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Back in April, I penned a letter to Mr. Dorn welcoming him officially to the election and campaign season, as he had just officially filed to run to seek another term. I shared with him that I felt it would be an amazing experience to seek office and an honor to be part of the pageantry. I had learned through research that at one point, politicians that opposed each other often mingled, shared ideas, and had an open dialogue. This is rare today but something I highly value and a reason I sent a letter. I felt this was a kind gesture as we see throughout the United States, elected officials from opposing sides refuse to even sit down at a table to seek out solutions. This is an issue on both sides of the political aisle and something that I feel is important to engage in even on the local level.
In the letter, I spoke how even though differences existed, I highly respected the years Mr. Dorn has put into office. I pledged a respectful campaign that showed honor and dignity. I was also very clear that even though ones character, family, and faith were off limits, one’s record or set of ideals could be scrutinized. I told him that this is how my campaign would work as we pushed forward with an agenda that showed respect and restoring the voice of the people.
Several months back, a woman from the north side told the council during public input that she felt that council was “at war” with Mr. Dorn. This particular comment was over the former north side park and the fact she was disgruntled that the council had closed the park. She blamed council for having issues with Mr. Dorn and she felt that was the reason they had closed it down. That was not the case and even the month before, Mr. Bright stated the park was not following the lease agreement and was a liability to the county. But something that caught my attention was the woman truly felt county council was against Mr. Dorn. Well, she has a point.
Over the past year, I have been to many county council meetings and Mr. Dorn’s approach to local government is for his convenience and what suits his agenda. His “off-the-cuff” approach to “serving” causes issues for himself against the rest of council and in return, District 1suffers from it. Whether dealing with the park, county water, the noise ordinance violations, infrastructure in the Merriwether area, the lack of understanding in regards to taxes or how to read and understand a budget, redistricting the county council lines; the list could go on and on. Mr. Dorn seems to be against anything to move the people forward in District 1 or throughout the county. During many votes, Mr. Dorn is the lone one on the island and is often times never on topic. The lack of respect he shows to the rest of county council, the county administrator, her staff and others, is disheartening. He has even made derogatory statements to Edgefield County citizens making public comments during council meetings. This isn’t representing constituents and solving problems. This is simply being the problem.
I was brought up in a family where you always treat others with respect, even when they haven’t earned it. My dad would always say, “If you want it, give it”. This is a lesson in life that we teach our children and it is something that adults could learn from time to time. County Council truly has patience and is willing to work with anyone. They truly care for the people of the county and making sure all decisions are in the best interest of the people. However, there is a line that Mr. Dorn always seems to cross.
As difficult as it is, Chairman Campbell, Vice-Chairman Blackwell, Mr. Bright and Mr. Ashcraft do what they can in a civil way to respectfully engage Mr. Dorn and his rhetoric. Each meeting, Mr. Dorn seems to have the same talking points and gets nothing done. District 1 must fully understand that he is not doing the job the voters sent him to do. It is a disappointment that for two decades, District 1 hasn’t gained any ground when the rest of the county has advanced forward.
You see, no one is at war with Mr. Dorn. Those in District 1 must realize District 1 needs leadership change. There are many areas that need to be addressed throughout the county and until change happens, the rest of council will not engage in a dialogue until respect is given first. It seems the only way that will happen is to change who is sitting in that seat.
I met a lady last week that has been a Dorn supporter for many years. She is from the Johnston side of the district and she asked me my thoughts on Edgefield County and why I moved here and why in the world I wanted to run for office. I told her that my calling was to serve the teachers and children of this county with my chosen career and I wanted to run for office to represent the voices throughout District 1 that had been lost over the years. She questioned as to what I meant. I asked her one simple question: What has Mr. Dorn done for your family or your neighbors over the past 22 years in office? She smiled and simply couldn’t answer the question. I told her that I would change that and she asked what I could promise her if I was elected.
My response: I could promise her representation. I could work with others on council in a civil way to move the county forward. I would bridge differences and work to strengthen the community of Edgefield County. I promised her open communication and transparency. I promised her values would be represented and no one would be second class. I promised her that I was a phone call away when issues arose and that I would form partnerships in each community to make sure all voices were heard.
And lastly, I promised her that when someone on council had a different opinion, I would treat them with respect. I would listen and I would seek common ground to find a way forward on any issue.
She smiled and asked for one of my campaign yard signs.
On the night I am sworn in, I will restore that respect and the people of District 1 will have a true voice that the rest of council will work with and get the work of the people done. Mr. Dorn has served his time and if he can’t tell that it is time to step away, the voters must do it for him.
Like the lady in Johnston, we are gaining ground every day. One person at a time will advance our cause and our districts voice will be restored. It is essential that one must understand that this election is an important one. You can choose to continue the lack of representation or you can choose for your voice to finally be heard. I asked that you vote for me on November 6, 2012. We will restore the voice and push forward in building our community together.
William P. Smith
Candidate for County Council District 1