By Stan Welch – Pelzer’s municipal clerk, Skip Watkins, will end two decades of public service later this fall. Watkins announced his retirement at last Friday’s town council meeting, shocking everyone but Mayor Steve McGregor and his assistant Heather Holcombe.
Watkins came to Pelzer in 1980, as an employee at Kendall Mills. Twelve years later, when the mill, which had changed hands twice, finally closed, Watkins was appointed as municipal clerk by a Council that included then mayor Bill Hopkins, and future mayor Page Henderson. He has served two other mayors since then.
Watkins says the biggest challenge was the transition from a mill town economy where the mill provided such a large part of the financial infrastructure over to a financial structure based on tax revenues and other sources of funding, such as grants.
“As everyone knows, when the mill closed, life in Pelzer changed drastically. There were many challenges, and there still are,” said Watkins, who is sixty two plus years old. He also retired as a Master Sergeant from the Army Reserve after more than twenty nine years service. “I officially become a military retiree this year as well,” said Watkins.
Watkins will “change over from a W-2 guy to a 1099 guy” on November 1; the reference is to the difference between a wage earning employee and a contract consultant. “I will continue to work as needed to ensure a smooth transition. I definitely want to see the sewer project wrapped up, or at least so close that it’s all but done.”
Watkins has helped the town as it has upgraded its sewer lines and prepared to begin sending its wastewater to a treatment plant near Piedmont, which will be run by ReWa. “Once the forced main project is in operation in December or January, we will begin closing our treatment lagoons and plant. That will be finished by January 2013, and I think we are all looking forward to it.”
Watkins said he is comfortable that Heather Holcombe, whom he has worked with for the last four years, would be ready to step into the job, if that is Council’s decision. “It is an appointed position, not a hired one, so it is entirely up to the Council. But Heather is familiar with our procedures and I think she would do a good job.”