In 1978 Bunny and I lived in Florence in a cute house, had good jobs, a dog we adored and a precious new baby. Life was good, but we wanted to move home to Williamsburg County. As fate would have it, a job for an Extension Agent was advertised, I applied and was hired. At the age of 24 we moved home in September so I could begin the new job in Kingstree while Bunny continued to commute to Florence.
While a new job could be daunting, my first experience with Extension proved to be delightful because of Polly Connor. Mrs. Connor was the Senior Home Economist and was there to train me for the position. From the first time I met Mrs. Connor she was kind, fun, and always the teacher. Forever the perfect southern lady, she took me to meetings, introduced me to community leaders, and showed me around the county. More than once she took me home before an evening Extension program for supper. Being a big gardener, and knowing I was working on an older home that needed some yard work, Mrs. Connor would bring me cuttings from her yard and sprigs of St. Augustine grass. No doubt she had a big heart; tons of energy, and soon became my friend and mentor. However, the best advice Mrs. Connor gave me was when I dropped by her house after her retirement to announce that I was leaving Extension due to work differences. Mrs. Connor looked me in the eyes and said bluntly, no you will not. The work, benefits and retirement are just too good, and you will not give up. I listened to her and had a successful career with Extension.
Fast forward to 2019. Martha and Jordan Burrows live in Mount Pleasant, where they have a great house, successful jobs, two dogs they adore, and a good life. But they wanted to move home to Williamsburg County. As fate would have it, a job at the chamber was available, Martha, aged 24, applied, and the rest is history. The young couple moved to Kingstree after Martha was named Chamber Director and Jordan presently commutes to work.
As the outgoing Chamber Director, it became my responsibility to prepare Martha for her new job and as we attended meetings, met with community leaders, and traveled around the county, it occurred to me that I was doing exactly what Mrs. Connor did 41 years ago. So, as I leave the chamber, I would like to take this opportunity to share a few bits of advice with Martha that Mrs. Connor shared with me many years ago.
First and foremost, appreciate the community you call home. Williamsburg County is not perfect, but it is a land of great natural resources including fertile soil, the scenic Black River, abundant wildlife and beautiful forest. We are well known as a sportsman paradise. The county is also rich in history and heritage. In fact, descendants of some of the first families are living in the community today as valuable citizens. It’s a good place to live.
Embrace diversity. There is abundant wisdom, kindness, and generosity among people regardless of their age or ethnicity. Pursue friendships with those of different generations and seek advice from trusted friends. Expand your connections and new acquaintances will strengthen your programs, become valued benefactors, and life-long friends. Promote the entire county. Consider yourself a cheerleader and advocate for businesses, industries, and citizens from Greeleyville to Hemingway. Even though Kingstree is the county seat, there are four other incorporated towns and many communities that deserve just as much attention. And, always shop local.
Love the people for they are Williamsburg County’s most significant resource. Southern hospitality is at its best here and the small-town atmosphere tends to promote good neighbors and great volunteers. As a community of faith local churches also play a valuable role in promotion and support.
As I retire from the chamber, I trust that I did Polly Connor justice as I prepared Martha to serve this community just like Mrs. Connor trained me years ago. Yes Martha, serving the community will really make you happy.