By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
ABBEVILLE – Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Ray Mabus in the Governor’s Mansion when Betsy Aloway was elected mayor of Abbeville in 1978.
Five more presidents and four more governors have served since, but Abbeville residents have kept Aloway in office for three-and-a-half decades. Opting not to run this year, on July 1 she’ll pass the gavel to Scott Fricker.
Aloway, a Greenville native who moved here as a young bride in the early 1960s, said she always had an interest in politics.
“I was working as the town clerk, and the mayor’s position came open,” she said. “I decided to run for it, and I got elected, and I’ve been there ever since.”
One of the first impacts during Aloway’s tenure was the municipal water system.
“Before that, all the people were on their own wells,” she said. With the deep well that fills the municipal water tower, she added, “We’ve got really good water.” Other enhancements include a new Town Hall, along with town-county partnerships in fire protection, public storm shelters and tornado sirens.
One oddity of Aloway’s tenure was that during one term Aloway, Oxford’s Pat Lamar and Taylor’s Jane Rule Burdine made Lafayette the only county in the state with an all-female panel of mayors.
Aloway said Abbeville residents have made her public service a pleasant job.
“They’re friendly, and they’ll help you out when you need help,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there a long time or you just moved in.”
A tornado two years ago proved her point, with residents working for weeks to clear debris and help repair damaged houses.
“It’s just a small, compassionate community,” she said.
Aloway will continue to work five or six days a week in Furniture World, the business she has owned in Oxford for more than 20 years.
In a bit of ironic timing, Lynn Klepzig, Aloway’s daughter, just won a seat on the Board of Aldermen.
“I had to keep an Aloway in Town Hall,” Klepzig joked.
She added seriously that the possibility to enhance fire protection and add a sewer system is an opportunity to contribute in some of the same ways her mother has.
“There’s a good bit of growth potential,” Klepzig said. “I’d like to be a part of that.”