As the New Year begins, we have several congratulations to dispense. The year passed, 2018, has seen the Laurens County community lose many valuable members, and others have faced significant challenges. Still yet, we move forward, find success, and optimistically look ahead to now.
First, let us tip the helmet to Shai Werts. After leading the Georgia Southern Eagles at quarterback to a 10-3 season, and a bowl victory, he says, “I haven’t played my best football yet.”
Shai was visiting family in Clinton during the Christmas break as he sat with The Chronicle for an extended interview. The Newberry High School All-State quarterback has transitioned from a 2-10 season as a freshman signal-caller to a 10-win quarterback as a red-shirt sophomore. The Eagles turned it around, Shai says, by “believing in the coaches and buying into the program.”
As a mid-major college starting quarterback, he says, “You can never lose confidence, stay upbeat, stay positive, continue to get better.”
The 10-3 season was “all right in my eyes, I feel like it was decent, I haven’t played my best football, yet, that’s some ways down the road.”
With an eye toward the NFL in two, maybe three, seasons, Werts looks to “never become complacent and whatever happens, happens. Given the opportunity to play at that level (against an SEC opponent), I know I can be successful, just control what you can control.”
Georgia Southern will face LSU in both teams’ first game of 2019.
LSU defeated previously undefeated Central Florida in its New Year’s bowl game. Werts’ Eagles won their bowl game, on a walk-off field goal. So, two teams that ended 2018 on a high note will meet to start the 2019 college football season.
We wish a fond “see you later” to Don Walker, who has been at the forefront of trails-development in Laurens County the last few years. His wife has a job in North Carolina, so Don is taking his passion for trails with them as they relocate.
Nobody was really interested much in building trails until Walker approached the subject from a direction almost everybody can get behind - money. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is wildly successful, and now Laurens County has a concrete path to having a branch of that trail located behind our hospital. Think about it - if you want to, you can walk safely from Clinton to Laurens - and not along busy Hwy 76. Through our beautiful rolling hills, instead. For a county not doing so well in the healthy-life rankings of South Carolina, that would be huge.
Congratulations are due, also, to the team that has successfully published “Laurens County History, Volume 3.” Our good friend Ernie Segars outlined the volume in a recent column appearing in The Chronicle and The Advertiser. He talks of an idea, first, and then an accomplishment.
“Two and a half years later, it turned into a 475-page labor and those involved dearly love it. ‘Discovering Laurens County, South Carolina, Volume III, Dramatic Changes, 1840-1900’ hit the street in early December. Like the first two volumes, this edition is a heavy, handsome publication, complete with old pictures, maps, charts and, I believe, some very accurate historic research compiled by some very serious and competent local historians. The ‘Discovering Laurens County’ series began several years ago, largely through the efforts of a Committee of the Dedicated (my description) including two valued local historians now deceased. The publication is dedicated to the late Russell Burns and the late Elaine Martin.”
Kudos also are due to Pat Patterson, our own local King of the Beach. Leaving his worldwide audience on the Large Time Network for just a little while, Pat was spinning the stacks of wax last Friday at Lakeside Country Club.
Earlier this spring, the beach music industry named as its Compilation Album of the Year, “Tranquil Bay” produced by Patman & Robin Records. Also, The Michael Branch Award was presented to Pat Patterson.
Pat and Robin remain tireless ambassadors of this uniquely Southern form of music, that because of the internet has a worldwide audience. And a big part of reaching that audience is Pat’s unassuming radio station (and “wish it could be taller” antenna) on Hwy 72 West, Clinton, SC.
On Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, Laurens County conducted its elected officials swearing-in ceremony at Hillcrest. Kemp Younts and Jeffrey Carroll are our new members of county council. Stewart Jones also took his re-election oath of office. Congratulations to these three men, now the work really begins.
And, finally, congratulations to Laurens County itself.
We have experienced a 142.84% economic growth in the past five years - and that is the state’s leading growth figure. About half is due to the vision of ZF Transmissions, as a worldwide ambassador for Laurens County. The other half, we submit, is due to the never say die spirit of our leaders and citizens. A job, well done.