Thursday, January 8, 2009

New County Council chairman emphasizes teamwork

By PHIL SARATA, T&D Staff Writer Thursday, January 08, 2009

A 14-year veteran of Orangeburg County Council who describes his leadership style as “inclusive,” Johnnie L. Wright Sr. is a man who, by many accounts, desires to create win-win situations.

Wright says council works together as a team and, as its newest chairman, he wants to make sure that continues.

“I’ve always felt the working relationship between the members of council has been good, even during those times we have had our difference of opinions,” Wright said. “I can say with certainty that Orangeburg County Council doesn’t suffer from the divisiveness that I’ve witnessed from attending other conferences and events and viewing the council dynamics in other counties.

“I think that, at the end of the day, we are very united as a group.”

Wright said he intends to be very open and supportive of the county as a whole, adding that he wants to represent all the citizens of the county like his predecessor, Councilman Harry Wimberly. Council picked Wright, who has been chairman of the Lake Marion Regional Water Authority since 2001, to replace Wimberly as council chairman on a 4-3 vote Monday night.

“Harry absolutely did a marvelous job during a very difficult time for council,” Wright said. “He handled it well and was also very inclusive in his dealings. I consider him a friend. We have worked closely in the past, and I know that will continue.”

In the immediate future, Wright sees continued economic development as the top priority for the council.

“Of all the significant issues facing council, economic development is definitely at the top of the agenda because of the unemployment situation here in Orangeburg County and across the state,” he said. “Council realizes there is a lot of poverty. Our objective is to try and provide the best environment possible to attract good paying jobs for our citizens so the county can grow.”

“Another challenge is to provide adequate funding for the infrastructure improvement that is needed in a lot of places in the county,” Wright said. “I also see council indirectly supporting the educational structure so that our youth can be properly trained and prepared for new jobs when they arrive.”

Most of all, Wright wants to remember that as county council chairman for the next two years, he is merely a spokesperson who must represent the views of that body as honestly as possible.

“It’s a title only,” he said. “I see myself as a public servant who must represent and work with council for the public good. I want to always keep council abreast of everything that is happening and not make any decisions on my own. Sometimes complex situations arise where you know no matter what you do, someone won’t be satisfied. But I always try to do what is best for the majority.

“The main thing to remember is something I learned from my father. He said, ‘Never stop talking and always try to work it out.’ It’s all about teamwork, and everyone’s position in the process is vital.”

T&D Staff Writer Phil Sarata can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 803-533-5540. Discuss this and other stories at

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