Mayor gives State of Irmo address

Irmo Mayor Barry Walker gave a State of Irmo Address in the town park on Tuesday, December 1 during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Walker acknowledged accomplishments that the town has achieved during the past year and highlighted growth in the coming new year.

He thanked the citizens of Irmo for sticking together during the pandemic and the Irmo Police Department for their compassion in community policing. Walker said the town will be adding new green spaces thanks to the generosity of donations from Richland County Recreation and Dr. Guram which would include a dog park and a community garden. He also reminded the town that there still is no property tax and hopes to keep it that way in the coming year.

After his speech, he invited Councilwoman Kathy Condom on stage to hold the countdown for the Christmas tree lighting. The Greater Irmo Chamber of Commerce held an oyster roast and provided entertainment as part of the holiday celebration for the town.

Full Speech Text

State of the Town Address
Honorable Barry Walker
Mayor of Irmo
Presented December 1, 2020

This is what our community – this town – does to people: It unites us.

While the impacts of Covid-19…and the protests that…ravaged some other places… This place clung together.

Mayor Barry Walker

I’m so grateful y’all are here this evening! It’s wonderful to get together in person!

I was thinking back to how it was this time last year – before we ever heard of COVID- 19 – when we needed a reason to come together and celebrate.
Now…I think…we all appreciate that just being together is reason enough to REJOICE!

Tonight, I’m here to personally thank each of you for the way you pulled together, prayed together and stayed united – even as we stood apart – during the uncertain months of the pandemic. I encourage you to continue to respect the safety guidelines – and together we’ll remain Irmo Strong!

And speaking of strong…please give a round of applause to our world-class Irmo Town Council: Kathy…Kelly…Bill and Erik. I deeply appreciate each of you.

And to the woman who holds my heart and is my partner in all things…Susan Walker…I’m grateful for you every single day. Please welcome our First Lady! You know, I run all my speeches by Susan. So, as we were getting ready to come here tonight I asked her what I should say.

She said: “Barry, don’t try to be smart…or witty…or charming.” She said: “Just be yourself!”

Well, encouraged by that vote of confidence from my biggest fan, I am here tonight with a very simple message. I’m here to say: Thanks. Thank you to my colleagues on IRMO Town Council who’ve become dear friends this year.

This is what our community – this town – does to people: It unites us.
While the impacts of Covid-19…and the protests that…ravaged some other places… This place clung together.

And when forced to shut our doors earlier this year, we kept our minds…our hearts…and all of our options…open. We worked through differences and disagreements. So in a year best defined by a pandemic, IRMO was busy building. And this…my friends…is the State of our Town.

Last Christmas, I had only just been elected mayor. And man, did I have big plans! But you know what they say about plans, right? If you want to make God laugh – tell Him about your plans.

So, my plans never did include a pandemic. But you know, they did include the Irmo Police and Fire Departments. My plans did include the Town of IRMO employees, IRMO Chamber of Commerce and our amazing IRMO area businesses. And most of all, they did include the thousands of residents – the many families that proudly call IRMO home.

I wanted to be about the business of building relationships. Turns out, that was a solid plan because when Covid-19 hit we found out we could count on one another when it got tough. So, we plowed ahead and finished that brand new firehouse exactly when and where we needed it. With stations now on both sides of the tracks so trains…time…and traffic…are no longer a challenge as our town continues to grow.

And we’re so grateful for our heroes in our fire department and EMT.
Thank you to all of them.

And to our new Chief Courtney Dennis and the IRMO Police Department: This year taught us we are blessed beyond measure by our bonds with law enforcement.

Right after I was elected, I met one-on-one with every single one of our Police officers. And I can report: they know most of you! They know your kids, they know when something doesn’t look or feel right in our neighborhoods. They truly offer compassionate community policing…ties that bind us at a time when so many others are frayed.

I think that spirit of community is why this year some 600 new families now call IRMO home. We’re striving to keep IRMO a safe place to live…work…and run a business. And due to those businesses — entrepreneurs and companies that generate some $3 million in business license fees — and because your town leadership remains dedicated to fiscal stewardship, IRMO residents pay no town millage tax.

I can tell you that’s a big deal. It’s also a covenant I hope to keep with IRMO residents. We’ll do that by continuing to recruit more revenue-generating businesses to our community.

This next year we will welcom a new hotel…a QT gas station…Loveland Coffee Barista store and a Starbucks to name but a few. But like I said, it’s all about relationships and relationships are all about balance.

To our robust business community, we’ll add beautiful spaces like a new dog park and a Community Garden. And by the way, we received the 10-acres of land for these projects from Richland County Recreation Commission, because we’ve worked hard building relationships there.
And Dr. Guam from the Irmo Wellness Center also gifted us 8-acres of land.
Thank you, Dr. Guarm. and the Richland County Recreation Commission.

We don’t take these blessings for granted and we strive to be good neighbors and responsible state citizens. During the Covid-19 crisis, we worked closely with Governor McMaster’s office so that IRMO business were able to open up earlier and get back to business ahead of most of the rest of the state.

And thanks to a new grant writer we hired this year, we’ll continue to dream big and set our sights on bold projects and programs that makes us even better.

But we won’t be bullied. We’re pushing back hard on Blue Granite Utilities. It’s high time IRMO controls our own utilities, set our own rates, and respectfully, send Blue Granite packing back to Canada.

Hear me on this: Our quintessential Southern town is in charge of our own destiny! And that’s the takeaway as we reflect on the year that was.

For sure, 2020 cost us.

As a town we missed the Okra Strut, the single biggest event that both draws us together and brings outsiders into our tent. We took a big hit. But we didn’t stay down. We found new safe ways to be together — like our re-imagined drive-in movie nights experience.

Covid-19 did not define us.

Instead, it refined us.

It showed us that our very best resource — our most valuable asset — is the unbreakable bond we share. It’s more powerful — more resilient — than any pandemic. It’s the foundation we’ll confidently continue to build on.

That, my friends, is what it means to be IRMO Strong. And thanks to all of you – this is the State of our Town.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor. On behalf of the IRMO Town Council, Susan and I wish you a truly blessed Christmas and holiday season and a healthy New Year.

May God bless IRMO, South Carolina and God bless America.