Sumter is fortunate to have several compelling candidates for mayor this year. This letter is focused on the two with established city council voting records, Calvin Hastie and David Merchant.
I am one of the many retired military citizens brought here by Shaw Air Force Base but lured by Sumter. Our numbers are growing thanks to Sumter's positive direction. There's even a gradual shift of military personnel who would have previously lived in Columbia, now calling Sumter their home. Every time a mid-career military family moves to Sumter, it's equal to adding a $70,000-$100,000/year civilian job. When they retire and stay: bonus! Our revitalizing downtown is the biggest reason for this shift.
The faces of revitalization are the new dining, drinking and entertainment options. Some are private ventures; many are public. They include street festivals, 4th Fridays, Sip-n-Stroll, Microbrewfest, Oktoberfest and Opera House shows. Their key element is responsible alcohol sales, yet Calvin Hastie has voted against alcohol sales every time it's come before city council. This is equivalent to voting against the very events that attract thousands to our town and lure new residents.
In fact, Councilman Hastie has a tepid record, at best, of supporting any downtown revitalization, just as it's on the cusp of bursting out to North Main, "jumping the bridge" to Manning Avenue and points east and west. Calvin Hastie just can't see the benefit of downtown for the whole community. He has an impressive resume, but he's not right to lead Sumter.
David Merchant has a proven record of supporting growth and progress in Sumter. He's consistently supported downtown. He knows the importance of Shaw AFB to the community. He knows what lures residents. He knows what's good for all Sumter residents. In a crowded field, David Merchant's the obvious choice to continue our great strides.
Finally, David Merchant respects Sumter. It's obvious in the placement of his signs on private, approved property, not public use areas or around stop signs. His campaign workers are respectful volunteers, and he would never stoop to the use of annoying robocalls. As veterans, we understand respect. We encourage all veterans and civilians alike to support David Merchant as our next mayor.
Chairman, Veterans for Merchant
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