By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders is one of seven South Carolina mayors to be awarded the Joseph Riley Fellowship, a product of the national Mayor’s Institute on City Design. The program, the only one in the country, is intended to encourage planning and focused development in towns and cities. Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, Jr. founded the program.
Sanders, who received the honor after a competitive process based on an individual mayor’s visionary leadership as well as the quality of an idea presented for a physical project to improve community character and drive development, said that Master level design students from Clemson have already been in town gathering information and talking with various officials and residents to develop a sense of the town’s history, as well as its potential and plans for the future.
The other mayors selected represent Travelers Rest, Rock Hill, Hartsville, Orangeburg, Patrick, and Hardeeville. West Pelzer is the smallest of the seven municipalities. Sanders stressed that just being in the same conversation with the other towns is an honor, and a boon for the town.
“I’m ecstatic about the honor, not only to me personally, but to our town. This is both confirmation that we are on the right path forward, but also a boost along that path.” In February, armed with the research being done now, the mayors will gather in Charleston for a three day gathering, where each mayor will present his town’s hopes and problems.
The group, which will include Clemson officials and other experts on the topics, will analyze and make suggestions on each town’s situation. “To have access to such expertise and information is a tremendous resource for a town our size. It’s just a tremendous opportunity all around.,” said Sanders.
By Stan Welch