Liberty mayor: ‘So many good things going on’

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — Liberty mayor Eric Boughman gave his take on the city’s past, present and future at a State of Liberty event last week at the Rosewood Center.

“I love Liberty, South Carolina,” Boughman said. “Outside of a beach somewhere, there’s really not another place I want to live outside of Liberty. … We are blessed to be citizens of Liberty.”

The event was sponsored by the newly rejuvenated Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce, which is under the leadership of former city council member Lisa Hunter.

Boughman said an active chamber is “something Liberty’s needed for a long time.”

“I am very excited, as Liberty’s mayor, that we’re going to have a chamber, a chamber that’s run by people with a passion for this town and a chamber that’s going to partner with us and partner with the businesses and partner with the community and try to make a difference,” Boughman said.

Boughman said it’s easy to criticize.

“What we’ve chosen to do as elected officials is very, very difficult,” he said. “Three and a half years ago, if I’d known what I was getting myself into, I might not be standing here as mayor.

“But I’m blessed to be your mayor.”

He said he’s grown and matured over his three and a half years as mayor.

Before he became mayor, he admittedly thought, “How hard can it be?”

“In this role here, you can see something that needs to be done, know exactly how to do it, but you’ve got to jump through 14 hoops, get 10 approvals and then find funding,” Boughman said. “And then maybe it gets done or maybe it doesn’t.”

He says he tries every day to make Liberty better than it is already.

He said Liberty is “kind of like Mayberry.”

“I feel safe here,” Boughman said. “Talking about schools, we don’t have to worry like they do in Greenville and Anderson County about gangs and your kid going to school and can’t even go to the bathroom and use the bathroom for fear of someone coming along and doing something. My children — our children — are safe.”

He dismisses anyone who says the town is not growing.

“If you can ride through Liberty today and say there’s nothing going on and we’re not making progress, then you’re just being ignorant of what’s going around you,” Boughman said. “This town is changing. It’s been changing in years past. We’ve got so many good things going on.”

He said “we can’t put a price tag on” what the county magistrate’s complex will do for Liberty.

“Having all those people coming to the magistrate’s office from all over the county (is important),” Boughman said. “Then we have our 600-seat auditorium, which hopefully soon will be getting booked and filled up and utilized. We have the gymnasium, which we’ve been using for years — now it belongs to the city of Liberty. That’s something that the city of Liberty could not have paid for ourselves. That was deeded over to Liberty. Meals on Wheels, they believe in Liberty. They came here and they’ve had great success.”

Boughman also mentioned the Commerce Street project is now complete.

“Was it tough?” Boughman said. “It certainly was — very tough. That project was originally a $580,000 project. It became an $850,000 project. But it’s exactly what we said it was going to be. We ran into all kind of problems, were thrown all kinds of curveballs, but that Commerce Street project looks exactly like we said it would. We didn’t skimp one bit. We did it just like we said we were going to do it.”

A 40-unit senior housing complex is currently under construction near Liberty First Baptist Church, Boughman said.

“It’ll be for adults 55 and older,” he said. “They’re going to be part of us. They’re going to be our tax base. They’ll be our citizens. They’re not going to be transient people. They’ll be right here.”

He recently spoke to a development who turns old mill properties into condominiums.

“I’m hoping and praying that he sees something out there in those two little disaster areas, that he has a vision and can maybe do something there,” Boughman said.

He remembered meeting in 2014 with the Department of Transportation about the intersection project currently underway. Part of that project entailed the city replacing the 1920s-era sewer lines in the construction area.

“We found a lot of money,” Boughman said. “That project right there wound up being half a million dollars. Sen. (Larry) Martin and Rep. (Davey) Hiott helped us find funds to do that. Now we’ve got brand-new infrastructure from the rock station down here all the way to Commerce Street to the intersection going up (U.S. Highway) 178. It’s going to be something really, really good for our town.”

He said he’s very proud of the city’s employees.

“We have four great department heads. They’re always working,” Boughman said. “We have a happy, healthy, fully staffed, productive workforce that I am proud of. They run this city daily. I’m proud of them, and we all ought to be proud of them.”

Boughman said he’s confident Liberty will soon have a hardware store, possibly in the old CVS location. Whether it will be an Ace Hardware or a True Value remains to be seen.

“One of those two will be here soon,” he said. “I just want a hardware store in Liberty.”

Officials often discuss empty storefronts in the city, Boughman said.

“We’ve got some property owners that are content to have buildings sit there empty,” he said. “That’s a shame. As mayor, I can’t go make a decree that you’ve got to do something with your building. It’s a battle that we fight, but it’s tough.”

“I don’t want to be Easley,” Boughman said. “I don’t want it to be five o’clock and I can’t go from Point A to Point B without sitting in a bunch of traffic. We don’t want to be Greenville. We don’t want to be Clemson. But we do want to have some of that stuff, where we can get in our car and drive three minutes somewhere rather than driving 10 or 15 or 20 minutes and getting something that we need.”

He said with the groundwork that’s been laid, the right people will come in and say, “Hey, let’s take a chance on this town.”

“We’re right in the middle of everything,” Boughman said. “When people see the value in that, I think they’ll take it. We have plenty of traffic going up and down 178 and up and down (S.C. Highway) 93 every day. We’ve just got to give them reasons to stop and spend some time with us.”

He said he can’t say yet if he’ll run for re-election.

“If God wants me to run, I’ll run,” Boughman said.