Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's been a tough week in Clinton, South Carolina, our hometown, out here on the edge of the Upstate...

The highlight of my favorite weekly radio show on National Public Radio begins when the announcer, in his cool mid-western tones, announces “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone, my hometown”. He then proceeds to tell stories of the residents who live there and their adventures in a small Minnesota farming community. Often, when I sit down to write this column for you, I think of starting with “It’s been a quiet week in Clinton”.

Only it hasn’t been a quiet week at all. It’s been a tough week. It’s been kind of week that you talk about for years to come. It’s been the kind of week that finds its way to the top shelf of stories that old folks tell young folks when the times get tough in order to show them just how tough the times can be.
It didn’t start out that way for any of us, but as you can read on the front page of this newspaper, it became a tough week for some. And as I said to the media we are deeply disturbed by the allegations. I also stand by the words I said after that to the tv stations and to the newspapers, which were aimed directly at you, our citizens. We do not want a community in which citizens feel afraid when a city employee is present.
Because many of our city employees are good people. You know, when your grandma would say “He’s good people”. They are that kind of good people.
They are the kind of people, who on Thursday and Friday, volunteered their time to serve lunch to the patrons at Fatz Café in order to raise money for Special Olympics. If you were lucky enough, like I was, to see some of our public safety officers wrangling sodas and delivering lunch specials, you realized just how special some of these people are. You realized that for many of our employees, this is not a job, it is a calling and the reward is knowing that at the end of the day some small part of our community was made better because of their actions.
Then there was Saturday. As I peered out of our window into a quiet neighborhood at 5:45 in the morning, I was shocked to find that it wasn’t just snowing; we were having what will forever be known as “the blizzard of ‘14”. Before I had time to absorb the beauty of it all, the sky was lit with the electric blue glow of fuses blowing and transformers failing that signaled the beginning of a long day.
And the employees came. Your employees left their families in the dark, scrapped whatever Saturday plans they had, and came to work to do their absolute very best to get power back on to you so that your Saturday plans wouldn’t be a complete washout.
They worked for hours, non stop, in the rain and the cold. Electric workers worked to get power restored. Water and sewer workers worked with mobile generators to keep the sewer pump stations operational even though we had lost power to several of them. Mechanics worked to keep generators in the field working so the water distribution system would continue to work. No one complained. No one. And then many of them came in on Sunday to clean up the mess and address trouble spots in the system.
And as if getting power, water, and sewer systems back on line wasn’t enough, they put on a festival for the kids Saturday night in downtown. Although it was cold, we still had fun. One of your city employees, one who had been at work on Saturday all day, told me how much he enjoyed knowing that he was helping his neighbors.
It was tough week in Clinton. But like the Krebspaughs and Bunsens of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone community, we come together in times of trial and persevere. I hope, that when you see a city employee, you will see a person who gives of their time to help others, who comes in without having to be called when the city faces a challenge, who quietly works with pride to do the best they can to make your hometown, and ours, the best it can be.