By David Meade
All but two of the eleven candidates running for Pelzer Town Council spoke at the candidate meet and greet forum held last Thursday at the Pelzer Community Building. Approximately 30 people attended the event to hear what the candidates had to say and to ask questions. Town Clerk Heather Holcombe moderated the forum and had candidates draw numbers from a glass jar that would determine the order they would address the crowd:
Harrison said he was honored to stand as a candidate for town council in front of a group of Pelzer people. Harrison said he has served as a volunteer with the fire department and 12 years as a volunteer with the Pelzer Rescue Squad when it was all volunteer.
He has been a resident of the “mill hill” 65 years and “wants to see Pelzer cleaned up.”
“There are a lot of eyesores,” Harrison said. “Houses, Pelzer property and private property that needs to be cleaned up.”
Harrison said he would like to see ordinances to address the eyesores.
He said with a new big box store and other businesses coming, Pelzer needs to do more for Pelzer. “What we’ve got here is not appealing,” he said. “I will do everything in my power and work on anything and everything to get Pelzer cleaned up.”
Donna Ide has served nine years on council and is currently the mayor pro-tem. She said she would like to see changes in Pelzer and see a vision for Pelzer, which she said is “a community that has pulled together and has grown.”
“We need to work together. We need a restaurant which would provide income for the town (through the hospitality tax).”
“I want our town to progress and to be prosperous and to be a bedroom commuinty to Anderson and Greenville,” Ide said. “I love this town. I have an invested interest. I believe in this town and these people.”
Scott said, “It has been a long road together. I can’t make any promises. I will work for the people of this town.”
He said he wants to see police protection. “I want our children to grow up and be safe. I see a lot of things that are critical. This is a beginning for our new town.”
Scott also said, “I want input of citizens so we know how citizens feel.”
Referring to the annexation that allowed him and the other candidates to be able to run for town council he said, “It has been alot of hard work.A lot of people said we couldn’t do it. We are working together.”
Bear said she was always told “If there is something you want, to go for it. Don’t let someone stand in your way.”
She retired from the Greenville Health System in 2013 after 30 years as a pharmacy technician, worked as a temporary mail carrier and ran her own store.
She said when her husband got sick, she made her choice to stay with the hospital.
“Something happened in Pelzer. It makes me really feel good,” she said. “I wanted everybody to have the opportunity to vote.”
“We made history, and now we have a say-so in what goes on in this town. I am on this boat to make a change and need some help.”
Bear said she wants to help put some pride in Pelzer and “leave our kids with something better than now.”
She said she also wants to clean up Pelzer. In closing she added, “Every one of these would make a good councilmember, but if you want an old councilmember, I’m your candidate.”
Garrett is a third generation Pelzer resident and attended Palmetto and Forest College. He moved from Williamston, back to Pelzer to help care for his mother.
“I’m back home,” he said. Garrett reflected that when he heard the train whistle, he had a vision back to when he was 10 years old. “I’m back home where I need to be.”
Garrett said he worked with ServiStar and parttime with the Greenville Library System. He was eventully offered a full time position with Greenville Library System and managed a branch library. He retired in 2012.
Garrett is a member of the Pelzer Heritage Commission and on the board for the Pelzer Mill properties.
He said his property was the first to be annexed by the town and when he heard of the 100 percent annexation rule, in which a property owner could ask to be annexed, he did.
“I thought we could add something to the town,” he said “It was just us.”
He said as he learned more about the annexation process, he found it was inexpensive and five other proerpties were eventually annexed along with him. He said he has been “a resident of the town for two years.”
“The next five years will be the most important since 1881,” he said. “We will invent a town.”
Garrett said whether he is elected or not, “I will support anybody who is elected.”
He said, “We need a two year business plan, a five year plan and a twenty year vision. What do you want to see? Were do you want Pelzer to be?”
Garrett said, “We need better law enforcement, better neighborhoods, citizen input, and committees. We need to bring together these people who are willing to serve and get on that committee. Then we can work together.”
“Any town’s goal needs to be a place where you can live, work and play.” He said he wants the town to be a place where children can play and parents not worry and that there needs to be some local jobs.
“You have a choice. In two years you can throw me out and start over and get invloved yourself.” Garrett said.
Ragland said, “I like to dream big. believe big things can happen in small towns.”
He said that when he talked with people about wanting to start a theater company in Pelzer, “some thought I was crazy.”
He said when he met some of the residents and saw how proud they were of their town, “I was sold” and even bought a house in Pelzer.
He started the Mill Town Players theater group which has enjoyed success and brought people to the historic Pelzer auditorium.
