Bruehl brings collaboration, communication
Editor’s note: Bill Bruehl and John Elliott are running for the District 1 Oconee County Council seat.
By Caitlin Herrington
SENECA — Seneca resident and Pennsylvania native Bill Bruehl doesn’t have a political background, but he said his theater experience gives him a leg up when it comes to working together to get a job done.
The retired professor and former department chair of the Theatre Arts Department at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y., said the industry requires collaboration and respect — two things he sees missing from the current Oconee County Council.
“I think my background prepares me in a special way to get things done,” Bruehl said.
As the Democratic candidate for the District 1 council seat in the Nov. 6 general election, Bruehl is emphasizing two goals. He wants to improve communication, not only in council, but in the way the community interacts with one another on a daily basis. He’s also aiming to address what he calls a silent problem in Oconee County — poverty.
“When you have 20 percent of your people unable to live independently … you face a problem where people have been condemned to live in misery, and drug abuse emerges from that misery, because drugs are medicine for that misery,” Bruehl said. “Those conditions breed violence in people unable to support themselves and their families, thus South Carolina becomes the worst state in the union for domestic abuse.”
Economic development, he said, must include the county’s most valuable resource — its people. The growth of the population in Oconee County will be one of the biggest hurdles the county jumps over in coming years, he said.
“We need stronger planning, more effective policies,” Bruehl said. “We will encounter conflict between the old timers who will fight change and the need to protect the region from unregulated development. That conflict has to be dealt with diplomatically, and it involves the devil of division.”
That division is typically rooted in passion, Bruehl said, and is rarely a Democrat versus Republican issue.
“Council is not like a larger state or national legislature ruled by partisan values,” he said. “The councilors are concerned with issues more like the way families are. It’s neighborhood stuff. Some are more open to change … some are more protective of old ways.”
Involving — and prioritizing — the citizens in the growth management plan for the county means emphasizing the resources available locally, Bruehl said.
“We don’t produce people with the skills our businesses, tradesmen and industries — new and old — need,” he said. “If elected, I will make learning beyond high school my priority, and I will do everything I can to engage our most talented and successful citizens to engage in that project. … Yeah, it’ll be hard to do, but let’s not throw out the good because it isn’t perfect.”
Bruehl and his wife, Marty, have been married 63 years and enjoy spending time with their two daughters, two sons-in-law and two grandsons. He invests his spare time into writing his latest novel.
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