Monday, January 30, 2006

Two More Seek County Office

The News Reporter

McPherson, Hinson to seek election


Over chicken bog Friday afternoon with a half-dozen political partners, Columbus County Citizens for Better Government (CCCBG) President Sammy Hinson announced that he would seek the District 7 county commission seat currently held by David Dutton.

Former commissioner and retired plant manager David Lee McPherson has also announced he'll seek the District 6 seat currently held by Kip Godwin.

Read it all in the extended section.

Hinson asserted that there is a new force in county politics -- the grassroots group Columbus County Citizens for Better Government (CCCBG) -- and it will have a big impact on the election.

"People are sick of Commissioner Dutton and the way this county is being run and I'm going to win," Hinson said. "I will step down as president of CCCBG before I file to run as a commissioner and I have the support of the organization. CCCBG is going to help everyone who wants to run that agrees with our philosophy of good government."

Filing begins Feb. 12.

Hinson said CCCBG supports Fair Bluff farmer Howell Strickland, who is running in District 6 against McPherson, former Democratic Party chairman and county commissioner in the late 1970s.

McPherson said his previous political experience might help.

"Hopefully, I can help with some leadership. Being a county commissioner is the toughest job in government. You have to make a lot of tough decisions and can't satisfy everybody. We need to set a roadmap, set a course and then follow that," he said.

"I make no individual or group promises other than that I am sincere and will be open for any suggestions from the citizens of Columbus County," McPherson said. "With the grace of the good Lord, I will make decisions based on facts rather than emotions."

Hinson, as his opponent Dutton, sells rebuilt and pre-owned cars from his car lot/political headquarters in Whiteville. McPherson has worked 42 years for OMI Honeywell, a chemical plant in Riegelwood, and has been appointed to a number of county boards. He has also farmed.

Hinson and Strickland said they believe voters are fed up with high taxes brought on by wasteful government spending and a poorly functioning economic development apparatus.

McPherson agreed. "We need to manage our current budget with the most sound business practices available," he said.

Hinson wants to see the county Board of Commissioners take control of economic development from the Economic Development Commission (EDC). He said the county must hire a full-time economic development director who will report to commissioners and be paid a salary, plus incentives for bringing in industries.

"I would like to appoint a blue ribbon panel -- composed of bankers, businesspersons, industry leaders -- to come up with an explanation for why we are not getting what we should be getting," Hinson said. "I just don't think the Committee of 100 has the expertise or the (motivation) to get out and get industry in here. The animal that's hungry hunts best.

"Sometimes, personal issues interfere with good judgment," added Hinson. "I've found that's happened in the past and has kept us from getting jobs."

"No issue is large enough that we can't sit down and work out a solution that is beneficial to everybody," McPherson said. "I'm a firm believer in sitting down, sifting out the chaff and finding the wheat."

McPherson said that economic development, education and government grants are his top priorities. He said that he is encouraged by some of the opportunities in farming, such as the soybean plant and Dole food plant.

"Those are the things we need to look to for the small farmer who is making the transition from tobacco," he said. "There's no magical wand that we can wave to get an industry but industry as a whole will change as we move forward," McPherson said. "Planning and partnership with industry will (attract jobs).

"We are beginning now to feel the effects of the growth of Brunswick County and Horry County, S.C.," he added. "(This type of spillover growth) forces us even more to make Columbus an attractive county that people want to live in. We have to increase our tax base. People cannot afford to pay the increasing tax burden."

Hinson and Strickland agree that the county should push the federal courts to permit countywide elections. They also insist, based on the opinion of respected academics and lawyers, that the county is out of compliance with the constitutional principle of one man, one vote and needs to be redistricted.

County commissioners discussed the issue in closed session last month and then issued a press release stating they would not redistrict at this time. Hinson, whose group threatened a lawsuit on the issue, said CCCBG decided to first try to put the right people in three open commission seats. That would save the taxpayers money and allow the new board to redistrict, he said.

McPherson sees countywide elections and redistricting as legal issues.

"First and foremost, we have to abide by what the law requires," he said. "If we're out of compliance, Columbus County has to meet the letter of the law. We need to do everything we can to meet the law without spending a lot of money on litigation and wasting people's money."

McPherson has been organizing a committee to raise $3 million to rebuild an auditorium at Williams Township School, which was destroyed by fire two years ago. He said the group is now in the process of gaining non-profit status to help raise funds.

"We are putting together the legal part that would allow us to get some grant money down the road," he said. "The community can help raise the funds to accomplish what it wants. Maybe in the future, we can get some money from whatever government we can. Right now, we need to focus on rebuilding the classrooms."

Hinson, who was Republican Party chairman for eight years, said people have to look beyond party affiliation. However, Hinson added that government needs a balance.

"You need a balance in government. That's the purpose of a two-party system," he said. "You need a little friction to achieve that balance. Right now, Columbus County is one-sided."

posted by David at 5:19 PM :: Permalink ::

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