Census: As county shrinks, so do its towns
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The 2020 Census already had found that Darlington County shrank 8.4 percent –losing 5,776 people — since 2010. Now, Census numbers say its four towns are shrinking as well. Census figures say that, between 2010 and 2020, the city of Darlington lost 2.2 percent of its residents, the city of Hartsville lost 4 percent of its population, the town of Lamar lost 12 percent and the town of Society Hill lost 22 percent. Some officials, including Society Hill Mayor Tommy Bradshaw, say that at least some of those numbers can’t be right and that many people simply didn’t respond to the Census Bureau’s surveys. And, in fact, as the Census count was drawing to a close in the fall of 2020, the Census Bureau was reporting very low response rates in Society Hill (37 percent) and Lamar (38 percent). County elections chief Hoyt Campbell has also questioned the Census Bureau’s finding that Darlington County fell from 68,681 in 2010 to 62,905 in 2020. “We’ve got to deal with the hand we were dealt” on the Census numbers, Campbell said at a Nov. 15 public hearing on how Census figures might affect County Council and School Board districts. “ … I personally believe we’ve got more people” than the Census counted, he said. Census numbers say that the city of Darlington’s population dropped from 6,289 in 2010 to 6,149 in 2020 — a 2.2 percent loss. That represents 140 residents. The city of Hartsville, according to the Census, dropped from a 2010 population of 7,764 to a 2020 population of 7,446 – down 4 percent, or 318 residents. The town of Lamar, according to Census numbers, dropped from a 2010 population of 989 to 862 in 2020. That’s a 12 percent loss, representing 127 people. The town of Society Hill, according to the Census, dropped from 563 people in 2010 to 438 people in 2020. That’s a 22 percent loss, or 125 people. Bradshaw says he’s extremely skeptical about that figure. “I would think that would not be right,” he said. “ … I find that hard to believe.” Bradshaw said he has heard other, much different numbers quoted from the Census; he said that at one point, the Municipal Association of South Carolina was quoting an estimated Society Hill population count of 522, which Bradshaw found far more plausible. Census numbers for individual County Council districts show that, since 2010, some have grown in population, some have shrunk and some have stayed more or less the same. Officials discussed these Census findings at the November public hearing. Some of the gains and losses in County Council districts seem to reflect the Census Bureau’s findings for the towns in Darlington County, but others do not. In District 1 (Darlington, represented by Angie Stone Godbold), Census numbers indicate it grew by about 130 people. In District 2 (the Society Hill area, represented by Dannie Douglas), the Census saw a drop of about 639 people. In District 3 (Darlington, represented by Joyce Thomas), the Census found things barely changed at all, with a drop of 44 people. In District 4 (Lamar, represented by Chairman Bobby Hudson), the Census Bureau saw a drop of about 245 people. In District 5 (the Swift Creek area, represented by Le Flowers), a surge of about 499 people was reported by the numbers. In District 6 (Hartsville, represented by Albert Davis), the Census saw a drop of about 495 people. In District 7 (Hartsville/Kelleytown, represented by Kirk Askins), a surge of about 817 people was reported. (Lake Robinson, a hot spot for real estate, is in this district.) And in District 8 (Hartsville, represented by David Coker), the Census found little had changed, with a reported drop of 45 people.