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Jobless rates drop for Bamberg, Calhoun, Orangeburg counties

Unemployment rates declined throughout The T&D Region last month, according to figures released Friday by the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Orangeburg County’s rate dropped to 6.5% for the month of October, which is down from September’s 7.9%.

The rate was 4.9% in October 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

The county was tied with Bamberg County for the third-highest unemployment rate among the state’s 46 counties in October.

Bamberg County’s rate dropped to 6.5% in October from 7.6% in September. Its rate was 5.6% a year ago.

Calhoun County’s rate declined to 4.3% in October, down from 5.3% a month ago. It is tied for the 16th highest unemployment rate in the state. Its rate was 3.2% a year ago.

The region's unemployment numbers typically decline in the fourth quarter of the year as many of its larger manufacturers such as Husqvarna, Allied Air and Okonite ramp up operations.

"We are coming into the core of their business model for delivery," Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said.

He also noted other positive signs for the economy, such as small businesses reopening and a return to inside dining.

"We are seeing an element of recovery," Robinson said.

The state’s highest unemployment rate in October was in Allendale County at 7.4%, while the lowest was in Saluda County at 2.7%.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 4.2% in October from September’s revised estimate of 5.2%.

In January, before the coronavirus pandemic, the state's unemployment rate was at a historic low of 2.4%.

"The number of unemployed citizens dropped from 125,120 (in September) to 100,333 (in October)," SCDEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey said.

“That is a decrease of approximately 25,000 unemployed people,” he said.

“The important part is that these people left the ranks of the unemployed because they got a job, not because they gave up on looking for a job," Ellzey continued. "At the same time that roughly 25,000 people left the ranks of the unemployed, approximately 28,000 additional South Carolinians became employed. That is a remarkable development."

Nationally, the unemployment rate declined from 7.9 percent in September to 6.9 percent in October.

In other area counties, October's unemployment rates were:

• Barnwell – 5.4%

• Dorchester – 3.9%

• Lexington – 3%

More than 81,000 jobs are currently posted at the SC Works online services portal.

Visit jobs.scworks.org to search through job listings, or visit scworks.org to find a nearby SC Works center.


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SCSU president signs new contract; Clark to receive $195,000 a year, plus benefits

South Carolina State University trustees unanimously approved a new contract with university President James E. Clark on Friday.

"The board values its working relationship with President Clark and this administration," board Chairman Rodney C. Jenkins said in a release.

"We are committed to working together and supporting this president so that we can complete our mission to make S.C. State University the best it can be,” he said. “It's so important that we keep our institution strong because S.C. State is the way forward for so many students who might otherwise not go to college."

The contract negotiated by Clark and the board members includes a two-year term with an option to extend for an additional two years based on Clark's achievement of a set of performance benchmarks that align with the university's strategic plan.

Clark will receive an annual salary of $195,000, as set by the State of South Carolina, plus benefits, including health and life insurance, annual leave, sick leave and an automobile.

The university will also provide $50,000 in a discretionary fund for the president's use in cultivating business and community partnerships, tickets to university athletic events and $25,000 to renovate certain university spaces.

Clark's contract term ends in June of 2022. The president and board will meet in January of 2022 to discuss an extension of the contract.

"President Clark's passion for this university has not waivered since his first day of service on the interim board," said Donnie Shell, vice chairman of the board. "He carries that same energy and passion into his role as president, and I look forward to continuing to work with him."

Clark was named the university's 12th president in 2016 after serving a one-year stint on a seven-member interim board appointed by the South Carolina legislature.

Clark said, "We have our sleeves already rolled up, and we are continuing the good work we started.

“Expect some major announcements very soon that will have a major positive impact on our institution. There are so many exciting things on the horizon for S.C. State, despite the challenges we faced with the onset of a global pandemic. We are preparing to welcome students back for the spring semester, and we are working hard to make sure their experience is a stellar one."


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Bowman resident identified as crash victim

A Bowman resident died Friday morning in a collision on Homestead Road in Orangeburg County.

The collision occurred at 8:15 a.m. when an eastbound 2010 Kia Forte drove left of center and struck a westbound full-sized Ford van near Nassau Drive, according to Lance Cpl. Tyler Tidwell of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Jacob Tomlinson, the driver of the Kia, died at the scene. The 28-year-old Bowman resident died of blunt force injuries sustained in the collision, according to Orangeburg County Chief Deputy Coroner Sean Fogle.

Tomlinson was wearing a seatbelt. He was the only person in the Kia.

Four people were inside the Ford van. The occupants of the Ford sustained minor injuries, Tidwell said.

