Bright and early this morning, Mark Steenback of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County and I joined Nathaniel and Katy to record an episode of the Simple Civics: Greenville County podcast. We talked about mutually beneficial partnerships between local governments and non-profits. We’re better together! Through collaboration, we create positive change that supports the social and economic well-being of our community. This is exactly the kind of partnership I was talking about when I campaigned for #OneSimpsonville back in 2015. Now that vision is reality as evidenced by our partnership with Habitat. And we really are better together. Stay tuned for details on when our episode goes live!
It was an honor to speak at the Habitat for Humanity CEO Build, where we celebrated ten years of Greenville County leaders coming together to support families seeking strength and stability through homeownership. Leaders from every sector were present: higher education, non-profits, community organizations, foundations, and big businesses. It was an amazing collection of leaders. So what did I talk about in front of this group of CEOs? Leadership, of course. Here, in part, is what I said: You can read books on leadership, do webinars, take classes…even get a doctorate in leadership. But none of that makes someone a good leader. You see good leaders through their actions. And we saw a lot of good leaders this week—people committed to improving our community. I talked about what I think are some of the most important traits of good leaders: 1) They have vision. They see what is and see how it could be better; 2) they are willing to take [calculated] risks, to go out on a limb, try something different or scary or a little crazy; 3) they know that to make the vision a reality they need to rally the troops, to put together a team of the right people to make it happen. I suggested everyone there had, at some point, displayed these qualities—after all, this was a group of Greenville’s best leaders. But then I also told them that I think the two strongest leaders there were Aziz Abdelmalak and Demetria Sherman, the future homeowners. Both have a vision for their futures. Aziz’s vision is “new life,” And Demetria’s is “peace.” They took risks to make that vision reality: Demetria went back to college, and Aziz and his family left their home in Egypt in search of asylum in America. And they both recognized that they couldn’t achieve their vision alone—they needed the right team to make it reality. They turned to their churches, friends, and eventually Habitat. And with the right team in place, they’re almost there. Almost—which brings me to a fourth trait of good leaders: they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. And that’s what this group of CEOs and Aziz and Demetria are about to do as they have now raised the walls on their future homes and begin the build process. Soon, we will have two new amazing leaders in our Ward 3 community. How lucky we are to have these families call our city “Simply Home.”
Greenville Journal has notes from Tuesday’s meeting. We voted 4-0 in favor of a motion to approve design fees for a renovation of the gym. That puts this item on the agenda for the April business meeting. Read more here: http://bit.ly/3NkYmWL
“In Simpsonville, South Carolina, folks have a valid reason to stay in town. What is that reason, you ask?”
In his recent article, Jamie Sanderson says it’s Warehouse at Vaughn’s . And that’s a good one, for sure! But I’d argue that’s just one of many reasons to stay #SimplyHome rather than taking your weekend spending money elsewhere! In my 2015 campaign launch speech, I told you my vision for downtown. In part, I said, I wanted it to be “a place where people say hey, it’s the weekend! Let’s go down to Simpsonville and spend the day… there’s a lot to do; it’s a great place to be.” Mission accomplished?
Read Jamie’s full article here (try not to drool on the amazing food photos! 😋): http://bit.ly/35WexJg
Highlights from the campaign speech by a younger, blonder me: https://fb.watch/bMNrbfBpCK/
It was an honor to speak at the dedication of this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County Women Build home right here in Simpsonville! This is the house that women built! 156 women came together to complete over 800 hours of work to build this home for Lorraine, Nathan, and Alex. Proud to be one of them. Women build. They build houses and homes and families…they build the world. They build the future. But women don’t just build. We know you have to nurture and support what you’ve built if you want it to not just survive but thrive. Women nurture and support. Women don’t just build. Women sustain. Women sustain in the face of adversity and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They do it with hard work, strength, and bravery. And so shall Lorraine, who has already demonstrated she’s hard-working, strong, and brave. See the video for my full remarks: https://youtu.be/1ZP0VbMiaxc
What an amazing lineup of family-friendly shows for the first season at our new Arts Center! The Milltown Players will entertain, inspire, and enrich our community by providing quality and affordable live theater beginning this summer.
