Thursday, December 15, 2022

Start the New Year With Professional Development Opportunities

Education and professional development — both for elected officials and staff — are key functions of the Municipal Association of SC. For that reason, the Association has affiliate organizations to help local officials serve their cities and towns to the best of their abilities.

These affiliate groups connect peers in various fields of local government to network, learn through specially developed training and share best practices and experiences. The affiliate associations have online listserve systems that make sharing information and best practices around the state easier and faster. 

Each affiliate has a board of directors elected by its membership, and the Municipal Association provides management support to the boards. 

Two of the affiliates, the SC Municipal Finance Officers, Clerks and Treasurers Association and the SC Business Licensing Officials Association, host a Joint Academy each year to address topics relevant to both groups. 

The SC Association of Stormwater Managers hosts quarterly training sessions each year. The Third Quarter Training includes an Exhibitor Showcase highlighting manufacturers and consulting firms. 

Find all the affiliates' membership applications for 2023 below. The nominal membership costs provide each participant with discounted training registrations and access to that group’s closed listserve. 

The affiliate organizations are these: 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Municipal Association of SC and Main Street SC Launch On-demand Economic Development Training

Federal, state and local tax credits can turn historic buildings in need of renovation into a brand-new economic engine, but when these financial tools are overlooked by landlords, businesses and the development community, communities can struggle to reactivate commerce in their historic commercial districts. For that reason, the Municipal Association of SC and Main Street South Carolina have released Economic Development Incentives: A Collaborative Process, a video explaining the many facets of the historic tax credit process.

Photo: Savage Craft Ale Works 
The on-demand, 25-minute video helps showcase the opportunities of national, state and local incentives to encourage the reuse of historic downtown properties. It highlights a catalytic preservation case study: the development of the Savage Craft Ale Works in West Columbia. The facility uses the historic fire department and city hall, built in 1925, of Brookland, the former name of West Columbia, as well as the adjoining historic city jail. 

Through the video, viewers can hear how this project worked from City of West Columbia officials; staff from Rogers Lewis Jackson Mann & Quinn, the law firm involved in the project; as well as staff from Hood Construction and Tax Credit Marketplace. They explain how developers can stack together tax incentives to make historic redevelopment projects financially feasible, how to handle the necessary research and even the passion that developers need for bringing specific historic properties back to life. 

The video shows the possibilities of South Carolina’s surviving historic buildings, and the innovative ways that downtown communities can maintain their character while also welcoming the highest and best use of their buildings. 

The new video joins the Municipal Association’s Economic Incentives Toolkit, which explains a variety of tax credits and gives examples of each in action. It covers 
  • the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, 
  • SC historic tax credit, 
  • federal new markets tax credit, 
  • SC state abandoned building credit, and 
  • the Bailey Bill property tax incentive, which local governments can make available by ordinance.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

12 Cities and Towns Receive 2022 Hometown Economic Development Grants

The Municipal Association of South Carolina has awarded Hometown Economic Development Grants to 12 cities and towns. 

Available in amounts of up to $25,000 each, the grants fund economic development projects that will have positive effects on a municipality’s quality of life, can be maintained over time and illustrate innovative practices that can be replicated in other cities. The grants have matching requirements of either funds or in-kind contributions ranging from 5% to 15% depending on the size of the municipality. 

Many projects supported by HEDG funding have become important parts of their home communities. Walterboro, one of the very first HEDG recipients, put the funds toward the creation of the Walterboro Wildlife Center, which is now an important part of the city’s park offerings, as seen in this Municipal Association Achievement Award video

