PUBLISHER - 2018: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
By Brian Whitmore
2018 was my first year as publisher of The Clinton Chronicle. That’s been a blessing and I count it a privilege to serve this wonderful community.
This Christmas some newsmakers will be rewarded by Santa and others will get coal. As a year in review, lets look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the pages of The Chronicle. I would note, that there is a lot more good than bad.
• Hope for the future of the City of Clinton was high to start 2018, as Bill Ed Cannon started working as Clinton’s new city manager. Cannon boasts 20 years of city management experience. He was chosen over 26 other applicants. He was hired at $110,000 a year and got $1,000 moving expense.
• Brenda Ligon became the first African American female board chair for the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce.
• Clinton Middle won the SC Science Olympiad Championship for the 16th consecutive year. Clinton High School’s Science Olympiad team won its ninth state championship in 10 years.
• Tennis in Clinton was even bigger this year, as the sport took center stage with a Homecoming and Hall of Fame. The CHS girls’ team advanced deep in the playoffs.
• The Clinton YMCA and Clinton High/Middle School FCA 40th Annual Prayer Breakfast featured several dynamic speakers, including former pro-wrestler Marc Mero.
• Vic MacDonald won four awards for photography and writing for The Chronicle in statewide competition. (We are blessed to have him.)
• The Connexial Center was envisioned as an industry area in northern Laurens County.
• Thornwell Charter School is set to open in fall of 2019.
• GHS Laurens County Memorial Hospital received Blue Cross Blue Shield national distinction for maternity care, got first in the region 3-D mammography and a new name PRISMA Health for 2019.
• Tallwood Homes underwent renovations.
• The PTC Center for Advanced Manufacturing got state appropriation for a third expansion. Rep. Mike Pitts was a driving force.
• Clinton was among seven SC cities to receive EPA money to clean up contaminated sites and hosted the statewide EPA Brownfields Grant South Carolina Awards Ceremony at MS Bailey Municipal Center.
• The City of Clinton broke ground for a second spec building at Clinton 26, Exit 54 off I-26, at Hwy. 72.
• Doug Gilliam was elected as SC House District 42 representative. He won the Republican primary and had no opposition in November.
• Clinton High School seniors Jose Santiago and Cole Prince were winners of the Laurens County Engineering Design and Development Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Piedmont Tech. Presbyterian College student (Brien Washington) and professors (Dr. Stuart Gordon and Dr. Payal Ray) present research nationally.
• PC fund-raising toped $6.4 million in the last fiscal year.
• Laurens County’s first Palliative Care Clinic opened.
• Cotton Loft 305 was introduced as a nice place to hold functions in Clinton. The Magnolia Room brought the same to Laurens.
• Flame Spray announced a $4 million expansion.
• Clinton native Chris Marshall won an Emmy for his work on a slavery documentary.
• New hires: Dale Satterfield is the new Laurens County Public Works Director. Sonny Ledda is the new Clinton Police Chief. Phillip Russell is the new Clinton Fire Chief. Joey Meador is the new Clinton Public Works Director.
• Laurens County administrator Jon Caime was up for jobs in Oconee and Spartanburg, but remains with us.
• Family Promise of Laurens County looks to provide housing for the homeless and raised funds with a bed race.
• Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission will spend $44,056,330 to extract, treat and transport water from Lake Greenwood.
• The City of Clinton purchased land for a future recreation complex off Hwy. 56 North. If what is planned comes to fruition, it will be a big boon for Clinton.
• $3 million will provide new heating, air and roof for the Hillcrest Square Judicial Services Center in Laurens.
• Pine Haven Park was renovated with a TD Green Streets Program grant.
• The new Saxon Fire Station opened.
• Rep. Mike Pitts made a move to consolidate Laurens County school districts (District 55 - Laurens and District 56 - Clinton). The Chronicle broke the story first on Facebook and opposition quickly grew. The move to consolidate failed (moved off legislative calendar), but the issue continues to be debated.
• William Ryan Looper and Jessica Blake Smith were arrested and charged with the death of 2-year-old Brantley Smith. Looper faces the death penalty.
• We see too many crimes involving children in Laurens County.
• Laurens County is becoming known for abusing animals.
• Unfortunately, Laurens County already has too much domestic abuse.
• Violence, drugs — it’s got to stop.
We as a society can’t tolerate those who prey on its weakest members.
• Laurens County has way too many traffic fatalities.
• Getting out of Dodge: The City of Clinton lost several good people this year – Jerre Threatt, Amanda Veal, Robin Morse and Dale Satterfield were among higher profile leaders that moved on.
• Clinton Public Safety was dissolved and the City now has separate Police and Fire departments. Only time will tell if this was a good or bad move. But this happening lands on the bad list because of the personnel upheaval it caused.
• The City started charging for Freedom of Information requests. The $3 won’t break anyone, but it’s a shame that people have to fill out a form and pay to get information from their leaders.
• West Nile cases in Laurens County.
• Clinton City Council Woman Robbie Neal was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence.
• The process to dissolve Clinton Public Safety got ugly. Larry Franklin questioned the transparency of the dissolution move after a City Council meeting and City Administrator Bill Ed Cannon angrily exploded to put it mildly.
I’ve been a journalist for 23 years and had never seen this before. Sure, I’ve had some people get mad at me, but everyone maintained decorum.
Disrespect for this newspaper and its publisher continued in how leaders (Mayor and Council) addressed the incident (a news release apology that stated Cannon let his emotions get the better of him because he is passionate about public safety).
We’ll put this ugly part of my first year behind us and hope for better relations with Clinton City government in the future.
Regardless of what the future holds for Clinton and Laurens County, The Chronicle will continue to report the good, the bad and the ugly.
Brian Whitmore is publisher of The Clinton Chronicle.