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RICHBURG – Friends and associates of former Chester County Councilman Jim Bruce are devastated after his death early Wednesday morning.
Bruce died early Wednesday morning of cancer. He was 69.
Bruce was a county councilman from 2003 to 2006.
"He was a great person," said his wife, Carol. "We were married 43 years. We had our ups and downs like everybody."
Bruce was civic-minded, she said. It was often his top priority.
"That came first," she said.
In addition to serving on Chester County Council, he had served on the Chester County Hospital Board, the Chester County Chamber of Commerce and in other organizations.
"One time he single-handedly saved the American Red Cross chapter in Chester County," said Councilman Alex Oliphant, a longtime friend and political ally on most issues when he and Bruce were both on council together.
Bruce served on those boards while also running his own business, JBA, an advertising business focused on signs.
He was an advocate of economic development and worked for harmony in government relations.
Bruce was a state constable, and tried to get several agencies to work together.
The S.C. Highway Patrol created what is called the 6th District Law Enforcement Network, but it was Bruce who really helped get local agencies involved with it, Chester County Sheriff Robby Benson said.
The network is up and running still, he said, because of Bruce's work.
"He was dedicated to law enforcement. He was an advocate for law enforcement," said Fort Lawn Police Chief Richard Smith. "The thoughts and prayers of the Fort Lawn Police Department go out to his family."
Benson said having someone like Bruce on the Chester County Council helped ease the way with some requests the sheriff's office made. Bruce spent a lot of his free time at the detention center and on the road with deputies. He knew what deputies go through and what they need, and he was able to sometimes convince fellow councilmen of the need for certain requests.
Bruce worked as a point man for several agencies, helping arrange several traffic safety checkpoints. He once arranged for the state Highway Patrol to bring its "BAT-mobile," a mobile blood alcohol testing facility, to Chester County. He helped arrange several media events and checkpoints in 2006 when the state changed the seat belt law, requiring mandatory usage.
Oliphant said Bruce was able to get some things done in his time.
One of the issues on which Oliphant and Bruce most agreed was creating a different fire district around Richburg, one that levies a property tax to pay for the Richburg Fire District.
With industrial growth coming to the Richburg area, Bruce contended, the fire department needed all the financial help it could get.
"It took us years, but we got that done," Oliphant said. "That's probably one of the greatest accomplishments, I think, in my time on council and I think Jim would say the same."
Bruce's frequent prayer before council meetings was that the council would be led to do the things that would meet the approval of the majority of county citizens.
"I'll miss him," Oliphant said. "His heart was in the right place."
Guilfoyle is editor of the News & Reporter in Chester.