Mayor will not seek fourth term
BOB SLOAN Editor
Before beginning his annual State of the City address during the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Membership Luncheon at the Florence Center on Oct. 10, Mayor Stephen J. Wukela told the crowd that he does not plan to seek a fourth term next year.
“I rise today with the hope and belief that I have, over the last decade, fulfilled my duty to you as mayor,” said Wukela, who was first elected in 2008. “It is with that hope, and that belief, that I announce today that I will not seek reelection to the office of Mayor next year."
“The decision is not born of a loss of my devotion to the city and its future interest,” said Wukela, “nor by a lack of gratitude for your many kindnesses. But l am hopeful that my choice is compatible with both devotion and gratitude.”
In continuing his address, the mayor reflected on the city’s accomplishment’s during his tenure and offered his thoughts on the city’s future.
“The occasion calls for me to present, for your consideration and reflection, some thoughts on our city’s future, which I offer here as the advice of a soon parting friend,” said Wukela.
The mayor spoke on the importance and future challenges of building and maintaining the hard infrastructure of water, sewer, and storm water public works, as well as maintaining and improving roads. He pointed toward the need for road maintenance funding, specifically pointing at “the county road maintenance fee, totaling over $1 million annually, collected by the county on 30,000 city vehicles, and spent by the county elsewhere.”
He touched on the current county one cent sales tax, which he noted “over $100 million has been collected by the county on sales within the city. Only $20 million of that has been allocated by the county to the city for use in maintaining city roads.” He said it likely foreshadows a coming showdown between the city and county over a future sales tax referendum.
Nearing the end of his remarks, Wukela touched on the subject of racism.
“The single biggest threat to the future success of the city is racial division,” he said. “We must recognize and practically address our history of division in this city, black from white, north from south.”
Wukela said “ a great deal has been accomplished, but a great deal remains to be done. We cannot succeed if we are divided.”
The mayor then paraphrased the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stating, “We remain tied together in a single garment of destiny - an inescapable network of mutuality. The success of each of us is inextricably tied to the success of all of us.”
To close his address, Wukela again spoke of how thankful he was for the help he received from many people, companies, and organizations during his time as mayor.
“I have, over the last decade, been fortunate to lead the city during a time in which opportunity met people of good will,” he said. “The partnerships, the dear friendships, that have been forged and tested made great success possible. We will continue that work in my remaining year. It is my earnest hope that my successor, whomever that may be - perhaps some young brash upstart that shows up uninvited as I did - will have my same good fortune. Thank you and Godspeed.”
As he left the podium, the crowd of several hundred rose to their feet to give the mayor a standing ovation.
Fred Carter, president of Francis Marion University, introduced Wukela, citing the great strides the city has made, particularly in the downtown area, during his years in office.
Wukela was elected Florence mayor in 2008 by one vote over incumbent Frank Willis. He was re-elected in 2012 and again in 2016. He received an astonishing 98.4 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.
The next mayoral race will take place in 2020.