On Oct. 7, 2019 I spoke the following words to Bamberg County Council. I wish I could say my words seemed to matter to them, but except for Sharon Hammond and Clint Carter, they did not. It is time for a new county council that will work together and treat the citizens of the county with respect.
“Being an elected council member does not mean that a few of you were given the rights to ramrod your ideas, your agendas over everyone in the county. There is a serious divide between the citizens of the county and the council because the actions of most of you sitting in front of me have caused great distrust. People want to see their elected leaders display humility, to have freedom from pride and arrogance. We are living in a time when it is hard to trust what our leaders are saying is truthful. It is important that our elected officials are honest, to know that it is OK to be wrong. To have the strength to just say, ‘I blew it. Now let’s try to figure out a better way to accomplish our goals together.
“My questions to each of you on the council: Are you, each of you, able to say you are an elected council member that displays the characteristics of having grace, displaying humility and have the ability to speak with clarity? Have each of you worked together as a council to create a government that is financially stable and fiscally responsible?
“Finally we, the citizens, want each of you to be aware that you sit in those chairs because the citizens of this county voted you in as elected members of the council and you were elected because the citizens trusted each of you to represent the will of those who elected you to office. Listening and learning from your constituents during public comment is an important part of your responsibility as an elected official. So please listen and learn what the citizens are asking you to do, please acknowledge when you are wrong. Finally, if you are not willing to do what is best for the citizens of Bamberg County. please leave, please quit. This is not a kingdom where the council rules, but a democracy where we should be working together.”
I went to my first county council meeting in July 2018, curious because I heard rumblings about the council and I went with an open mind and a hopeful heart. But after seeing then-Chairman Trent Kinard treat the citizens with such disrespect, I knew there must be something wrong. He, that night, loudly yelled at a citizen and called her a bald-faced liar, drowning out her words he obviously did not want spoken. On the same night as citizens expressed their concerns, he became so angry that he said aloud, "I really don't give a shit," turned his chair away from the citizens and faced the wall behind him.
Going to subsequent meetings, I saw Kinard continue to yell, scream, belittle citizens, and also people on the council that did not agree with him. He wildly banged his gavel if something was said that he did not agree with so the sound of his gavel would drown out the words before others could hear what he did not want spoken. Yet if the citizens of Bamberg County never came to a meeting, they would be like I was before I attended thinking, “Surely, this cannot be true”.
The Times and Democrat and The Advertizer-Herald always report the meetings as if Kinard, or County Administrator Joey Preston, were given the opportunity to proofread as to how the facts of the meeting should be stated, leaving heads shaking and wondering why the truth was not reported.
A person who chooses to run for office should have the qualities of being a good citizen and if you look up these qualities listed in the top five are: advocate for equal human rights for all, treat others courteously, never bully, communicate clearly and respectfully and with empathy. I have not seen these qualities in Mr. Kinard when he was our council chairman. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, stated, “The most powerful person in any situation is the most relaxed person in the room.” When a person wildly bangs a gavel, when a person belittles persons speaking their minds, when a person turns their back to the citizens that elected him to the position, he is not the most relaxed person nor the most powerful person in the room.
If you were wondering why we should elect a new council, I hope you read this and understand that Bamberg County Council meetings presently are not meetings of citizens and council. It is time to vote for new voices that want to hear the concerns of those electing them to office.
Rhonda Brummel of Bamberg is a retired teacher, having taught in Aiken, Edisto and Bamberg.
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