Children of Eden, July 22-Aug. 7
Honk!, Oct. 7-23
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!, Dec. 2-18
James and the Giant Peach, Feb. 24-March 12, 2023
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, May 5 – 21, 2023
The Miracle Worker, July 14-30, 2023
I had a great time today at the SCWomenLead event, where I served on a panel of elected women (that’s me in the red). I also had the honor of sharing lunch with our Lt. Governor Pamela Evette , who is about as down-to-earth and authentic as you can get. We talked about everything from our shared Polish immigrant history to the value of a community college education to reasons we’re proud of SC to the importance of women in positions of leadership. Then, she spoke to the group about serving as a woman in government. One of the things she said that truly stood out to me was this: “No matter where we sit in positions of leadership, small girls are always watching us, watching us to see what we can do, what we should do, what we can be.” Representation matters. There were no small girls there today, but there were several young women, including two from Simpsonville who raised their hands and waved when I said I was from Simpsonville City Council. And I hope the message they, and all the other women there, took from today was simple: yes, you can. As I said in my comments, you can be the person who complains, or you can be the person who steps up to be the change and make a difference.
That’s a wrap! Some meeting highlights:
➡️ Ms. Tench got teary-eyed talking to us about the SAFI gift to the city. As she said, “we’ve come so far”,” and it’s exciting! Come out next Tuesday at 6:45 for the dedication of the new sculpture that The Simpsonville Arts Foundation, Inc. has permanently (as long as there is an Arts Center) loaned to the city. Then, we’ll have the reveal for the first shows by Mill Town Players and tour the Arts Center!
➡️ We had the GCRA presentation tonight, too. I am particularly happy to hear about plans for an aggressive marketing campaign about Home Repair funds. These are funds that can be used to rehab existing homes in low-to-moderate income areas. This is as important, in my opinion, as exploring new affordable housing options (like the Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County Woodside development). And I know folks in Ward 3 who have asked “what about these homes that already exist?” Helping people to “age in place” and keep their homes is important.
➡️ We are in great financial shape according to our auditors. We have a healthy fund balance and we’re prepared for a rainy day (but hoping we don’t have one!).
➡️ Finally, we approved the recommendations of our A-tax committee by a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Lou Hutchings recusing himself and Councilmember Rupe voting no. As I said in the meeting, our A-tax committee is made up of experts from the hospitality and lodging industries. They thoroughly vetted the applications according to state law and debated the allotments. Having reviewed their recommendations and the state law that dictates how funds can be spent, I am confident their recommendations are appropriate. A-tax funds are some of the most closely regulated by the state.
“Pity the firemen as they go past, for every ride may be their last.” My grandfather, Fire Chief in our town, taught us that little rhyme as children to impress upon us the seriousness of the work our firefighters do. It stuck with me; and since my childhood, I have said it every time a fire truck passes me. It’s followed by the sign of the cross and a quick prayer to bring them all back safely. It’s not just the firefighters who run towards, rather than away from, danger. It’s all of our first responders. As a Councilmember, I’ve had the opportunity to hear many stories that never make it to the media. Firefighters who save a life by deploying naloxone. Police officers who stop a suicide or respond first on scene to a dead child. I’ve put on the firefighters’ gear to feel the physical weight they bear. I’ve had the opportunity to stand in the shoes of our officers by participating in simulated training. While not the same as doing it day in and day out for real, I got a small taste of what it’s like to have to make a decision that could save a life or end a life. It’s hard, and the work our first responders do takes a toll…not just physically (although it is physical work) but mentally and emotionally. Since I’ve been on Council, we’ve done a lot to support our first responders, including a phased compensation plan to better compensate them not just upon entry but for time and service. But there is still work to do, and we cannot do it alone or in isolation. This morning, we received an update from Rep. Chandra Dillard, Rep. Tommy Pope, and Senator Shane Massey on legislative efforts to support law enforcement. As we talk with our Greenville County delegation today and over the coming weeks, we are asking our legislators to help us help our first responders across SC in the following ways:
- Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder programs for first responders.
- Support reform measures to aspects of law enforcement training and duties.
- Support money to be included in the state budget to fund the Firefighter Healthcare Benefit Plan.
As Councilmembers, not all of our work always takes place at home. Our relationships with state officials are important because we can advocate for Simpsonville at the state level. That’s what we’re doing in Columbia today for Hometown Legislative Action Day.
We’re better together! And everyone has been working together to increase community pride and engagement at Alder Park. We heard you when you said you had safety concerns about the park. We listened when you said you wanted it to be a place you could enjoy with your family. We ask for your feedback at public meetings, and you shared it. We used that feedback to advocate for changes. And together, residents, SPD, Public Works, all of us, have worked to make the park that place where families of all kinds can enjoy the amenities of the park. And as many of us have discussed, the more we use our park, the better! The walking trail, which I’ve already seen so many people enjoying, is just the latest update at Alder Park. Please join us at Saturday at 3 to check it out and celebrate these changes we’ve made together.