Acting Bennettville Fire Chief Chris Burks was named chief of the department after an executive session during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The vote was 4-2 with council members Jean Quick and Wilhelmina Pegues Gladden voting no.
Mayor Heath Harpe and Council members Tyron Abraham, Sandy Donaldson, and Allen Taylor voted yes.
Council member Bernice Johnson was absent for most of the meeting and the executive session.
Taylor made the motion and Abraham seconded it.
Quick noted she had nothing against Burks.
“I want him to know that but I think it (the process) was handled inappropriately,” Quick said. “I think it should have been put out for open applications.”
Abraham asked Harpe to read the ordinance related to the fire chief position.
In it under the fire department 32-31— appointment of the chief, the ordinance states “the fire chief shall be the chief administrator officer of the fire department and shall be appointed by the city council.”
Harpe said it is from the 1988 code.
Burks has served as acting chief since Fire Chief James Jackson III resigned in August to take a job as a fire chief for Chester Fire Department. Burks has been with the department for almost nine years.
He started in Bennettsville as a volunteer for three years and then moved to full-time. He started as a firefighter and then moved up the ranks to engineer, lieutenant and assistant chief.
City Administrator Max Alderman recognized the following employees’ anniversaries with the city in November:
Robert Cousar, public works, 21 years; Sammy Crosland, police, 21 years; Thomas Dew Jr., fire, nine years; Deborah Reaves, police, eight years; Danny Locklear, wastewater treatment plant, eight years; Teddy Stubbs, fire, six years; Jacob Stott, utility billing, four years; Spencer Sellers, fire, one year; Sierra Shelley, utility billing, one year; and Albert Wallace, gas, one year.
Mayor, council goodbyes
Tuesday’s meeting was the final one for Harpe, Gladden, and Johnson.
Harpe did not run for reelection and said he had enjoyed his time as mayor.
“It has been great serving with Mr. (City Administrator Max) Alderman and everyone up here on this council, past council members, department heads and staff,” he said. “I appreciate everything you have done. It is kind of bittersweet but I have to move on to bigger and better things. Who knows I might resurface in the future.”
Donaldson told Harpe she appreciated working beside him during the past four years with his ideas and wanting to move the community forward to make it better.
“Wilhelmina, we have been together a long time,” Donaldson said. “I appreciate your honesty, straightforwardness, and decision making.”
Alderman told Harpe that at times he felt like he was back in the United States Marine Corps because of the discipline that Harpe brought to the operation.
“You are very disciplined,” Alderman said. “Thank you very much for that.”
Gladden and Johnson did not win their reelection bids. Gladden said it had been good serving with everyone.
“It’s been great,” she said. “It’s been a ride. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Gladden has served on the council for 26 years.
Alderman joked with her that she was one of the ones who hired him “back in 1877.”
“On behalf of the staff, we appreciate everything you have done for the employees,” he said.
Gladden wanted everyone to continue to treat people like people.
“We are all family here in Marlboro County and Bennettsville,” she said. “We can disagree but disagree agreeably.”
Johnson arrived at the end of the meeting and announced she did not win her bid for reelection.
“No, I did not win but I am not a loser,” she said. “And I shall carry out my goals and make sure the visions that I set out, you will see those visions accomplished. When God closes one door, he opens another.”
Johnson told Harpe that he had a heart.
“I have challenged you on many occasions but it wasn’t harm. Every challenge is not a hard thing.”
She told everyone that she loved them all.
“I pray that you all be successful,” Johnson said. “And I believe all of you will. I am available if you can catch up with me.”
In other business, council members:
— Learned the installation of the new mayor and city council members will be at noon on Thursday, Jan. 2 at the Bennettsville Community Center.
— Learned there will be no regular meetings in December.
— Were reminded of the Holiday schedule for 2019, which is Thanksgiving, Nov. 28-29; Christmas, Dec. 24-26; and New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2020.
— Heard from Janice Rozier, Marlboro County Chapter board chairman for the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault and Bebe Chapman, volunteer coordinator, shared information on the activities of the Pee Dee Coalition.
— approved second reading of an ordinance adopting a supplement to the Code of Ordinances for the city of Bennettsville, an ordinance amending the 2019 S-4 Supplement.
— approved the 2020 Holiday Schedule.
— approved the recommended Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and Marlboro County for Emergency Medical First Responders Services. On July 17, 2018, City Council approved “a motion to allow the Fire Department to have a basic medical response to the incidents they run and to allow any training or certifications necessary to staff”.
— approved an MOU between Scotland Healthcare System, Marlboro County School District, and the city of Bennettsville Department of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation for the ENERGIZE Program. It is a free fun-filled, eight-week health and wellness program for school-age children and their families.
— approved moving the board appointment on the planning commission for District 1 until January workshop.
— approved the sale of city properties at 123 Livingston Avenue, 104 and 106 Lyall Street, and James Street parcel map 039-14-05-003 and authorization to prepare the ordinance to convey the properties.