Newberry Fire Department recently honored Jimmy Bickley for his retirement after a combined 36 years with the city’s fire department as both a volunteer and career firefighter.

Bickley retired on October 19 as a Lieutenant within the department.

“We’re very fortunate to have had Jimmy with us,” Fire Chief Keith Minick said.

The ceremony was held on November 27 at the Newberry Firehouse Conference Center for Bickley’s friends, family and colleagues.

Bickley was presented several gifts on behalf of the fire department as well as the City of Newberry during the ceremony.

On behalf of the fire department, Minick presented Bickley with a commemorative bronze play pipe which is customary for retiring lieutenants.

The Newberry Honor Guard presented Bickley with the flag that flew during his final shift at Station 20 the month prior. The Honor Guard is made up of members who volunteer their time to go to retirements, funerals or other circumstances to represent the department in proper fashion, Minick said.

The helmet Bickley wore as Lieutenant has been retired and was presented to him during the ceremony along with a fire service window decal.

Following the presentation of gifts, the Newberry County Communications Center made a “last call” broadcast in Bickley’s honor.

“It’s always very touching to hear the final broadcast that is done at the end of every tour,” Minick said. “Jimmy is retiring after 36 years of service but will never be forgotten.”

Bickley said the evening was very bittersweet for him as he had experienced so many good memories over the years with the Newberry Fire Department.

“Each person I have met has made an impact on my life,” Bickley said. “I owe some of my best memories and friendships to my time here.”

Bickley said helping people was the inspiration for his wanting to get involved in the fire service and he felt that even 36 years later, that still remained true.

“I can honestly say through the years I have stayed true to that reason even though I may have seen things that no man or woman should experience,” he said.

Bickley said he also had fond memories of the people and families he had been able to help during his time with the Newberry Fire Department.

“I’d like to thank my family for all of the love and support they have shown me over the years – all the 24 hour shifts, the emergency calls in the middle of the night and having to rearrange family functions to meet my schedule, I thank you for being there, by my side through the good and the bad,” he said.

Other members of the fire department offered their regards to Bickley including Lieutenant Stuart Smith.

“Time surely has passed but I want to thank Jimmy for all the service he has done,” Smith said. “I had the pleasure of working with him on his first shift and the pleasure of sharing his last shift with him.”

Smith thanked Bickley’s family for being there for him and a system of support for the fire department.

“It’s been a great ride and we thank y’all,” he said.

Smith presented Bickley a gift on behalf of their peers from his first shift.

On behalf of his family, Bickley’s wife Debra presented him with a framed picture from his first day on shift at the Newberry Fire Department.

Lieutenant Andrew Morris described an iconic picture of President Bush as he received word about the terrorist attacks of September 11.

“He was reading in a school when he got the word,” Morris said. “One of the things we don’t get to see is all of the other people that responded to that and that moment changed everyone’s lives.”

For 343 firefighters, Morris said, that was their last day.

“To my knowledge we don’t have any picture of what they were doing right before – it may have been spending time with their family,” he said.

Morris said that was kind of the wild thing about what they did as firefighters.

“Jimmy, during the 36 years that you gave this city, I think about the meals you got up from, the sacrifices you made,” he said. “It’s a different kind of family. They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. That’s different when you come to the fire department.”

Morris said the fire department was their chosen family and he appreciated Bickley’s years of service.

In closing, Minick mentioned Bickley’s service just this year in February when he, along with other firefighters were instrumental in saving a person’s life and how that spoke to his character and his career.

“Just that same day they were in the bay all day long training on that specific task,” Minick said. “It’s amazing how you can train all day and that night you receive a call and it all starts to kick in.”

Minick said he appreciated Bickley’s time, dedication and heart he had put into the fire service and he hoped the fire department would be no stranger to his visits.

“Thank you for your years of service, we will miss you,” he said.

 The helmet Bickley wore as Lieutenant was presented to him by Fire Chief Kieth Minick during the ceremony. 

 Bickley along with his family following the ceremony.

Newberry City Council unanimously passed two readings at their special meeting held Monday.

Second and final reading was held to recover collection costs as part of delinquent debts collected pursuant to the Setoff Debt Collection Act. The ordinance strengthens the city’s ability to collect administrative fees.

Mayor Foster Senn said that all municipalities participating in the Municipal Association of South Carolina Debt Setoff Collection program must pass the ordinance before December 1, 2018. Motion was made by Councilman Thomas Louis Boyd and seconded by Councilman Edwin Wicker.

Councilman Zebbie Goudelock asked City Manager Matt DeWitt if the collection program covered bad utility debt. DeWitt said the program does attempt to collect on bad utility debt and can also collect miscellaneous debts to include lot clearings and utility damages that occur for example when a major water line is damaged or if a vehicle damages a utility pole.

Second and final reading was also passed of an ordinance to amend ordinance #2018-1013 as to appendix “A.” The ordinance was previously adopted by council to establish a set of standards for small wireless facilities. While the ordinance listed the historical district, DeWitt said that city staff wished to amend Appendix “A” by adding the code provisions for the applicable design guidelines or manual, the review authority and appeal jurisdiction for the district. The amendment would include a detailed map of the historical district in addition to the boundaries described in the ordinance.