Here are the recipients in the 2022 cycle: 
  • City of Bennettsville: Downtown Business Façade Program – Bennettsville will use grant funds to continue its downtown redevelopment by partnering with local businesses to improve their facades. 
  • Town of Bethune: Main Street Park and Amphitheater – Bethune has partnered with Sandhill Telephone Cooperative to construct a park and amphitheater that will anchor a comprehensive main street revitalization effort
  • Town of Blacksburg: Lime Street Park Amphitheater – Building on its success from a previous HEDG award, Blacksburg will build an amphitheater as a town gathering space at its Lime Street Park
  • Town of Bowman: Inner Park Facilities Improvements – As part of a larger effort to make Bowman an agritourism destination, the town will use its funds for improvements and development of its Inner Park.
  • Town of Cheraw: Cheraw Theatre on the Green Renovations – Lacking accessible facilities at its historic Theatre on the Green, Cheraw will use grant funds to upgrade the theater’s facilities to ensure it remains a community space for all residents and visitors. 
  • City of Conway: Downtown Business Environmental Refuse Facility – Envisioned in its Riverfront and Downtown Master Plan, Conway will use grant funds to eliminate the clutter of refuse containers and capture stormwater downtown by constructing a multipurpose environmental refuse facility that will be made available to all of its downtown businesses. 
  • City of Landrum: Farmers Market Pavilion Expansion – Seeking to accommodate more community events and visitors, Landrum will use grant funds to improve a vacant property that will expand its farmers market pavilion. 
  • Town of Pendleton: Pendleton Oil Mill Redevelopment Plan – Through a public-private partnership, Pendleton will use town funds and grant funds to clean up and make plans for the redevelopment of a decades-long blighted industrial property at the entrance to its Village Green. 
  • Town of Ridgeway: Town Park Facilities Improvement Project – Ridgeway will use grant funds to develop adequate facilities at the town’s iconic School Arch and surrounding parks which draw visitors and residents year-round. 
  • Town of Summerton: Round & About Summerton Downtown Marketing Plan – In an effort to boost downtown businesses, Summerton will develop and execute the Round & About Summerton marketing plan that will seek to draw motorists and visitors off the interstate and into town. 
  • City of Tega Cay: City Center Marketing Plan – Tega Cay will use its funds to develop a marketing plan for it first-ever mixed-use development. The City Center District, which will create a “distinctive place of community,” is a key component of the city’s 2015 – 2025 comprehensive plan. 
  • Town of Ware Shoals: West End Business District Storefront Project – Partnering with the town, Ware Shoals’ west end businesses will get a boost from grant funds to improve their storefronts and eliminate blighted areas of the business district. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Action Needed on the Municipal Information Dashboard by November 21

Each fall, the Municipal Association of SC asks every city and town to review, update and verify its listed information using the Municipal Information Dashboard, which feeds information to the Association’s Municipal Directory. This year, the deadline for doing so is Monday, November 21. 

Cities and towns can also update their information with the Association throughout the year. Updating frequently helps the Association effectively engage with municipalities on key issues affecting their operations and residents. With accurate and up-to-date contact information, the Association can provide local municipal staff with 
The Municipal Officials and Legislative Directory is available online as well as in limited printed quantities. It features contact information for all 271 municipalities. It also lists the specific form of government for each city and town, the regular schedule of council meetings and the names of all elected officials and key staff positions. It also includes a listing of all legislators with the municipalities they represent. In the online version, users can search for legislators by municipality and find links to the legislator’s pages on the South Carolina State House website. The online version of the directory allows users to search for municipalities based on characteristics like the county in which the municipality is located or its population. 

In order to ensure the accuracy of all submitted information, the Association allows only one person from each municipality to handle the annual update — the municipal clerk or the clerk’s designee. The Association’s website has instructions for how to manage the updates, as well as explanations for frequently asked questions, like how to handle newly elected officials who have not yet been sworn into office. 

For assistance, or to make a new designation for the person responsible for the update, contact Joanna Ayers at or 803.933.1259.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Municipal Association Releases Updated Annexation Handbook

Annexation of properties into municipal limits is among the most frequently-discussed policy subjects in municipal government. City and town officials often have questions about the eligibility of given properties for annexation into their municipality, how to pursue and properly execute a property annexation, and even whether a proposed annexation is financially feasible. The Municipal Association of SC recently overhauled and updated its guidance document on this critical subject — the Annexation Handbook

The handbook covers the three methods of annexation available to municipalities in South Carolina: the 100% petition and ordinance method, the 75% petition and ordinance method and the 25% petition and election method. It provides checklists, includes sample petitions, and explains the other documents to be assembled when enacting an annexation.