Including this collision, there have been 33 highway fatalities in Orangeburg County so far this year. There were 35 during the same time period last year.

Bamberg County has had three highway fatalities this year, compared to none during the same time period last year.

Calhoun County has had four highway fatalities this year, which is double what it had during the same time period last year.

There have been a total of 813 fatal crashes on the state’s highways so far this year. As a result of those crashes, 909 people were killed.

During the same time period last year, 888 people died in 821 fatal crashes.


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Orangeburg author pens book for ‘little queens in Christ’

Keri Fersner loves God and has an equally passionate adoration for children and their growth and development. Her first book is full of affirming truths from the Bible that she particularly wants little girls to absorb.

The 28-year-old wrote a book titled “ABC’s for Little Queens in Christ.”

"This book is basically a book that takes a little queen through all of the promises of God and all of who they are in Christ. So starting from A, the first letter of the alphabet, would be, you're the apple of God's eye. With B, you are blessed to be a blessing to others. With each page, I wanted to make it directly tied to a scripture because I think it's so important to have content that is biblically sound,” Fersner said.

Fersner, a motivational speaker, also taught science and math at Elloree Elementary/Middle School for approximately five years in the former Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3, where she was also Teacher of the Year.

She drew on her educational and spiritual backgrounds to write the book.

"Aside from my career, I also was very active in my church ever since I was young. I'm a member of Granger Baptist Church in Elloree, South Carolina. That has always been a part of my life growing up.

“I feel like God has always just presented opportunities for me to just grow and be able to encourage others in different forms, whether it be through mentoring other young girls who are in my church or whether it be just speaking engagements and things like that," Fersner said.

She added, “I feel like the opportunities that God has given me have really helped to shape who I've become now. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and just spending time with family and friends. Now I'm on this new author journey. So I'm enjoying that as well."

She hopes her book is not just an inspiring read for little girls, but the adults in their lives.

The Orangeburg native is a graduate of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and Winthrop University, majoring in middle-level education. She said she actually wrote the content for her children’s book in 2018, but did not publish it in part because she could not find an illustrator.

That’s until she found St. Matthews native and artist Guye Guinyard Jr.

“My parents, who were also educators, recommended one of their former students to me in 2019. He had just graduated high school and was preparing to go to Winthrop to major in illustration. So I reached out to him and once we connected, my project just kind of really began to take life in a form of its own,” Fersner said.

She added, “By the time we were finished with the illustrations at the start of this year, of course, that's when the pandemic hit. So my current job became kind of like a work-from-home situation.

“With a lot more time on my hands, I was able to just kick into high gear and really set a goal that by the end of this year, I was going to complete the book and get it ready to be put out there to the world. So things just kind of sped up from February to now. Now the book is finally officially about to be released. I'm super excited about that."

She wants the book to inspire people to love one another.

“If you look at our relationship with Jesus Christ, he loves us unconditionally. The more that we are able to focus in on his love for us, then it can in turn help us to love ourselves and others, too.

“So the biggest takeaway that I hope people get from this book is that they can feel and experience the love of Christ and know that his love for them is unconditional. They don’t have to earn his love. It’s a free gift," Fersner said.

She said her affirmations of faith are created with purpose, particularly for little girls of color.

“The reason why I wrote this book and featured characters of color was because ... I obviously think that there has been a deficit of content for children of color. So it was important to me to make these characters people of color so that our young African American girls, or young girls of color, can see themselves in books.

“Also in terms of Christian books, there’s sometimes a lack of diversity in our faith-based books. So I wanted to write a faith-based book that highlighted these children so that children who are of color can see themselves, can aspire to be these characters and know that a relationship with God is for them as well. I thought that was very important in terms of my illustrations,” Fersner said.

What about the little kings and their walk with Christ?

“I know I’ve also gotten a lot of questions like, ‘Well, what about the little kings in Christ?’ So that book is forthcoming next year. I will get to work on that. I know our kings need it as well!” she said, laughing.

Fersner’s self-published book is now available for pre-order at her website www.kerispeaks.org. The book will be officially released on Saturday, Nov. 21, and celebrated through a Facebook Live release party from 11 a.m. to noon on the same date on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kerispeaks.

“I also have on the website a printable five-day kids’ devotional coloring book that parents can download as well. It basically has five days with images taken from the book. Each page would have a picture that the child can color, a fill-in-the-blank scripture and then a daily prayer for that day based on the concept of the page,” Fersner said.

For more information on the book, related resources, or to contact the author, visit www.kerispeaks.org.