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Three vie for mayor Print E-mail

With only five weeks to go before Bamberg will have its April 7, 2009 nonpartisan city election, three candidates are vying for the position of mayor.

Mayor Alton McCollum

   Janeth Walker

      Lisa Stokes

Incumbent Alton McCollum will be challenged by district three councilmember Janeth Walker, who was elected to city council in 2007, and Lisa B. Stokes, who recently served as executive director of the Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce for the last two years.

McCollum, a former Bamberg School District 1 administrator for 25 years, was first elected to Bamberg City Council in 1989 and served for six years. He has served for the last 13 years as the city’s mayor having been elected to his first term in 1995.

McCollum has served as the minister of music for 26 years in Bamberg and 25 years in Williston, SC. When asked why he was running for another term of office as mayor of Bamberg, McCollum stated that being mayor was a “calling.”

“People ask me why do you want to be mayor. I have enjoyed working as a band director, principal and mayor, why does a preacher want to be a preacher, it’s a calling,” he said.

McCollum said that he envisioned Bamberg as becoming a “cultural town with great athletic programs” such as those at the Ness Complex. As an example of bringing culture to the city, McCollum stated that his next big goal for Bamberg as mayor would be the restoration of the Bamberg Civic Center that would include a stage, with conference rooms, and a new roof.

He said that he would like to see a military concert held in the building each year by every military band in the state, with two symphonic orchestra presentations, along with gospel groups for young people, and a place where weddings and receptions could be held.

He said his biggest achievements as mayor was the purchasing of the old railroad berm on Highway 78, and the widening of the intersection of Highways 301 and 78, and putting up the railing and decorative lighting downtown. He noted that the city’s Fourth of July Celebration and TreasureFest activities were started during his administration.

McCollum noted the “considerable amount” of grants the community has received in recent years including. Grants for paving parking lots downtown and around the civic center; a $ 13 million dollar grant for the Hwy 78 and 301 intersection widening, safety railing and decorative lighting downtown; two CDV grants totaling $500,000 for people living in dilapidated housing.

McCollum stated that the city is working on a $350,000 grant to restore heating in rundown homes in parts of the city. He noted that the largest grant is yet to come, that being $ 1 million dollars for the renovation of the civic center, noting that the civic center was given to the city.

In an effort to make the city a more attractive place for people to come and live, he stated that the city has forced compliance on over 40 dilapidated buildings.

McCollum stated that the widening of Highway 301 to four lanes into Bamberg and repairs to water drains were high on his list of priorities.

McCollum is married to Marie McCollum and they have two children, Rick and Jerina.

Janeth Walker was first elected to Bamberg City Council in 2007, representing district three in the city. Before entering politics she spent 20 plus years of her life in corporate management, and cites her “strong management background” and reputation as someone who “gets things done” as reasons she decided to run for mayor of Bamberg.

Walker stated that “after careful consideration and prayer, I’am deeply humbled to announce my candidacy for mayor in the city of Bamberg, I’m an elected official proudly representing district three on city council and serving the city of Bamberg overall,” she said.

Walker serves as Insurance Commissioner for the city of Bamberg, and serves as a member of the Police and Sanitation Commissions. She is a 2009 graduate of the South Carolina Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government. She is a 2008 graduate of the SC. Leadership Program presented by Clemson University Extension, USC Salkehatchie Leadership and Regional Development Alliance, and a 2007 graduate of the Bamberg County Leadership Program.

She also received certificates- awards-recognition from numerous agencies to include the Children’s Law Center-School of Law, and earned educational hours from the SC. Board of Social Work Examiners, the SC. Criminal Justice Academy for Law Enforcement Education, and SC. Commission on Legal Education and Specialization.

She stated that “I’ am serving a second term as President of School Improvement Council at RCES, and a dedicated volunteer parent, reading to multiple classrooms on a weekly basis for years since arriving in Bamberg years ago.”

Walker stated that the three most important goals for her right now for the city of Bamberg are: Economic development and growth, having a vision for the future, and accountability to every citizen of this town.

She stated that she believed in transparency and inclusiveness in government. “The tax payers need to know what we are doing with their money, we need to be inclusive of all the people, I have made Bamberg my home, I’ am committed to the progress of this town, it is imperative that we do something or perish, and it’s important to get it right,” she said.

Walker stated that if she was elected mayor on April 7, 2009, “I will push the envelope for economic development, accountability, fiscal responsibility, and revitalization of downtown Bamberg. I will bring a commitment to excellence approach to uplifting the lives of all that I serve by tapping into the greatness of our city,” Walker said.

Walker is married to Craig Walker and they are the parents of two children Craig II and Whitney.

Lisa B. Stokes, a former Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, teacher and coach, said although she has always been an advocate for progress and people, she is a long way from the typical politician. “It doesn’t matter how small or how big the problem is, for whatever reason, citizens in this community have always felt compelled to get on the telephone and voice their concerns to me.

“Almost everyone in Bamberg knows me. I either went to school with the citizens, taught them, taught their children or have worked with the great people in Bamberg on one committee or another,” said Stokes. “Having spent the last two years leading the county in the position of executive director for the Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce gave me the opportunity to witness the needs of the business community and work with other groups that are collaborating with community leaders to help find solutions where needed,” she said. Stokes said she has participated with several relevant groups that are involved in planning projects for the purpose of meeting multiple needs of our private and business community.”

Stokes said she believes that her marketing and news reporting experience are going to benefit Bamberg too. “Our community has a lot to offer. “I have lived in Bamberg for 48 years. I am very aware of who is doing what in Bamberg. If I am elected mayor, I will not only make sure that you know, I will make sure that everyone in the State and Country knows so that they will bring some of their money to Bamberg,” she said.

Stokes recently represented the Second Judicial District on the South Carolina State Board of Education and served on the budget committee for the Board while serving as an appointee in that capacity. She currently serves as the secretary to the Advisory Board for the Personal Pathways to Success Lower Savannah Regional Education Center. This organization collaborates and partnerships with the business, education and civic community said Stokes.

Stokes said she does not shy away from the fact that she is outspoken. “I say what I mean and mean what I say. I am seeking the support of each individual voter. I want every voter to know that they have the same access to me if I am elected mayor as any other voter. If voters will remember that I have their best interest at heart, the City of Bamberg will win, not Lisa Stokes,” she added.

Stokes is married to Douglas Stokes and they have three children, Shannon, Kimberly and Kyle.

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