Hard Choices

For the candidates who long ago threw their hats into the ring for the Town of Winnsboro’s municipal elections, April 2 is looming rather large in their respective windshields right now; and for voters in this year’s critical cycle, some serious and difficult choices are going to have to be made.

It is no secret that Winnsboro is a town on the brink, teetering somewhere between greatness and obscurity, between Mayberry and Mayberry R.F.D., and Tuesday’s results could tip that scale in either direction. Last week’s candidate forum at the Winnsboro Woman’s Club was perhaps the single best opportunity for voters to get a close look at, and feel for, all the candidates together in one place, and the evening did not disappoint.

In what may be the most pivotal race, that for mayor, voters will have three names to consider. First, the incumbent, Dr. Roger Gaddy: a responsible, even-tempered realist; an old country doctor in the Leonard “Bones” McCoy of “Star Trek” style. The good doctor is currently guiding the town through what may be its greatest challenge in a generation – the search for sustainable water – and doing so with a firm but even hand, spearheading the establishment of a regional water authority in the process. His opponent, Bill Haslett, is a man of big ideas and even bigger dreams. He has a vision for his hometown, and has been a strong advocate for enforcing property maintenance codes. The third candidate, Michael Davis, speaks for youth and has great energy and a clear desire to serve.

Winnsboro is blessed to have so many good candidates, but also cursed: Only one of them can be mayor at one time.

Haslett, by running for mayor, has vacated his District 2 Council seat, opening the door for an old veteran versus a returning native. Stan Klaus served admirably on Town Council for 12 years, and his experience cannot be undervalued. A fiscal conservative, Klaus vows to pinch every penny of public money. His opponent, Sonya Kennedy, has come home to stay, and if we learned anything about her during last week’s forum, it is that she has both passion and compassion for her hometown. She believes we can do better and she is ready to get to work proving it.

The race in District 4 presents an interesting dichotomy. The incumbent, Jackie Wilkes, has served on Council for 12 years and has been a reliable steward. He also made one of the most poignant and honest statements at last week’s forum as any politician may ever have uttered: ‘I haven’t always done things right,’ he said, ‘but I’ve always tried to do the right thing.’

Would that every man could have that etched upon his gravestone.

His opponent, Pam Smith, brings a wealth of business experience and public service to the race, and it was clear from the forum that she is a woman who wants some answers, particularly about how we managed to find ourselves in such dire straits with our water supply.

This newspaper is not endorsing candidates, but we will share with you the single most impressing thing we took from last week’s forum: There doesn’t appear to be a dud in the bunch. You’ve got some hard choices before you, Winnsboro. Good luck. And God speed. Get up, go out and vote. Don’t let the future take off without you.

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