I hope you all are doing well and had a blessed Easter.

I wanted to take a minute to provide you with an update from the first few months of the year.

Budget Development

The council is currently in the process of developing the FY 2023 budget. The cost of everything is rising, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to get by. Our current state of hyper inflation is hitting young families and seniors who live on a fixed income particularly hard. I will in no way support a budget that places another burden on Oconee citizens.

Glenn Hart and myself voted against the current FY 2022 budget. The General Fund budget that passed, against the vote of Mr. Hart and myself, was $56,888,430. This was a $4.5 million increase over the previous year, or an 8% increase in one calendar year.

It was a $10.7 million increase since FY 2018, or a 23% increase in 5 years.

This is unprecedented growth of the county government. It’s not normal for South Carolina counties of similar size and demographics.

I firmly believe the people of Oconee County do not support the growth of county government at this alarming of a rate.

We all know that our county is growing, but the growth and scope of county government should not outpace the growth of the county as a whole.

During the budget process, I repeatedly requested a public meeting for a line item review of the budget. That was repeatedly declined by the 3 member council majority.

It’s currently an election year for two council seats. Hopefully, that will serve as some motivation for the current council majority to keep the budget in check.

The next budget meeting is scheduled for April 19th. I will provide an update on the budget progression in next newsletter.

You can view my comments, along with Councilman Glenn Hart’s comments, opposing the FY2022 budget, and my warning of the upcoming inflation that we’re currently facing. These comments are from the May 18th, 2021 Council Meeting.

Matthew Durham and Glenn Hart Vote Against The Bloated FY 2022 Budget

2022 County Council Priorities

In February, county council met for a Strategic Planning meeting to determine the priorities for the next fiscal year.

During this process, each council member makes a list of their own priorities, and priorities are rated into tiers based on the votes of support it receives from the other council members.

My Top Priorities

Road Maintenance and Repairs:

The number one issue I hear from citizens is has to do with the condition of our roads.

The county-owned roads are in much better shape than the state-owned roads. The easiest way to determine whether a road is state or county maintained, is whether or not the road has white lines painted on the shoulders of the road. State roads have a white line painted on the shoulder, county roads do not have lines painted on the shoulder.

The Oconee County Council Transportation Committee, chaired by Glenn Hart, is developing a priority list of state roads in need of repair to submit to SC DOT. County staff was also directed to continually work through the C-Fund Committee to maximize state allocated funds for road improvements.

Sheriff’s Office Resources:

As you know, we have our fair share of crime and drug use in Oconee. It is imperative that we give law enforcement the tools and resources to fight crime, round up drug dealers, and protect our families and communities.

It is my goal to provide three additional sheriff deputies and raise deputy pay. Currently, it is difficult to hire experienced deputies as we compete with surrounding agencies hiring at higher amounts. Certified officers start around $40,000 per year. A deputy straight out of the academy currently risks their life for $16.62 an hour. My goal is to raise starting pay to $41,500, allowing the county to be more competitive and hire experienced and certified officers, who are ready to hit the ground running. Presently, it takes two years to fully train the hire of a non-certified officer at a cost of $150,000 to the tax payers.

This sounds expensive, and it is, but the money is available without placing any additional burden on the taxpayers. We just have to prioritize. While many communities around the nation chose to “defund the police”, it is time for us to support fully law enforcement in Oconee County.

Solid Waste Facilities Improvements:

Is your garbage convenience center suffering from congestion and other inefficiencies?

I would like to hear from you. What improvements would you like to see at your local convenience center (trash dump)? Please answer the survey HERE.

Sewer Expansion:

To diversify our tax base and recruit new industry, it is vital that we complete the sewer project to the interstate and address adequate sewer infrastructure county-wide.

Broadband Internet:

Access to broadband internet has quickly become a necessity for modern life. Please see my broadband update further down in the newsletter.

Priorities That Came Out Of The Strategic Planning Meeting That I Do Not Support:

  • The hiring of an additional Code Enforcement Officer

  • The hiring of a communication specialist

  • Greenway trail development plan

  • Increased recreation department funding by $100,000 per year

  • Financial support of $150,000 per year to the FARM center in Seneca

  • County-Wide blight control if it includes infringement on private property rights

    You can read the full list of Council Priorities HERE

Economic Development

CurTec, a manufacturer of sustainable, high-performance packaging, announced plans in March to establish operations in Oconee County. The company’s $13 million investment will create 32 new jobs over the next five years.

The site will be located at the Oconee Industrial & Technology Park, and consists of 24 acres. It will be CurTec’s first production location outside The Netherlands and will serve as the main production facility for North America.

Operations are expected to be online by the first quarter of 2023. Individuals interested in joining the CurTec team should visit the company’s careers page.


Following every 10 year census, federal, state and local lines for elected offices are redrawn to equal out populations.

Each elected body creates their own lines. For instance, the SC State House creates the house district lines. Likewise, the county council creates its district lines.

Only the state legislature can move precinct lines.

Under the prior 2010 District map, the West Union Precinct was split between council District 1 and District 2 with 2,329 citizens in district 2 and 681 in district 1 from the West Union precinct. District 2 was 783 people under the target per district population targets of 15,721 and District 1 is currently 751 people over the target.

The split West Union precinct caused problems in the 2020 elections with some members of District 2 being given the wrong ballot and were subsequently unable to vote for their county council representative.

One of the state’s recommendations is to avoid splitting precincts if at all possible. For this reason, along with election integrity, I proposed combining all of the West Union Precinct into Council District 2.

