Transplant Times

Fort Mill’s mayor is a man of passion and character

March 5, 2014 

When a person moves to a new town, it’s a good idea to meet the mayor. Who else can tell you more about the heart and soul of the city than the mayor?

Any mayoral job is a labor of love and this elected official can reveal so much about a town’s vision and its challenges. So when Cherie and I moved to Fort Mill I thought it would be a great idea to stop by the Town Hall and meet the head of our local government.

The meeting with Mayor Danny Funderburk was very enjoyable. He graciously made time in his busy schedule. The mayor immediately expressed a desire to maintain the principle-centered leadership upon which the community was founded. It was interesting to discover that the local government is built on a nonpartisan governing system – neither Democrat nor Republican. This philosophical approach toward local government enables the town officials to work together more efficiently.

When I asked Mayor Funderburk what he was most proud of about Fort Mill, he immediately pointed to the town’s spirit of volunteerism which is best exhibited by the success of the town’s annual South Carolina Strawberry Festival. The real source of the mayor’s pride is in watching the community work together, share their skills, and have so much fun representing their community to the festival’s thousands of visitors.

Throughout the conversation, Mayor Funderburk praised other community leaders, the fire department, the police department and other professionals as the real heroes that build strength, success, stability and harmony into the community on a daily basis. The mayor obviously recognizes the importance of celebrating the leaders in the community that set an example for others, especially the younger generations.

Fort Mill is a great community because it is located close to an international airport, it is 3.5 hours from the Atlantic coast and 2.5 hours from the mountains. The public schools each received a score of “10” on the Great Schools Rating Scale and are ranked in the top 2 percent of public schools nationally.

Then, imagine the taste of a ripe strawberry, juicy and sweet. Well you could say that Fort Mill is one really sweet place to live! In fact, Family Circle Magazine recently rated Fort Mill as one of the “Ten Best Cities” in which to raise a family. And Business Week Magazine awarded it top place as the best place to raise children in the U.S.

One indicator of health and growth in the Fort Mill area is that Cabela’s is building one of their retail stores across from the Carowinds amusement park. The 97,500 square-foot retail center will employ 225 full- and part-time employees and hopes to be open for business in 2015. The local economic development team is to be congratulated on such an excellent acquisition for the retail/business community. The challenge of course is to consider that when these large retailers come into a community that many times the smaller family-owned businesses suffer. Balancing progress with the interests of those who have been in the community for years is a challenge that the economic developers and the Town Council will have to face.

The process of growing a community and keeping everyone’s interests on the table is challenging, but it seems that Mayor Funderburk definitely has what it takes. One man can’t do it alone, but if the community continues to come together and work together with the larger interests of the community at heart, then sustainable growth and success should be fully realized.

The message that clearly echoed in my ears is that Cherie’ and I should not hesitate to get involved in community development and activism. The mayor seemed to be opening the door for us symbolically to get involved heart and soul in the quest to make Fort Mill the greatest little community in the U.S.

I went home and discussed my encounter with the mayor with Cherie. The mayor’s passion for this great community is clearly transferable, and Cherie and I decided that it would be good to get involved with the future success of Fort Mill. We aren’t certain yet where we might fit in, but we know from the conversation with Mayor Funderburk that there is a place for us in this very special town.

If you are also new to Fort Mill and are looking for ways to get involved here are some suggestions:

• The S.C. Strawberry Festival: scstrawberryfestival.com

•  The New Southern Women’s Club: newsouthernwomen.org

You can reach William and his wife Cherie at William@portacle.com.

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