler said, “What I’ve implemented are decals for cars and different ways to pay taxes. I will make sure your tax dollars are accounted for and continue to attend classes needed. I also want to start upgrading online services since we still use a lot of paper. The open door policy is always there.”
Haltiwanger said, “There should be respect for every person that comes into office. They should know every dime that comes into office and the books should be balanced to the penny. I do want to bring more professionalism, more accountability to the treasurer’s office…When you come to me you’ll get an answer.”