Orangeburg County District 7 Councilwoman elect Latisha Walker discusses her priorities as the newest member of Council. Walker will be sworn in January 3, 2023

Orangeburg resident Latisha Walker was sworn in as the newest member of Orangeburg County Council on Tuesday.

Walker was elected to fill the District 7 seat left vacant by the death of Councilman Willie B. Owens, who served for 15 years.

“My job and my obligation is to serve the public,” Walker said Tuesday. “My job and my obligation is to make sure that our communities are better.”

“Sometimes we have to be about it. We can’t just talk about it,” Walker continued. “We can’t complain about the things that are not taking place or not being done. Sometimes you have to roll up the sleeves and do the work and that is what I am here to do.”

Walker thanked everyone who supported her. She also asked for prayers.

“Thank you for your support and entrusting me to do the work for you all,” she said.

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Walker was joined in the ceremony by her husband, Robert, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Chief Charles Austin and former S.C. Department of Transportation commissioner the Rev. Sam Glover.

As the newest council member, Walker has said she will focus on industrial recruitment and educational improvement. Other goals include job creation, infrastructure development, crime reduction and increasing the availability of affordable housing.

Walker was born and raised in New York and relocated to South Carolina while in high school, graduating from Blackville-Hilda High School.

She’s a 2009 graduate of Claflin University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Walker is a retired law enforcement officer who has worked with the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, where she was a deputy in the patrol division until being promoted to the investigative division where she made history as the first African American woman promoted to the rank of investigator in the sheriff’s office.

In 2005, Walker began working with the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, where she gained additional training as a nationally certified firefighter.

At ODPS, Walker worked in the patrol division as a patrol supervisor and served as the agency’s victim’s advocate, hostage negotiator, director of juvenile services and an instructor.

In 2015, Walker began working with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, where she served as an agent in the Alcohol Enforcement and Vice Services Division.

She also made history at the agency, becoming the first African American woman to be promoted to lieutenant in the Alcohol Enforcement and Vice Services Unit. She also supervised the agency’s first-ever human trafficking unit.

Also sworn in were Council Chairman Johnnie Wright of District 1 and District 6 Councilwoman Deloris Frazier.

Wright was first elected to Orangeburg County Council in 1994. Frazier was first elected to council in November 2018.

Frazier was joined by her sister, daughter, Wright and Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler at the ceremony.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them,” Frazier said.

Orangeburg County Magistrate Judge Derrick Dash administered the oaths.

In other matters, council unanimously elected Wright to another two-year term as chairman. Wright was first elected chairman in 2009 and has been continuously re-elected since then.

Wright thanked his fellow council members for electing him.

“I will assure you that I will be fair and transparent to all of you,” Wright said.

“I believe in unity and teamwork,” Wright said. He added that while council members may not always agree, they should be able to talk with each other and work out issues.

“We understand we all have many challenges in front of us and we also understand that you will never be able to satisfy every individual,” Wright said. “But as long as you are fair in your dealings, that is all you can do.”

Wright thanked his constituents for their support, as well as all leaders and county residents for helping move the county forward.

“I appreciate you. Just remember, I represent you but I also have to make a just decision in the best interest of the entire county,” Wright said.

Council then unanimously elected Councilman Johnny Ravenell to a two-year term as vice chairman. Ravenell has served on council since 2003, when he filled the unexpired term of the late James Glover.

Ravenell thanked his colleagues for appointing him to the position of vice chair.

“What we need to do is work together and do the best we can and we will make it and it will happen,” Ravenell said.

Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith had served as vice chair for the past two years. Cooper-Smith was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

The council meeting was held at the Orangeburg County Library and Conference Center in order to better facilitate social distancing. The audience included the presidents of local colleges and universities, Orangeburg County School District leaders and other public officials.

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