Pandemic Highlights Need for Local Leadership

Mayor Cornelius Huff, City of Inman; and President, Municipal Association of SC

I hope you enjoyed the online sessions from the Municipal Association's first Virtual Annual Meeting. Like all of you, I would have rather met in person in Charleston, shaking hands, sharing stories and enjoying fellowship with our colleagues and friends. As local leaders, though, we must set an example for our residents. And during this time, the example must be one of health, safety and caution.

Since we could not safely meet in person, the Association provided a virtual platform to conduct our business meeting and share relevant information online. Since March, the Municipal Association staff has produced a variety of online educational materials to help us continue to learn during the pandemic. From videos about budgets and other technical assistance questions, to sample mandatory mask ordinances and explanations about executive emergency orders, we have access to a ton of information. Please, take advantage of this opportunity. We have a knowledgeable staff supporting us at the Association. Reap the benefits of the resources and content they are making available to us.

We are in a difficult time. City and town leaders are navigating — along with our residents —through a global public health crisis, an economic downturn and a renewed movement to end the unnecessary police brutality that tarnishes the work of trustworthy, principled law enforcement officers.

I know that together, as one team, as one South Carolina, we will overcome these challenges and come out better on the other side, but we have to do it together. I want us to work in partnership to find common ground to make our state, our cities and our towns a better place to live, work and raise our children. That is, at the core, not only our constitutional mandate, but also our calling — to serve our state and our residents that elected us.

The last time many of us all met together, in February at Hometown Legislative Action Day, I spoke about how local governments are making the important decisions closest to the people. These are the decisions that affect our residents' basic quality of life every day. It's not glamourous. It's all about doing what's necessary to take care of our hometown residents and businesses.

We are mandating masks, or not. We are shutting down, or not. In all cases, we're making critically important decisions at a time when our residents need leadership the most. We are taking action. We are answering residents' concerns with action and changes at the local level.

There have been times recently when state and local leaders have been in conflict. But instead of fighting against each other, it's time to come together as one and work for the good of the entire state and all of its people — no more tug of war between city and state officials. To achieve such a goal, we cannot let divisiveness over political differences, between different government institutions and between business and government slow our efforts.

We are one South Carolina. We are one state. We are one people. Thank you for allowing me to be your president. I'm honored and humbled to lead our team for another year. The future of our cities and towns depend on us. And I believe that we can make sure that future is successful. Let's all come together to make decisions that protect, assist and move our residents and our state forward so next summer, we can shake hands in person at our Annual Meeting on Hilton Head Island.