Aiken County lost a good one last Sunday.
When Ronnie Young passed, Aiken County lost a champion for its residents. He was influential in bringing new businesses to the area and championing expansion efforts at the Savannah River Site. Young served on the County Council for 27 years, 24 of which as the chairman, and followed that as a South Carolina State House Representative from District 84.
He was also a friend to many he served with, a mentor to others and leaves behind a legacy.
After serving on the school board, Young moved on to a County Council seat in 1991 replacing Carroll Warner, who passed in 1994, as the Aiken County Chairman. Young would be elected chairman in 1996 and stay in that spot until 2016 when he was elected through a special election for the House seat.
According to State Senator Tom Young, in the time Ronnie served on the County Council, he played a role in securing many of the big name businesses we have. Tom Young said Ronnie helped bring in two Bridgestone tire manufacturing plants, MTU diesel engine plant, Recleim, Autoneum, American Switch and was influential in the Kimberly-Clark expansion, making it the largest in the company.
In all, it can be said Ronnie Young helped bring many jobs to the Aiken County economy and was a giant in helping not only the cities of Aiken and North Augusta, but everyone else.
"He never forgot the small towns all around the county and worked hard on Council to make sure that those communities also received fair and equitable treatment from county government resources," Tom Young said.
When Young moved on to the House, District 86 Rep. Bill Taylor noticed the immediate impact he had.
"Ronnie Young was quick to gain respect," Taylor said. "His vast experience in local government as a school board member and county board chairman for more than two decades was highly respected by his legislative colleagues. As evidence of that respect, Ronnie was elected first vice chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee at the beginning of his second term. In that role, he worked closely with Education Committee Chairlady Rita Allison in crafting the comprehensive education reform."
Tom Young said when Ronnie Young learned of his illness two months ago, he continued to serve "and represent the citizens in District 84."
"Just two weeks before his passing, during the first week of May, he was still focused on responding to constituent concerns and working with other delegation members on ways to improve Aiken County," Tom Young said.
He was an Aiken County advocate of the highest caliber punctuated by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster awarding him the highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto, just days before his passing.
Those who knew Young and his character, respected him. He never left anyone behind. When current County Council Chairman Gary Bunker took over for Young in 2017, it was Young who became a mentor to Bunker.
"After I was elected chairman, I’d ask his advice on how to manage certain situations," Bunker said. "And I will still ask myself on procedural issues, ‘What would Ronnie do?’”
Bunker also said when Young was chairman and he was on Council, Young was authoritative in his own way.
"Ronnie was patient and tolerant with fellow council members," Bunker said. "The only times I saw him angered by opposition was when he perceived a falsehood being used, or when the council member was making a spectacle."
In addition to being on the County Council and a State House Representative, Young’s history of public service is vast. His involvements included the Valley Public Authority, Graniteville Exchange Club, U.S. Selective Service Board, S.C. Association of Counties, Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority, Three Rivers Solid Waste Technology Center, Aiken Rotary Club, Midland Valley Lion's Club, Midland Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lower Savannah Council Governments and too many more worthwhile groups and activities to name.
And, in addition to all those accolades, Taylor added that Ronnie "was a master in creating delicious desserts and sharing them with friends and colleagues when he worked at the Graniteville plant, at the county government center or at the Statehouse.”
Better than his sweet treats, Ronnie Young was worthy of the adoration from his constituents and colleagues.
In their statements, Tom Young, Taylor and Bunker all three said they will miss their "good friend."
Aiken County will miss its friend, too.