Mayor transition in Chapin rocky

tflach@thestate.comJanuary 5, 2014 

— The change in leadership at Chapin Town Hall Tuesday comes after a contentious prelude.

Financial adviser Skip Wilson takes over as mayor after moves that supporters of outgoing incumbent Stan Shealy see as trying to be in charge prematurely.

Town Council members rebuffed Wilson’s request to be sworn in five days early and warned his plan to hire an aide won’t happen without their approval.

Wilson downplays the rocky start. “Sometimes, misunderstandings occur on both sides.”

The fuss erupted as he begins putting into place his vision of more preparation for growth that he says voters want in making him mayor.

Town Councilman-elect Gregg White predicted the initial brouhaha will be forgotten soon.

“It’s the mark of a mayor eager to get started,” he said. “Things will settle down.”

The mayoral transition is the first in 32 years in the Lexington County community of 1,500 residents on the north shore of Lake Murray.

Shealy is upset with what he views as Wilson’s brusqueness.

“He’s been a renegade,” Shealy said. “He’s been at Town Hall badgering people every day.”

The pair haven’t talked following Shealy’s short-lived challenge to Wilson’s 18-vote victory at the Nov. 5 election.

Those hard feelings followed a campaign in which Shealy feels Wilson misrepresented how well-positioned Chapin is for growth.

Ill will flared anew when Wilson sought to take office sooner than allowed.

Shealy and other town leaders said it isn’t possible after town attorney David Knight advised them long-standing procedures don’t permit Wilson to take office until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s effort to hire local business leader Karen Owens as town spokeswoman and economic development director is on hold. Council members want to know more about the idea and its cost before giving permission.

Adding staff positions requires a series of steps that could take several weeks, Knight said in a report to council members.

Handling communications and economic development are “the heart of the duties of mayor, which should not be delegated” as Wilson proposes, his report said.

Those changes are part of a package intended to make Town Hall more efficient and effective, White said.

“Going forward, the reason town residents elected me is to get these things done,” Wilson said. “That’s my responsibility. If Town Council chooses not to make that happen, that’s their choice.”

White is counseling Wilson to be patient.

The new mayor, White said, is learning that overseeing Town Hall is “more plodding” than managing business.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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