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Who will be Clinton's next mayor?

Randall, Pitts, Roth answer questions in PC Political Science forum


Three candidates for Mayor of Clinton drew little distinctions among themselves at a forum Tuesday night, other than for candidate Leonard Pitts to say Clinton should change its government.

The forum was sponsored by the Presbyterian College Political Science Department and it was not streamed live or videotaped for later viewing. Tuesday night the speakers were mayoral candidates Randy Randall, Leonard Pitts, and Ronnie Roth, and Ward 4 candidates Stewart Owens, Vernon McCall and Gary Kuykendall (the incumbent). Today (March 1) candidates for a second forum will be Ward 2 candidates Shaquille Harp. Ken Turner, Reginald Vance and Anita Williams, and Ward 6 candidates Andy Howard and Megan Walsh (the incumbent).

Municipal Elections are this Tuesday for Clinton, Laurens, Gray Court and Waterloo; polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and early voting is available at the Laurens County Elections and Registration Office in Laurens.

In the mayoral forum, Randall leaned heavily into his political experience, as the former Mayor of Clinton (10 years) and a former member of the SC Public Service Commission governing utilities’ rates statewide. He has 35 years of experience working at Presbyterian College and is the Voice of the Blue Hose in football.

He explained his reason for wanting to return to the mayoral position, “You want to help and make Clinton a better place to live, where people want to come to live.”

He said while he was mayor the city received $7 Million in grant funding for a variety of projects. He said economic development, the Uptown area, and infrastructure are the city’s greatest challenges.

About PC and Clinton’s relationship, he said, “We both need each other.”

He said Clinton needs more affordable housing, and that will come with more development and jobs. He said the city needs to encourage Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Hope to build on the many vacant lots in Clinton.

“Industry will bring in business and that brings in people,” Randall said.

He was asked how Clinton can “catch up to Laurens,” and he responded, “Y’all must be living in a different place than me. Every uptown is different. Their Main Street organization is very active and part of Laurens is being developed by PC (the former Capitol Theater). We will go after (more) investors. We have little things to do, we are in good shape. We will be very competitive.”

On the issue of finances, Randall said the key is management - “they have hired a good manager - the city manager has to offer a balanced budget to council, and council needs a financial report each month.”

Pitts described how he has moved back to Clinton, where he has deep family roots, and he has developed the former Hays Hospital building on Woodrow Street into apartments; that’s where Pitts claims his personal residence on his candidate application form.

He said he once did a 500 mile walk to Washington, D.C., and the City of Clinton presented him with a congratulatory proclamation. He said he has had residential development experience through Hampton Woods.

He said the city’s greatest opportunity is to capitalize on partnerships with other municipalities and bring ideas to the city. He said he would develop a small business development plan for the City of Clinton and Presbyterian College. He said he would have to do some more research on a question pertaining to high opioids use in Laurens County.

He said he would conduct town halls with Uptown business owners for brainstorming. He said Clinton needs to change its form of government from the current council-manager to the strong-mayor form, for accountability.

“The city needs a strong mayor, accountable to the citizens. (As it is now) his hands are tied, and it’s business as usual,” Pitts said. “Everyone passes the buck and no one takes accountability.”

He said Clinton’s greatest challenges are accountability and transparency.

Roth, as a lifelong Clinton resident and PC graduate, said his vision for the city is strong economic development. “The current staff is working toward that,” said Roth, who is a City Council member and the Mayor Pro-tem. “This past Friday, there was no parking downtown. All the restaurants were full. (Continuing that) required good leadership.”

He said the most important role of the mayor is to work as one of seven members of council - “the office of mayor is the one person that people will look to, the mayor should have the opportunity to represent the city (but) the council needs to be briefed on that.”

He admitted he is frustrated that the City of Clinton has not built a Recreation Complex. It’s an idea they’ve been working on since August, 2018, he said, and despite 3 public meets for citizens’ input, “we do not have the recreation complex, we should be playing ball today and we are not.”

Roth said he would welcome “good positive input” about what the city should do about recreation.

He said the Whitten Center property will be “our next big challenge.” The State has deeded to the City 700 acres of surplus property at the center for developmentally disabled people, which is just a shell of its former self in terms of the number of consumers there. 

Roth said 200 acres on “the other side of I-26” will be the city’s next industrial park. When it gets started, it will be the only under-development industrial park in Laurens County, and is virtually centrally located between Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg. 

Now, Roth said, the city has commissioned a study by the SC Forestry Service to determine how the property can be thinned of trees but maintain its forest-like atmosphere.

Asked about electric rates, which the questioner called “unsustainably high,” Roth said the city had a rates reduction in 2017, and there has been no rate increase since nor any projected until 2029. He said Project Dogwood at the city’s second spec building will be “a huge electric customer” and that should drive down the cost for residential customers. He said through its membership in PMPA and 25% ownership of the Catawba Nuclear Station, Clinton and 9 other Upstate cities have 93% carbon-free electricity.

No questions were taken from the audience, and the candidates were provided the questions in advance. Questions for the council candidates mirrored the questions asked of the mayoral candidates. The PC Political Science Department also sponsored forums for municipal candidates in 2019 and the SC House, Congressional, and Sheriff’s candidates in 2016.

“The best democracy is an informed democracy, so we are trying to do our part,” said professor Ben Bailey, who along with colleague Erin McCall planned the forum. “Our political science students will most likely be members of the audience. It will provide them an opportunity to see what community-focused politics looks like in action.”


Voters go to the polls this Tuesday to decide municipal elected officials for the next four years. The normal polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 7. Results will be posted at Candidates are:

City of Laurens – Mayor

Randy Garrett

Nathan Senn – incumbent

Alicia Latrina Sullivan

Laurens City Council - Dist. 3 

Cassandra Campbell – incumbent

Laurens City Council – Dist. 5

Martin Lowry – incumbent

Laurens City Council – Dist. 6

Johnnie Bolt – incumbent

Jeremy Hudson            

Laurens CPW – Seat 1

Tomika Craig - incumbent

Laurens CPW – Seat 2

Jeff Thompson - incumbent 

Town Of Gray Court – Mayor

Stellartean B Jones – incumbent

Gray Court Town Council (Vote for 2)

Laura B Cook

Nadine Phillip – incumbent

City of Clinton – Mayor

Leonard Pitts

Randy Randall              

Ronnie Roth                  

Clinton City Council – Dist. 2

Shaquille Harp

Kenneth Ken Turner              

Reginald I Vance          

Anita H Williams          

Clinton City Council – Dist. 4

Gary Kuykendall – incumbent

Vernon E McCall          

Stewart Owens             

Clinton City Council – Dist. 6

Andy Howard

Megan P Walsh - incumbent - Presbyterian College Political Science held a forum Tuesday and will hold a forum tonight (March 1), 6-7:30 pm at Edmunds Hall.          

Town of Waterloo – Town Council (Vote for 2)

Johnny Cheeks – incumbent

Gina Fleeman

Runoffs if needed will be March 21. Early voting was open Feb. 20 to March 3 at the voter registration office in Laurens.


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