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Beaufort honors veterans with parade, more

in Community by
_RES1922

Photo above: An unidentified Vietnam veteran finds a friend in the crowd. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

It was a gorgeous day for the Beaufort Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony on Nov. 11. The annual parade, which included marchers, bands and floats, stepped off in downtown Beaufort and wove around downtown to the Beaufort National Cemetery.

A ceremony featured the Parris Island Marine Band at the Beaufort National Cemetery. 

The speaker at the ceremony was Glenn Blackburn, a 27-year veteran of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. He is a Purple Heart recipient and is also active with Tee It Up for Troops, the On Course Foundation and the Folds of Honor Foundation.

Emily Kelly waves to the crowd during the annual Veterans Day Parade. Emily’s dad, firefighter Keith Kelly, was driving a fire truck in the parade.
Emily Kelly waves to the crowd during the annual Veterans Day Parade. Emily’s dad, firefighter Keith Kelly, was driving a fire truck in the parade.
Members of VFW Post 207 wave to the crowd
Members of VFW Post 207 wave to the crowd.
Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. James Handrinos, center, stands front and center on the American Legion float makes its ways down Carteret Street during the annual Veterans Day Parade.
Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. James Handrinos, center, stands front and center on the American Legion float makes its ways down Carteret Street during the annual Veterans Day Parade.
The Parris Island Marine Band leads the annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11.
The Parris Island Marine Band leads the annual Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11.

Citizens battle city hall (and win)

in Local News by
_RES1510

Photo above: Lauren Kelly goes over some of the finer details of the proposed development of the Whitehall property on Lady’s Island. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Sally Mahan

After months of citizen activism, plans for a huge new development were ditched after a 6-0 “no” vote by the Metropolitan Planning Commission at a highly anticipated, three-hour long meeting on Nov. 13.

The 19-acre parcel, called Whitehall, is at the foot of the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge and has been a source of contention as locals have expressed concerns about traffic, trees, the environment and the development in general.

“Tonight, the residents of Lady’s Island had a chance to speak, and they refused to settle for colorless development or false resolutions to problems such as traffic and development density,” said Chuck Newton, chairman of the Sea Island Coalition. “We’re pleased with the wisdom of the MPC, and hopeful both the city and the county get this message moving forward.”

More than 200 people turned out for the meeting of the MPC, a body that represents Beaufort County, the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal. Every seat was taken and the crowd spilled out into the lobby.

The developers were asking for special zoning classification that would have increased the permitted density for the Whitehall property, according to the Sea Island Coalition. 

MidCity Real Estate Partners, of Atlanta, owns the property but has been working with Sam Levin of Beaufort and other partners as the Whitehall Development Group.

The Whitehall plan would have been for a mix of commercial/retail space along the Sea Island Parkway, with apartments and an independent living facility in the interior of the property.

Five stand-alone commercial buildings, ranging in size from approximately 2,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet, and seven residential apartment towers – each four stories high – were planned.

A smaller structure would serve as a space for offices, pool support and resident storage for bicycles, etc. 

Another structure would have been a 100-unit independent living facility built as part of the property.

Activists were pleased that the MPC voted the zoning change that was being requested by the developers.

“What this decision did was confirm a strict reading of the Civic Master Plan, and the importance of reading the Beaufort Code based on its spirit and intent rather than making it up as we go along, as this application attempted to do,” said Newton.

“But it also confirmed the importance of the community’s voice and the centrality of the ‘Five Principles for Future Growth On Lady’s Island’ that emerged from the Designing Lady’s Island meetings of last spring.”

Newton told the MPC that the Sea Island Corridor Coalition was not  trying to thwart the plan, but asking for smarter development.

“We fully expect to see Whitehall developed at some point,” he said. “And if the plan is smart and inspired and character-enhancing, the coalition could be fully supportive.

“But this particular proposal for Whitehall is, in our view, neither smart development, nor inspired development, nor character-enhancing development that will benefit Beaufort now or 20 years from now,” he said.

The proposal was also opposed by the Coastal Conservation League and the Lady’s Island Business & Professional Association.

The developers now have an option to appeal the MPC in court, return to the drawing board and resubmit a new application, or abandon its initiative entirely.

As for future development, Newton said he hopes people stay involved. 

