The commissioner’s office has been in full force during 2017. If you remember, the 2016 agenda was full of infrastructure upgrades, mainly focusing on issues with our aging facilities. 2017 was met with those same struggles. Upgraded plumbing at the Jack Sullivan Center and a new roof for the Jail were the primary concerns, but that was only the beginning of the infrastructure projects needed to keep our facilities operating at optimal levels.
Many will define the cornerstone of the commissioner’s office as roads and bridges. Beginning in early 2017, we began the process of addressing the troubles cause by the many creeks and tributaries of our county. We created a “hit” list of over 40 roads that needed severe work and began addressing them one by one. We replaced and rehabbed bridges ready for repairs. We laid new asphalt for the first time in years, in addition to the ever so “loved” chip and seal. We applied for and was granted over $860,000 for those repairs and replacements, which was one of the largest grants awarded in the state. We accomplished so much with the hard work and dedication of our county employees, while still achieving a surplus in our infrastructure budget, but we still have a lot of work to do.
In addition to infrastructure worries, 2017 met Switzerland County with a few unique issues that have been a growing concern, jobs and drugs. As the executive of county government, starting in the summer of 2017, the Switzerland County Commissioners approached the Switzerland County Community Foundation to gauge interest in a joint effort; simply put, a coalition aimed at studying the socio-economic issues regarding education and job growth in our county. Our goal is simple, find a niche skill set that Switzerland County can offer that no one else is providing. Soon into the discussion, the Economic Development Corporation came on board and the hiring of Sarah Brichto as the leader of the initiative took place. This is a unique partnership that is a first in our county’s history, of which, we hope to see significant strides in the near future.
Drugs have been a problem that have existed in our small world for way too long. DrugFreeSC was organized by the Commissioner’s office and the Community Foundation, but implemented by the efforts of citizens that care to make a change. Although some feel it may be off to a slow start, the efforts of this small group of volunteers is something that should be applauded as they continue in their success in defining opportunities to address the growing drug problems in our county.
The 2018 agenda looks to be much like 2017, repairs of aging buildings, roads and bridges, and hopefully the continued success of new initiatives such as DrugFreeSC and the Workforce Education Committee. Personally, I believe the foundation of a strong community is shown in its volunteers. Growing up I can still remember the powerful sense of volunteerism in our community. I am encouraged to say that feeling still exists today. My heart grows strong as I see people giving their time, talents and assets to the betterment of our county.
As we leave 2017, breaking records with the sense of community shown with the Colton Schirmer Hunt Brothers Pizza Fundraiser, I leave each of us with a challenge for 2018. Mark 2018 as the year Switzerland County grows, but not in the typical indicators of revenue or job growth, but instead in the simple terms of volunteering to make your community the best place to live in our great nation.
President, Board of Commissioners