Know Our Leaders: Easley Mayor Butch Womack

Know Our Leaders is a series of articles that introduce our elected officials, directors, representatives, and other persons of influence that serve the people of Easley, SC. Our focus is to share their career history, their vision, goals, challenges in their current positions, and their future career aspirations. 

Mayor Butch Womack in front of Easley City Hall, SC.
Mayor Butch Womack in front of Easley City Hall, SC.

An early career in business and the fire department

Butch Womack went into business for himself like his dad, who moved their family to Easley when he was just 7 years old. That business was vending machines that dispensed candy and cigarettes. It did great, and at its height, he had over 100 machines. 

Then he got married. His wife, Kathy, worked for the city, and Mr. Womack decided to find a stable career to raise his family.

He got a job at the fire department in 1984 and started to phase out the business. While working the 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule, he began to divide and sell his vending machines. When that was gone, he focused only on the fire department. 

In 1992 when the fire chief position became available, he threw his hat in the running.  He was appointed fire chief and was in that position for 26 years. 

He decided to run for office in 2019  against long-time council member Chris Mann who was running unopposed for the position after former mayor Bagwell retired. He secured the position of Mayor with about two-thirds of the votes in the 2019 election and was sworn in at the beginning of 2020. 

He retired as Fire Chief two years ago to take on his mayoral duties. 

Mayor Butch Womack being sworn in as mayor of Easley, SC on January 13th, 2020.
Mayor Butch Womack being sworn in as mayor of Easley, SC on January 13th, 2020.

The first two years as mayor

When first elected, Womack thought he knew a lot… but then COVID hit a couple of months into his term.

Every idea of normal went out the window as everyone banded together to keep the city running.

Public works still picked up trash and cleared flooded drains. The fire, EMS, and police departments still responded to calls, and the city staff all continued to work. 

“We fed them and took care of them. The First Baptist Church allowed us to use their facilities so we could feed the essential workers 2-3 times a week. Because most restaurants were closed, different departments took turns cooking. They weren’t all good at cooking, but it gave everyone a place to eat so they didn’t have to try and find something during their shift.”

In 2021 when the pandemic seemed to be easing up, Mayor Womack got COVID. He was in the hospital for 12 days and still suffers from the long-term effects of it today. He spent several months working from home as he recovered and still uses oxygen at night. The city adopted Zoom meetings for work, and the former City Administrator acted as the on-site liaison while the mayor worked remotely.

Focus on Easley public works improvements

When the mayor came into office he wanted to focus on public works. The trucks, equipment, and infrastructure needed updating.

For example, the city had 3-man garbage trucks that required employees to pick up bags by hand. It exposed them to potentially COVID-contaminated garbage, and to get cut or stuck by things inside the bags. The city implemented trash cans to help protect the employees which the mayor considers to be one of his most significant accomplishments. They also ordered a new 1-person operated trash truck.

Due to the pandemic, that truck took almost a whole year to arrive. Everyone was barely keeping their heads above water as the rest of the world seemed to grind to a halt. 

Since taking office, the city has purchased 2 new leaf trucks, a one-man trash truck, and has another one ordered. They are looking to replace all the 3-man trucks with the more efficient ones in the next 3-4 years

Next up: a city-wide comp study

The next item on the mayor’s list is a city-wide compensation study that hasn’t been done in a long time. This includes all of our law enforcement, first responders, public works, and staff in other departments. The city has set aside at least $110,00 to roll out raises to the people who need it immediately. They hope to roll the recommendations from the study out completely with the next budget. Those budget meetings start in January and are usually implemented by July 1. With the city growing, there is more money coming in, and showing an increase. So he’s optimistic about the city having the funds to do more for its employees. 

Easley’s supply chain struggles

Currently, the biggest struggle is the supply chain. Everything takes months to accomplish. A new fire truck takes about 3 years to arrive. Many decisions have a long approval process. Once it’s approved, there is a long bidding process. 

The main problem is not having enough companies to bid on the projects. For example, the city has been working on the half-mile Brushy Creek Trail for over 10 years. The Doodle Trail derailed this project for a while. When the city finally had the grant from SCDOT, and plans were drawn, not one company submitted a bid. Many companies found the grant too complicated and not worth considering. Easley was finally able to break that contract to use other funding that will now come from ARPA money the city received that has already been approved to finish it. 

Future plans and goals 

Mayor Womack has a passion for the city and loves its people. When asked what he would like all the residents of Easley to know, Mayor Womack shared that he welcomes citizens to reach out, ask questions, and share a dialogue. His phone number and email are available on the city website. Setting up a time to meet and have civil discourse is always welcomed.

Despite all the challenges of his position, Mayor Womack plans to run for mayor one more time when his term ends in 2024. He still has goals to accomplish like caring for the 160 city employees, and raising the wages of the of those who are underpaid.

He also hopes to fix many infrastructure issues around the city like stormwater pipes and drains. After his career as mayor ends, he plans to stay retired, and focus on volunteering in the community. Until then, his goal is to keep the city going, growing, and improving despite the challenges.