Democratic Primary – County Council: District 3

Questions for Darlington County Council Candidates:
District 03: Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i) and Joyce W. Thomas

1. Please share a little about yourself, and why you want to run for this office/ run for reelection of this seat.

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i)
“Wilhelmina P. Johnson, better known as “The Total Package” will continue to share a legacy of 28 years as county council commission District 3. The personal leadership and management skills are the skills needed to move Darlington County ahead in growth management.”

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i), left and Joyce W. Thomas, right.

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i), left and Joyce W. Thomas, right.

Johnson was born to a sharecropper in rural Lee County, and graduated from S.C. State College, and later earned a Masters of Education Degree. She worked for Clemson Extension Services and later retired as an educator in the Darlington County School District. Johnson was the featured speaker at the South Carolina Bicentennial Celebration in 1976; directed many events with the USDA, the South Carolina Arts Commission, and the National Endowments for the Arts; researched and was integral in placing many historical Markers for African-Americans in the Darlington County area. In addition to serving on County Council for 28 years, she served as the Chairman of Council in 2010. She has been named Woman of the Year for Darlington County through the South Carolina Governor’s Office, received a Lifetime Achievement Award through the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce, and was named a Hero of the Day on CBS Morning News just to name a few of her honors.

Over 43 years ago she was instrumental in founding the Darlington County Cultural Realism Center, for children to have access to performing arts, modeling, self-defense, living skills, ethnic history and arts and craft. She also houses the largest collection of artifacts from notable African American residents in the greater Pee Dee area.

Joyce W. Thomas
“I am a native of Darlington. Born and raised in Darlington, and wife of the late Captain Cecil Thomas of the City of Darlington Police Department, who was the epitome of law enforcement.

We have one daughter, Tracy, who resides in the Washington D.C. area. I feel I can be a very strong voice, Darlington County is my home and there are some situations that I feel that district 3 needs to be aware of and be inclusive of. I am really concerned about our drainage, infrastructure and economic possibilities. My recent experience was on the Darlington County Board of Education for 8 years, and on Darlington County EMS Commission for 8 years, and Planning Commission for Darlington County for 4 years. I am still a vibrant voice for he community and county. I am ready and committed to serving. I am a very capable catalyst and ready to see changes and improvements in our county.”

2. What is the most important quality in a good Darlington County council member?

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i)
“The most important quality in a good Darlington County council member is the necessary training in providing the government with adequate leadership and management skills.”

Joyce W. Thomas
“The most important quality is honesty, and keeping your word to your constituents.”

3. In the past 20 years Hartsville has seen significant growth in their downtown area with small businesses, and Darlington has experienced an upswing in the past year with the new Walmart and several new small businesses. What can the county to do help continue economic growth in the entire county?
Do you think the Darlington County Economic Development Partnership has been beneficial?

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i)
“Darlington County Council is responsible for governing the county. Members of the Darlington County Council are part of a leadership team that is responsible for guiding the county’s growth, development, health, safety, and environmental protection. Negative values by council will not be tolerated. All stakeholders deserve the best for a positive quality of life.

Economic development is more than building roads. In my opinion, the leadership and management roles in the county must be improved. Tourism and other projects are needed. And we need to build the growth of rural Darlington County, too. We cannot forget those that are living in the rural areas. We must also not forget that not everyone will go to college, we need to build up the skills for young people to have a job and become contributing members of the county.”

Joyce W. Thomas
“We can work closer with Hartsville who certainly has done really well; I feel the different entities can work closer together to be a cohesive team. We can learn by example from others who have been successful, such as Hartsville and surrounding cities including Florence.

I think we need to take a closer look at the Darlington County Economic Development Partnership and involve the people. We should do surveys and be in touch with the people and see what they feel works or doesn’t work. We need more research, and involvement from our constituents. The people that we serve have a lot offer. We are their representatives and we need to involve them more.

We need a resource directory; people need to know who is in the different organizations and the chain of command. The websites are hard to navigate, and the phone systems. We are dealing with an older population too, and they have to go through voice prompts on the telephone that is difficult- especially if they don’t know who to ask for. They need to talk to a live person.”

4. What is the current biggest social problem in your district? Is it drugs, crime, or something else? How can this be fixed?

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i)
“Attention must be given to Darlington County as a whole to make the environment as a whole an area for growth and development. Reduction in crime rates will occur by promoting jobs. All agencies and organizations must begin to work together My objectives also call for private roads to be repaired in the various districts, and revamping the South Darlington Watershed Project which began 25 years ago. The problems did not go away; this needs to be a project for Darlington County.”

Joyce W. Thomas
“The biggest one I feel is the quality of life issues. And of course, the quality of life that is stemming from not having jobs and not able to provide for their families goes back to economic development. If a person can provide for their family, their life would be much better. I have worked with poverty and hunger issues for years, and our most vulnerable people in that area are seniors and children. We need to look at those issues and see where we can improve.”

5. What is your vision for improving the recreation department for the people in your district, and the county at large?

Wilhelmina P. Johnson (i)
“Recreation will be a part of each council district. Other learning experiences for children and adults should be available. It should not be a disadvantage to live in a rural community and have no access to all that children and adults have in the more urban areas.”

Joyce W. Thomas
“I think we need to find out what is best for the people. I know what I would like, and I think that the new proposed gym proposed for Darlington needs input from our citizens. We can do a survey; make an advisory committee to get input from the community on that. In Darlington, and the county as a whole, the city and the county can work together on this concern.”

Author: Duane Childers

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