“They showed up (for Whitehall),” he said. “I hope it’s not a flash in the pan. You have to stay at this if you want to have any impact.”

Company delivers gourmet meals straight to your door

in Community by
_RES1817

Photo above: Tony Makar and his mother Dolores Ziccarelto team up every Monday to cook lots of gourmet meals to be distributed on Tuesdays.  Here, Ziccarello shows off some organic carrots to be used in a ratatouille dish. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

By Amy Rigard

Almost anyone can appreciate a healthy home cooked meal. When it can be enjoyed without the shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning typically involved in putting a meal on the dinner table, that’s even better. 

Enter Gourmet on Wheels, a local business that’s been delivering fresh, individually prepared meals to Beaufort County homes since 2009 and is seeing a lot of growth recently.

Gourmet on Wheels isn’t like other meal delivery services advertised online or on TV. 

Rather than receiving a box with individually packaged ingredients for cooking, customers receive fully prepared entrees and sides delivered in containers that can easily be microwaved or frozen for later use. 

Meals are usually large enough for couples to share, and they are cooked with low salt and sugar substitutes. Gourmet on Wheels will be delivering larger family-size meals starting in January 2018.

Tony Makar, who worked for many years as a nursing home administrator and has previous restaurant experience, saw a need to bring healthy meals to those in the community.

The business has grown through the years, and now new moms, busy on-the-go professionals, people recovering from surgery, elderly residents and many others enjoy the gourmet meals cooked by Tony, his “100 percent Italian” mother who comes from Charleston, and a staff who loves to cook.

Prep work for the upcoming week’s meals begins Sunday nights, and Tony and the staff spend their Mondays cooking in the Pleasant Point Plantation club kitchen. Meals are delivered Tuesdays to customers who choose from a menu of options that’s posted online about four weeks at a time. Local delivery is free. 

Many Gourmet on Wheels customers, including Beaufort resident Kit Harley, order meals every week. Harley has been enjoying the individually prepared meals for nearly two years.  

“I live alone, and it’s no fun to cook for yourself,” Harley said. “It’s so nice to have a healthy, really good meal prepared every day.”

For Makar, knowing that his business is making a difference in the lives of area residents is rewarding. He hopes to continue to grow the business and potentially expand one day beyond Beaufort County.  

To view menus and order meals, visit www.beaufortscmealdelivery.com.

Tony Makar, right, opens a plastic dish for his mother, Dolores Ziccarelto. The duo cooks food for their Gourmet on Wheels all day Monday for local distribution on Tuesday.
Tony Makar, right, opens a plastic dish for his mother, Dolores Ziccarelto. The duo cooks food for their Gourmet on Wheels all day Monday for local distribution on Tuesday.
A panne paste bolognese dish is ready to be delivered.
A panne paste bolognese dish is ready to be delivered.

Gullah heritage celebrated

in Community by
_RES1954

Photo above: Aunt Pearlie Sue, portrayed by Anita Singleton, was the mistress of ceremonies during the annual Heritage Days celebration at Penn Center. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

Thousands of people from all over the country crowded onto the grounds of Penn Center for the annual Heritage Days on Nov. 11. Those in attendance were treated to good food, good music and live authentic Gullah entertainment from the venerable Aunt Pearlie Sue (Anita Singleton) and the Gullah Kinfolk.

Regina Good of Sumter flips over funnel cakes, a popular favorite at the annual Heritage Days.
Regina Good of Sumter flips over funnel cakes, a popular favorite at the annual Heritage Days.
Attendees of the annual Heritage Days celebration stand and sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The song, also referred to as the “Black National Anthem,” was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and later set to music in 1905.
Attendees of the annual Heritage Days celebration stand and sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The song, also referred to as the “Black National Anthem,” was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and later set to music in 1905.
Pvt. Terry James, left, portraying a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts, and Sgt. Gilbert Walker, of the First South Carolina, walked around Penn Center grounds and gave a living history as they answered questions about what it was like being a black Union soldier during the Civil War.
Pvt. Terry James, left, portraying a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts, and Sgt. Gilbert Walker, of the First South Carolina, walked around Penn Center grounds and gave a living history as they answered questions about what it was like being a black Union soldier during the Civil War.

