John Yow was hired as City of Orangeburg administrator as a young man in 1991, taking on the job in a city amid governmental transformation. After years of battles over the system of electing city leaders, single-member districts for council members had won the day. Elections had resulted in Black members of council for the first time in modern times.
It’s safe to say few expected a young man serving as an assistant administrator in Georgetown and with no ties to Orangeburg to be here long. The administrator job would be a stepping stone to something “bigger.” Thankfully, we were all wrong.
Three decades later at age 59, Yow is retiring as city administrator. And he is due the near-universal praise coming his way.
His impact can be seen in nearly every facet of city government, from City Hall operations to the Department of Public Safety headquarters. Serving under mayors Martin Cheatham, Paul Miller and Michael Butler, he has been the administrative professional looked to for innovation and answers.
And he has delivered, from fully implementing the public safety concept and focusing on downtown revitalization to ensuring Edisto Memorial Gardens remains an Orangeburg showpiece and making reality of a new recreational complex on North Road.
Some said the election of Butler as Orangeburg’s first African American mayor would change things, that an Black majority on council would mean Yow’s departure. They did not know the new mayor and the city administrator. When you’ve got a good thing going, you don’t change it arbitrarily.
"Your tenure as administrator of the city of Orangeburg has been nothing short of remarkable. You handled the administration of the city with a steady hand and sound judgment during your 29 years in the position,” Butler said when Yow’s retirement was announced.
"Although you had to confront different views on how to move the city forward, you never compromised your commitment for honesty, integrity and transparency," Butler said. "Your body of work speaks for itself."
Now it’s time to move on to another chapter for the administrator and Orangeburg. He has left a solid foundation. Others will build on it. And he, hopefully, will be happy and satisfied in retirement knowing that his loyalty to Orangeburg will long be remembered and his contribution to the city, Greater Orangeburg and Orangeburg County will have lasting impact.
Thank you, John Yow, for a job well done.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!