Letter: Time to Bench Joyce

On June 9th, residents of Richland County will have an opportunity to decide if they want to score a win for their communities. They will have an opportunity to put Joyce Dickerson on the bench and put Derek Pugh on the team, by electing him to represent District 2 of Richland County Council.

“The Capitals of Columbia High School!” was once a phrase that evoked excitement and pride. For those of us that graduated from there, the mention of our Alma Mater still creates a surge of emotion. Many of us have fond memories of move-up assemblies, which were a rite of passage, and academic assemblies to celebrate our accomplishments in the classroom, and pep rallies! As a student-athlete (basketball), the palpable excitement and unwavering support of having the entire school cheer you on for athletic competition was feeling like no other. Game day rituals often included a trip to nearby Rush’s or Subway for a pregame meal. The tradition that followed a team victory, always included members of the football, or basketball team, along with supportive fans, friends and family, going to one of the other thriving businesses that lined the Broad River Rd. corridor to celebrate! For many years, one of the other traditions I had was going to Pizza Hut on Friday nights with my family-when it wasn’t basketball season. As I got older and Applebee’s came along, it was a place where young adults could spend some time in a safe environment, one that reflected the community’s sense of pride. I still remember the first time I walked into the restaurant, and discovered my picture on display! It was a source of pride for me and my family, and many of my fellow CHS alumni.

I could go on and on about all of the nostalgic experiences I had growing up in the St. Andrews area. However, sadly, much of that nostalgia, in recent years, has been overshadowed by the current state of my beloved community. After graduating from CHS, I was fortunate to earn a basketball scholarship and to graduate from Iowa State University in Ames, IA. Although I have spent many years away, I have frequented Columbia with trips back home to visit my family, who still resides in the St. Andrews area. But over the years, I have noticed a steady decline along “the corridor” of Broad River Road. Every return visit seemed to be marked with the disappearance of yet another business or what was once a staple in the community. After moving back to Columbia a little more than a year ago, and immersing myself into the operations and activities of our city and state, I have been spending a lot of time in the car, in different neighborhoods and communities. I admit that oftentimes I have found myself shedding tears while driving down Broad River Rd. I notice the empty buildings that once housed small businesses, the plethora of title loan businesses that cripple communities with their predatory lending practices, the pawn shops and the strip clubs. I also take note that I can walk less than a mile in either direction to a liquor store, but each time I want to go grocery shopping, I have to drive three miles in either direction. I am living in a food desert! As I drive in many of the St. Andrews/Broad River neighborhoods, I see people walking along roads, dodging traffic and trying to avoid getting hit by cars. Where are the sidewalks?

When I was a student athlete, there was a philosophy that if you were not performing up to par or if you were not the right matchup against your opponent, you got benched. You were not allowed to play. Or, if you had a week of practice that was indicative of the possibility that you would perform poorly in the upcoming competition, you were pulled from the lineup and you were replaced with someone else who showed more promise, someone with the potential to lead your team to victory. Unfortunately, over the past 12 years, Joyce Dickerson has been on the team, in the lineup and in the game, but she has not produced. She has not led Richland County District 2 to victory. She has allowed the community to be stripped. To put it simply, Joyce has dropped the ball. If you know anything about sports, you understand that winning is a team effort, it takes everyone on the team contributing and working towards one common goal. But if you have a teammate that keeps costing you wins, that player has to be benched.

I believe it is time Richland County District 2 puts someone else in the game! Derek Pugh is a roster change we need.

Tawanya Herbert