Even though the people elected to city council seats in Grovetown and Harlem on Tuesday won’t take office for two months, they already have big plans for their terms.
Harlem voters elected incumbent John Thigpen, 53, and newcomer Danny Bellavance, 54, to the city council. Thigpen, a chemical senior operator at DSM Chemical in Augusta, has served on the council since 2003.
“We definitely want to keep moving in the direction we’re moving,” Thigpen said, adding that the new make-up of the council will continue what he said has been the council’s objective stance and citizen-oriented service over the past several years. “We all (are) there for one reason, for the betterment of Harlem and its citizens. No agendas, I think we’re maintaining that.”
Though city officials are making every effort to “stay in the black” with upcoming Local Option Sales Tax shortcomings in a difficult economy, Thigpen said he’d like to expand the city’s recreation offerings. He hopes to get a recreational trail, similar to the Trails at Euchee Creek in Grovetown, in the Sandy Run area.
“That’s something we want to get done and something that I think the citizens would really enjoy.”
Bellavance, a backflow technician for Akima who works at Fort Gordon, has lived in or just outside the city limits of Harlem for many years and graduated from Harlem High School. He’s a newcomer to the council, but hopes to get involved with managing the city’s growth.
Bellavance said he knows that the city must grow to survive, but the city’s small-town charm can be preserved if properly managed.
“I just want to get involved in the growth of Harlem and make sure it’s done the right way,” Bellavance said. “That’s the main thing. ... I plan on living here the rest of my life and plan to keep the nice little town as safe as it is right now.”
Thigpen and Bellavance beat out incumbent Rudolph Dixon and rookie Lee Ann Meyer.
Mayor Bobby Culpepper earned a third term after running unopposed.
Residents in Grovetown elected two newcomers to fill council seats currently occupied by Lee Briggs and Bruce Stoddard. Stoddard, a 12-year veteran of the council, opted not to seek re-election.
Briggs was appointed in August to fill the more than four months remaining of former Councilman Sonny McDowell’s term.
Retired Columbia County schoolteacher Sylvia Martin, 59, and hairdresser Vickie Cook, who beat out Briggs for the seats, will begin their first terms in January.
“It’s just something that I had been considering even before I retired,” said Martin, who still teaches at the University of South Carolina in Aiken. “I’ve been really interested in what’s going on in the city.”
Martin, 54, a lifelong Grovetown resident, served on a resident community board involved with the planning of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Plan. She’s particularly interested in seeing that plan, which includes the creation of a downtown center, carried out.
“A lot of exciting things are going to happen” Martin said.
Like Martin, Cook said running for a city office is something she’s considered for while. She’s hoping to bring more family-centered events and activities to the city.
“I’m just excited to get in there and see what we can do, all of us, the mayor and council,” Cook said.