A large crowd turned out Sunday to give outgoing Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh a well-deserved pat on the back – and more than a few goodbye hugs.
During the two-hour event, filled with speeches and songs from a children’s choir, at the Municipal Building, Cavanaugh, who retired Monday after 24 years as mayor, received the Order of the Silver Crescent from S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley; resolutions from the S.C. Senate and House of Representatives; a certificate of appreciation from the Aiken Department of Public Safety; and gifts from City employees and the Character Comes First in Aiken program.
Cavanaugh was elected to Aiken City Council in 1985, and for his last two years as Council member, he was mayor pro tem.
When the late Aiken Mayor H. Odell Weeks, who was mayor for roughly 44 years, became ill and announced he would not run again, Cavanaugh decided to seek election in 1991 and has been mayor for the past 24 years.
Former County Council member Rick Osbon, who was elected Aiken mayor Nov. 3, was sworn in Monday. He has some big shoes to fill as he follows Cavanaugh, who has led the City through more than two pivotal decades of growth and development.
Cavanaugh said that during his time as mayor he is most proud of the Character First initiative he helped bring to the City. The program recognizes character traits such as honesty, forgiveness and humor, and banners throughout downtown and City parks remind residents to practice those traits daily.
Starting with East Aiken School of the Arts, every public and private school in the county adopted the program, and today, more than 4,000 children have received certificates of good character.
“Fred has been amazing,” said Judy Cross, a member of the Joint Women’s Clubs of Aiken, which sponsors the annual Celebration of Character for students and the character banners. “He goes to schools constantly and comes to all of our programs.”
Mayor-elect Osbon said Cavanaugh is a living example of character.
“It’s not just a banner for him,” Osbon said. “It’s the way he lives his life. I appreciate what he’s done for our city and have the utmost respect for him.”
Other representatives from local and state government shared their admiration for the retiring mayor.
Cavanaugh’s presence at the helm of the city he so clearly adores will be missed. We wish him the best as he steps away from the public eye to spend more time with friends and family. At the same time, we welcome new Mayor Rick Osbon and wish him every success in the office.