More recreation for youths? Issue divides Lamar candidates
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The biggest disagreement between the two candidates running for mayor of Lamar in the Nov. 2 elections? Whether the town is giving its youths enough to do. Town Council member Inez B. Lee, one of the two seeking to succeed Mayor Darnell Byrd-McPherson, who isn’t running again, says she would “begin adding to” the options youths have for recreation. “When children don’t have anything to do, they will do anything. They will get into anything. … We will look around at our resources, county, state and national, if possible, and find ways” to expand recreation opportunities, Lee said during an Oct. 19 candidates’ forum. Her opponent, James Howell, disagreed. “We have a lot of activities,” he said. “We have the library. … We have the Recreation Department. … I personally, at this time, don’t think we need any more activities because these activities are not being filled. They’re not being pushed, OK? … We have enough for them to do now.” For the most part, Howell and Lee were in agreement during the hour-long forum held at the town’s fire station to provide more space for the public. On the alarming rise in gun violence throughout the Pee Dee, both feel that it’s a major cause for concern. “I’ve never seen such violence here in Lamar,” said Lee, a lifelong town resident. “And it bothers me.” Lee said things were different when she was growing up. Youths “do not understand the magnitude of what they’re doing,” she said. She said education is one answer, not just for youths, but for everyone. “We cannot do this by ourselves. … If you see something, say something.” Howell, also a lifelong Lamar resident, warned that gun violence is “not going to be easy to solve.” If elected, he said he would assemble a team to examine the problem. “Let’s sit down and figure out what is the root cause and what we need to do about it.” On finding ways to bring new business to Lamar, Lee said: “More and more, we need to have our Mom and Pop stores come back. … We need to clean house so we can see where we are and where we’re going. … We have lots to offer, but we can’t see where we are.” Howell said: “We need to attract more (businesses). But we need to make these thrive that we have here now.” The town needs better infrastructure, better zoning and planning, and needs to update town codes and ordinances, he said. “I would work to recruit by working through the local channels and economic development groups.” Both agreed that Lamar needs to look better. Lee said residents must work “as a family” to give Lamar “a needed face-lift.” Howell said “cleaning this town up” is a priority. “Main Street looks terrible. That needs to be done, and then you can bring in some new businesses.” Both are dissatisfied that Lamar lacks its own water system. “I cannot see, and I cannot foresee, a small town like this continuing to buy water,” Lee said. “We’ve got to have a solution. … We cannot afford to buy more water.” Howell said, “We cannot afford to put a system in (now). But we should begin looking at what we can do” in terms of grants or other funding sources. “We need to be ready.” Also on the Lamar ballot are Town Council members Mary Ann Mack and Tyler Cook, but neither has opposition for another term. Mack and Cook were not asked questions by the moderator, but were given the opportunity to briefly talk to the audience. Mack said the town needs infrastructure improvements and more recreation opportunities for kids. “There’s no reason we can’t be a great place for people to live and raise a family,” Cook said.