The State-May 17, 2010
WALTERBORO, S.C. — A South Carolina town that has been the scene of street violence and drive-by shootings has hired a consultant to help repair its image.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that Walterboro, a town of 5,800 people in Colleton County just off Interstate 95, has hired a public relations consultant from Charleston.
The county has seen a surge in gun violence in recent months. On Wednesday, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division will hold an open house at its new regional office in Walterboro, which will give the agency a permanent presence in the area.
Three people, including a 20-month old toddler, were killed last November in a drive-by shooting that wounded six others. In January, a woman was hit in the hand and head in another drive-by shooting.
Mayor Bill Young said city and county officials have been fielding calls from around the state from people wondering if Walterboro has turned into a lawless city.
He said that nothing could be further from the truth and that the city has hired Elizabeth Boineau’s public relations firm to restore the Walterboro’s image.
The city has spent about $5,000 on the effort since late March. Boineau has met with city leaders, researched concerns and developed a media kit.
“We want everyone to be aware the city of Walterboro with its historic charm, rich natural resources . . . and warm Southern hospitality remains a safe place to live, visit, play and work,” her agency said in a news release.
Young said despite the bad publicity, business is good for local retailers. He said cars with out-of-state plates are common as visitors stop off the interstate to visit antique shops and the 842-acre Great Swamp Sanctuary.
Young also wants to set the record straight about crime.
While some incidents have occurred in Walterboro, some have occurred elsewhere in the county as much as 20 miles away. But the city tends to take a hit to its reputation because it’s the county seat.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t let our reputation be tarnished by one or two incidents that are not the norm,” he said.