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Clown throws hat in ring for S.C. mayor’s race

People sometimes refer to professional politicians as clowns. But in Rock Hill, a professional clown wants to be a politician and plans to run for mayor.

It’s no joke.

A Rock Hill artist best known as “Pickles da Clown” says she intends to challenge four-term Mayor Doug Echols for his City Council seat this fall. A New York native, Barbara Emery, 48, said when filing opens for the mayoral race next month, she wants to put her name in the hat.

Keeping Rock Hill family-friendly with a big offering of community events will be the focal point of her platform, Emery said.

Emery described her political aspirations to a Herald reporter while at her regular gig entertaining the crowds at the Market Hall, decked out in an orange wig, red nose, red shoes, bright clown makeup and a multicolor dress.

Since moving to Rock Hill five years ago, she’s kept an eye on economic growth in the city, she said.

Emery says she’s interested in running for mayor because she wants to be a part of what happens to the city next.

With major improvements at Rock Hill’s Outdoor Center at Riverwalk and Manchester Meadows on Dave Lyle Boulevard, she said the opportunity is there to grow the city as a tourism hub.

Still, there are families struggling in the community that need the help of the city and local nonprofits to ensure a better quality of life, Emery said.

Performing as “Pickles” at parties and events such as the Old Town Farmer’s Market, she said she’s embedded herself into the Rock Hill community since her move from the Northeast.

Two of her sisters and her mother, also originally from New York, live in the area. She has a son, 27, living in New York.

Her nephew, Jeremy Walters, ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian last fall against petition candidate Raye Felder in the Fort Mill-based S.C. House District 26 race.

A Republican, Emery says she’s often joked about running for Rock Hill mayor and thinks it’s time to try.

Filing for the mayoral race opens July 17.

Echols announced his re-election bid earlier this month at a campaign launch at the newly opened Old Town Market Hall.

At the Market Hall on Thursday evening, Emery greeted families and interacted with children visiting the farmer’s market.

Her dad always encouraged her to use her “God-given talents,” she said, and running for mayor is just another way to do that.

Before entertaining as “Pickles” and starting her own seamstress business in a studio in downtown Rock Hill’s Gettys Arts Center, Emery worked in retail management and marketing.

She manages employees who help her entertain and set up at parties and events, she said.

As a business owner, she “wears all the hats,” Emery said, and she thinks her business skills will translate well to helping run a city.

Attracting more tourists to town and keeping it “all about family and community” will likely be the focus of her campaign, she said.

Her bid for mayor will be her first attempt at winning an elected office.

“Mainly, I’ve kept my nose out of politics,” she said. “Yes, I am a clown, but I’m also a serious businesswoman.”

Rock Hill will hold its election Oct. 15 for the mayoral race and three City Council seats up for re-election.

The cost to file for any seat is $160. Filing closes Aug. 16.

Rock Hill’s elections are nonpartisan, meaning no primaries will be held and candidates run with no political parties listed on the ballot.

Douglas: 803-329-4068
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