Auditions for ‘America’s Got Talent’ coming to area

in Community by
judges

NBC’s ”America’s Got Talent” (AGT) is back on the road looking for the best variety acts the nation has to offer, and will be hosting auditions on Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center at 1 International Drive in Savannah.

This past summer AGT celebrated its most watched season ever, with an average of 16 million viewers per episode. In addition, the show was a huge social success, garnering more than 2.6 billion views across social media platforms. 

Season 12 saw the crowning of 12-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer from Oklahoma City as the AGT winner.  

In addition to the $1 million grand prize, Darci headlined the ”America’s Got Talent” Live stage show inside the PH Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.  

The sold-out show ran from Nov. 2-5, with additional special guest Season 12 finalists that performed including singer Angelica Hale, comedian Preacher Lawson and dance group Light Balance. 

“America’s Got Talent” continues to get bigger and better each and every year,” said AGT Executive Producer Sam Donnelly. “The show never fails to discover the best and most exciting acts the country has to offer. We literally change lives and make careers on the AGT stage.  

“I encourage anyone who thinks they have a talent worth sharing to audition for this next season.” 

“America’s Got Talent” celebrates acts of any age and any talent. Throughout the history of the show, AGT has discovered and jump started careers for acts such as singer Grace VanderWaal, who went on to release her first EP, titled “Perfectly Imperfect,” which became the highest-selling EP of 2016. 

Additionally, singer Jackie Evancho, who dazzled audiences on the AGT stage, has gone on to release a series of platinum and gold albums with sales of more than 2.5 million in the U.S.

Acts of any age and any talent are encouraged to register at www.AGTAuditions.com. Acts not able to make it to one of the cities can submit an online audition video through this same website.   

NFL veteran named as BHS head coach

in Sports by
Devonte Holloman

Photo above courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys.

Former University of South Carolina and Dallas Cowboys star DeVonte Holloman has been named head coach of the Beaufort High School football program.

Holloman has coached at Beaufort High School for the past three years, the first year as defensive backs coach and the second and third years as defensive coordinator. 

“Coach Holloman is a natural leader and he’s already familiar with our school, our football program and our student-athletes.” said Beaufort High School Principal Bonnie Almond, who announced the coaching selection. “It’s very obvious that the kids respect him.” 

Holloman succeeds Mark Clifford, who stepped down recently after 14 years as Beaufort High’s head coach. The former Dallas Cowboy said he was excited about his new challenge. 

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity,” Holloman said. “My goal is to build not just solid football players but also successful young people. I want to prepare them for the next level, whether that’s college, the workplace or the military.”

Almond said the high school’s current football staff supported promoting Holloman to head coach. As a high school player, Holloman played on two North Carolina state championship teams at Charlotte’s Independence High School and one South Carolina state championship team at Rock Hill’s South Pointe High School. His South Pointe teammates included future NFL stars Jadaveon Clowney and Stephon Gilmore. Following high school, Holloman went on to play for the University of South Carolina. Holloman was a three-year starter at safety and linebacker for the Gamecocks.

At the conclusion of his college career, Holloman was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2013 NFL Draft. His best game during his rookie season was an 11-tackle, two-sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. He suffered two neck injuries while with the Cowboys, the second of which forced his early retirement in August 2014.

“Coach Holloman is not only a terrific teacher of the game of football, he’s also very gifted when it comes to connecting with young people about the issues they face in their daily lives,” said Beaufort High Athletic Director Linc Lyles. “In my experience, that’s unusual for someone at such an early stage in his career. He’s a proven winner and we’re confident that he’ll bring his winning spirit to Beaufort High School.”

Beaufort High School football players react to the announcement that DeVonte Holloman is their new head coach. Photo provided.
Beaufort High School football players react to the announcement that DeVonte Holloman is their new head coach. Photo provided.

News briefs for November 16th-22nd

in Local News by
rotary

Photo above: Pictured from left are Suzi Oliver, president, Rotary Club of Beaufort; Staff Sgt. Jessica C. Navarro, USMC, representing the Marine Corps Recruit Depot; Staff Sgt. Juan C. Maravilla, USMC, representing Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort; and Petty Officer Second Class Adam Henneman, representing the Naval Hospital Beaufort. 

Rotary names service members of year

Unit commanders and their cadre from Beaufort’s three military installations recently nominated service men and women for recognition by the Rotary Club of Beaufort as their Service Members of the Year.  