City Council will convene again on Tuesday, December 11 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1330 College Street.

The future is “bright” in Newberry when the City of Newberry and Newberry Electric Cooperative (NEC) partner together – starting with Highway 219.

City Manager Matt DeWitt said after Samsung’s recent investment in Newberry along the corridor into the city on Highway 219, a welcome sign was added at the I-26 and exit 76 interchanges to give visitors the feel of entering a city.

“Newberry Electric Cooperative stepped up and powered light to that new city welcome sign so that it became visible to incoming traffic after dark,” DeWitt said. “But something was still missing.”

One of the criticisms they often heard, DeWitt said was that that corridor was dark after dusk and didn’t give visitors the inviting feeling of entering the “City of Friendly Folks.”

Taking consideration to the feedback from residents in Newberry, DeWitt and Keith Avery, president and CEO of NEC decided to brighten the stretch of Highway 219 starting just before Willingham’s Building Supply and continuing out to the interstate interchange at exit 76.

“As the community is aware, Samsung recently made a major investment of millions of dollars into Newberry and due to this, traffic counts have picked up,” DeWitt said. “Komatsu, the Holiday Inn Express and the Newberry County industrial park are all located along Highway 219 and play a vital role in the economic stability of the county.”

Retail Strategies, the city’s retail recruitment partners see Highway 219 as the growth corridor for the city and both NEC and the City of Newberry expect to see continued investment around that area for years to come.

DeWitt and Avery said they knew this lighting addition could make the corridor feel more welcoming and inviting to those traveling into Newberry in the evenings and could help provide a safer passageway for those both coming and going.

 “Our goals are the same – to do what we can to benefit the citizens of Newberry,” Avery said.

Avery said he believed this project demonstrated the cooperation that NEC has with the City of Newberry and that it would not be the last project they worked on jointly.

“If you haven’t come through 219 in a while you should check out the bright future in store for Newberry as you’re on your way in to enjoy Christmas festivities over the holidays,” DeWitt said.

A full list of downtown Christmas activities can be found at

Newberry’s Oakland Tennis Center was recently honored with the Parks Excellence Award for the population category of 30,000 and under. The award was presented November 14 by the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association at their annual awards luncheon in Greenville.

City Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director, Scott Sawyer said the department applied for the award in June of this year.

“We knew the Oakland Tennis Center project was an excellent renovation of an existing park, but to receive state recognition as the best in our population class is tremendous,” Sawyer said.

From the beginning of the Oakland Tennis Center project, Sawyer said that city staff had the goal of not only building a tennis center, but to build a tennis program.

Formerly home to city football, baseball and softball programs, Oakland Park, he said needed a facelift as it was approaching 50 years old.

The $1.6 million project was financed without any taxpayer dollars. Sawyer said the city benefited from the nearby Oakland Mill renovations as part of a Multi-County Industrial Park designation, as well as hospitality and accommodations fund and economic development monies. A public-led fundraising campaign also brought in over $100,000.

Because of a partnership between the city and Newberry College, the college’s tennis teams not only call the facility their new home, but Mark Gardiner, head tennis coach also serves as the tennis center’s Director of Tennis, or Pro.

The facility features six hard courts and three hybrid clay courts with LED lights, restrooms and a pro shop.

Gardiner said they have had nothing but rave reviews on the new complex, especially the hybrid clay tech courts and the facility’s state of the art lighting.

“We look forward to growing our programs for years to come,” he said.

Sawyer said they hope the entire community takes advantage of the opportunity to enjoy playing on the courts.

“Tennis is a great, lifelong activity that can contribute to better overall health and wellness,” he said.

City Manager Matt DeWitt said the addition of the tennis center has added an active option for residents in which to partake and that they couldn’t be happier with the response they have received from the community thus far.

“If you haven’t come out to see them at the tennis center, please do,” DeWitt said.

More information on Oakland Tennis Center and programming can be found at

 Scott Sawyer, director of parks, recreation and tourism (left) along with Mark Gardiner, tennis director (right) after receiving the 2018 Parks Excellence Award on behalf of Oakland Tennis Center. 

Top 10 Things Every Newberrian Should do for #AVeryBerryChristmas that’s Merry and Bright!


