Editorial: here's a fond farewell to 2016
A new County Administrator and a new Sheriff are bringing multiple changes to the inner workings of Laurens County government as the year 2016 comes to a conclusion, and a challenging 2017 looms on the horizon. Jon Caime was named Laurens County Administrator in March, and began in office in May. He took an office in the new Hillcrest Square administrative wing, a building that replaced the Church Street Administrative Building where the man he replaced, Ernie Segars, labored for many year. It was Segars two years ago who said administration had to get out of the Church Street building, because of structural and security issues. The county consolidated most of its operations - administration, judicial and taxpayer services - into Hillcrest this year. Next year, the county will replace the building’s roof to the price tag of about a half million dollars. Caime is charged with the task of erasing the county’s red ink. It is running a $1 million annual deficit, despite having a dedicated tax levy that can only be used for “deficit reduction.” Throughout 2017, Caime will continue floating trial balloons to see what the council is willing to cut - and what it wants to keep in its operations budget. The new Sheriff, Don Reynolds, faces similar challenges when he takes the oath of office on Jan. 3, 2017. Reynolds is charged with running the Johnson Detention Center, in addition to road patrol and crime investigations - a tall order in one of the largest (land area) counties in South Carolina. Reynolds showed his toughness and resolve by winning the office in spirited elections against incumbent Ricky Chastain and petition candidate Stephane Williams. Reynolds already has told Sheriff’s Office personnel who is able to stay and who is free to seek employment elsewhere. He will have to build, quickly, on the investigative personnel left from the Chastain administration - the latest homicide occurred on Dec. 14. Murder investigations and prosecution will continue in 2017 from four homicides affecting Clinton: the April death of local businessman Jessie Sanders, in Newberry County; the May stabbing death of local veteran Alfred Ralph Lindsay; the June death of former LDHS student Edwin Diaz-Chirinos; and the Dec. shooting death of Sammy Tribble III. The Chastain administration and the Eighth Circuit Solicitor’s Office successfully prosecuted Benny Ray Brown for the 2011 murders of Deputy Roger Rice Jr. and Brown’s former girlfriend, Nicole Kingsborough. In July, Brown was sent away for life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of double murder. Along with crimes and elections, Laurens County celebrated the LDHS football region champions, the Laurens 9-10 All-Stars football state champions, the Academic Bowl state champions from Clinton Middle School, the Clinton High baseball region and district champions, and the return to normalcy in the SC Science Olympiad - Clinton Middle School, following the legacy of Bell Street Middle, and Clinton High again, both are State Champions. Clinton and Laurens High Schools had multiple student-athletes sign their National Letters of Intent to compete in collegiate sports. In 2017, Laurens County is going to build fire stations, and the City of Clinton is going to finish and (hopefully) sell the only spec building in the county available for an industrial prospect. Clinton Canopy is going to build the Millers Fork Trail, and the Laurens County Trails Association will make progress on getting a branch of the super-popular Swamp Rabbit Trail as this county’s “backbone” trail. Schools are in good shape. Neville Hall at Presbyterian College rounds into its expanded shape. Laurens County Memorial Hospital finds its place in the mammoth Greenville Heath System, with a new campus president. We will have Flight of the Dove, Rhythm on the Rails, Town Rhythms, Laurens Idol, Fan Challenge Oyster Roast, Hall of Heroes, Christmas parades, fireworks, graduations, weddings, and funerals. We have 2017, just over the horizon.