Hightower resigns as Aiken County Councilman for District 8 effective May 31

May 24—Willar H. Hightower Jr. will be leaving County Council next week after serving for more than 30 years as the representative of District 8.

He announced Tuesday at the Aiken County Government Center that he would be resigning May 31 "with a heavy heart."

Hightower, 79, originally was elected to County Council in 1986 and was reelected most recently in 2020.

He is the panel's longest serving current member.

Hightower's resume also includes stints on Aiken City Council and the Aiken Planning and Zoning Commission.

"It has been an honor to serve District 8 for 36 years. I have been a public servant for more than 40 years," he said. "However... my family and I have determined that it would be the best for District 8 for me to focus my time on building my strength to overcome several major health issues.

"I have served standing on the shoulders of my parents, the Rev. Willar H. and Janie Sweeney Hightower," he continued. "They raised me to know that it is not about me, but about improving the lives of those I have represented in the City and County of Aiken. I pray that the Council will continue to focus on constituent service."

Hightower, who is a Democrat, made his announcement during a County Council work session to prepare a budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

He received a standing ovation from fellow County Council members, county staff and other attendees.

"Mr. Hightower ... you've taught me more than I've learned from just about anybody," said County Council Vice Chairman Andrew Siders, who represents District 7. "You have served with grace, you have served with strength when you needed to and I can't tell you how much I personally am going to miss you."

County Council Chairman Gary Bunker praised Hightower for his courage, for taking a stand on positions and for giving valuable advice.

"On behalf of Aiken County Council and the citizens of Aiken County, I salute you for your selfless service," Bunker said.

Sandy Haskell, who represents District 5, told Hightower: "It's been a real honor to serve with you. Thank you very much for all you have done for Aiken County."

Said Phil Napier, who represents District 6, "I respect you and I hate to see you leave."

During a telephone interview Wednesday, County Administrator Clay Killian described Hightower as "a very dedicated" public servant.

"He has served the community very well for a long time," Killian added. "I appreciate having the opportunity to work with him."

The South Carolina Code of Laws addresses the process involved in conducting special elections to fill vacancies.

The schedule is as follows:

In a partisan election, filing by candidates "shall open for the office at twelve o'clock noon on the third Friday after the vacancy occurs for a period to close eight days later at twelve o'clock noon."

"A primary must be held on the eleventh Tuesday after the vacancy occurs. A runoff primary must be held on the thirteenth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs. The special election must be on the twentieth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs.

"If the twentieth Tuesday after the vacancy occurs is no more than sixty days prior to the general election, the special election must be held on the same day as the general election. If the filing period closes on a state holiday, then filing must be held open through the succeeding weekday. If the date for an election falls on a state holiday, the election must be set for the next succeeding Tuesday. For purposes of this section, state holiday does not mean the general election day."