Beyond the processes of annexation, the guide takes a look at many other key issues, including these: 
  • Defining and determining “contiguity.” Properties can be annexed only when they are contiguous to municipal limits. The SC Attorney General has determined contiguity means that a property is “adjacent to a municipality and shares a continuous border [with the municipality].” The handbook provides explanations of the nuance involved in cases where roads, railroads or waterways intervene between a property inside the municipal boundaries and one outside. 
  • Policy considerations. For every annexation, city and town councils should ask whether the annexation is in the best interest of the municipality’s current residents. Sometimes, the increased revenue of an annexation does not offset the financial burden of furnishing municipal services to the new area. Other issues include the zoning or rezoning of parcels as they are annexed, the legal issues involved in requiring annexation agreements as a condition for providing services outside the city, as well as creating tax relief or other incentives for annexation. 
  • Rules for annexing certain property types. The laws governing annexation of property owned by the municipality, the county, state or federal government, school district property, corporate property, multicounty parks and others vary. There are also specific issues to consider when annexing cemeteries or church property. 
Other resources 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Include All the Required Elements for Comprehensive Plans

October is National Community Planning Month, and local officials can mark the occasion by asking whether their comprehensive plans are properly updated on a 10-year cycle and whether they cover all of the elements required by law. State law changed in 2020 to add “resiliency” to the list of required elements for a comprehensive plan. 

Municipalities in South Carolina do not have to implement a planning and zoning program to guide their community’s development. For those that do, state law creates a framework for doing so in the Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act, found in SC Code Title 6, Chapter 29

The law requires local governments with land use regulations to establish and operate a local planning commission. That commission must develop a comprehensive plan, specifically addressing the 10 planning elements required by law. The commission must also reevaluate the comprehensive plan every five years. Every 10 years, the commission must update the plan by passing a resolution and submitting it to the city or town council. Also every 10 years, the council must host a public hearing on the plan and adopt it by ordinance.

Municipalities can pursue the 10 comprehensive plan elements in a way that best meets their community’s needs. For each of the elements, the plan must include an inventory of the community’s existing conditions, a statement of the local government’s needs and goals, and implementation strategies that include timeframes. 

  1. Population element. This addresses the historic population trends, anticipated growth and demographic data. 
  2. Economic development element. This covers the workforce, where workers live and other aspects of the local economy. 
  3. Natural resources element. This addresses items like the area’s water bodies, parks and recreation areas, agricultural and forest land and wildlife habitats. 
  4. Cultural resources element. This describes things like historic sites, areas of the community with unique commercial, residential or natural assets, as well as religious and entertainment institutions.
  5. Community facilities element. This addresses necessary factors for development like water, sewer, solid waste, fire protection, as well as medical, governmental and educational facilities. The local government must adopt this element before adopting any subdivision or other land development regulations. 
  6. Housing element. This describes the locations, types, ages and conditions of existing housing, how much is owner-occupied or renter-occupied, and the costs and other factors affecting the development of affordable housing. 
  7. Land use element. This considers both current and future land uses, including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural or undeveloped uses. This element is a prerequisite for adopting zoning ordinances.
  8. Transportation element. This should coordinate with the land use element to provide sufficient transportation options for existing and future land uses. 
  9. Priority investment element. This recommends projects for the anticipated federal, state and local funds available for infrastructure and facilities in the next decade. 
  10. Resiliency element. This considers the impacts of flooding, high water and natural hazards on individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, economic development, public infrastructure and facilities, and public health, safety and welfare. 

The final element listed in the law, resiliency, was a new addition in 2020. The City of Conway is an example of a city that has recently worked on its resiliency element ahead of its 2035 Comprehensive Plan. It hosted a public input meeting in September dedicated to considering the recurring issues and potential for sudden disasters such as flooding, power or communication outages, pandemics and even economic disasters. 

