Misses, and a few hits
I’ve called Clinton home for over 15 years now. I met my wife here, made friends here, invested myself in this community, and both of my children were born here in Laurens County. As I prepare to move away to a new chapter in my life, I realize that there are going to be a lot of things I will miss about the city I currently call home.
I’ll miss the hard-working city employees and volunteers who make this city a great place to live. We take for granted the shear amount of work that goes into making a city run every minute of every day all year long. It’s awe inspiring to realize just how many moving parts are moving so incredibly well to make life possible in our city. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to work with these fine individuals and I will miss them all.
I’ll miss an engaged and supportive citizenry. Being city manager was not always an enjoyable or stress free experience. Many decisions that we make at city hall are life and death decisions. For example, if we make the wrong call on water chemicals then your water becomes poison. Trying to fund basic services and spur economic growth made every decision a crucial one, and to those of you that took the time to encourage me forward I say heartfelt “thank you”.
I’ll miss the citizens who disagreed with what we were doing at city hall. You made us try harder, seek better solutions, and forced us to view an issue from angles that we may not have been able to see without your guidance. I admire those of you who shared your divergent viewpoint with courtesy and passion. I will not miss those of you who spread lies and rumors and gossip, who fostered hate speech, who made threats, who attacked anonymously or shot jabs from the safety of your social media sites. Chances are that you will not miss me either so I guess that makes us even.
I’ll miss my church. I was proud to be associated with a church that supported local missions to make lives better for people in Clinton. I was proud to be associated with a church that made an effort to desegregate what has been called the most segregated hour in America, the hour on Sunday in which we worship, by partnering with Friendship AME. Our city faces many problems – and the churches are a key to solving a lot of them.
I’ll miss City Council. I’ve had the pleasure to work for two mayors and 10 council members. I believe every one of them ran for office and served for the right reason – that reason being to make the city the best it can be. They sometimes differ on what “the best it can be” means but I believe that they do want the city to thrive.
Lately, I think that communication between the members of council and each other and the members of council and city staff has deteriorated, leading to misunderstandings and making it harder for everyone to stay focused on the real issues that face our community. Local government has become more political than it used to be and I hope in the future, politics can be traded out for positive dialogue that moves the city, and all of its people, forward.
I’ll miss local merchants. My barber, Jennifer, knows just how to cut my hair and always asks about my boys. The team at Hoyt Hanvey’s knows I will burst through the door way too close to my wife’s birthday and they are always there to help. Ashton and Elaine know I like ham on my grilled cheese and they don’t have to ask. I’ll miss those relationships, and yes I know I left some of you out, but Larry only lets me have a limited amount of space – so to all of the local business owners pinning their hopes and dreams on being a merchant in Clinton I say thank you for everything you do to make our city a great place to live.
I’ll miss Musgrove Mill. I was asked to come out to the living history encampment at Musgrove Mill last weekend. I stood in awe at what that place has become. It is a great park, with nice trails and a great opportunity to learn about the important role our area played in the founding of a nation. I remember my first day there, as a young park ranger. Why the state trusted me with their newest state park I’ll never know, but it was a fun ride.
I’ll miss our schools and institutions. Presbyterian College, Thornwell, Whitten Center and Laurens County School District 56 are unique and amazing organizations. We live in a city where our school district consistently performs better than statistics say it should, and where fostering young minds, protecting children in need, and caring for people with disabilities are defining characteristics of our community. Many of our citizens work every day to make the lives of others better, and that is a pretty awe-inspiring thing to behold.
Finally, I’ll miss seeing the seeds we planted grow and flourish. We’ve made huge strides since I walked into city hall in 2008, but our biggest strides and our best days are ahead of us, or you, and not behind us. On the horizon are big projects that will change our community; projects like a new recreation facility, a new industrial park, a new linear park, a new push for downtown vibrancy, and others.
These will be big opportunities for our city, and I urge you to stay involved, stay educated, and work to continue to make Clinton all it can be. Godspeed to all of you on your journey and thank you for the privilege of being your city manager.
(Frank Stovall is city manager of Clinton. His last day on the job is Friday.)