Video documents Mayor Gettys’ vision of a Rock Hill for All, and progress toward achieving it

So much of politics has been unpleasant in 2020, but we have something to be proud of here at home. Our mayor, John Gettys, has worked to pull the community together and build a Rock Hill for All.

He, and the rest of us, have made a lot of progress toward that goal.

Watch this video from the Liberty Fellowship to learn more. John, one of the founding partners of Morton & Gettys law firm, is a Liberty Fellow, and he gives the program great credit for what he has done in Rock Hill.

Before participating in the Liberty program, he thought there were things he might be able to do some day, some ways he could bring value to his community – if things just worked out right. After Liberty, those dreams became “things I’m GOING to do.”

And he’s been doing them since being elected in 2017.

“We have to be willing to swing for the fence every now and then. We haven’t done that enough as a state,” he says. Sometimes, “you gotta take your shot.”

Building a “Rock Hill for All” has meant a number of things, such as building Miracle Park for all to enjoy, including those with disabilities.

In the video, Morton & Gettys partner Elizabeth Smith Owen speaks of a larger and bolder initiative to help all citizens enjoy the benefits of living in Rock Hill – the establishment of free public transportation via electric buses. These enable people to get to work, to doctor appointments, to shopping. It’s a dynamic, physical way of making the whole city accessible to everyone.

He has also pushed to see that those who want help from the city for their projects need to show how they will broaden the benefits – such as ensuring new apartment developments downtown include affordable housing.

Mayor Gettys is known across the state for helping bring the economic benefits of professional football to his town. But that’s not what he brags about. He has a larger definition of what constitutes good economic growth.

“It’s not just about going out and landing the Carolina Panthers, although that’s great,” he says. “It’s getting a hundred people to earn $5 more an hour today than they were earning yesterday, and to continue on like that.”

Those are all ways that a mayor might build a better, more inclusive community at any time.

The makers of the video visited Rock Hill to document all of that. Then, they came back after the coronavirus pandemic had reached South Carolina, and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor had sparked outrage across the nation.

And closer to home as well. “Here in Rock Hill, people were rightly outraged,” said the mayor. And he and other city leaders worked to listen and respond positively. “The Civil Rights movement is not something that’s over,” said the mayor. “It’s … transformed. Laws were changed back then, but hearts in a lot of places haven’t.”

“People were asking, could that happen here? Are you taking steps to prevent that?” said Chief of Police Chris Watts. He, the mayor and others participated in a conversation with the community. This led to a headline saying “Choke holds are prohibited.” And “No room for racism” was painted on a city street.

All, once again, ways of building a Rock Hill for All.

“This is the kind of city that John wanted to build, and he wants it to be even greater. He has this vision for Rock Hill,” said Elizabeth Smith Owen. “Without Liberty, I’m not sure that John would have ever been able to dream as big as he’s been able to dream as a leader here in Rock Hill.”

As it says in its purpose statement, “Liberty Fellowship is a network of values-based leaders committed to the betterment of life and opportunity for all citizens of South Carolina. Liberty Fellowship activates individual leaders through a deeper understanding of a just, free and equitable society; serves as a convener for bringing together diverse perspectives to advance civil discourse; and provides infrastructure for taking action.”