Well, Election Day is in the rearview mirror.
“Thank God,” is what I’m sure many of you are saying. Indeed, it was a grind.
While much of the post-election attention has been paid to the presidential race -- for obvious reasons -- there were several things that caught my eye on the local level in the Lakelands.
Let’s take a look at just a couple of those items, which might have gotten lost in the shuffle just a bit in the fervor surrounding the national race.
An era ends on Greenwood City Council
Late on Tuesday night, I was watching the presidential coverage and following some of the Columbia area races online when my cellphone chirped. I grabbed the phone and saw it was a call from a Greenwood political operative, one who has worked on dozens of races in the last 20 years.
The operative was stunned by an election result he had seen. No, not Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. And, no, not two-term incumbent District 10 state Sen. Floyd Nicholson’s surprisingly narrow win over Bryan Hope.
The race that had the longtime local political fixer shocked was in Greenwood City Council’s Ward 5, where young political newcomer Matthew Miller ousted longtime Councilman Johnny Williams, who has served on the council for more than 30 years. Miller didn’t just defeat Williams. He cruised past him, garnering 59.3 percent of the vote to Williams’ 39.3.
I also was surprised by the result, particularly at how wide the margin was. I don’t know Mr. Miller, but I certainly hope he will serve the city well in the coming years.
I do, however, know Johnny Williams. When I was full-time at the Index, I covered Greenwood City Council for nearly a decade, and came to have an easy, open working relationship with the longtime councilman and retired Greenwood Mills employee.
True story: I never arrived at a City Council meeting before Johnny did. Not once. No matter how early I arrived at City Hall, he always beat me there. I don’t care if I showed up at noon for a 5:30 p.m. meeting, when I pulled up to City Hall, Johnny’s ancient blue pickup truck would be there in the parking lot, taunting me as if to say, “He beat you here again.”
Johnny has been a fierce fiscal conservative on City Council. Ultimately, perhaps a bit too conservative. He might have said “No” one too many times, which led to his ouster Tuesday. Tough to say.
But his dedication to the city has been steadfast. With Johnny, what you see is what you get. And he loves Greenwood with his whole heart.
Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams often finds himself on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Williams when it comes to city issues. Indeed, where Williams was cautious, Adams has been progressive. The two have often butted heads politically.
But outside the lines, the mayor has often stated a respect for Williams’ passion for Greenwood. He did so again on election night.
“We often disagreed, but make no mistake: Johnny Williams took his work as a councilman seriously and was dedicated in his service to our city,” Adams tweeted late Tuesday night.
Indeed, an era has ended, and a chapter has closed, in the City of Greenwood. I wish absolutely nothing but the best for Johnny in the days to come.
Abbeville on the precipice of history
Four years ago, residents of my beloved hometown of Abbeville made history when they elected the city’s first female mayor in Sarah Sherwood. It was a solid vote, as Sherwood did a fine job in her one term in office.
Now, after Sherwood decided not to seek re-election this year, Abbeville is set for another historic vote. On Tuesday, Brenda Anderson and Delano Freeman emerged as the top two vote-getters in a six-person field, and will meet in a runoff election.
That means that, one way or the other, Abbeville will soon elect its first African-American mayor.
Folks that is, frankly, remarkable.
Abbeville, as most know, has a long history. It’s the alleged “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy.” Some of the town’s more troubled racial history has made headlines in recent weeks, with the dedication of a plaque in remembrance of the lynching of Anthony Crawford. It is a city that has Confederate memorial in the center of town, and rebel flags fly high at a Confederate shop on the north end of the square.
And yet, for many who grew up there, like myself, that history has always been just that: history. Something to be mindful of, certainly, but also something we once were. Not what we are.
The Abbeville that raised me -- the little town that I love so much that I literally get tears in my eyes sometimes just thinking of it -- was a place where white people and black people lived together, played together, went to school together, worked together, laughed and cried together.
Are we aware of the past? Oh, of course. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
But the past doesn’t define us. Not forever.
And so, the little town with the brick-lined square -- where the Panthers have won seven state championships and brought us all together on so many Friday nights, where church bells still ring on Sunday mornings, where kids from Noble Drive make lifelong friends with kids from Secession Avenue, and where the Confederacy supposedly saw its birth and death – is set to elect its first black mayor.
Don’t ever tell me we can’t change.
Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.