A committee comprised of Rotarians who are military veterans selected the most outstanding candidate from each of the installations, and they were honored at a military recognition ceremony hosted by the Rotary Club of Beaufort at its Nov. 8 luncheon meeting.  

Criteria for selection emphasized outstanding military service and significant volunteer activities benefiting the local community. 

Each received a plaque and a check for $200.

 The recognition ceremony was preceded by a presentation of the U.S. flag and the flags of each of the military services conducted by a joint service color guard from area Jr. ROTC units – the Army from Bluffton High, the Marine Corps from Battery Creek and Whale Branch high schools; the Air Force by Beaufort High School; and the Navy by Hilton Head High School.

Program to help veterans, active duty and reserves

Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the formation of a new program to help veterans, active duty military and members of the reserves get free legal help. 

The program is called V.A.L.O.R., which stands for Veterans, Active/Reserve LegalOutReach.

“The legal profession has always recognized it has a moral obligation to support those who defend the freedoms we treasure,” said Wilson, who’s also a colonel in the SC National Guard and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “This new program will better connect veterans and members of the military with the legal help they need and may not know where to get, or may not be able to afford.”

The program will consist of free legal clinics held around the state starting in January, and a referral line to connect veterans and members of the military with lawyers who will provide free or heavily-discounted legal help for problems too complex to be handled at the clinics. 

The first free clinic will be held in January in Rock Hill, with the second scheduled for February in Florence. Subsequent clinics around the state will be announced at a later date.

Local jurist named head of SC judge association

Kenneth Fulp
Kenneth Fulp

Beaufort County Probate Judge Kenneth Fulp was recently installed as president of the South Carolina Association of Probate Judges at the association’s fall conference in Greenwood.

Fulp has served on the probate court bench in Beaufort County since 1999, first as associate probate judge and then as probate judge by gubernatorial appointment in 2012 and election in 2014. 

He received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1977, and practiced law in Virginia and South Carolina prior to his judicial service.

Second Helpings teams with Weichert Realtors

Weichert, Realtors-Coastal Properties has teamed up with Second Helpings and will be collecting non-perishable food items to supplement its Fill the Need campaign, which kicked off at Palmetto Breeze’s hub station in Bluffton in October.

Non-perishable food items include but are not limited to canned vegetables, fruit, soup, meats and tuna; plastic containers of peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauce; boxed meals, packages of pasta, rice, beans and rolled oats.

Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the Weichert office at 1613 North St. in Beaufort. Call 843-379-3010.

To learn more about Second Helpings and the Fill the Need program, visit www.secondhelpingslc.org.

Sisters of Charity award local grants

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina recently awarded Caritas grants for the fall 2017 grant cycle.  

Locally, the Lowcountry Food Bank received funding to support Cooking Matters at the Store tours, a free program that empowers families to stretch their food budgets, maximize benefits through public nutrition programs, use nutrition information to make healthier choices, and cook tasty, affordable meals at home. 

Additonally, the Sandalwood Community Food Pantry received funding to support its “Totes of Love for Seniors Project” providing seniors with a special tote bag that is filled each visit with healthy foods.

Caritas grants are awarded to organizations meeting fundamental needs of individuals and families living in poverty in South Carolina.  

BJWSA’s Kilgore completes Water Leadership Institute

Tricia H. Kilgore
Tricia H. Kilgore

Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority Director of Treatment Operations Tricia H. Kilgore completed the Water Environment Federation’s Water Leadership Institute at WEFTEC in Chicago last month.

Kilgore has been with BJWSA since 2008, starting as a project engineer.  

A graduate of Virginia Tech and Loughborough University, she has also worked as a drinking water regulator at the state level and as an engineering consultant in the private sector.

The Water Leadership Institute program is aimed at educating, training and providing opportunities that enable developing and emerging leaders to build strong lasting relationships within the water industry.

Holiday craft market offered Wednesdays

in Community by

The Santa Elena Foundation, in partnership with Hank’s Lowcountry She Crab Soup, relaunched its second-annual craft market on Nov. 8 with the holidays in mind. 

The market will be open from 2-6 p.m. every Wednesday until after the new year, and will feature live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, local food artisans, giveaways and a kid’s craft table. 