Planning guide 

The Comprehensive Planning Guide for Local Governments, a publication of the Municipal Association, explores the comprehensive planning process. It explains how planning commissions can develop and revise the 10 elements of the comprehensive plan, and how councils should adopt it. The handbook also explains the organizational structures and functions of planning commissions and boards of architectural review as well as the process of crafting a comprehensive plan.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Local Business License Renewal Center Streamlines the Business License Process

By Caitlin Cothran, Manager for Local Revenue Services, Municipal Association of SC 

The Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Local Revenue Services offered business license officials 10 opportunities this summer to attend in-person training sessions throughout the state to learn more about the Local Business License Renewal Center. The trainings prepared current users and new users to operate the online system. 

The sessions involved many hours explaining the system and helping staff, but our staff really enjoyed spending one-on-one time with business licensing staff all over the state. They brought us great questions and they have learned a tremendous amount about how to make the Renewal Center work smoothly since we first began testing the software years ago. 
Officials join the Renewal Center training for the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments at Hanahan City Hall on August 18.  

Never heard of the Renewal Center? 

In recent years, the Municipal Association developed a statewide online portal for business license renewals. Act 176, the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act, which passed in 2020, requires that this system to be hosted by the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. Municipalities and counties that levy a business license tax must offer the Renewal Center for businesses to use to pay their tax. For these jurisdictions, using this free software requires that they adopt a number of standard business license practices which are also required by Act 176

What do the Renewal Center requirements mean for staff?

While Act 176 requires municipalities and counties to use the Renewal Center, it does not require that businesses use it. They still have the option to renew by mail, phone or in person. 

If the business chooses to renew its business license using the online portal, the city, town or county must accept renewal applications through it. They cannot require the business to apply for a license another way if it chooses to renew its license through the Renewal Center. Any city, town or county that is not accepting renewals and payments through the online system is not following state law. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for city and town councils? 

Councilmembers should know that Act 176 standardized business license practices across the state. This makes it much easier for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions to do business around the state, since now they have only one renewal deadline and one place to handle them. 

One of the standardization requirements of Act 176 is that local jurisdictions update the class schedules they use for business license tax calculations every two years. The Municipal Association creates this update, which then receives approval from the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, and must be passed by ordinance by each municipal or county council. To ensure compliance with Act 176, the Association recommends that councils pass its model business license ordinance, which includes the current class schedule as an appendix. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for businesses? 

The Local Business License Tax Renewal Center means that there is now one central location to renew and pay all local business license taxes, but it’s important to remember this is for renewals only — businesses cannot use it to establish new business licenses. When applying for new licenses, businesses need to go directly to the licensing jurisdictions. The Association created a message for cities and towns to use when explaining to businesses the key points of Act 176 and its effects

More resources 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Hometown Economic Development Grant Applications Due September 30

Applications are currently open for the Municipal Association’s Hometown Economic Development Grants, available to cities and towns for projects that make a positive impact on the quality of life in the communities, but the deadline of September 30 is fast approaching. 

Since the Association first offered the grants in 2016, it has awarded 68 grants to 55 cities and towns, ranging from small communities to several large cities. Direct grant awards have totaled $1.2 million in funding. The grants — along with all matching funds received by the cities and towns — add up to more than $1.7 million. 

Projects funded through the grants have been transformational in many ways, from master plan documents to parks, façade grant programs, farmers markets and other initiatives. The Town of Lowrys used its funds to establish its first-ever permanent town hall

The City of Walterboro used funding for engineering costs for its Walterboro Wildlife Center, which went on to win a Municipal Association Achievement Award in 2020. Orangeburg used its grant to design its open-air market and pavilion in its downtown, a project that won Main Street South Carolina’s Outstanding New Construction award in 2021.

Applying for a Hometown Economic Development Grant 

The 2022 HEDG cycle will award as many as 12 grants of up to $25,000 each. 

HEDG project proposals must make a positive, measurable and sustainable economic impact on a community. Some project types are excluded, as explained in the full eligibility rules on the application. 

