Candidate for mayor
To some, the sudden decision by long time West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton not to seek another term evokes uncertainty about the town’s future, while to others it offers opportunity to help shape that future.
Current Town Councilman Blake Sanders, who is running for the job, falls into that second category. “I think there is a positive response throughout the town to the opportunity for new leadership. Just as there seems to be a real resistance to the same old names and ideas at every level of politics right now, I think that the people of West Pelzer are also looking for new solutions,” said Sanders in a telephone interview with The Journal.
Sanders clearly identifies three specific areas where the need for leadership is most glaring.
“There are three areas where I think we do a terrible job as a town government. The first is in planning. In recent years, there has been a tendency among a majority of the council to simply enact budget cuts, in order to achieve a certain goal. But budget cuts and other decisions that impact the town, need to be planned for.”
Sanders says that the business community doesn’t see an undermanned police force as a workable, long term arrangement.” As a result of this lack of planning, the status of our police department is constantly up in the air. This is unsettling to both businesses and citizens who have made it clear that public safety is a major concern for them. I fought very hard in the last two budgets to keep a full time force. One year, we were successful. The latest budget included compromise involving the use of part time officers. I eventually voted for it, because it leaves the way open to eventually return to a full time force.”
Still Sanders says, “There are many issues concerning our police department that need to be addressed. They are woefully under equipped, with outdated bullet proof vests and a total lack of body cameras. They are using old ammunition for training and practice. In my opinion, there is no reason for fiscal responsibility to impact either officer safety or the public safety. That’s where planning comes in.”
“I worked tirelessly for two years to convince a majority of the Council to approve the deal we finally made to buy our water from Greenville Water Company, and to do so under terms that let us cut our citizens’ water rates in the future. We planned and we persevered and we made a good deal for our citizens into the foreseeable future. I would point out that my opponent for the mayor’s job was one of those who had to be repeatedly convinced that the deal was a good one.””
Sanders then moved to the area of preservation. “We have very good relationships with the other two towns in our immediate area, and those need to be preserved. With these towns being so close, both geographically and economically, our success as towns is also linked. We need to preserve and strengthen those ties. For that reason, I sent a letter, as the organizer of this year’s Fall Festival, to every church in the area, inviting them to participate with us.”
Sanders stated that the town does a terrible job of promoting itself, and its business community. “On an average day, eight thousand cars pass through West Pelzer. On weekends, that number almost doubles. What is the town doing to get those folks to just slow down for a few minutes, to stop and spend some money with us? Nothing, that’s what. My profession is to help towns and communities build on their existing infrastructure to improve themselves and to both attract and enable future growth.”
“Again, those relationships I spoke of can play a role in that growth as well. As the lower mill area of Pelzer develops, under the guidance of the Heritage Commission, and the Mill Town Players continue to flourish; as commercial and retail development comes to Williamston, our town can flourish as well. There is a well established formula for this sort of growth. First come the restaurants, then the retail businesses, and then the residential growth, as people respond to the quality of life in a community.”
Sanders said that creating businesses that complement each other is a key. “We need to actively pursue tenants and businesses for our vacant storefronts. It’s government’s job to give business the tools needed to grow and succeed. This is an area where I can provide new blood, a level of leadership that frankly, my opponent has not shown,” said Sanders.
He added that the first one hundred days of his administration will be crucial. “We have to get past the bickering that has held us back for so long. I will delegate responsibilities to the members of council. For example, my opponent, Mr. Jeanes, will retain his seat on Council. Since he is so involved in the issue of law enforcement, I would hope that he would talk with the Chief on a regular basis, to get a better sense of the actual problems the department faces. If he wants to report to the Council on a monthly basis, I would welcome that.”
“Councilman Rogers could perhaps fill a similar role in regards to the public works department, speaking with Mike Mahaffey and getting a better feel for the duties and the needs of that department. I think it will be very helpful to bring these management issues out into the open, where we can all be informed and involved. That will almost certainly lead to better relations on the council and better decisions by the Council.”
“I have been very busy the last two years rowing this boat as a member of the Council. And I have found that when you are rowing the boat, it leaves much less time for rocking the boat. I want to keep rowing West Pelzer in the right direction as mayor, and I would appreciate the support of the town’s people in November.”