‘We have strived, and we’re growing back’

Mayor Curtis Boyd speaking before the Darlington Rotary Club. FILE PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Curtis Boyd, a lifelong Darlington resident and owner of a chain of Fitness World gyms, was elected mayor of Darlington in 2019 and took office at the beginning of 2020. We sat down with Boyd, 57, to talk about the city’s past, present and future.

Q. If you had to describe Darlington to somebody who had never been here, who had never heard the name, how would you describe it?

A. As a close-knit, home- and family-oriented community where … no matter where you go, people know you. People are always willing to help. Just a very friendly, family community. … Everywhere you go, people are willing to help and assist you. … We’re still homegrown. A lot of our businesses are locally owned by the community. …
The reason I’ve stayed here, compared to going somewhere else, is that people know me. We know each other. If I ever need assistance, everybody’s just a phone call away or a door-knock away. I’m not afraid to walk up to anybody’s door in any of the four square miles of our town and ask to speak to somebody.
… There are some spots that are sketchy, that have more issues than others, that I personally have walked up to, and they call me by name, and they speak to me. They may give an appearance of not the best neighborhood or community, but that’s just appearance. … Every person in every neighborhood in every house is a human Jesus made, and I’m willing to walk up to them and talk to them. I’ve never been shunned off from anywhere.

Q. How has Darlington changed? How has it changed since you were a child?

A. There was more business here as a child. And we’re working to bring that back, and we’re starting to see (progress). Over the last two years that I’ve been mayor, we’ve seen improvements and we’ve seen growth. Almost $200 million is being spent in about one square mile in the center of town. We’ve got a lot of growth, a lot of good productivity that’s happening now.
That’s one reason I ran for mayor was to try to help push that in the right direction, so we could see that growth again. And a lot of that growth that we lost was from just the world changing. … People blame it on the big-box stores and all that, but we (were) a tobacco town. … There were big factories here, and those factories closed up, and life has changed, and we had to learn to adapt to that, and we have survived. There’s a lot of places, a lot of small towns, that died. … We have strived, and we’re growing back.
… Around 1976, when the Bypass was built, I tell people all the time – a lot of towns built bypasses – but that word. Think of what that word is. You bypass the town. If you bypass the town, then you’re not invited to come into the town, so the ‘invitation’ of coming to our city was taken away.
Then you add that to big-box stores coming into town, which hurt a lot of smaller, local owners, and now you’ve got even bigger than the big-box stores – you’ve got the Internet. So a lot of people … can take their phone, click, have it delivered, and you don’t go down to see the local owner that’s working in the store. …
I’ve started seeing that people are looking back now to try to come back to that. They like the smaller towns, where they can gather together like we do on the Square, and the community can come together, and can enjoy the weekends and things together. …
We purchased two years ago the sports-complex property (off Harry Byrd Highway). We just got the drawings back for it yesterday. We’re still working on getting everything finalized with that, which will be a wonderful (addition). …

Q. Where do you think the sports complex will be in 10 years? What will it look like and be like?

A. I hope that in the next couple of years, less than the next couple of years, it’ll be up and going. … What we’ve got drawn out is eight ballfields and a skateboard park and Frisbee golf and volleyball and cornhole boards, a walking trail, a bike trail, a concessions-stand area, a section for a convenience store or something that could be generated out there, also. It’s a 100-plus-acre piece of property, with a pond and everything else – fish and sit out and enjoy the landscape. It’ll be a really beautiful piece that will set Darlington off. We’re close to kicking that off now. …

Q. What are some of the frustrations that you’ve had as mayor?
A. I guess the big frustration is getting everybody to see your vision. A lot of people think that your vision is self-motivated when it’s not. I tell people that I sleep good at night. I know that everything I ask for and I push for is for the betterment of Darlington. It’s not for the betterment of Curtis. … A lot of things I ask for are small stuff. I’ve been accused of picking low-hanging fruit. … But I don’t have the money and we can’t just run out and get grants to automatically fix a lot of the big stuff. …

Q. Have you heard anything more about the whole idea of merging St. John’s and Rosenwald? (The Darlington County School Board is considering a proposal to close St. John’s Elementary School in Darlington, to close Rosenwald Elementary/Middle School in Society Hill, and to merge them into a new school. Opponents of the idea say losing St. John’s would badly damage Darlington as a community.)

A. That’s all School Board. A lot of people want the city to get involved with that. It does affect the city. … Anybody hates to see a 200-year-old school not be used. I understand both sides. I don’t have a real viewpoint on what is the best way to do it. I just leave it to the (School Board) to decide what they think is best. …

Author: Stephan Drew

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