Union City Council District 6 candidate Sonja Craig says that if elected she will devote herself full-time to making the changes she said need to take place in order for the city to attract industry and the jobs that come with it.
In formally announcing her candidacy for the June 5 special election to fill the vacant District 6 seat, Craig said that she will be able to fully devote herself to being a member of council.
“Since I’m retired this can be my full-time job,” Craig said Wednesday. “I will work full-time with the Union County Development Board and Union City Council to implement the changes that can bring industry here.”
Craig has lived in Union for the past 35 years and said she wants the city to once again be the community it was when she first moved here.
“When I first arrived in Union, jobs were available, a level trust existed between people and there was a genuine caring among the people that you don’t find everywhere, it was a wonderful place to raise your children,” Craig said. “But, as with all things, time had taken its toll, much to our chagrin and not for the better. Union is still a wonderful place with the best people you will find anywhere, but we have much work to do.”
That work includes addressing Union County’s high unemployment rate which, despite declining over the past three months, stands at 13.5 percent, the fifth-highest in South Carolina. Craig said that while new industries have located here in recent years, more are needed to bring down the unemployment rate and help the community deal effectively with the problems resulting from a high level of unemployment.
“The last couple of years we’ve had two new industries, ESAB and the Belk distribution center, come in,” Craig said. “These companies are going to employ 200-300 people over the next couple of years. That’s a step in the right direction of getting new industry in and reducing our unemployment rate which is one of the highest in the state. Gestamp is expanding and that will also mean more jobs. These are steps in the right direction of letting people know companies are coming in to our area.”
To continue and increase the growth represented by the arrival of the ESAB and Belk facilities and the expansion of Gestamp, Craig said Union must make itself more attractive to industry through beautification and revitalization of the downtown area.
“In order to attract new business, it is vital that we work hard to beautify our city and county, to make it more appealing to those who wish to invest here,” Craig said. “Taking pride in where we live sends a strong message to those who are looking to move here, both individually and business-wise.
“District 6 includes the majority of the downtown area in which so many vacant buildings exist,” she said. “Working to fill these vacated buildings is also vital to making our city flourish once again. Encouraging young entreneurs to open restaurants, bakeries or small shops will be among one of my many goals. This is good for the downtown area and a vital, thriving downtown is attractive to investors.”
In addition to revitalizing the downtown area through the development of small retail and service businesses, Craig said she wants to see the city use Union’s history to promote tourism.
“Union has many assets, many of which are the historic homes,” Craig said. “There’s also our museum which has been described as the best county museum in South Carolina. It is very important that we focus on our history which is one of our major strengths and attracts tourism which brings money into our local economy.”
Craig also said she will also work to secure grants for sidewalk repairs and other infrastructure improvements that will further beautify the city and make it more attractive to economic development.
While new industry and business and the jobs they bring are good for the community in and of themselves, Craig said they can bring the added benefit of a lower crime rate.
“When unemployment is high, the crime rate escalates,” Craig said. “By creating more jobs we can greatly reduce the crime rate along with the unemployment rate.”
In addition to economic issues, Craig said she wants to promote greater accountability in government and greater public involvement with government.
“Getting the people involved in our government will create and generate an excitement that together we can make a difference,” Craig said. “When people are involved, it generates excitement and we all know excitement is contagious.
“Also, people have a right to and deserve accountability from those they have elected into office,” she said. “I will work hard to make sure that procedures are implemented for full disclosure to the public.”
In asking for their support, Craig urged the people of District 6 to get involved with city government.
“It would be an honor to serve you if you elect me to this position,” Craig said. “I encourage each and every one of you to get involved in our government. With all of us working together, we can make our city a vibrant and beautiful place to live, to shop and be appealing for all who visit.”
Craig is a native of Shelby, NC, who spent most of her early life in California where she graduated from Aviation High School in Redondo Beach. She holds a degree in electronics drafting from El Camino Jr. College in Torrance, Calif. While living in California she worked for TRW Systems. In 1977 she moved to Union and has since worked in the textile industry for companies such as Conso, CPE and Green Textile until her retirement. She and her husband Charles have two children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.