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Copeland kicks off city council campaign in Hartsville

December 20, 2018
Bobby McGee

HARTSVILLE, S.C. - Casey Copeland kicked off his campaign for the District 6 seat on the Hartsville City Council on Tuesday and said curbing crime in Hartsville and making the city safer will be top priorities for him if elected.

As of late Tuesday, Copeland, the director of Florence-Darlington Technical College’s Hartsville site, and Bobby McGee of McGee Financial Group in Hartsville and Florence, were the only two candidates to have filed to run for the seat in a special election on Feb. 19.

Former Councilman Billy Shirley resigned from the seat in November after 16 years on the council. Shirley and his wife, Johnna, are moving to Anderson to be closer to their sons and grandchildren and where Johnna Shirley has secured a job with Anderson University.

Whoever wins the special election will serve the remainder of Shirley’s term, which expires next November. The seat will be up for election for a full four-year term in the November 2019 general municipal election.

This is Copeland’s second bid for the seat. He ran for it in 2015 but lost by a single vote to Shirley 53 – 52.

The filing period for the special election closes at noon on Friday.

Before making his remarks, Copeland received an endorsement from former Hartsville Mayor Bill Gaskins, also a former council member. “I believe Casey is the best candidate for all of the citizens of Hartsville,” Gaskins said.

“I’m not a politician. I don’t care for politics as usual,” Copeland said. He said he will not accept campaign contributions.

Copeland read from something he wrote in 2015 when his home was broken into: “I am angry and I am hurt not because our laptop is gone but because the pictures of my daughter from when she was born in the hospital and I first held her, when I changed her first diaper clumsily, when I first touched her little toe were on that computer,” he wrote. And while those images are etched in his memory, his daughter will never be able to see them or share them with anyone, he wrote.

He praised the work of Hartsville police on the case, but said what happened could not be undone.

Copeland said crime affects everyone in the community.

Improving traffic safety will also be a focus, he said. “Distracted driving is at epidemic levels now making it very dangerous to enjoy a simple walk in the neighborhood,” Copeland said. “Our kids cannot ride bikes in the streets like we once could.” He said he knows people who have lost their lives to distracted driving.

Copeland called for stepped-up enforcement of existing laws, something he said can be done without adding to residents’ tax burden.

He suggested more street cameras and said the city should work with business and industry on finding creative funding methods because they have a stake in a safer community as well. The city has security cameras in some areas of downtown now.

“We must make Hartsville safe or it doesn’t matter how many restaurants we have or how many waterparks we have,” he said. “Without safety we won’t be able to maintain what we have. We will not have economic development. We won’t have jobs. We won’t have housing.”

He said city officials need to listen more to residents and suggested a listening tour for officials across the city.

“We must change our perspective from one of bickering over resources to one collective approach that looks through the eyes of our kids,” Copeland said. He called for ending the “tug-of-war” among council districts.

Copeland also said the city needs to keep residents better informed about how their tax dollars are spent through better communication and transparency.

McGee announced his candidacy last week and said he wants to “give back to the city and the community that have supported me and my family for 30 years.”

City council elections in Hartsville are nonpartisan.

Candidates for the special election must file with the city clerk’s office at Hartsville City Hall, 100 E. Carolina Ave., and pay a $38.25 filing fee.

Persons wishing to vote in the special election must be registered to vote by Jan. 20. To register, contact the Darlington County Board of Elections and Registration at 131 Cashua St., Darlington or call 843-398-4900.

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