HEMINGWAY, S.C. – Three candidates are in the running for the Hemingway mayor’s seat.
Hemingway residents will vote on June 11 in a special election for their next mayor. Grady Richardson retired as mayor of Hemingway in February after more than 20 years of service.
Hemingway Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Carter, John Michael Collins and Nick Patel have filed to run for the mayor’s seat and serve the unfilled portion of Richardson’s term. He was re-elected as mayor in July.
Carter said he has served on the Hemingway Town Council for 15 years. He has lived in Hemingway most of his life, and said he wants to see the town continue to be a good place to live.
“I’m only interested in serving the unfilled portion of Mayor Richardson’s term,” Carter said. “That gives the council the opportunity to settle down, be fully staffed, people experienced enough to take it over and go on with it from there.”
As mayor, Carter said, his top three priorities would be making sure that the sewage system in the town is updated, that the drainage problem is corrected and that the town stays in budget “as much as possible.”
“Then the fourth would probably be how we could update the fire department,” Carter said.
Hemingway needs a mayor that will, first, listen to the people, Carter said.
“If you bring me an idea, it shouldn’t be that I’ve got a closed attitude toward you. I should receive it and at least discuss it with council and let it be decided together as a group,” Carter said. “I want a mayor that will directly be a voice of the people and not just what takes place at the table.”
This is Carter’s first time running for mayor. He said he wants people to get involved and share what they want to see the council, mayor and town employees do to enhance their life.
Carter, 72, is retired and said he can devote as much time as necessary to the town over the next three years, if elected.
“I want to be in a position to help train and prepare those people who are going to take over the place when I leave. That’s my only desire,” Carter said. “I’m not worried about the title, the position or anything else. I just want to see our community held together with peace and respect for each other.”
Carter said he has watched too many people grow up in Hemingway and then move somewhere else. He said he had the opportunity to move but chose to stay in Hemingway.
“And that’s what I want to see for the town,” he said. “I want other young people to have the same opportunity.”
John Michael Collins
John Michael Collins has lived in the Hemingway area since 1999. He was born in Hemingway, moved to Columbia when he was 5 and moved back to the area his freshman year of high school.
Collins is running for the mayor’s seat because, he said, the town needs younger people involved. Over the last 10 years, Collins said, the town’s population has been cut in half and the majority of businesses have closed.
“And then, you look at 10 years from now. The administrator will retire, the public works director will retire, our police chief will retire,” Collins said. “We have an aging council. And honestly, all of the town employees, except one, would be retired.”
Collins predicts there will be a lot of changeover in the town’s leadership due to age, and that is one of his biggest concerns.
“The town infrastructure, the water and sewer in town limits is aging,” Collins said. “And that’s the background that I have. That’s what I do.”
He said water and sewer is the town’s “number one profit.”
Collins owns Chlorinator Solutions which deals with water treatment and wastewater treatments. He said he works with municipalities as part of the business. And for nine years, Collins worked in public works for the city of Johnsonville and town of Hemingway.
If elected as mayor, Collins said, he plans to be very hands-on and work with the council. He said he would like to find a way to bring businesses, including manufacturing, to Hemingway.
He plans to support the police and public works departments, and wants to retain police officers.
“For one reason or another, we’ve had a lot of turnover in our police department over the last so many years,” he said.
Collins has worked with the annual South Carolina Bar-B-Que Shag Festival in Hemingway for nine years and has been the festival’s chairman for five years. He said he wants to eventually bring a Christmas program to the town, not so much a festival but an event to bring people together and have a band perform.
“Food trucks are really big now,” Collins said. “I’d like to have a little food truck festival. I just want to try to do stuff to get people to come to Hemingway and come back to Hemingway.”
Nick Patel said he is not a politician. But he sees that the town needs some help. He moved to Hemingway from Lumberton, North Carolina, and has owned the Coachman Inn in town since 2005. He also owns a hotel in Lumberton.
Patel said Richardson is a good friend of his and he has not run for mayor in the town because of that, until now.
“People are moving out and we need to move them here,” Patel said.
Roads need to be fixed and someone needs to go to the state to get grants, he said. There are a lot of things in Hemingway that are broken and need to be fixed, and Patel said he wants to get as many services from the state and county that he can.
When asked what he can add to the town as mayor, Patel said, “I’m not a politician right now. So I cannot tell you anything about that. I want to go in there, see what is wrong, where I can get some money from, from the state, county and all that. There’s a few things that I have in mind that I cannot reveal right now.”
But Patel said Hemingway needs a mayor who is young, wants to work and dedicate time to the town.
“I’m semi-retired. So I’m going to go for that. Let’s see what happens,” Patel said. “This town needs some help. And if I get elected, I’m going to do as much as I can.”
In addition to mayor’s seat, voters will decide on two new council members during the election on June 11 at the Hemingway Town Hall. Councilman John Coker resigned in February and Councilman Douglas G. Joy Jr. resigned in March. Solomon Lewis, Hamel N. Patel and Bennett Cox have filed to run for council seats.