The time is here for cities and towns to showcase the best of their projects for the Municipal Association of South Carolina 2024 Achievement Awards. The awards provide a way to showcase a city or town’s hard-to-see projects — the kind that are undertaken by city and town governments to innovate, improve their operations and enhance their communities. Applications are available on the Municipal Association’s website, and the deadline is February 7, 2024.
The Municipal Association accepts submissions each year in either a population category or one of five subject categories: communications, economic development, public safety, public service or public works. Municipalities with a population of 20,000 or fewer can choose to compete in either a population or subject category. Municipalities with a population greater than 20,000 must compete in one of the subject categories. Projects need to be substantially complete to be eligible and can be submitted only once more if they do not win in a previous year.
For those looking for inspiration for their 2024 submissions, there are videos and podcasts highlighting past winners, showcasing the hard work and dedication they have given to making their communities a great place to live and work.
Here are the 2023 winners in each of the categories:
Population 1,000 – 5,000: Town of West Pelzer
The Town of West Pelzer aimed to reverse the decline of its downtown Frankville Business District and transform it into a vibrant commercial space that could serve its growing population. Through an intensive research and development process, it created a new Rural Renewal Master Plan.
On the podcast, West Pelzer’s now-former Mayor Blake Sanders, who didn’t seek reelection in 2023, explained how the town developed the plan and pursued its recommendations, creating full occupancy of downtown commercial space.
Population 1,001 – 5,000: Town of Chapin
The Town of Chapin is growing, buoyed by its small-town character and access to Lake Murray. Because of its relatively recent development, however, the town has struggled to establish an identity as a destination with its own recreation, dining and shopping opportunities. The town partnered with the Crooked Creek Art League, a nonprofit group with more than 100 artists, to establish “The Arts Sail Into Chapin,” a trail of installations highlighting the area’s arts scene and its lakefront communities.
On the podcast, Town Administrator Nicholle Burroughs discussed the community impact of public art, and Chapin’s future plans for its arts and culture scene.
Population 5,001 – 10,000: Town of Cheraw
Seeking to address cases of property theft while maximizing limited police officer staffing, the Town of Cheraw installed a network of cameras capable of reading license plate numbers automatically. This cost-effective solution uses strategically placed cameras that operate continuously. The system is also connected to the National Crime Information Center, alerting the department when it detects wanted vehicles. The system allows police to review vehicles traveling around the time of a reported crime, potentially narrowing the list of suspects.
On the podcast, Town Manager Rob Wolfe talked about how the system works and its positive impact in the community.
Population 10,001 – 20,000: City of Cayce
For years, Cayce pushed to find a way to build revitalization energy in its original central business district, a place of derelict and underutilized buildings suffering from crime and depressed property values. The city achieved redevelopment traction using “previtalization,” a concept introduced to the city by the Mayors’ Institute of City Design, to highlight the district’s potential. The installation of a downtown trailhead for the city’s Riverwalk helped as well.
On the podcast, City Manager Tracy Hegler discussed the logistics behind bringing the Arts District to life.
Communications: City of Goose Creek
Now one of the largest municipalities in the state, Goose Creek wanted to establish an all-abilities playground for its growing population. The city built Central Creek in partnership with sponsoring businesses, but it still needed to spread the word about the new amenity. It launched a wide-ranging communication campaign, collaborating with local news media and utilizing social media to build hype about the park.
The podcast brought together several members of Goose Creek’s team to talk about the project — Marketing, Branding and Design Assistant Adam Kelly; Recreation Director Crystal Reed; and Therapeutic Recreation Manager and Central Creek Park Manager Hannah Miller.
Economic Development: City of Simpsonville
Simpsonville Elementary School, built in 1939, stood empty in Simpsonville’s downtown for nearly two decades after its closure in 2002. After the city bought it and spent years assembling funding, the building emerged as the Simpsonville Arts Center, where valuable facilities and strong arts programming have bolstered the community’s growing economy and cultural scene substantially.
On the podcast, City Administrator Dianna Gracely talked both about the process of transforming an elementary school as well as the Arts Center’s programming.
Public Service: Town of Bluffton
The Town of Bluffton created its Neighborhood Assistance Program in 2016, which helps with repairs, hazard cleanup, private road repair, tree removals and septic cleanout. The program also helps establish residential street addresses to guide emergency services and provides heirs’ property title assistance.
On the podcast, Bluffton’s Director of Growth Management Kevin Icard and Workforce and Affordable Housing Manager Victoria Smalls explained the program in detail.
The 2023 awards had other entries illustrating a variety of innovative efforts, from an entrepreneurship program in Aiken to the “City of Halloween” in Conway and to pet waste removal stations in James Island. Learn about those efforts here.