by Nicole Collins
(The views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Woodruff Times. The Woodruff Times does not endorse any political candidate or political party.)
Background note: In 2016, the Woodruff City Council decided that the mayor and ward seats 1, 3 and 5 would serve a three-year term instead of a four-year term in order to move the municipal election off from the nation’s presidential election years. The mayor and Ward 1, 3 and 5 representatives elected in November will revert back to a four-year term. This decision did not affect the representatives for Wards 2, 4 and 6, who continue to serve a four-year term. Those seats will be up for re-election in November 2021.
Burnett focuses on growth, people
Mayor Brad Burnett is seeking a third term as Mayor of the City of Woodruff. In addition to finishing the current term, he also served as mayor from 2008-2012.
Burnett’s campaign focus is “Moving forward.” He wants Woodruff to become “the best place in the Upstate to live, raise a family and live in harmony and unity with all God’s people. Together, nothing will be impossible to us.”
With the new housing developments that will bring new people to the area, he wants to integrate these people into the city and make them just as much as part of the City of Woodruff as the people who’ve been here all their lives.
“We need to have a good city and a place for them to go and at the same time, make them a part of this community,” Burnett said. “People are the city’s greatest asset.”
Burnett moved to the Woodruff city limits in 2004 from Enoree. In 1990, he relocated to Enoree to work at Inman Mills, where he managed all three of the Enoree division manufacturing plants.
“I really have the community at heart. I have not lived here all my life, but I have grown to love and appreciate the community as a whole,” Burnett said.
Growth is another part of Burnett’s campaign focus. “I’d like to see the culture of the businesses downtown grow and expand.”
Burnett retired from Inman Mills in November 2018, and the management experience he acquired from there gives him some of the key skills he believes is necessary for a mayor.
“It’s important to have a strong figure and an accountable business person being the mayor. I think it’s important for the area that you have somebody who understands fiscal constraints with money and capital and then you understand the allocation of resources, how much is coming in and out, that you have a pretty good handle on finance. I tend to think I do that pretty well.”
Gist focuses on healthcare, housing
Kenneth “Turk” Gist, a Woodruff local, business man and current council member, is running against Mayor Brad Burnett in the November election.
Gist has been the Ward 4 representative on the Woodruff City Council since 2002, except for the four years he was mayor, from 2012 to 2016. He ran for Mayor again in 2016, but lost to Burnett. If elected as Mayor, Gist’s two major priorities are finding rental homes for the low-income families and a stronger focus on healthcare options.
Above all, he wants the community to know that “we got this.” “Economic development, recreation and housing. We got this,” Gist said.
To Gist, it doesn’t matter what ward he’s in or the role he plays because his main priority will always be to serve the city.
“If you vote and put me in, I’m going to be there. If I don’t win, I’m still going to be here. It’s not about the title, it’s about the City of Woodruff and helping the people,” Gist said. “You can’t make the city better until you make all parts of the city better.”
Gist says he was encouraged to run for mayor by another former mayor of Woodruff, Paul Bell. But his aspiration to serve his community comes from his father, the late Willie James “W.J” Gist, who was on the District 4 school board during the early 1980s.
“It’s about serving the community,” Gist said. “I guess when you grow up around that, it kind of gets contagious. I want to make myself available and I want to be visible. I think that’s the only way you’re going to be effective. You see me whether you want to see me or not. And that’s a major part of anything, being visible and available.”
If Gist is elected as mayor in November, there will be a special election in early 2020 to elect someone new for the Ward 4 seat on the city council.