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Thomas steps down from council

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By Chris Sardelli

With a chorus of applause and a standing ovation from his fellow council members, Fred Thomas officially stepped down from Lancaster County Council at the end of Monday night’s meeting.

After serving more than seven years, Thomas will soon be sworn in as a county magistrate judge, a position left vacant by Judge Debra Dawkins, who retired April 30 due to medical reasons.

“I’ve enjoyed serving Lancaster County,” Thomas said. “Each and every one of you means something different to me, but all good. I love you all.”

Thomas said his longtime friend, Patrice Robinson, told him over the weekend how proud she is of his achievements. Robinson told Thomas that his father, Fred Sr., who recently died, was probably looking down from heaven, helping his son get a new job.

County Administrator Steve Willis thanked Thomas for his hard work, first as a vice-chairman and then as chairman of County Council.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for the staff,” Willis said. “It’s been an honor to serve with you.”

Thomas’ resignation will become effective upon taking his oath as a magistrate. Despite having already been appointed by the S.C. Senate on June 16, Thomas held off on leaving council until after Monday’s meeting, in which council approved the 2009-10 county budget.

Thomas said there will be a small, informal swearing-in ceremony when he takes the oath as a magistrate.

According to South Carolina’s pay grade ranges, the minimum required salary for a magistrate judge on the day of their appointment is $43,980. Willis said that salary is actually more when determined by the county’s pay grade ranges, at $48,662.

Council election process

Willis said that while no official date has been set for Thomas’ resignation from council or his swearing in as magistrate, there are several milestones that must be met for the election of a new County Council member.

According to state law, filing will open with political parties on the third Friday from the date of Thomas’ resignation. The filing will remain open for 10 days.

The county Election Commission would become involved after candidates are revealed, setting up polling places, machines and ballots.  The primary election will then take place on the 11th Tuesday from the date of resignation.

If a run-off is needed, it will happen on the 13th Tuesday from  the date of resignation, and a special election would take place on the 18th Tuesday from the date of resignation.

The new council member would then be sworn in at the first council meeting following the special election. As for filling the vacant chair position, vice-chair Rudy Carter will preside over council until a new chair can be elected.

Willis said it is up to council as to when they will elect new officers, with voting conducted among themselves.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416