By Al Dozier
The newly-appointed Okra Strut Commission met Tuesday and elected long-time volunteer Larry Slaughter as chairman.
Slaughter, succeeds former Chairman Kirk Luther, who was removed from the commission without explanation at a special council meeting Dec. 1. The legality of that meeting has been challenged by Councilman Barry Walker Sr., who said the council could not remove an appointed position of a non-employee in an executive session.
Mayor Hardy King has often been at odds with the Okra Strut Commission over financial problems with the 2014 event. He called for a criminal investigation by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department which found no criminal activity, only “sloppy bookkeeping.”
The commission has addressed prior financial problems and had a successful event this year, but the town took over many of the festival’s operations during the past several months.
At Tuesday’s meeting, current commission member, Heather Hardy was elected vice chair, and new commssion member Scot Sheely, secretary.
In a brief discussion, the new commission agreed to curtail the ending time of the Saturday events from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. after receiving complaints about the later hours. The commission also agreed to hold monthly meetings at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the Irmo Town Hall.
At the beginning of the meeting King advised the committee on new guidelines established by the council, which provides time schedules and includes following a budget that would be established by the Irmo Council.
King said the commission can make a decision on whether or not the town will hire an administrator, or use an event-coordinator that might be hired by the town.
King also suggested the commission could designate some of its income to local charitable agencies, such as the Salvation Army or Sharing God’s Love.
Slaughter said after the meeting he will not be dwelling on the conflicts of the past as he takes the reins of the commission.
“I love the Okra Strut,” he said. “I just want to make it a success.”