District 1 Councilman John Elliott proposed splitting the Tamassee Precinct in half, with the top portion moving to District 2 and the lower half remaining in District 1. Elliott’s rationale behind splitting Tamassee was that “the majority of District 1 is lake minded”.

This proposal would have created two split precincts between two council districts. Another problem that it would have created is that Dean Bare, District 1 School Board Trustee, would have been moved from District 1 to District 2, per his address. This would have forbidden him from seeking re-election for the District 1 School Board Trustee.

After debate, my proposal was ultimately adopted to make the West Union Precinct whole and to eliminate any split precincts between Districts 1 & 2.

Click HERE to view a high resolution copy of the Council Districts Map.

The crosshatch area on the map signifies the change.

Broadband Expansion

In March, I requested an update from Blue Ridge Electric concerning the progress that has been made in expanding broadband in the county and what areas will be reached in 2022.

Read the broadband update here

Road Work Within District 2

Bush Creek Rd.—The culvert on Bush Creek Rd. is scheduled to be replaced this month. This is way overdue and will open the road back up for through traffic.

Chattooga Ridge Rd.—I’m awaiting an update from SCDOT on the bridge replacement on Chattooga Ridge Rd. I will let you know when I receive an update.

The County paving contract is on the 4/19 County Council agenda. I will provide an update in the next newsletter.


The following article about Victory Gardens is located in the Almanac. I thought I would share it considering the current state of affairs.

During World War II hard times fell on the nation. With fresh fruits and vegetables in short supply, food needed to be rationed and the government ultimately turned to the citizens to do their part to keep the nation fed. Families on the home front were encouraged to “put their idle land to work” and to produce gardens to combat the food shortage.

In response, victory gardens — or war gardens — began “cropping up” across the United States and Canada to provide fruits and vegetables for the nation. Victory gardens were considered a civil morale booster. Families could feel as though they were contributing to the war effort and heeded the call to patriotism.

Pamphlets and posters donned slogans such as “Dig for Victory,” “Every War Garden is a Peace Plant,” “Sow the Seeds of Victory,” and “Uncle Sam Says, ‘Garden to Cut Food Costs.’” People quickly realized it was their national duty to participate.

In 1943, nearly forty percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the US were grown in victory gardens. There were gardens planted in backyards, empty lots, and on the top of city rooftops. Neighbors and communities worked together and formed cooperations. Even schools got involved to provide supplemental food for lunches. An estimated twenty million victory gardens were planted, with about nine to ten million tons of fruits or vegetables harvested. Even Eleanor Roosevelt took part by planting her own victory garden at the White House in 1943.

Tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, and peas were some of the most common vegetables planted. Victory gardens brought Swiss chard and kohlrabi to the American table because they were easy to grow. The United States government even went as far to provide growing plans and tips on how to grow a backyard garden. As well as a recipe book with instructions on how to prepare home grown vegetables and sample nutritious meals to make with them. Families were also encouraged to can their excess veggies to send overseas to troops. Victory gardens made sure that there was enough food for the fighting soldiers.

Victory gardens gave Americans on the home front a sense of purpose and a way to contribute while also providing the food needed to sustain a nation during a time of need. After the war was over in 1945, victory gardens began to disappear. Grocery stores and commercial food began to become more widely available and most Americans didn’t see the need to continue to grow anymore. After the war ended, gardening became a hobby rather than a necessity for most people.

Fast Forward to Today

The food supply and state of health in our country are once again facing new challenges. As a nation, we do not consume enough fruits and vegetables, with only 27 percent of us consuming the recommended daily amount. A large portion of our food makes long journeys before even hitting our tables, losing nutrients along the way. A sizable percentage of our food is genetically modified and coated with harmful poisons. The rising food prices (especially for organic food) only exacerbates the problem. Today, because many have concerns about the quality of our food, home gardening is making a resurgence.

Not only is gardening an excellent way to reduce your grocery bill, but it is also a great way to bring your family (and neighborhood together). A grassroots effort has recently begun to use community gardens to help feed those in need within the community. A resurgence of a modern-day victory garden movement could help to relieve some of the burden on the public food supply. With one third of the nation being overweight, gardens are also a great opportunity to teach wholesome nutritious eating.

Here are some compelling reasons why you should consider starting your own victory garden this spring:

Growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to stretch your food budget.

Homegrown vegetables have more nutritional value than store bought ones (everyday a vegetable is off the vine it loses its health benefits).

No harmful chemicals sprayed on your veggies.

Provides fresh air and outdoor exercise for the whole family.

Forges bonding experiences for family and community members.

Allows you to control your food supply and be more self sufficient.

Gardening is a great activity to help relieve stress and improve sleep quality.

Statistically, gardeners live longer!

Don’t let lack of space deter you. No matter how much room you have, you can grow your own organic vegetables — from micro-greens and herbs in your kitchen to a large-scale garden in your backyard (or front yard, in some cases). Even a 10 x 10 ft garden can grow a tremendous amount of food for your loved ones.

For those with smaller yards, raised beds are gaining popularity. Container Gardening is also an excellent choice for those with limited space. This year try replacing the flowers in your window boxes with something edible. If you are new to gardening, dream big, but start slow and small, adding more each year – better to reap a small harvest than to get overwhelmed and give up all together. Article by Natalie LaVolpe and Farmers Almanac.

The kids and I planting potatoes in our Victory Gardening

Thank you for taking the time to read. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can ever be of assistance.

If you have a friend or neighbor who would like to stay informed, please direct them to to subscribe to my newsletter.

Matt Durham