Those interested should apply online by Friday, September 30 at 5 p.m. The application and grant awards have several key requirements: 
  • The city or town council must pass a resolution in support of the grant application. 
  • Cities and towns that receive a grant must provide matching funds. 
  • Grant recipients must also submit progress reports and provide financial details about how they spent grant funds. 
To keep HEDG equitable and effective, the program awards grants among several population categories, with most awards going to cities and towns with populations below 5,000 according to the 2020 census. The population size determines the amount of funding available for recipients. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Civility Makes the Difference

From contentious city council meetings to personal attacks on social media, the idea of keeping things civil in local government has grown more difficult over the years. For that reason, the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s board of directors identified restoring civility in local government as a top priority for the Association’s ongoing work. 

Civility is a key theme among the Association’s speakers, workshops and other materials, all aimed at helping local leaders listen, learn and deescalate heated situations. The Association’s website now offers a variety of civility resources, from articles to podcasts and a civility pledge. 

Municipal Association President and Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon described the willingness of cities and towns to restore civility, to “take a pledge to treat each other and the community with respect and civility,” as something that can drive municipal government success, and even economic development success. Association Executive Director Todd Glover, in a recent opinion column, expressed hope that “our local governments can lead the way in repairing our broken discourse. We can chart a course back to governing without malice. We can disagree without being disagreeable.” 

Civility resolution 

The Association created a sample resolution for city and town councils to use when formally pledging to practice and promote civility. The resolution notes that debate and self-expression “are fundamental rights and essential components of democratic self-governance,” and provides a pledge for the members of council to “recognize their special role in modeling open, free and vigorous debate while maintaining the highest standards of civility, honesty and mutual respect.” There is also a branded version of the sample resolution that can be displayed at city hall. 

Personal pledge 

The civility pledge is also available in a short form that municipalities can use as a reminder at the top of meeting agendas, or as something to review at the beginning of meetings, to emphasize the importance of civil behavior for everyone present. Here’s the pledge: 

“I pledge to build a stronger and more prosperous community by advocating for civil engagement, respecting others and their viewpoints, and finding solutions for the betterment of my city or town.” 

Pillars of Civility 

Other elements of the Association’s project are the Pillars of Civility, a list of key ideas for elected officials and staff to use when making local government as effective, inclusive and courteous as possible. The pillars can be useful to jumpstart conversations about civility. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Learn about the 2022 Achievement Award winners

Each year at the Annual Meeting of the Municipal Association of SC, videos highlighting the year’s Achievement Award recipients are unveiled to share the success stories of each winner. This year, eight cities and towns across the state won awards for projects ranging from stormwater management to mental health awareness for law enforcement officers. 

The videos are now available to be seen and shared. These videos represent the hard work and dedication of the cities and towns of South Carolina and the projects they take on to make their municipalities better for the residents.

Here are the winners in each of the categories. 

In the Town of Edisto Beach, the town took on the creation of a Master Park and Recreation Plan, bringing its strategies for its parks, trails and beach access points into one comprehensive document. The process to create the Master Park and Recreation Plan included more than 600 responses from its residents to a survey and more than 250 participants in an online mapping exercise. 

The City of Hardeeville also focused on recreation, building the town’s new 38,000-square-foot recreation center to serve a number of community needs. The facility has a collegiate-sized basketball court with seating for 1,000 spectators, racquetball courts, an indoor walking track, classrooms and a rentable community room to serve as the hub for Hardeeville’s parks and recreation activities. 

Flooding had a great impact on the City of Beaufort’s Mossy Oaks neighborhood, which is home to more than 1,500 homes. Heavy rains and storm surges would bring incredible amounts of water to the neighborhood, which flooded three times in an 11-month span. The city created a multijurisdictional task force to address the issues, which brought improved drainage pipes at corrected elevations and tidal flap gates to control water flow into the marsh. Since the improvements, no flooding events have impacted the area. 

The City of Charleston faced a major issue in implementing social distancing for city council meetings during the pandemic – its facility was built in 1818 and didn’t have enough space to allow for much public participation. Rather than turning to a virtual meeting platform, the city launched its own Public Meeting Engagement Portal, allowing residents to sign up to speak at meetings or submit comments on agenda items. This platform increased public engagement rapidly and is still in use although in-person meetings have retuned. 

