Editorial: So long to a good guy
What animal might the average Clinton resident use to describe Clinton City Manager Frank Stovall, whose last day is Friday?
He has referred to himself as a lame duck more than once since announcing March 6 he is leaving to return to his home state of Virginia. And that is certainly accurate. All of the projects on the city’s metaphorical drawing board have pretty much ground to a halt.
Another animal that might be used to describe Stovall is scapegoat. Anything that happens now that causes the citizenry to grumble and complain will be laid at the feet of the guy no longer here. “Frank did it.”
Perhaps we could use “tiger” to describe Frank Stovall. We suspect his staff has seen this more often than the public. But Stovall was tiger-like when he told the city council, in effect, “We can’t wait on the county and the state to send us industry. We have to improve the quality of life in our city on our own.”
Since then, Clinton has built a commerce park and a spec building, the frontage road has been finished. a walking trial is in the works to intersect the frontage road, beautification of the I-26-Hwy 72 intersection - again, something the State of South Carolina is unwilling to do - is in the works, Clinton has one of the best summer concert series in the state and is planning for its third railroad-themed festival this month and uptown buildings are being renovated.
Plenty of people have been part of these advancements, but leadership counts, leadership is important. Without a vision, the people perish.
We are not perishing. We are pushing ahead.
“Tiger Frank” - he likely would rather be called “Hokie Frank” - told us we should, and convinced us we could.
But silly animal comparisons aside, one thing Stovall should receive is credit.
Clinton is a better city than it was in 2011 when he moved from assistant city manager to city manager. Clinton’s government is better run and that’s not meant to reflect badly one any of his predecessors.
Stovall has simply been a cut above. He has done his job quietly, reflecting praise while serving as a lightning rod for blame and criticism.
He never placed blame publicly on any city worker or elected official for failures – real or perceived. At virtually every city council meeting, he was quick to place credit for any new program or success at other office doors in the M.S. Bailey Municipal Center.
There were times he seethed. Sometimes he wore his emotions on his sleeves, but he always swallowed his pride publicly and took his beatings.
He is a good commander and he’s also a great foot soldier.
And, after Friday, he’s gone.
We know there is much Stovall would like to say, but he’s too gracious and too much a Virginia gentleman.
Stovall has a great sense of humor. He’s probably the funniest tall guy we know. That self-deprecating humor has served him well in Clinton and will go with him to Virginia.
We wonder how many people will say – six months from now – boy, we sure wish Frank Stovall was still here.
If you think Clinton’s electric rates are going to drop to the lowest in the state, you haven’t been paying attention to what we have said on this page over and over again.
Frank Stovall isn’t the reason we have the highest rates in the state. And neither are Mayor Bob McLean and the six members of city council.
Unless you – as residents of Clinton – are willing to accept fewer services from the city, the amount of money needed to provide those services has to come from somewhere.
Council can reduce the electric rate – as in the proposed budget -- but the reduction will be more than offset by increases in water and sewer rates – as in the proposed budget. Or property taxes, which are low, can be raised and electric rates reduced.
Those decisions are the mayor’s and city council’s to make. Not Stovall and not his replacement.
So Stovall has been quietly cleaning out the second-floor office and he and his wife and their two sons will be leaving soon.
We send them on their way with our gratitude and best wishes. And those left to run the city have some very difficult choices to make that have nothing to do with Frank Stovall.