As you drive into the town limits of Fort Mill on S.C. 160 near Leroy Springs Recreation Complex, a wooden sign welcomes you. Along with the seals of local service organizations such as the Lions Club and the Woman's Club, the sign has two additional words: Progressive and Friendly.
Visitors might drive around our town and appreciate the slower pace and green spaces. They might also be fooled into thinking that Fort Mill is a little behind their big city neighbor in education, housing and the like. Over the past year that I have written this column, I have been fortunate to see firsthand that this is not the case and we are, in fact, progressing quite nicely.
We have a school district that is tops in the state and still finds time to install solar panels, hold single-gender classes and enrich student lives with individualized teaching strategies. New schools are continually bringing new challenges, but also new ideas to try. Some ideas work and some don't, but we are not afraid to try.
Fort Mill continues to experiment culturally with the future site of a new museum. Life and the environment will be showcased on the Catawba River, built with “green” certification and the concept of sustainability. The museum site will have an interesting neighbor – a mixed-use residential and commercial development named Kanawha. The developers of Kanawha say it will be the first in the Carolinas to integrate sustainable technology, materials and practices. Pretty progressive.
Things do move at a slower pace here than many places. The tempo allows people to stop and say hello. Newcomers and natives mix and mingle and don't always see eye-to-eye. But then, it is OK to agree to disagree when we are friends.
I was amazed at how often I would contact an individual, business or school official and they would throw open their doors to invite me in for a visit. When I wondered where the Fort Mill Class of 2008 was headed after high school, Principal Dee Christopher proudly gave me a rundown on the institutions his students would attend and the plethora of scholarship money they received. No red tape, no forms to sign, just a simple question and a simple answer. Not as easy to find as you might think.
This friendly exchange reminded me of some very good advice I received years ago – assume good will. Many Fort Mill residents practice this old adage and it creates the friendly environment that we all value in our homes, churches, schools and businesses.
Thanks for taking the time to read this column about our progressive and friendly town. Let's all do our part to keep those two words on our welcome sign relevant.