The City of Florence created a Food, Artisan and Warehouse District to link its downtown with surrounding neighborhoods. The area, which was considered a food desert, has helped to reduce food insecurity in the area and preserves the historic warehouse architecture with its usage. The success of the area has led to significant investment for the City Center Market from the city, the Palmetto Housing Authority and the SC Community Loan Fund. 

The police department in the Town of Bluffton sought new methodology in dealing with the stigma’s police officers face around mental health, creating a program to get its officers assistance in dealing with the stresses and exposures of the job. With increased training for officers and their families, sabbaticals for eligible participants and free counseling, the program has helped in officer retention and recruitment. 

With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available in early 2021, the City of Rock Hill answered a call brought about by the Piedmont Medical Center. The hospital was unable to provide large-scale vaccinations, leading Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys to take the charge head-on for the city to establish a vaccine clinic. In 59 days of operation, the clinic administered more than 50,000 shots and was praised for its efficiency and customer service. 

The City of Aiken is home to the largest privately-owned urban forest in the nation – the 21,000-acre Hitchcock Woods. The woods have faced persistent challenges of erosion, water contamination and wildlife habitat loss as a result of stormwater running from Aiken’s downtown area. To combat this, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon appointed a task force to develop a comprehensive stormwater plan to tackle the problem. A new monitoring and adaptive control system, costing nearly $16 million, is in place to help alleviate the issues facing Hitchcock Woods. 

The 2022 awards had 16 other entries illustrating a variety of innovative efforts, from an employee-driven mural project in Conway to the new Community Development Department in Abbeville. Learn about those efforts here.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Civility, Association Successes Highlighted at 2022 Annual Meeting

The Municipal Association of SC 2022 Annual Meeting focused on several of the Association’s priorities, especially restoring civility to local government as well as city-led economic development. 

Reviewing the past year 

Delegates from across the state’s cities and towns elected Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon as the new president of the Municipal Association of SC during the 2022 Annual Meeting. 

In accepting the presidency (audio available here), Osbon recalled his election as mayor in 2015, and wanting to learn more about municipal governance. 

“I knew I wanted to learn more about the Municipal Association and get involved in the many education and training opportunities that they offer us. I was impressed,” he said. “And when you elected me to the board of directors, I learned even more about the services of the Association and what it offers to our cities and towns. It's this level of service and added value that I want to continue and even expand in this upcoming year.” 

He also called attention to the Association’s expansion of its federal advocacy efforts. In the past year, he has joined Association staff in Washington, D.C., to meet with the state’s U.S. senators and representatives to build positive relationships. 

“It’s this spirit of cooperation with other stakeholders where we have seen so many legislative successes this year,” he said. 

The Association’s advocacy team used its Annual Meeting session to review the new makeup of the General Assembly, the outcome of the 2021-22 legislative session and the municipalities’ advocacy efforts (audio available here). 

Rock Hill Councilmember Kathy Pender, the Association’s outgoing president, also called attention to the Association’s accomplishments in the past year (audio available here), including collaborating with local and state officials on American Rescue Plan funding, and the addition of a new Association field services manager to help answer local questions. 

Association Executive Director Todd Glover called attention to some of the Association’s initiatives relating to the other major priorities (audio available here). This included workforce development, where the upcoming Build the Bench program will aim to increase the number of qualified city managers and administrators available in South Carolina. 

The economic development priority includes numerous projects, like the Recruitment Training Program, through which 26 cities and towns so far have learned the steps to successfully pull in new businesses to locate in their community. The City Connect Market, meanwhile, is a cooperative purchasing program that plugs into a nationwide network and allows South Carolina’s municipalities to use the purchasing power of more than 700 other governments. An upcoming initiative, We Shop SC, will provide an e-commerce platform for all Main Street South Carolina communities, through which local businesses can pay a small monthly fee to sell their products online. 

Civility. Respect. Solutions. 
Glover introduced some of the individual features of the Association-wide civility initiative. This includes the civility pledge, crafted both in a longer form that councils can use in a resolution, and a short personal pledge that can be used in contexts like meeting agendas. Find the text of the civility pledges and other resources here

“We have to get to a point where we can disagree without being disagreeable. That if we’re on opposite sides of an issue, that we're not enemies,” he said. “We have to restore vision to our communities and get everyone behind that vision.” 

