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Denmark will elect its mayor on Feb. 14.

Mayor Gerald Wright is being challenged by two opponents: Charles Bailey Sr. and write-in candidate Deanna Berry.

City Council members Jake N. Bookard, Bonnie H. Love and James J. Robinson are all unopposed for re-election. Since no write-in candidates are challenging them, they are automatically re-elected and their names will not appear on the ballot.

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Polling locations will be the East Denmark precinct at the Brooker Center, 19 Maple Ave., and the West Denmark precinct at the Old Train Depot, 18748 Heritage Highway.

Bailey could not be reached for comment.

Deanna Berry

“I want to revitalize the city,” Berry said. “I’m looking to be mayor because I want to help see the city grow.”

Since moving to Denmark roughly four years ago, the Ridgeville native and Army veteran has taken up several roles in the community.

“Four years ago when we moved to Denmark, I noticed there was great interest, especially in the school district,” Berry said.

She joined Denmark-Olar High School’s School Improvement Council and later became president.

Berry said she has developed strong relationships with school officials and has a great rapport with the people of Denmark.

“They know that I am the type of leader who will go after whatever is needed to be able to help the city,” she said.

As mayor, Berry said she would have an open-door policy not only with the citizens but with other municipalities as well.

“I’m also looking to strengthen the relationship between Denmark and other cities within the county that make up Bamberg County,” she said.

A key priority will be improving the water system in Denmark and bringing major industries into the area.

“The current water system is not going to be able to satisfy the requirements for those industries to operate,” Berry said.

She also wants to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community, clean up abandoned houses and build a new park.

“I want to build a better community park that’s in a prime location,” Berry said. She said the current park is in an area that’s not easily accessed and has no signs to direct people.

Berry is a volunteer for over 10 civic organizations in Bamberg County and has created a non-profit organization which helped to equip 187 non-verbal and verbally challenged special needs children with free Android tablets customized to fit their verbal needs.

“We’re jumpstarting the heartbeat of Denmark,” Berry said.

She hopes to “bring employment to a city that’s poverty stricken but rich in other assets.”

Berry entered the U.S. Army after graduating from Harleyville-Ridgeville High School.

Gerald E. Wright

Wright is seeking a third term as mayor.

A lifelong resident of Denmark, Wright has held teaching and administrative positions with the local school district for over 35 years and was a City Council member from 1975 until 1992 when he was named superintendent of schools.

His election in 1975 made him the first African American elected to public office in Denmark and Bamberg County.

“I’ve dedicated my adult life to public service,” he said. “I have an interest in the quality of life in Denmark because this is where I stay and intend to stay.”

Since his first run as mayor in 2009, he has completed various projects.

In his first term, Denmark successfully annexed Voorhees College and Denmark Technical College into the city limits. He said that brought in more federal funds, cutting the cost of utility bills for individual property owners in half.

Wright said the city has also “been involved in continuous efforts to eliminate any problems with our water distribution system.”

Two new wells were constructed, old water hydrants were replaced and old pipes were removed. The new pipes are larger and designed with loops, so there are no dead ends, to improve water flow.

Wright also noted the completion of the library, the addition of a splash pad for youth and the elimination of all long-term debts associated with the fire station.

“I’ve demonstrated the ability to perform in the interest of Denmark,” Wright said. “We have made continuous progress.”

He added that there is a “tremendous number of things that can be done but we will continue on a path of making progress and address any issue that impacts us.”

Wright graduated from Morehouse College in 1965, received his master’s from Howard University in 1972 and later went on to earn his doctorate in education administration from South Carolina State University in 1995.

He also serves on the board of the Lower Savannah Council of Governments and on the executive committee for the Municipal Association for South Carolina.

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Contact the writer: jmack@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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Government Reporter

John Mack is a 2016 graduate of Claflin University. He is an Orangeburg native.

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