SANTEE – A former Orangeburg County administrator is seeking his fourth term as mayor of Santee. He’ll face a challenger in the Tuesday, Nov. 8 election.

Frederick R. Goodwin is challenging incumbent Donnie Hilliard.

Both candidates want to manage growth within the town of 960 while preserving its quality of life.

Only voters living within the town limits of Santee can vote in the election. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Donnie Hilliard

“I believe in a strong Santee – a Santee that can withstand today’s challenges and prepare itself for tomorrow’s demands and opportunities,” Hilliard said.

He’s served as mayor since 2010. He said serving as mayor gives him an opportunity to share the skills he’s learned over the years in building a stronger community.

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“I plan to prepare Santee for tomorrow’s demands by maintaining the comprehensive master plan that we have designed for the town. That was a long process where citizen input was a major part of it.

“At the same time, one of the things that we’ve built over those years that I was here was to try to sustain the town without a tax increase by using the growth that we’ve developed and by using that master plan that we put in place,” Hilliard said.

“Thank God we’ve been able to exist over those 12 years with just one tax increase, and that was in the year 2011. We haven’t had one since,” he said.

Hilliard said working to get the town’s infrastructure on solid footing is what he’s most proud of.

“When I talk about the infrastructure, I’m talking about wastewater and sewer lines, new pump stations and what have you. Our system was kind of old, and we’ve replaced all that,” he said.

He continued, “But the other part that I was really proud of is that we were able to administratively define the town: get all of our code of ordinances modernized, up to date and codified and give people directions where there was a document they could read.”

Maintaining the town’s sound financial structure is another thing he is proud of.

“When I arrived here, we were almost about to go under, but today we’re solid, we’re sound and we have some funding reserves. We have no debt. Those are some of the things that I’m proud of,” he said, noting that the town’s Conference Center, for example, is now paid for.

He said updating the town’s antiquated wastewater system is a work in progress.

“We have been applying and working with various governmental entities for grants and loans over the years. We were successful this past quarter in receiving a grant and a loan from the USDA to totally upgrade our wastewater system at a tune of $15 million. Of that $15 million, $7.5 million is a grant. The rest is a 1 percent interest loan over 40 years,” he said.

He continued, “We should be able to totally renovate and replace our 40-something-year-old wastewater system into a modern, up-to-date system with the capacity to expand it if the future demands it.”

Hilliard said he’d like to get more citizen participation in town matters and “getting the total concept of what a town’s all about.”

“Those are some of the things that I still strive for. A lot of times folks say that when people don’t say anything, they’re satisfied, but I don’t totally buy all that. Citizen participation means a lot in a small town like we have,” he said.

He continued, “Santee is a community of 960, but we have to manage and design the town around 4,000 citizens because each given night we have that many people in town.

“We, along with the merchants and the town, advertise and attract tourists off of I-95 into our community. So in order to have a community that will be accommodating to the 990 citizens, plus the 3,000 people that show up every night, it’s a challenge,” he said.

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Hilliard said facing the challenge will have to include citizen input.

“The biggest challenge is to try to get the citizens that are here every day to understand that while we have to blend their needs, we also have to blend the visitors’ needs, because it’s the visitors who are make us go. That’s another challenge.

“We’re doing pretty good with it. Our marketing program has been working well, and our revenues from the hospitality side is constant, but we still have to maintain and push,” he said.

The mayor said the town works to balance advancing growth with the needs of the community’s residents.

“What we do is go through the legal process as provided by the state. We have public hearings. We listen to the citizens, and if they have some solid suggestions or recommendations, we make modifications and adjustments. But we don’t shut down growth just because we don’t want any more people,” Hilliard said.

He continued, “At the same time, we want to make sure that the town can sustain and manage that growth. … We haven’t had what I’d call an overall abundance of folks beating us up, but we have our share. Most of it is somewhat resolved when we explain where we are and where we’re going because we can only accept the growth that we can manage.”

Hilliard said future growth, however, will require changes.

“In the future, we’ll probably get a little of problem because we were able to say, ‘We can only sustain this because our wastewater system capacity is limited.’ But once we get this new system in, it’s going to be a little challenge to say, ‘Oh, we can’t get but so much done.’ Hopefully we’ll be in a position where we’ll continue,” he said.

He continued, “We’re on one of the bases of that Global Logistics Triangle. We need to put ourselves in a position where we can support the county in making sure that that Global Logistics Park that they’re designing here will create an attractive environment for those folks that are coming to town.”

The Global Logistics Triangle is the name Orangeburg County uses to market the area bordered by Interstate 26, Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 301.

Hilliard said growth will ultimately manage itself.

“After a while, if the economy says stop, you’re going to stop,” he said, noting that he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything for the town without the help of town council members.

“I’m proud to say that I’ve had a wonderful experience with my council. … A lot of times folks say that we’re not getting anything done because we don’t have no racket going on. But, no, we do have our debates, and we do look at how things are done from one component of the town to the next one,” Hilliard said.

He continued, “At the same time, we come together, we manage the town and go forward. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of the citizens for their input to what we’ve done thus far, even with those that are saying we should stop letting anybody else come to town. They have their right, and I support them.”

The Holly Hill native has lived in Santee for the past 22 years. He and his wife of 55 years, Barbara, are the parents of two children. He is a graduate of the former Roberts High School in Holly Hill and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Carolina.

Frederick R. Goodwin

Goodwin sees his run for mayor as a way to keep the town “from becoming a town that will be too expensive and too crowded to enjoy as we do today.”

“The direction the growth of the town is currently progressing will incur traffic congestion, higher taxes and living expenses and a decrease in job opportunities for residents of Santee,” Goodwin said.

“The mayor and council are improperly conducting public hearings to allow the real estate developers to annex land and to rezone agricultural, industrial or commercial land to be used for the purpose of constructing high-density residential communities and Planned Unit Development residential communities,” he said.

Goodwin believes the current town administration puts real estate developers’ interests over that of the citizens.

“This type of governing is not a benefit to the citizens of Santee,” Goodwin said.

As mayor, he said he would make water tap and impact fees more affordable and manage the water and wastewater systems to make them profitable again, along with promoting infrastructure for industry and business that will bring “high-paying jobs to Santee and surrounding areas.”

He also said he’d increase access to athletic facilities such as basketball courts and baseball fields; have police personnel who are focused and will serve honorably; and increase efforts to have the railroad tracks along U.S. Highway 15/301 repaired.

Goodwin’s other goals include supporting the efforts to repair, renovate and reopen the former Lake Marion Bridge, which remains closed to pedestrians, with lanes for pedestrians, fishing and biking.

Goodwin said he also plans to support the bridge’s repair, renovation and “for all vehicles, commercial and noncommercial.”

Goodwin is against what he claims are real estate developers’ wishes to have a pedestrian bridge only that would “restrict some pedestrians and eventually restrict that area north of the traffic light to an exclusive area, as what the real estate developers did with the Santee Cooper Resort in the 1950s.”

He said he would also, “allow the establishment of trailer homes without harassment and support all measures to ensure affordable housing for anyone in Santee.”

Goodwin’s goals also include supporting “residential growth in a fair, transparent manner.”

Goodwin also questions whether the town’s finances are in order, saying that is also part of the reason he’s running for mayor.

Goodwin, the son of the late former Santee Mayor Franklin B. Goodwin Jr. and the late Hannah W. Goodwin, a longtime Santee businesswoman, is a member of Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Santee. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry/pre-medicine from Morehouse College in Atlanta and is self-employed as operator of the Saints Package & Party Shop in Santee.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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