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The two candidates for Lancaster City Council District 1 know what people without jobs in Lancaster are going through, and they want to work to bring more jobs to the area.
Racarda Blackmon, 57, and Kenneth "Kenny" Hood, 50, are running for the seat, left vacant after the death of Blackmon's father, Preston, in August. Preston Blackmon had held the seat for 30 years. There are two years left in the term.
Blackmon: "I'm here to help"
Racarda Blackmon is a Lancaster native who graduated from Lancaster High School in 1969 before full integration.
After back reconstruction surgery, he was out of work from his job at EDS in Greenville, where he worked as a systems programmer. While he was out, his job was moved to Malaysia.
Blackmon said he'll do anything he can to bring new companies to Lancaster and looks forward to working with city and county officials to do that. He can relate to the plight of laid-off workers in Lancaster, many of whom lost their jobs when Springs Global stopped manufacturing in the United States over the past year.
"I've seen it first hand, I'm a part of it," Blackmon said.
With his education and experience working for major corporations, Blackmon believes he's the candidate to help recruit companies.
Blackmon would also like to provide more opportunities for young people of the city. He'd like to see the start-up of a community center that would provide mentoring and homework help.
"I see too many youth walking the streets with nothing to do," Blackmon said. "I'm very concerned."
He's also concerned about residents, particularly widows, who live in dilapidated housing and have nowhere
to turn. He wants to see if there is funding available for housing rehabilitation.
Blackmon said he's preparing for a seat on City Council by attending council meetings. He said many people are asking him if he believes he has big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of his father.
"One person asked me what will I do better than my father," Blackmon said. "Nothing – I can't fill my father's shoes. But he established a good legacy. I'm here to help. I'm here to represent the city and all people, not just select groups."
After his high school graduation, Blackmon was drafted and served in Vietnam. He later attended an Atlanta-area technical college, George State University and Atlanta Junior College, where he received an associate degree in business administration. He plans on attending Winthrop University to finish a bachelor's degree in information systems or hospital administration.
Blackmon has four children. He lives next door to his parents' home on Hampton Road, and has been attending Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. He also ministers in prisons and shelters.
Hood: Jobs No. 1 priority
Hood was laid off from Springs Global, where he worked as a screen printer for 25 years. He said jobs are his No. 1 concern for the city.
"Being laid off from Springs, I know how it is," Hood said. He wants to work to bring a large company to Lancaster that will provide manufacturing jobs for those struggling with unemployment.
The condition of roads in the city is also a concern of Hood's.
He said he was inspired to run for City Council after working with Mayor Joe Shaw to get Robinson Road and Cunningham Street in District 1 repaved last year. He said he has also toured District 1 with Public Works Director Jerry Crockett to identify other problem roads.
"I've already started doing the work"for the district, Hood said.
Hood also wants to provide a positive outlet for youth in the city in the form of a homework center.
"Our young people need after-school activities, instead of standing in front of their houses or in the streets," Hood said. "It will give them somewhere to go. Right now, there isn't much of a choice."
City parks also need to be brought up to par, Hood said.
Crime is another concern for Hood. He proposes community meetings to bring young people together.
"Just talk things out with the kids," he said.
"Being a parent and a grandparent, I know how to get across to kids."
Hood, a Robinson Road resident, said he was born and raised in District 1, and many family members also live there. That makes him the best candidate, he said.
"I love District 1," he said. "I know the people. I know the needs. I've been there all my life. I;m a people person, and my whole district knows me."
Hood attended Lancaster High School and York Technical College. He and his wife of 30 years, Virginia, have five children. They attend Warner Chapel church.
Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 283-1151