Pro-business mayor ousted in Anderson

Anderson voters yesterday ousted Mayor Kevin Smith, a Republican who had spent much of his energy trying to revitalize the city’s sagging economy.

Replacing Smith is Kris Ockomon, an Anderson police detective who is a Democrat.

Ockomon hammered Smith over the direction he was taking with economic development, and Smith said in an interview today that the message reverberated in a town that had been controlled by Democrats for 16 years prior to his four-year term.

“There was negativity about our economic efforts,” Smith said. “It was an anti issue for us.”

Ockomon could not be reached for comment.

Ockomon criticized Smith’s overseas trips seeking foreign investment, saying investment could be attracted domestically.

In August, the Democrat-controlled city council voted along party lines to pull $144,000 from next year’s budget that would have continued funding an economic development contract for an outside consultant, Greg Winkler.

Anderson has enjoyed a run of job announcements in the past couple of years.

The city, once a General Motors stronghold with thousands of workers, has landed a 500-employee service center operated by Affiliated Computer Services and IBM. Ockomon said the $10 an hour pay was too low; Smith countered that the jobs were available to those without jobs and that the site diversified the local economy.

Anderson also has attracted Canadian companies that make aerospace components and parts for off-road equipment. Yet another big project was a Nestle food manufacturing plant.

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