Matt Lehrman, co-founder and managing director of Social Prosperity Partners, served as the keynote speaker, discussing not only how to build productive conversations in government instead of conflict, but even how to engage with stakeholders who are less engaged with the process (
audio available here). 

When officials create meaningful connections with their constituents, they can help everyone achieve more, Lehrman said, because “where people work together courageously, their potential is unlimited.” 

Kathy Pender’s address focused on civility as well, noting that leaders in every part of the state have faced incivility and a lack of respect in council meetings and community interactions, she said. 

“Even when it’s tough and frustrating, keep listening and talking with your colleagues and your residents. Don’t become one of those elected officials who only respond to their friends and the like-minded. Be willing to learn from one another. Our communities, our towns, our cities deserve that, and they will be stronger as we get better at engaging others in meaningful dialogues,” she said. 

Annual Meeting podcasts 
City Quick Connect
podcast regulars Casey Fields and Scott Slatton set up a recording booth in the lobby of the Annual Meeting to discuss civility and professional development with various guests and presenters. They recorded episodes on both Thursday and on Friday

Achievement Award videos 
During each Annual Meeting, the Association recognizes superior and innovative efforts in local government with the Achievement Awards. See the videos highlighting this year’s winners, from Edisto Beach’s first-ever master recreation plan to Aiken’s downtown stormwater relief project.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

National Award Nomination Shows Downtown Florence’s Vision and Commitment to Transformation

by Jenny Boulware, Main Street SC Manager 

In 2022, the Downtown Florence program became one of eight Great American Main Street Award semifinalists — an extraordinary achievement and a major validation of the work that the City of Florence has been putting into its downtown for years. This award, known as GAMSA, is considered the highest honor in downtown management.

Downtown Florence is one of five accredited Main Street programs in the Main Street South Carolina network. Because they became a semifinalist in their very first year of applying, showing how much they exemplify the Main Street Approach for transforming downtowns and neighborhood business districts, it’s worth celebrating how they got here. 

As recently as the 1990s, Florence’s downtown was a significant example of decay and neglect, despite the strength of the area’s economy and the many efforts over the decades to improve this historic core. The renewed efforts to transform the district in the 2000s and 2010s met with an understandable amount of skepticism. This time, the city picked up traction, and the successes went well beyond infrastructure upgrades, events and beautification. The last decade has seen new hotels and apartments come to the area, alongside new performing arts centers and a museum, with more on the way. 

The Kress Corner development in downtown Florence, seen before and after redevelopment. Photos: City of Florence. 

Main Street SC stresses the importance of tracking data to demonstrate economic value, and Florence is a program that uses dedicated software for this. In 2021 alone, Downtown Florence counted $24.8 million in public and private investment, alongside 15 new businesses and 94 new jobs. 

We are fortunate to have the insights of Florence’s Development Manager Hannah Davis at our Main Street SC conferences. Most recently, she spoke at our retreat in Greenwood on the value of Main Street accreditation. She noted that it’s not simply an achievement to add to the resume — it can become something that economic development officials can leverage to “help you land developers in your town, create jobs, generate buzz, help your organization apply for grants,” and more. 

Hannah is also known for enthusiastically preaching the value of the Main Street Approach — not just as a box to check so that a downtown district can be a Main Street community, but rather as a proven framework that really can transform a community when local leadership commits to it. This means having a board that reflects the true diversity of the district to give meaningful leadership and direction, a full-time program manager for large districts and a part-time manager for small districts, a dedicated budget, and a concrete transformation strategy and work plans. 

The building that now houses the Carolina Bank headquarters in downtown Florence, seen before and after its redevelopment. The new top floor resembles the original top floor, which was removed later in the building’s history. Photos: City of Florence. 

As part of their GAMSA application, Downtown Florence created a video dramatically illustrating the community's transformation, full of business owners’ perspectives. Winning GAMSA in the first year is unheard of, and Florence was no exception, but I know they will not rest until they make it happen. 

