A Feb. 3 special election will fill the Chester City Council seat left vacant by the Nov. 4 shooting death of Odell Williams.
State law requires the city to hold the special election, even though a regular council election is scheduled for later in 2015. Williams had represented Ward 4 on the City Council since 1997, after retiring from the Chester Police Department after more than 20 years.
To run, candidates must file with the Chester County elections office between Dec. 1 and Dec. 12.
Williams, 69, was gunned down in what police say was a gang-related, drive-by shooting. Deputies have charged five men in connection with the shooting. All remain jailed without bond.
City Council members are trying to decide what type of memorial to put up to honor Williams’ decades of service. Some want a prominent memorial garden. Others want bleachers installed at the old S.L. Finley school building.
A longtime proponent of youth recreation, Williams had hoped to see bleachers put up in the school gymnasium for use by the community. Finley was Chester’s school for blacks before integration, and Williams graduated from Finley in 1965.
Council member Betty Bagley told fellow council members Monday night that she wanted to honor Williams’ hope to have bleachers put up in the gym. Many in the business community, and individuals in Chester, have indicated a willingness to donate to paying for the bleachers, Bagley said. King Thompson, another council member and Finley alumni association member, said Williams’ “heart was to see that gym operational” for young people in Chester.
Williams, said council member Linda Tinker, “truly loved Chester’s young people and sports.”
Although no decision has been made, Bagley, who sat next to Williams in council meetings and knew him for decades, said that the bleachers to honor Williams will get done one way or another.
“I’m going to do it whether the council does it or not,” Bagley said in the meeting.
Chester’s recreation department over the weekend gave out the first Odell Williams most valuable player award at its recreational football league for children, said Chris White, the former University of South Carolina and Chester High School football star who runs the recreation department.
Yet council member William Killian said that bleachers in the gym that is still not in use by the community might not be the best tribute. Wanda Stringfellow, Chester’s mayor, said in Monday’s meeting that a memorial garden in a more visible location might be the most fitting tribute to Williams, who often spent his own money and time beautifying Chester’s public places.
Council members are expected to discuss the memorial again at their next meeting on Dec. 8.