Three candidates are vying for the mayor’s slot in Hemingway and three candidates are seeking to fill two vacant council seats. The special election was made necessary when earlier this year two councilmembers and the mayor abruptly left council.
If one of the candidates, current councilmember Charles Coker, wins the mayor’s race, another special election will be necessary to fill his unexpired term on council.
Hemingway’s elections are non-partisan and the town is not divided into districts. Each councilmember serves at-large. As such, the two candidates with the most votes in the council election and the candidate with the most votes in the mayor’s race will garner the spots.
Recently the mayoral candidates gave their reasons for running.
Carter, a councilmember for 15 years, is a former plant manager of ECA in Hemingway. The Hemingway native moved to Georgetown as a youth with his family, served in the U.S. Air Force for four years, in the U.S. Army for two years, and then returned to Hemingway.
“Sadly, I watched many of my neighbors move,” during the past 40 years of living in the town, he said. “I graduated Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway with an associate’s in Business Administration. Additionally, I took several programming courses at Tech in Sumter.”
Carter also worked for APL Logistics as operations manager in Mullins. “When that site closed in 2012 I decided to retire rather than relocate,” he said. He did not want to leave Hemingway, he said.
Serving on council has “been a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community that has been so good to me. It has been pleasures watching our town employees accomplish so much with very limited resources. Too many in our community are not aware of the sacrifice of our dedicated employees,” Carter said.
“…There were and are too many important projects to be entrusted to an inexperienced mayor,” Carter said. “With my experience and the experience of the majority of the council I believe we can timely complete these projects.”
Carter also said Hemingway “is more than four town limit signs,” and that what Council does affects the area’s extended neighbors. “My primary responsibility as mayor would be to those living in town and also the many customers we have with water and sewage. But, our town has to be more inclusive than that. We need everyone in our zip code involved. We need to partner with all our neighbors, especially Johnsonville and Kingstree … If elected mayor I will assure your voice will be heard. As I constantly remind town employees “it is not our money, it’s the taxpayers money.”
John Michael Collins
John Michael Collins, known as one of the primary organizers of the annual S.C. Bar-B-Que Shag Festival, has lived in the area since 1999. Another Hemingway native, he moved away with his family and returned.
Collins said he would like to add another festival to the town’s lineup of events to bring in people, perhaps a Christmas-themed event. He said he is running for the mayor’s seat because the timing is right.
The town needs younger people to be involved in things, as the town’s population has decreased and those serving are nearing retirement age. Collins said he has seen many businesses come and go and he would like to work to encourage the economic development of the small town.
Also, Collins said, the town’s infrastructure, water and sewer services are also aging. He believes he could help better establish the town in those areas. A local businessman, Collins is self-employed and he said his background is in water and sewer services.
Additionally, Collins said he has worked with municipalities as part of his business. He believes his connections will be advantageous to the town.
If elected mayor, Collins said, he said he will also work to retain police officers. “For one reason or another, we have a lot of turnover in our police department …” he said.
Hemingway business owner Nick Patel said he has no political background, but has lived in Hemingway long enough to believe he can help the town. Patel, owner of the town’s Coachman Inn since 2005, said he is in the motel and hospitality industry.
He moved to Hemingway from Lumberton, where he also owns a hotel.
Patel said he hopes to help get the town the grants its needs to fun the projects needed to make improvements.
Patel believes he will be an asset to the community leading the town, as he has been as a business owner.
If elected, he said, he will do whatever he can to help the town.
Solomon Lewis; Hamel N. Patel, the son of Nick Patel; and Bennett Cox filed to run for council seats.