While Florence reapplies for GAMSA, it’s worth remembering that it is only one of many Main Street SC communities, operating at different levels of readiness. We have many programs making amazing achievements around the state. Learn more about what the Main Street SC programs are doing by following us on social media.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Prepare for the 2022 Annual Meeting

The Municipal Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting is happening this July 14 – 17 in Charleston, tackling major issues like law enforcement practices, civil communication as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. Attendees can review the meeting agenda and session previews to help them decide which of the concurrent sessions they want to attend. 

Session previews 

On a recent podcast, Municipal Association Executive Director Todd Glover and Chief Operating Officer Jake Broom discussed many of the sessions happening at the Annual meeting, focusing on key themes like economic development and civility in government. 

The Association’s board of directors included civility as a top priority in its strategic plan last year, and the topic has informed the meetings and resources the Association has offered since then. Matt Lehrman, who spoke at Hometown Legislative Action Day, will return for the Annual Meeting to discuss how elected officials can facilitate the difficult public conversations that defuse conflict. Learn more about Lehrman’s message in this article and this podcast. Civility will also be on the agenda in the session on “Verbal Judo,” a skill involved in effective persuasion and conflict resolution. The Uptown article that describes that session also covers a concurrent session on what municipal councils need to know about the status of law enforcement reform. Another article highlights municipal initiatives for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Business license standardization remains a critical topic since the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act went into effect this year. During one of the Annual Meeting’s concurrent sessions, the Association’s Manager for Local Revenue Services Caitlin Cothran will explain five key questions that officials should ask their business licensing staff to ensure their city or town is complying with the law. 

Download the Municipal Association app 

The Municipal Association’s recently launched app isn’t just for events, but it does offer plenty of event information for the Annual Meeting. Attendees can use the app to plan which of the various concurrent sessions they want to attend through the meeting agenda. 

The app also gives users information on speakers and exhibitors. Beyond the Annual Meeting, it offers access to resources like the Association’s training calendar, municipal directory, staff listing and job openings. Download the app from either the App Store or Google Play by searching for “Municipal Association of SC.” Association staff will be available at the Annual Meeting to assist with the app.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Learn More About the City Connect Market

In 2021, the Municipal Association launched the City Connect Market, a cooperative purchasing partnership with HGACBuy that allows South Carolina cities and towns to take advantage of volume discounts for many of their purchases — anything from fire trucks to body cameras and temporary staffing. This summer, the Association is offering multiple opportunities for municipalities to learn more about the service, both through a virtual orientation event and through short sessions at the Annual Meeting

HGACBuy is a decades-old program that began with the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Texas. Today, its staff receives bids and assists local governments across the nation with purchasing. In addition to improving pricing through volume purchases, the program improves efficiency by eliminating the need for each municipality to handle all details of the competitive bid process. The program helps with purchasing in 41 major categories of products as well as with services offered by more than 800 contractors. The Municipal Association’s Chief Operating Officer Jake Broom previously appeared on the Association’s podcast to explain the program in detail

Virtual session 

The summer’s first City Connect Market event will be the virtual session coming next Wednesday, June 22 at 11 a.m., providing participants with an opportunity to hear directly from vendors. 

The session will feature two breakouts as well. One will cover fire service apparatus, emergency preparedness and safety equipment, as well as temporary and direct-hire staffing. The other will address law enforcement speed detection and video equipment; video surveillance, access control and security fencing systems; and hazard consulting and recovery services. 

“Buying Made Simple” sessions at the Annual Meeting

HGACBuy officials and vendors will also present at the Association’s Annual Meeting in Charleston. They will host brief sessions explaining many of the available contracts, including 
  • ambulance, EMS and special service vehicles; 
  • emergency medical and rescue equipment;
  • marketing, public relations and event planning services;
  • parks and recreation equipment; 
  • street maintenance equipment; and 
  • trenchless pipeline rehabilitation.
The “Buying Made Simple” sessions will take place in the Charleston Place Hotel’s Drayton Room. Find the schedule for these sessions and the rest of the Annual Meeting agenda here

Learn more about the program on the Association’s website or by contacting Jake Broom at 803.933.1270 or