Three city leaders attended the annual Municipal Association of South Carolina Conference that was held on Thursday, July 18, through Sunday, July 21, in Greenville.
Mayor Todd Harrelson, Councilwoman Joan Gause and Loris City Clerk and Treasurer Kenya Wright attended meetings with other municipalities from South Carolina to discuss topics ranging from strategic planning, social media, opportunity zones, economic development and public safety. There was an exhibitor showcase featuring goods and services for operating a city successfully. The conference provides information to elected officials and city employees to bring back to share with the city council and the city offices.
Wright stated that a few of the many classes available were the Best Practices for Strategic Planning, Leaving Your City Better Than You Found It, Media and Messaging in a Digital World, Connecting Law Enforcement with the Committees They Serve, Building Community Trust for Police, Building ADA Compliant Websites and Visualizing Your Data.
The opening general session began providing the city delegates with a luncheon while listening to motivational speakers, the Mayors Roundtable, closing night with introductions, thanks and celebration along with offering classes.
Wright said, “We learned that things change on a daily basis, and a three-year plan is the best tactic to utilize due to the drastic changes going on around us.” She continued, “We learned to stay true to ourselves in our positions with the city; that people will honor that.”
Learning that most information is obtained through social media, the city will continue to post on the social media accounts, the city website (www.lorissc.com), Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the city residents up to date on topics of interest and what is going on at city hall and throughout the city, Wright said, “At last years conference I learned that a city newsletter is a good way to communicate with the residents of our city, with the help and approval of the city administrator and the mayor I have implemented this suggestion by sending out monthly newsletters.” The feedback has been positive, especially from those who do not use social media or use a computer to know what is happening in the city and city hall. She said, “We want to reach all of our residents and businesses to keep them informed.” Wright continued, “We learned a lot about visualizing data and we plan to get all of the data and information that we can uploaded to our website for the citizens of Loris to view.” This is a lengthy process which will take time and patience, given time Wright says they will make the necessary changes and upgrades to bring it all together. With a limited staff and their plates full, she said, “We want to, by all means, comply we just need the time to do so.” She said many towns are larger than Loris and have additional staff handling the daily activities of doing business, but at Loris city hall only one person handles the duties. “We want to move the city forward,” she said, “and we would like to put into operation some of the strategies learned that other cities have implemented and utilize daily; we want to be as current as possible and follow positive and productive plans to become transparent and open communication through the city’s website with the city residents in the near future.”
Gause stated that communication and networking is an important way to engage positive ways to communicate with the community. She further stated that they learned ways to build community projects to improve the city infrastructure. She said networking with North Myrtle Beach, Horry County, Conway and the Grand Strand as they provided ideas of how to improve the line of communication between residents and the elected officials who serve on council, as mayor and the staff at city hall. She said, “For the past 20 years that I have served the city of Loris I have attended all but one of the conferences.” She further stated the conference is a joint effort for the cities to communicate and come together to advise, suggest and build ways to improve the city’s (Loris) structure.”
Gause loves the city of Loris and continues to want to help the city to grow, and she wants to be able to continue to learn better ways of getting things done, one is by service as a councilwoman.
Harrelson stated that he attended the Mayors Round Table where he received an enormous amount of information that will help the city improve in drainage, that Loris is not the only city experiencing drainage issues. He said, “Many of the other cities in our area are experiencing the same issues, improving communication, revitalizing the looks of the city, how to help the city with solving simple problems.” He continued by stating the mayors put their heads together and shared what they have accomplished to improve their city in all areas such as personnel and how to deal with people in a positive way. He shared improvements made in Loris that were helpful to other city mayors. He said, “There was so much useful information that I will share with council and the public at the regular council meeting in August.” Harrelson stated that the classes were valuable in how to deal with people and solving simple problems. “Putting our heads together and sharing,” he said, “some mayors have had 20 years experience and have learned the best way to approach what needs to be done.” His communication with Conway about the current software used by both cities experiencing the same issue, software packages do not allow each city department to report in the same software product across the board. He said he feels the importance of bringing the community together, which involves learning the importance of communication.
Harrelson stated that it is important to him, as mayor, to implement transparency in each and every area from within the city hall. This will take time to execute; not only time but in a working IT Department adding items to a website and the cost of maintaining the site, depending upon the contract with the company who hosts the city website, additional fees can be charged for additional documentation and space, the slow pace the site could experience, all of this is part of implementing the transparency project that Mayor Harrelson and Kenya Wright have determined are necessary for the city to have confidence in how the day-to-day business is held at city hall.