Three candidates with agendas that include reviving the manufacturing sector and other forms of economic development, utility and other infrastructure expansions and improvements, municipal beautification and the revitalization of downtown Union, and greater transparency and accountability in government, are running for the Union City Council District 6 seat in Tuesday’s special election
Sonja Craig, Marsha Gossett, Jim Wilson are seeking the seat which has been vacant since the March 7 resignation of councilman Andy Bailey. The winner of Tuesday’s special election will serve the remaining months of Bailey’s term.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and voters in District 6 will cast their ballots at Foster Park Elementary School, Truluck Gym, and the Bus Maintenance Shop on the Whitmire Highway.
In announcing their campaigns, the candidates for the District 6 seat each presented the agendas they would pursue if elected to council. The candidates and their agendas include:
Serving on council would be a full-time job for Craig who said that since she is retired she will be able to devote herself entirely to addressing the needs of the city, particularly the implementation of the changes that she said needs to be made to attract new industry. Craig pointed out that the county’s two newest industries — ESAB Welding & Cutting Products and the Belk eCommerce distribution and fulfillment center — will generate 200-300 new jobs over the next couple of years. In addition, the Gestamp LLC manufacturing facility is expanding which Craig said will also mean more jobs.
Craig said she wants to build on these successes to attract more new industries to lower Union County’s unemployment rate which, despite declining in recent months, remains one of the highest in the state at 13.5 percent. To do that, Craig said the city must make itself more attractive to industry through municipal beautification and the revitalization of the downtown area. She said the beautification of the city and the county will make the community more appealing to those considering moving here to live and/or open a business.
Attracting new businesses to the downtown area is another of Craig’s goals. Craig pointed out that District 6 encompasses the majority of the downtown area. She said the area has a number of vacant buildings which need to be filled with new businesses if the city is to flourish again. Craig said one of her goals will be to encourage young entrepreneurs to fill those buildings with small retail and service businesses. She said the revitalization of the downtown area through the opening of such businesses will make the city even more attractive to economic development.
The revitalization of the downtown area envisioned by Craig would be accompanied by the city using Union’s history to promote tourism. Craig pointed out that the many historic homes in Union and the Union County Museum are assets that can be used to attract tourists with money to spend at local businesses.
In addition, Craig said she will also work to secure grants for sidewalk repairs and other infrastructure improvements as part of her emphasis on municipal beautification to make the city more attractive to economic development.
While new business and industry will help reduce the county’s unemployment rate and contribute to economic development in the city, Craig said the jobs they create can also help reduce crime. She pointed out that high unemployment rates are often accompanied by high rates of crime. By reducing unemployment, Craig said the city will also reduce its crime rate which will in turn make it even more attractive to business and industry.
Craig said she also wants to promote greater acc0untabilty in government and will work to make sure the public is fully informed about the decisions being made on its behalf by its elected officials. She also urged the public to get involved with local government to help ensure that accountability.
Making municipal government more transparent, especially where government spending is concerned, will be Gossett’s main goal if she’s elected to council. Gossett said she’s heard from many people in her district that they are frustrated by a lack of information about the operations of municipal government and this has led to the overwhelming majority of the public not trusting their government. To alleviate that frustration and restore public confidence in government, Gossett said she wants more information about the workings of municipal government provided to the media. The information would spell out in detail where public funds are going and how they are being spent while also providing the justification for those expenditures. She said she also wants more information posted online about the inner workings of municipal government, particularly the bidding process through which government contracts are awarded.
Gossett said she would also emphasize community beautification if elected as a means of helping attract visitors to Union and getting them to stay here and spend their money here. As a certified clinical research coordinator with CU Pharmaceutical Research, Gossett is often required travel to other communities, many of them similar to Union, and also to interact with her counterparts from other communities who come here. She said in her travels she has found many of the communities she visited to be clean, safe, and pleasant, but that many of those who come here don’t see Union that way, and as a result work here during the day, but stay in Spartanburg at night, spending money there when they should be spending it here.
To get those visitors to stay here, Gossett said there needs to be a community effort involving local government to commit the necessary resources to make Union the kind of places visitors want to say in during their visit. She said efforts must also be made to attract more retail and entertainment businesses that will make the community even more attractive to visitors.
Gossett called for the city and the county to work together more closely to attract those businesses and to bring more economic development to Union.
Reviving the manufacturing sector of the local economy will be Wilson’s priority if he is elected to council. Wilson said a strong manufacturing sector creates full-time, long-lasting jobs that pay higher wages and have good benefits. To attract manufacturers and the jobs they create, Wilson said the city should work with Union County, the Union County Development Board and other agencies to develop new industrial sites that would provide companies with the infrastructure they need to locate here and the room they need to expand as they grow.
While the development of industrial sites and the required infrastructure are steps the city can take in cooperation with other agencies, Wilson urged the public to get involved in the process too by taking advantage of local and area educational opportunities to obtain the training that can make them into the kind of workers desired by today’s manufacturers. Wilson, who taught at the UCHS Career and Technology Center for 29 years, said institutions like the Career and Technology Center, the Union County Advanced Technology Center, Spartanburg Community College, and USC-Union as well as Adult Education can provide potential employees with the skills they need to qualify for jobs created by the manufacturing industry.
In addition to attracting manufacturers, Wilson said he will also work to expand the city’s utility system. He said the expansion of the system would, first, generate more revenue for the city; second, hold down costs by enlarging the system’s customer base; and third, help attract industry which will not only bring jobs, but also purchase their utilities from the city generating additional revenue and lowering costs further.
Wilson said he will also work to maintain the city’s ISO fire rating which can benefit residents by helping hold down homeowner’s insurance rates.