He said he wanted the live theater “to be one of the best shows possible and make it affortable at $10 a ticket.”
“It is an extension of what I was doing, but bigger and I brought it to a place that has nothing. More than 17,000 people have seen a show in the Pelzer Auditorium,” he said.
“I can dream big. I’m creative and innovative.”
Ragland said he wants to clean up Pelzer and attract businesses.
“I am good at changing an image to one that has not been there before.” He said he is doing the same thing at Palmetto high school where he now teaches.
“I moved here with you. I am a work horse. I dream big. I do things I have no business doing,” he said, “like running for office.”
“I want to make Pelzer what we could be. There is nothing but potential.”
Beaudreau has served on council since July 2012.
She said, “It has been an honor to bring the town to where we are today.”
Beaudreau said Pelzer needs police protection. “We need to get a hold on drugs and crime in the town.”
She was instrumental in organizing the Pelzer Crime Watch program which is held on the second Tuesday of each month.
She said she has lived in the town for eight years and “Fell n love with it” and sees nothing but good for Pelzer. “I want it to grow.”
She said when she first found that the town had only three streets, she was surprised. “Nothing sound more ridiculous to this Yankee,” she said. “The town is everybody.”
“I will work hard to bring this town to be a better place,” she said. Beaudreau said there needs to be more work which would help bring young people to the town.
Holliday said she has lived in Pelzer for five years and “married into Pelzer.”
She said after living in Greenville and other larger towns, “It took me awhile to adjust to a small town,” she said.
She related to being in the Dollar General and being asked about her mother-in-law and said where she was from, “nobody knew anybody unless you were related.”
She said that people having parents and grandparents that grew up here, “To me, that was amazing.”
She also said she was amazed that there were so many people who “grew up here and love it here” and there were so many involved in Pelzer that grew up here but don’t even live here.
“Where does that happen?” she asked. “It is because people care and become a part of Pelzer.. Some move away but a part of you still belongs to Pelzer and loves Pelzer.”
She said it is a privilege to run for Council.
She said the main complaint she has heard while talking to people in Pelzer, is that crime is a major issue and the lack of lighting.
“I don’t want to make huge changes,” she said. “I don’t see it in my life time.”
“We have to continue on the road and move forward,” she said.
Holliday said she is a retired educator and administrator and has worked in three states. She said she has worked to strengthen larger programs and small programs to make them bigger.
She said though there are different ideas, there is one thing in common, “people want the best for their family and children.” She said young people are the future.
“This is a fabulous time for the history of this town,” she said. She said she wants residents to “work with us, get on committees and forums and call us with ideas.”
“Help us make Pelzer the place we all know it can be,” Holliday said.
Kimberly Crone Wilson
Wilson is a lifelong resident of Pelzer.
She said she is not making promises because, “We dont know. I just know we need better than what we have right now.”
Wilson said she is a servant leader and as an adminstrator has worked to balance an $18 million budget.
“I don’t mind saying no. I dont mind asking the hard questions. I wold love to serve my hometown. I would love to serve you.”
Wilson said whether she is elected or not, “I will still be here, I will ask the hard quesions and will hold people accountable. Whether on council or as a citizen, I will still be here,” she said.
Two candidates for town council, incumbents Tony Riddle and Sandra Ragsdale, were not able to attend the forum.
Incumbent Steve McGregor is running un-opposed for the office of mayor and will serve two more years.
He said it was fortunate or unfortunate but “Nobody else signed up.”
McGregor commented on the history of the town and how the mill bosses lived on the three or four streets that officially made up the town until the annexation went through this year.
“We have something we haven’t had in previous years” he said. “The opportunity to get new people in here.”
He explained that he and previous councilmembers were elected by default in the past, because of the town’s situation.
He said that the expansion of the town’s limits should have happened in 1915 instead of in 2015.
“I welcome everybody who wasn’t formerly a resident. Well now you are one,” he said
McGregor said there is “opportunity for everybody who has been waiting for a long time. We need your support now on out.”
McGregor said, “There will be big decisions and we will try to get as much input as we can.” He encouraged everyone to come out and vote when the election is held on Nov. 3.
Candidates fielded a number of questions from the audience about the future of Pelzer, utility rates, the budget and town ordinances.
One which drew the most response from the audience and candidates was whether Pelzer should work with West Pelzer on shared utilities and combining the two towns.
The consensus was that Pelzer may work with their neighbors on some things, but the combining the two towns was not going to happen.
Gilbert Garrett summed it up stating, “Both towns have issues, and common infrastructure. There are good partnerships and we are working together but Pelzer should stay separate.”