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Michael Hesse will be sworn in this morning as a city commissioner in Simpsonville, replacing longtime commissioner Scott McDowell, who resigned because of a job change that forced him to move out of state.
Hesse, former chair of the city’s sewer board and a candidate for the commission in November, was approved by a unanimous vote of Mayor Steve Eden and Commissioners Sharon Cummins and Cary Vowels during a special called meeting Tuesday afternoon. He will assume his role at the commission’s official meeting at 8:30 a.m. today.
McDowell, who works for Penrod Lumber & Fence Construction, has since last summer been managing the company’s office in Ocala, Fla., but his appointment recently became permanent.
“It was a surprise,” Eden said after the meeting. “When he was here at Christmas, he said he thought he would be back in a couple of months. But I guess the economy turned around, and they [Penrod’s owners] decided to keep that office open.”
McDowell, a native of Simpsonville who never has lived anywhere else, was the leading vote-getter among five candidates in November, when he was elected to his sixth term. He has been absent from all but a couple of meetings since his assignment by Penrod, for whom he has worked for 17 years.
“While I did not want to step down from my position as city commissioner, I felt it was time to do so,” McDowell said in an E-mail to The Sentinel-News. “I have been working in Florida since the end of August. I will be down here an undetermined amount of time, and I feel I should step down at this time since I cannot be there to represent the citizens of Simpsonville, who I would like to thank for electing me to the position six times.
“I would also like to thank the mayor and other commissioners that I have had the chance to work with, past and present. We may not have agreed on everything, but we always did what we thought was right for the city. A big thanks is due to [city administrator] David Eaton, who made my job easier with his years of experience along with administrative assistant Dennise [Misner] and [city clerk] Debbie [Batliner].”
Hesse, whose position with the sewer board was eliminated last year when the commission assumed oversight for the sewer system, has a background as a civil engineer and an expressed eagerness to help the city, which is why Eden said he was the appointment.
“With his involvement – he ran for office last fall – and his background as engineer and with sewer board – he seemed the right fit,” Eden said. “He had told us anything he could do to let him know, that he wanted to get back involved with the city.”
Hesse, 41, is a civil engineer by profession and has an undergraduate and two masters degrees from the University of Louisville and Indiana University. He served on the city’s sewer board from 2005-2012 and was its chair from 2008-2012.
“I’m excited and looking forward to serving on the Simpsonville City Commission and representing all of the city’s residents,” Hesse said Tuesday afternoon.
He said he would take a 60-to-90-day breaking-in period to see if there’s any action that needs to be taken, but he didn’t seem to anticipate anything immediately.
“When I ran this past fall, I was in a lot of agreement with existing commission, and I don’t expect any drastic changes,” he said. But I certainly welcome comments from residents on how we can improve our city.”
McDowell had served as the city’s police commissioner, but Eden said there would be some consideration during Wednesday’s regular commission meeting to put Hesse back in charge of the sewer board – Commissioner Vicky Wise currently holds that role.
“With his engineering background, that would work well,” Eden said. “He works well with [Public Works Manager] Bryan [Romine] and knows the system.”
McDowell said in his statement that he hoped to see continued growth of the police department and hinted that expansion already was planned.
“I hope the person they appoint to finish out my term will continue to push for the growth of our police department,” he said. “When I first came on with the city, we had one officer, and now we are up to four and soon to be five. I believe we have some of the best police officers working for our city under the expert leadership of Chief [Chip] Minnis.”
McDowell also said he expected someday to return home and become involved again.
“While I may be gone right now, I will be back one day, because, as Dorothy said, in The Wizard of Oz, ‘There's no place like home.’ And that is what Simpsonville is to me – home.’