Blake Sanders,(l) newly elected mayor of West Pelzer is congratulated by Rey McClain, a former West Pelzer council member Tuesday night following the announcement of election results. Sanders was at victory celebration. (Photo by David Rogers)
By Stan Welch – In an election for mayor that many saw in terms of defining the future direction of West Pelzer, Blake Sanders handily defeated Councilman Jimmy Jeanes, garnering one hundred four votes to Jeanes’ fifty six.
Incumbent Councilman Donnie Jeanes, who filled the seat vacated by Robert Alexander last year ran unopposed for his own term; while local businessman Jim Riddle was unopposed to replace Sanders, who vacated his Council seat to seek the mayor’s job.
Jeanes said that he wasn’t surprised by the outcome, but he was shocked by the margin. He declined to speak to the press before leaving the polling place. He will retain his seat on Council.
Sanders, who is a much younger man, and represented a more forward looking viewpoint, said that his first goal is to remove the wedge that has divided the Council in recent years, and to get “everyone working together.”
“That is what West Pelzer needs more than anything, and I hope that I can provide the kind of leadership that can achieve that,” Sanders said. “I look forward to working with Jimmy and the other members to address the challenges that our town, like all small towns today, faces.”
Among those challenges infrastructure improvements will remain at the top of the list. Despite significant improvements in the town’s wastewater system, the recent sustained and heavy rains have put a serious strain on the town. “Well, nobody was ready for these historic levels of rainfall in the last month, and frankly no one can afford to build a system based on levels that they wouldn’t expect to experience once in a hundred years. Still, there must be a long term commitment to fixing the problems.”
Sanders said that the town, which recently signed an agreement with ReWa to send their waste water to the new ReWa facility in Piedmont, deserves a seat at the table to be able to offer input into ReWa’s plans and operations. “We have been put in a very uncomfortable position during these recent weeks, and we should have a voice to assure that we aren’t ever put in that position again.”
Sanders thanked his wife Ashley, whom he called an incredible woman, for her support, as well as that of the citizens whom he said chose to look forward, and not back.
Incumbent Mayor Peggy Paxton, who surprised the political community by declining another run for office, was on hand for the publishing of the results, and she spoke with both candidates, as well as with The Journal. “It’s been a wonderful and life changing experience to be the mayor of West Pelzer for the last decade or so. The town has made great strides, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so under the new leadership of Mayor Sanders.”
Paxton, who faces the weddings of two of her children within a one month span next year, said she will have no trouble keeping busy. “I’m looking forward to returning to a somewhat normal life. I just want to wish the entire council good luck, and to tell them that they are all in my prayers, as is the entire town.”
Sanders and Riddle will take office on January 1, while both Jimmy and Donnie Jeanes, as well as incumbent Johnnie Rogers will continue to serve on Council.