Longtime Calhoun County Councilman David Summers, who led council for four decades, died early Saturday.

Summers “was a giant in the community,” Rep. Russell Ott said.

“This will be a huge loss for the community,” he said.

Summers was elected in November 1978 and took office as council chairman in January 1979 at age 39. Roger Hill was elected chairman in 1990, but Summers was elected the next year.

In January of this year, Summers decided to not seek the position of chairman again. He had been dealing with health issues and lost his wife and two daughters to COVID within seven months of each other last year.

Summers told his fellow council members that, “I have to give things up. I have had 41 great years as chairman, mostly due to you guys for supporting me and all, but now with this fibrosis I’ve got, I can’t do it anymore.” Council unanimously elected James Haigler the new chairman.

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According to the South Carolina Association of Counties, Summers was the state’s longest-serving council chairman since 1969, when records began to be kept.

Ott said, “not much happened in Calhoun County that he wasn’t a part of.”

“He was someone who cared about his community, cared about where he was from“ and worked to make it better, Ott said.

Summers was heavily involved in economic development and worked to expand the county’s tax base, Ott said. But “he wanted to make sure it made sense for the county.”

Ott appreciates the time Summers took to work with him when Ott was first elected to the South Carolina House.

“He allowed me to talk about the issues with him. We had a good working relationship,” Ott said.

Haigler called Summers an ambassador for Calhoun County across South Carolina.

Because of Summers’ leadership, Calhoun County is known across the state like the larger counties, Haigler said. It also avoided the financial difficulties other small counties have faced.

Summers was conservative where he needed to be and liberal where he needed to be, Haigler said. “He left us fine and stable.”

“We’ll truly, truly miss him – not just Calhoun County, but the whole state of South Carolina will miss him,” Haigler said.

County Administrator John McLaughlin said he appreciated that Summers always made his positions clear, and there was McLaughlin never wondered where he stood on an issue.

“He always tried to do what was right for Calhoun County,” McLaughlin said.

“He was definitely Mr. Calhoun County. He was all for Calhoun County and making sure we could get what we could whether it be from the state or federal legislation. He’s always been an advocate for small, rural counties and especially Calhoun County,” he said.

Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers called his second cousin, “a dedicated person when it came to being on County Council.

“He loved Calhoun County and devoted countless hours to Calhoun County businesses and people. He was absolutely a great asset to Calhoun County.”

The sheriff added that Summers, “was all about keeping Calhoun County a beautiful place to live, a beautiful place for people to come to with their children and also he wanted the county to grow.”

Calhoun County “is going to be hard-pressed to find another person as dedicated to Calhoun County as David Summers was,” the sheriff said.

David Summers was recognized for his dedication over his years in office.

In 2005, he was named the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year.

At the time, the chamber recognized his work as co-owner of Golden Kernel Pecan Company in Cameron. It also recognized his work with the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, including serving on its board.

Former Gov. Carroll Campbell designated Summers as a Palmetto Gentleman, and in 1991 he awarded Summers the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest honor.

Summers also helped form the Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority. Three Rivers recognized his contributions to the development of the regional landfill in Aiken County by naming its administration building after him.

Summers chaired Three Rivers from its inception in December 1992 and the landfill’s opening in July 1998 until his resignation from the agency’s board due to health reasons in February 2021.

Also, in 2019 he was presented the South Carolina Association of Counties’ President’s Cup. Summers also received the President’s Cup in 1991 and in 2004.

First elected to the SCAC’s Board of Directors in 1981, he served as the association’s president in 1988. That year, he established a “Committee on the Future,” which laid the foundation for SCAC to provide support and services to South Carolina’s 46 counties.

Summers received the Distinguished Service Award – the SCAC’s highest honor – in 1998.

When Summers decided not to seek the Calhoun County Council chairman’s seat again in January, he thanked his constituents.

“I appreciate the support so much from the people … and thank them for that,” he said.

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