By David Meade
Approximately 40 Pelzer residents attended the second “Meet the Candidates” forum held at the Community Building Tuesday.
Eight candidates participated including one new one, while one original candidate withdrew from the election.
Running as a write-in, Eddie Waits announced recently that he is running while Sandy Jeanes withdrew from the race for personal reasons. Jeanes name will still appear on the ballot though she will not be an official candidate.
Candidates for town council include: Teresa Ramsey, Gary Pridmore, Eddie Waits and Mike Matthews, and incumbents Will Ragland and Olene Bear.
Kimberly Wilson and Roger Scott, both elected as councilmembers two years ago, are facing off for the mayor’s seat.
Incumbent mayor Steve McGregor is not running for re-election.
McGregor moderated the question and answer session with the candidates which lasted almost three hours. McGregor began saying that with the 2015 annexation of the mill villages, “Everybody can vote. Nobody is outside the town limits anymore.”
He also stated that Anderson County will be handling the election and that three of the candidates elected this time will serve four year terms, while two will serve for two years, to begin staggered terms for councilmembers.
Each of the candidates introduced themselves and gave a brief statement.
Write-in candidate Eddie Waits, who has attended most of the council and workshop meetings since the annexation, said that he has lived in Pelzer for 32 years and will “do my best and work hard for you.”
Mike Matthews said he is a fourth generation “Turkey Ring” resident and encouraged residents to “come out and vote your heart.”
Gary Pridmore said that “Every vote counts.”
Olene Bear said that finally being able to vote and run for office, and being elected, “Was one of the greatest privileges of my life was giving me the opportunity to serve Pelzer.”
Roger Scott said, “It is an honor to be here and serve the people of Pelzer.”
Will Ragland said since moving to Pelzer he “enjoyed serving on council and learned a lot. I have enjoyed it and hope to continue.”
Kim Wilson said “It has been a privilege to serve Pelzer as one of your councilmembers and a mayoral candidate” and that she “wants to move Pelzer forward.”
Teresa Ramsey said she lived on one of the four original streets that made up the town before annexation.
She said she appreciates the opportunity to work for the entire Pelzer and “Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard.”
She said she wants to focus on finance and accounts and her background will help with accountability and transparency.
The candidates addressed questions about their vision for the town, merging with West Pelzer, their association with non-profits, their view on the Master Plan and others.
Resident Linda Ford began the session with a statement and challenge with a handout to each of the candidates.
She went on to say the town council faces big decisions on drugs, crime, REWA, water, sewer, revenues, use of resources, drainage problems, programs for seniors and children and that the council has “gotten away from the issues” and started to focus on each other.
Candidates then addressed a question about “giving the town to West Pelzer” and whether the towns were going to merge.
Wilson responded that sharing services offered an opportunity for Pelzer to save money and look forward to providing police coverage. “We have to be creative in handling resources,” she said.
Scott said he was not for merging the towns and that he believes Pelzer can survive. “We have saved some money and I would like to see our town hall opened back up.”
He said some people have said they want to see Pelzer on the map. “It never left,” he said. “We are still here.”
Scott said it will take a team effort, working together with friends and neighbors.
Ragland said that during their first term, council focused on figuring out how to cut costs and save money. He said faced with no income and no tax base, they tried to cut costs and waste, look at the books and “figure things out.”
He said he is not for a merger with anyone in the near future, and that it would have to be in the best interest for Pelzer.
Pridmore said, “I want to stay Pelzer.”
“We have to work together.”
He said there are plenty of places the $150,000 the town saved can go. He said he wants to stay with Anderson County for police protection and that Pelzer cant afford the West Pelzer police department.
He said that giving things away was wrong. He also said he didn’t have a lot of education “but I’ve got common sense.”
Bear said, “For the first time in many years Pelzer has the opportunity to make it on its own. Things are looking better than it has in a long, long time. I’ve given a lot of thought to some of the things we need in Pelzer. People want what Pelzer’s got. We do have a lot of things.”
Waits said he was “all for Pelzer and wanted to see the town office back downtown. He said a member of council should be available for citizens to talk to in the daytime and at night, face to face, at town hall.
Matthews said he would like to see “the town office back to our town” and suggested it be open late one day a week for people to come “and check on things.” “I will be available,” he said. “ I want to keep Pelzer, Pelzer.”
Ramsey clarified a statement about buying in bulk, which she said did not imply merging with West Pelzer. “If we can save money it helps Pelzer,” she said. “We are our own town.”
She said with the budget and financials stable the town can save money and cut corners.
Candidates answered a question about their vision for the town.
Wilson said that growth and revenues have to happen and the town needs to cut expenses. She said the water bill shouldn’t have a base cost of $50 to $80.
“We’ve got to grow this area,” she said. “Folks want to come where we are. We have to move Pelzer forward.” Wilson said there has been no plan and the mayor is not going to do it alone.
“There has been a lot of progress in the last 22 months,” she said. She said the town needs to focus on cleanup. She said the town needs a strong mayor who will network, be visible in the community and use resources.
Scott said “ We really do need to clean our town up.”He also said the town needs a strong mayor, that is available. Scott said he would like to see an industry comte to Pelzer to create jobs which he said would help and bring more revenue to the town.
“I will do anything to move our town forward and clean it up,” he said. “ We have to work for it, nothing is free.” Scott said “I am here to work for this town.”
Replying to a question on the future of Pelzer, Ragland said he first learned of more of Pelzer when he particpated in the Salkehatchie program working on homes in Pelzer and there were people with no water or electricity.
“We have a lot to offer with the river and the location,” he said.
He followed up on a statement made byJimmy Harrison, who intended to run for council but could not due to health problems.
In an earlier meeting, Harrison stated “We need to address the needs before you address the dreams.”
Ragland said, “You are right. I dream big and I want to do it immediately. But needs have to come first.”
Waits said that the council needs to have character and earn the trust of the citizens.
“You have to earn it and do the right thing,” he said. “You have to explain the options and how we choose them.”
He said the town has to be transparent on issues.
Waits said he wanted to run for office to serve all the people.
“We have to earn your trust and make you a part of what we do.” He said he wants monthly budget and financial information available for citizens. “This is your town. We work for you.”