Monday, April 28, 2014
A swearing-in ceremony held at the Kennedy Center in Greeleyville for newly elected Mayor Jessie Parker was attended by a long list of political contemporaries who described the man as nothing less than admirable.
Among the guests who spoke were Senator Yancey McGill, Representative Ronnie Sabb, former Representative Ken Kennedy, and Williamsburg County elected officials - most of whom have known him since childhood.
Each speaker described Parker as a man with integrity and character, who will stand up for what’s right and always places the Lord first. “That’s what his whole life’s been about. He puts the Lord first - he doesn’t just talk about it - he lives it,” said Senator McGill. “You can look at his family and see testament with his family - of his Godly strength - and that’s where your success will come from.”
However, growing up together allowed for a few innocent pokes. “Who in the world would ever dream you would be mayor of Greeleyville,” said Kennedy jokingly of the man who worked for and supported him throughout his successful business and political careers. On a more serious note he added, “We’re looking for great things from you. We’re looking to work with you. Because you’ve got a lot of seasoned politicians in here that are going to do some things with you to make Greeleyville a better place.”
After introducing Parker’s family members, sister Marie Murray congratulated her brother. “On behalf of the family and your sisters and brothers, we just want you to know, we know our mom is smiling down on you right now,” said Murray. “And we bid you Godspeed and we want you to know we love you very much. And we have your back.”
Parker then stood before family, friends, and a crowd of well wishers as the Honorable Judge Clifton Newman performed the ceremony. Judge Newman, a Greeleyville native, was honored to preside over the occasion. “We’ve been friends throughout the years,” said Newman of his schoolmate. “He’s the person that we go to in Kingstree when something is out of place or we need something done. We can always know that Jessie would be the man that had the answer and could respond.” His three godchildren held the Bible as Parker recited the oath of office.
Though he was raised on the outskirts of Greeleyville in the Nelson Community, Parker would spend his adult life in Greeleyville. In 2002 he ran for mayor and lost by four votes. For the past 23 years he has worked for the county government as building and grounds director. Until his election as mayor, Parker served on the Williamsburg County Election Commission.
Parker’s goals include basic needs that are taken for granted elsewhere. “One of the major things we need is a food store,” said Parker. “We don’t have a supermarket in this area. You always have to travel distance just to buy groceries.” Citywide sewer service and healthcare are two other goals. “We used to have a healthcare provider here,” said Parker. “We have a lot of folks that don’t have rides and they used to be able to walk to take care of their health needs.” Parker made a point to dispel a myth that he said was “going around” during the election process. “It was being said that when I get into office I would raise residential taxes. That’s not happening,” said Parker. “Before we look to raise anybody’s tax we’re looking to cut personal property tax.” Parker added that what he and council will be looking at is bringing fairness to the business license side. “I think there is a disparity in the way it’s being calculated,” said Parker who, as a Greeleyville Councilmember in 2002, took part in writing the Business Licensee Ordinance. Parker also wants to find a way to beef up law enforcement. “That’s going to be quite a challenge simply because of the budget restraints we’re under.”
In his closing remarks Parker affirmed God is the head of his life. “He’s been so good to me,” said Parker. “I thank Him daily. I thank Him for family and I thank Him for friends.” Parker recalled his late mother’s advice after his first unsuccessful bid for mayor 12 years earlier. “She said, ‘Jessie, remember, keep your hand in God’s hand and this opportunity will come back around again’ and here I am today, 12 years later - mayor of the Town of Greeleyville,” said Parker of the late Mary “Okie” Nelson. “I know that she’s here watching over me and if she could speak Okie would probably say - not and, but, ‘an don’t mess it up.”