ELLOREE — An attorney, former town clerk and municipal court clerk who wants to maintain fiscal soundness and a business owner who wants to help sustain beautification efforts are vying to lead the Orangeburg County town of Elloree as mayor in the Nov. 5 general election.
Council District 1 incumbent Barbara Butler has automatically won re-election to her seat. Butler had been challenged by Linda Childers, who later withdrew her name from the ballot. Council District 4 incumbent Michael Fanning filed and is being challenged by Andrew Friedman.
Elloree Water Commissioner William Irick Jr. has also automatically won re-election since no one filed to oppose him as a write-in candidate before the deadline.
Chasity Sanders Avinger
Chasity Sanders Avinger, 32, has said her educational background, leadership history and dedication to Elloree make her the ideal candidate for mayor. Sanders, who formerly served as the town’s clerk and municipal court clerk, is Elloree’s current zoning administrator.
“I have lived in Elloree my whole life and have always been active there. I went to elementary and middle school there and then was fortunate enough to work there as an adult. I just feel very personally invested in the town,” Avinger said.
She said she hopes to continue the “critically important” fiscal prudence of Van Stickles, who did not run for re-election as mayor.
“I would really like to pick up where he left off and continue those projects that he started,” Avinger said. “We’ve maintained a balanced budget and operated within budget with him as mayor, and I’d like to continue that.”
She said her experience on the town’s parks and recreation committee during the Stickles administration will also help her bolster recreation opportunities in the town.
“We have a beautiful nature park, a great recreational park and a ball field in town. One of the projects that we had started working on ... is increasing parking and access at both of our parks because both of them are very heavily used now,” Avinger said.
Recreational improvements at Joe Miller Park, Hungerpillar Field and Loyns Park are among the next round of projects to be funded through the county’s 1 percent capital projects sales tax.
“Opportunity is there over the next few years to really do some great improvements. Sometimes you have to get creative. We have focused heavily on resident services and keeping our residents happy, including making Elloree a great town to live, retire and raise a family,” Avinger said.
She said her experience in municipal government for the past seven years equips her for the job as mayor even at her young age.
“My degree is in political science and I had a minor in public administration, so that is really where my focus is. It’s what I’m good at and enjoy, so despite being relatively young, I probably have more experience than most people who are running for office,” she said.
Her husband, Preston, serves as Elloree police chief and her sister is the town clerk. Avinger said both are currently seeking other employment in the event she’s elected.
“I researched it, and there’s no legal conflict, but we just all feel like it would be inappropriate for them to remain in those positions and that it would be in the best interest of the town to maintain some separation between family and town business,” she said.
Avinger and her husband are the parents of three sons. She attended Elloree Elementary and Elloree High schools before graduating from Holly Hill Academy in 1999. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the Florida State University Honors College in 2002 and her juris doctorate degree from the Charleston School of Law.
After graduating cum laude, Avinger opened up a law practice in Santee, where she focuses largely on zoning administration and other municipal law issues. She is president of the Tri-County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Avinger was Elloree’s town clerk and municipal court clerk from June 2006 until December 2011.
Stan Busch has lived in Elloree for nearly 11 years and is the owner of the Bedouin Bazaar at the corner of Cleveland Street and Railroad Avenue in Elloree. He plans to open the building as an art gallery and antique business and to offer private art classes on its top floor.
Busch, 69, has also purchased what he calls a “valley mansion” at the corner of Barkley Street and Old Number Six Highway. He plans to open up a downstairs art studio within the 110-year-old home.
“I’m invested in Elloree now. I’ve got a business building that I actually live in on Cleveland Street and am remodeling the house I just bought on Highway 6. I have property in Elloree, I’m retired, and it’s time for me to give back to the community,” said Busch, who added that he enjoyed spending his summers at his grandparents’ farm outside Rowesville with his twin brother, Steve.
The Columbia native said he would like to foster the continued growth of beautification projects within the town.
“Right now, Elloree is kind of in a position where we’re losing more than we’re gaining. I want to be the mayor to get more enthusiasm in the town and bring it back to life,” Busch said. “We’ve got a depot building there that used to be a restaurant, but now it’s just a vacated building that’s been sitting for probably 10 years.”
“That’s another thing I want to revitalize; I want to use the building for community activities,” including art appreciation courses, he added.
Creating a volunteer group to help complete town projects, including creating an outdoor basketball court area in Joe Miller Park, are among Busch’s other goals.
“I want to get kids out of the houses, and to start exercising. I also want to have community gardens and to develop a group called ‘A Helping Hand.’ They would go around and help the shut-ins and elderly who are living by themselves,” he said.
“We’ve got the Elloree Trials, a museum that’s really done well and a Teapot Museum that Dr. Julian Boland started, but the town still needs an identity that will make us stand out more. We want businesses to come into town,” Busch said. “I don’t like to just talk. When I say, ‘Let’s do this,’ I’m going to be the first one out there working the hardest.”
The retired printer and U.S. Navy veteran is the divorced father of two children, both of whom are attorneys, and the grandfather of two.
He is a graduate of Eau Claire High School in Columbia. His other educational achievements include earning associate degrees from Midlands Technical College and Trident Technical College in data processing and commercial graphics, respectively.
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