York County Manager Bill Shanahan is setting his sights on the long-term future of the county with a new plan that will pull together different perspectives from the county’s municipalities.
Shanahan, who was formally hired by the York County Council in September, described himself as a man of few words, but one who will work to increase cooperation between the county and its municipalities to achieve what he calls “win-win scenarios.”
The manager’s office oversees the county’s day-to-day operations and works closely with the seven-member County Council. Six council members were present to hear Shanahan recap where the county stands during the annual State of the County breakfast hosted by the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce at the City Club in Rock Hill on Tuesday morning.
“We are a county, but we’re also a very large corporation,” Shanahan said, pointing to the county’s 1,076-employee workforce. The difference, he said, is that the county’s objective is not to achieve a profit, but to act in the best fiscal interests of its customers – the taxpayers.
The new manager said that his primary focus is developing the county’s comprehensive plan, which will provide a layout for how the county will temper its population growth and the need for expanded public services with economic development in a fiscally conservative manner. Most of all, it will foster cooperation between the county and its municipalities.
“Everything else should feed off that,” Shanahan said, who will start working on the plan in December by sitting down with various municipalities throughout the county for their outlook on economic progress and development. He expects the process to take an additional six months from there and said the county is considering hiring an outside consultant to help coordinate the plan.
Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said Shanahan arrived in the county during a “perfect storm” of taxpayers strapped by a sluggish economy and a slew of delayed or lagged capital projects. “He faces some great challenges, but with that come great rewards.”
The chairman has repeatedly emphasized the county’s need to revive and reassess cumbersome projects that have gone stagnant or taken longer than anticipated such as the renovation of the York County Courthouse, which got off the ground over the summer and will take several years until its completion.
Shanahan delivered a powerpoint presentation outlining the county’s assets as well as in-progress projects, and other potential items, such as a new office space for the Rock Hill/York County Convention Visitors Bureau.
The bureau, which is based out of the Baxter Hood Center, had planned for a new center along the city’s Riverwalk area, but those plans went sour when council members disagreed over whether a center was even needed and began to question how the bureau should operate or be funded.
Shanahan has maintained that he will try to take a more collaborative approach. Council members have noted his approach is different than his predecessor, Jim Baker, who vacated the position in January amid disagreement with the council. He added that his job as manager was to provide the council with “objective recommendations.”
Council member Chad Williams said it was time for the county to thoroughly address issues and projects that have been on the forefront for a while, saying that while the county has “been trying to do more with – it’s starting to show.”
Councilman Michael Johnson said his time on the council has shown him that talk can be cheap. “We need to do less talking and more things,” he said, pushing for greater cooperation between city administrators and county officials, and more action in general.
Cooperation was also key for chamber President Rob Youngblood. “The different jurisdictions must work together,” Youngblood said of single-member districts that make it difficult for elected officials to cooperate for the betterment of the county as a whole. “The dilemma is they want to serve the people who elected them.”
Youngblood said that when it comes to promoting the county as a jobs center, it’s becoming increasingly important to draw smaller-scale businesses into the area and pour support into creating highly skilled workforces to operate them.
“The days of the large smokestack industries with 500 employees are gone,” he said.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong location of the breakfast. Additionally, the reporter incorrectly characterized the intent of Bill Shanahan's collaborative approach.