JOHNSONVILLE, S.C. – After an election Tuesday, the city of Johnsonville will have a new mayor and at least one new council member.
Candidates met Oct. 29 in a “meet and greet” with citizens to get to know the people who will be voting for them.
Making his debut as a political candidate, Warren Newcomb, who has lived the past 15 years in Johnsonville, is one of two people running to become the mayor of Johnsonville. Council member Johnny Hanna is his opponent.
Johnsonville’s elections are nonpartisan and at-large. The election is from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in the Johnsonville High School gymnasium foyer.
Steve Dukes, who has served the city as a council member and then mayor for a combined 38 years, and his wife Mona Dukes, a council member, are retiring from elected public office.
“It was such an honor to serve my hometown in that capacity,” Mona Dukes said. “And it was a double joy to get to do it with my husband. … We certainly had the ‘dream team’ of a council and made some awesome progress together. … Johnsonville needs interested citizens, and young people, to step up and run so that our future can be brighter.”
Steve Dukes said he ran for the city council approximately 38 years ago “to get involved and learn more about local government.”
“I have been blessed to have served with many great ‘mentors,’ some who are no longer with us,” he said. “I am happy to leave the city in good condition with the hope for citizen involvement with progressive attitudes. The people of Johnsonville deserve the best, and that is what I will be praying for.”
In addition to Mona Dukes’ council seat being vacant, if Hanna wins the mayor’s seat, his council seat will need to be filled.
Incumbent council member Gary Arthurs is facing opposition from political newcomers Dennis Bailey, Barbara Black and Frankie Poston. The individuals with the most votes will win the available council seats.
Newcomb said he is running as mayor because he wants to make a difference.
“I want to see it become a better town,” he said. Retired, Newcomb said he came to live in Johnsonville when his daughter married someone from the there. He has a helping ministry, as he cares for many community members, taking them to their doctor appointments, to get their groceries and such.
Newcomb said the high water bills that shocked residents most recently are of concern, and he is interested in seeing what can be done about them.
“Don’t know for sure what can be done, but I’m willing to try,” he said. “I figure if it’s God’s will, I’ll win.”
If he doesn’t win, he said, he pledges his support to Hanna and will continue to do whatever he can to help the town “become a better place to live.”
Hanna, who has served on the council as mayor pro tem for the past eight years, said the council “is on the verge of great things,” and he wants to continue being a part of them.
“I am running as mayor because I felt like we needed someone with experience to continue leading this council. … I want to be involved in finishing up the projects we’ve been working on.”
Those improvement projects include the work done at Venters Landing, the city’s park, and with the water and sewer upgrades and additions, he said.
“I want to see the water go to Brunson Crossroads, and maybe sewer, and the development of the old Wellman’s golf course,” Hanna said. “Economic improvements in the city is one of my most pressing issues. … Johnsonville is a great city with great citizens.
“I think we can communicate better with them when we make decisions, and I’d like to see more citizen involvement.”
Hanna added that he’ll be available to the citizens via an open door policy.
Council member candidate Bailey, the pastor of the Johnsonville Church of God on Broad Street, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Council member candidate Black said she is running because she, too, wants to help bring positive changes to the Johnsonville area. For her, youth issues are most pressing.
“There is nothing for the youth to do. … We need to continue getting a handle on the drug problem that plagues the area,” she said.
Black said though she also is among those concerned about the recent high water bills, the city raised water and sewer rates at the end of June. She has spoken with City Administrator Jim Smith and can better understand the higher costs.
A community-minded advocate and current President of the Johnsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Black said she knows first hand that the Johnsonville community can come together to make positive changes. Black said she’d also like to see life-skill classes offered to the youth.
Council candidate Poston said bringing jobs to the area to improve the number of businesses in town is what he sees as the biggest issue facing Johnsonville.
Incumbent council member Arthurs said he’d like to be able to see through to the finish some of the projects he has helped work on.
“We’ve accomplished and started some really good projects, such as the improvements at the park, providing water and sewer to the Hickory Hill subdivision and possibly working with Williamsburg County to take water and sewer to the Brunson Crossroads area,” he said.
“I’d like to see the golf course redeveloped; the city complex completed … and look at other economic opportunities.”
Arthurs, who has served on council for five years, is a retired businessman. Arthurs said the city has a good administrator, and the council has been working well with him to move the town forward.
“Long term, I’d like to help move the city of Johnsonville into the future,” Arthurs said, “We still have to work to improve infrastructure. Some of our water and sewer pipes are 70 years old and need replacing.”
He hopes to continue seeing customers added to the water and sewer services.