Betty Jo Rhea never enjoyed campaigning during her 12 years as Rock Hill mayor. Too much stress, she said.
So when it came down to election night during each of her three terms, she would wait out the results at home with her family.
During her first election, she was so nervous that she sat out on the front terrace of her home, clutching her granddaughter’s blanket. “Everybody does their own thing,” Rhea said. “I hated running for it, but I loved being the mayor.”
Rock Hill residents will elect a new mayor Oct. 17 for the first time in two decades. If none of the three candidates receive more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be Oct. 31.
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Mayor Doug Echols is stepping aside after 28 years of public service, including the last 20 years in City Hall.
His successor will likely chart Rock Hill’s course for decades to come. As South Carolina’s fifth-largest city, Rock Hill has invested millions of dollars to bolster its standing as a major economic and tourist destination in the Southeast.
The election could have a profound impact on nearly 75,000 people who live and work in Rock Hill. The last four mayors served for an average of 12 years each.
Rock Hill’s new leader will be chosen by voters from a three-way race between Rock Hill Sports Commission chair John Gettys, York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey and veteran landscape architect Duane Christopher.
Below are exclusive video interviews with The Herald, detailing the candidates’ views on issues such as downtown growth, affordable housing, the future of sports tourism andinfrastructure spending.
Click here to see more of their views in detail, including quotes.
Rhea offered one piece of advice to the winner: “As a mayor, you need to be aware of the souls of the people in our city.”
The election also will decide the winners of three City Council seats representing Wards 4, 5 and 6.
The race for Ward 5 pits incumbent Ann Williamson against challengers Nikita Jackson and Brandon Smith. Ward 5 represents the southernmost portion of Rock Hill, including neighborhoods throughout Albright Road and Saluda Street.
Williamson, who serves as mayor pro tempore on City Council, is seeking a second term.
Jackson, who also ran against Williamson in 2013, works as a volunteer manager at Agape Hospice in Rock Hill. Smith is a residential home builder and youth pastor.
The three debated issues such as low-income housing, utility rates and a possible bus transit system during a recent forum at Winthrop University.
Below is a video recap of the candidates’ arguments at the forum. Click here to see more detailed arguments and background on the race.
Jim Reno, who has served on the Rock Hill City Council for 20 years, faces real estate analyst Barrett Maners in the race for the Ward 6 seat. Ward 6 includes residents in the northeast part of Rock Hill, bordering Fort Mill and the Catawba River.
Council member John Black, seeking his third term, is running unopposed in Ward 4. Ward 4 covers residents in Rock Hill’s northwest neighborhoods, including stretches of Heckle Boulevard.
Three elections in four weeks?
Rock Hill voters may need to go to the polls three times in four weeks.
If none of the candidates for mayor or Ward 5 receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the Oct. 17 general election, a runoff will be Oct. 31.
One week later, Rock Hill voters will be back at their precincts Nov. 7 to determine the fate of the Pennies for Progress campaign in a York County referendum.
How can I vote?
Absentee voting for Rock Hill’s mayor and City Council seats is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday until Oct. 16 at the Office of the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of York County, 13 S. Congress St., York.
Readers of The Herald recently sent in a host of endorsement letters. Click here to read them.
Am I registered to vote in Rock Hill?
Check registration at scvotes.org.
If you’re registered to an address in York County, but moved within Rock Hill’s city limits more than 30 days ago, you may be able to vote.
Take a proof of residency, such as a phone bill, to the Office of the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of York County.
Why is this vote on Oct. 17 and not in November like other municipal elections?
October city elections in Rock Hill date back to then-partisan primaries, which were followed by January elections.
In 1989, Rock Hill residents voted for the City Council to be made up of members representing six wards and a mayor serving at-large. That year, the election date was set for the third Tuesday in October with winners taking office in January.
Today, the elections are non-partisan.