The goal of the market is to raise awareness of local artisans and vendors, offer an alternative to big-box holiday gifts and raise money for the foundation’s preservation efforts. 

The event is open to the public and the entertainment, parking and kid’s craft table are free.

The market will be at the corner of Bladen and North streets in downtown Beaufort.

Vendors include The Essential Ed Koterba, Gwen Teas And Hot Chocolate, Hank’s Lowcountry She Crab Soup, Hilton Head Cookie Co., It’s Only Fair, Lee Bees Honey, Solo Verdi Organic Beef, Stevenson’s Produce, The Herb Room and Three Angels.

Sports briefs for November 16th-22nd

in Sports by

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Whale Branch falls to Batesburg-Leesville

Whale Branch’s latest postseason run ended in the second round of the Class 2A Playoffs. Batesburg-Leesville managed to double up Whale Branch 42-21 in the Class 2A Playoffs on Nov. 10. 

With the loss, Whale Branch ended its season 6-5. 

Batesburg-Leesville scored first and never trailed, forcing Whale Branch to play from behind throughout the postseason matchup. The Warriors were never able to catch up with Batesburg-Leesville. 

Quarterback Bishop Cannon led Batesburg-Leesville to the win, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another TD. 

Another productive Panther, running back Ke’shoun Williams, rushed for two TDs for Batesburg-Leesville. 

Whale Branch committed multiple mistakes and the miscues eventually caught up with the Warriors. 

Irvin Mulligan rushed for two touchdowns and quarterback C.J. Brown completed a 15-yard scoring pass to Jaden Jenkins in Whale Branch’s season-ending loss. ‘

Mulligan led the Warriors offensively, rushing for 111 yards. 

Whale Branch, under the direction of head coach Jerry Hatcher, notched wins over Woodland, North Charleston, Academic Magnet, Garrett Academy Tech, Burke and Buford prior to suffering the season-ending loss. The Warriors outlasted Buford 30-27 in the opening round of the Class 2A Playoffs on Nov. 3. Whale Branch, which opened the 2017 season 0-4, dropped additional games to Hilton Head Island, May River, Battery Creek and Bluffton.

BA stumbles versus Wardlaw Academy

Beaufort Academy’s latest football season ended with a loss to Wardlaw Academy. Highly productive Wardlaw Academy pulled away to beat Beaufort Academy 58-8 in the SCISA 8-Man Division II Playoffs on Nov. 10.

With the loss, Beaufort Academy ended its season 5-6.

Wardlaw Academy moves on to meet Northside Christian in the state championship game in St. Matthews on Friday, Nov. 17. 

The Eagles fell behind Wardlaw Academy and faced numerous deficits in the playoff game. 

Beaufort Academy, which featured standout athlete Deshaun Epps throughout the 2017 season, notched wins over Patrick Henry Academy, Northside Christian Academy, Calhoun Academy, Cathedral Academy and Hilly Hill Academy during its 2017 season. The Eagles defeated Holly Hill Academy 43-6 in the opening round of the SCISA 8-Man Division II Playoffs. Beaufort Academy’s 2017 season included additional losses to St. John’s Christian Academy, Clarendon Hall, Faith Christian, Andrew Jackson Academy and Coastal Christian Prep. 

Multiple members of the Beaufort Academy football team are already earning postseason honors. 

Beaufort Academy’s Epps named Player of the Year

The honors are rolling in for Beaufort Academy football players. Beaufort Academy standout Deshaun Epps has been named the SCISA 8-Man Division I Player of Year. Along with Epps, four other Beaufort Academy players have been named to the all-region team.

Epps thrived throughout the 2017 season, rushing for 1,979 yards and 20 touchdowns and also hauling in 13 receptions for 363 yards and five TDs for the Eagles.

Several Beaufort Academy players excelled during the Eagles’ latest season. Along with Epps, teammates Jaxon Spratling, Will Warren, Edward McCormick and Daniel Richards were named to the all-region team. Spratling, Warren, McCormick and Richards were all key to the Eagles’ success in the 2017 season. 

In addition to earning the all-region honors, Warren and Spratling also were selected to SCISA North/South All-Star game. Warren and Spratling will have an opportunity perform on a big stage during the upcoming all-star event. 

GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS

Daniel earns second All-State honor

Reigning Region 8, 4-A Champion McKenzie Daniel of Beaufort High School has earned the honor of making the 4A-5A  All State Tennis Team for a second year. 

Daniel, a ninth-grader, finished in the top 10 in the state. The Beaufort High School student-athlete placed in the Top 10 at the State Singles Tournament, defeating Claire Floyd from River Bluff and both Adair Still and Julia Price from Greenwood. 

An accomplished student-athlete, Daniel ranks as one of the state’s top young girls’ high school tennis players. 

Watchdog citizens strengthen communities

in Voices by

By Richard Eckstrom
S.C. Comptroller

They keep tabs on their public officials, often asking the tough questions and sounding the alarm when something doesn’t seem right. They attend meetings, sometimes sitting in the front row and staying until the very end. They request information under the public-records law. Sometimes, they criticize.

Watchdog citizens are an annoyance to a lot of politicians, muddying up the otherwise tidy business of government. But they serve a vital purpose, and many have made a positive difference in their communities. A few examples off the top of my head:

• Years ago, a woman in SC fought both DHEC and her local well water provider over her neighborhood’s water quality and high utility rates. Taking on government – or a utility –  is always an uphill battle, and the woman was initially unable to even obtain the public records she sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

But she persisted. After threatening to get the media involved, she got the documents she wanted … documents that suggested contaminants in the well water had been making people sick. The wells were shut down, and her efforts ultimately resulted in better water quality for her neighborhood.

• In the Lowcountry this summer, a citizens group which is often at odds with the leadership of the local school district was reviewing the district’s spending when they noticed questionable charge card purchases – including one at Victoria’s Secret. The discovery prompted district leaders to explain some of the charges, and as it turns out the Victoria’s Secret charge was fraudulent and had been reimbursed. That’s good to know, I guess, but it was information that should have already been publicly available. 

The school superintendent later proposed improvements to the district’s spending reports – a positive step resulting directly from the involvement of watchdog citizens.

• Concerned Columbia residents for years butted heads with city leaders over the annual transfer of millions of dollars from the water-and-sewer maintenance fund into the city’s general fund. The highly-unpopular practice left the city with both ever-increasing water bills and a crumbling water-sewer system, yet city officials insisted that ending it would leave them with a devastating budget shortfall.  Unable to persuade the mayor and City Council to stop raiding the water-sewer fund, a trio of good-government advocates pooled their money, hired an attorney and took the matter to court.

The case made it to the SC Supreme Court, which sided with the citizen-watchdogs in ruling that water-sewer money shouldn’t be treated as a slush fund. The city soon abolished the practice and restored its water-sewer maintenance fund. And all turned out fine; there was no budget shortfall after all.

• Some attentive residents in one county discovered that three local elected officials had declined county-sponsored health insurance in favor of cash payments – each totaling about $24,000 over a several-year period. One county council member had also received $26,000 in public funds toward his college tuition. Both the cash-in-lieu-of-insurance and the tuition payments ran afoul of the State Constitution.

The citizens sought to have the money returned to the taxpayers and demanded the politicians’ resignations, though those efforts were rebuffed. The watchdogs’ work did pay dividends, however, as the county ended the questionable payments and the three incumbents were later ousted by voters.

• When one school district barred citizens from recording public meetings, a local activist – one who happened to know that SC law allows citizens to record such meetings – took her district to court. The woman was publicly mocked and derided by district officials eager to discredit her. But the law was on her side. She prevailed, and as a result the district made its meetings truly open.

In each of these cases, the watchdogs drew fire from the entities they sought to hold accountable … yet their perseverance ultimately proved beneficial to their communities.

I frequently get calls from such citizens seeking advice, and a recurring complaint is that they’re often maligned, sometimes publicly and harshly, because of their efforts. Unfortunately, too many governmental bodies choose to shoot the messenger – even well-meaning citizens with valid concerns. 

That’s a shame. Citizen-watchdogs strengthen their communities (as do local newspapers.) They improve the quality of government by keeping officials honest; our leaders tend to walk a little straighter when they know someone’s watching. 

People who care enough to get involved in guiding their community’s future should be respected – even cherished – including those whose watchful eyes add another layer of government oversight. Especially those who take their lumps and refuse to relent.

Richard Eckstrom is a CPA and the state comptroller.

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