Newberry is becoming known throughout the state as a “Christmas town.” Here are just 10 things we’re looking forward to this holiday season! Be sure to check out our website for all things Christmas in Newberry:

1. Main Street Lights: Community Tree Lighting
The Holiday season in downtown Newberry kicks off on Friday, November 16th from 5 pm to 8 pm at the annual Main Street Lights Community Christmas Tree Lighting! At the start of the event, just before the sun sets, experience caroling at the tree and snap a photo with the Southern Victorian Society, dressed in full replica Victorian era Holiday attire. The Newberry College Cheer Squad will also be present with their wolf mascot, Scar, to hand out candy canes to little ones. Several local organizations will be offering cookies, goodie bags, and more. This year the official Lighting Ceremony will begin at 6:15 pm and will feature Pomaria-Garmany School and Newberry Middle School choruses as well as Mayor Senn and a special guest from WISTV. The ceremony ends with a countdown to light the town at 6:30 pm. After the ceremony view the décor, listen to the Newberry College Madrigal Singers caroling, and consider stopping by the Ritz Theater at 7:30 pm for a free showing of The Polar Express.
Main Street Lights Event photos. Images of the crowd at the tree lighting, Southern Victorian Society, and downtown decorations.
2. Holiday Open House in Historic Downtown Newberry
The Newberry Downtown Development Association extends their annual invitation to their Holiday Open House! November 15th through 18th, Downtown Newberry’s shops will be rolling out the welcome mat for you during this weekend of festivities. Expect to find great Christmas gifts, just the thing you need for your holiday centerpiece, and more. Shopping, dining, refreshments, sales, and door prizes abound during this weekend of holiday cheer at our downtown small businesses.
Holiday Open House decorations at a downtown Newberry Shop
3. #AVeryBerryChristmas Photo Contest
Join in the Christmas Cheer by entering this annual photo contest! To enter, simply post your photos of you, your friends, and family enjoying the decorations in downtown Newberry to social media, using the hashtag #AVeryBerryChristmas. The photographer that best captures the magic of downtown Newberry during the holiday season will win 2 tickets to the Malpass Brothers on February, 14th, 2019 at the Opera House.
2017 Winner of the #AVeryBerryChristmas Photo Contest
4. Gingerbread House Competition Awards & Breakfast with Santa
Professional and amateur bakers are encouraged to enter the official Gingerbread Competition! This competition is for all ages and offers two categories: “Newberry Village” in which entrants will enter to win the grand prize of $500, while the “Kids Village” entrants will be entering to win a gift certificate to the Newberry Arts Center (NAC). “Newberry Village” competitors can be any age, but the “Kids Village” is only open to children ages six to sixteen. The gingerbread entries will be on display in the Newberry Arts Center beginning the morning of December 1st, where at 9 am winners will be announced at “Breakfast with Santa.” This event is free and open to the public. The gingerbread will remain on display in the windows of NAC through December 20.
Entries and Winners from the 2017 Gingerbread Competition
5. North Pole Nights
The wonders of the North Pole are coming to Newberry. On most Fridays during the holidays visitors can come to the free North Pole Nights events to play in the fluttering faux snow in Memorial Park, take pictures with Santa, visit Santa’s workshop at the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce office for a Christmas Craft and Storytime with Mrs. Claus, and stop by the Newberry Arts Center to view the entries and winners of the 2018 Official Newberry Gingerbread Competition! Don’t miss the fun downtown November 30th, December 7th, 14th, and 21st from 6 pm to 8 pm.
Images from past North Pole Nights in downtown Newberry
6. Santa's Tour of Newberry
How does Santa Claus get around when he is without his reindeer? On a fire truck of course! Santa of Newberry will be touring some of Newberry’s neighborhoods by fire truck this holiday season to check in on our local children and make sure all are being good boys and girls before Christmas arrives. On Friday November 30th, December 14th, and 21st from 5 pm to 6 pm watch for Santa to see if he drives past your front door! Santa will end each of his tours in Memorial Park to attend North Pole Nights. Neighborhood tour details can be found at
Santa of Newberry ready to ride with the NFD!
7. Tuba Christmas
A unique Newberry event that is free and open to the public, Tuba Christmas, features low bass horn players performing Christmas carols that have been specifically arranged for their instruments. The result is a sound that has been described to be like “that of a male vocal choir.” Tuba Christmas is an international event that takes place in most major cities, but Newberry’s is believed to be the largest in the state of South Carolina, bringing in 50 performers that offer the audience a full and rich sound. Tuba Christmas will be held at the Newberry College Alumni Music Building on Saturday, December 15th at 3 pm.
Perfomer at 2017 Tuba Christmas
8. Christmas Tour of Homes
Organized annually by the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce, the Christmas Tour of Homes offers visitors a chance to take a self-guided tour of private homes of Newberry fully decorated for the holiday season. This year’s tour features the home of the Tootle family at 2026 Main Street, the Home of the Routon family at 2016 Main Street, the home of the Dubose family at 1912 Main Street, and the home of the Boles family at 1213 Crenshaw Street. All 4 homes are within walking distance. Tourgoers are also invited to attend a wine and cheese holiday reception at Uptown Pour in downtown Newberry at 1110 Main Street. The tour is scheduled for December 8 from 4pm to 8pm. Call the Chamber at 803-276-4274 for tickets and details.
Historic DeWalt House from the 2017 tour. Photo by RICE Creative Images.
Don’t miss this special play coming from the Newberry Community Players this Christmas season. A Little House Christmas is based on the beloved book series of Laura Ingalls Wilder, adapted by James DeVita. The heartwarming production features the Ingalls family at their log cabin home among fields of wheat, and explores how the young girls learn the true meaning of Christmas, selflessness, and love, with a surprising twist on Christmas morning! For tickets and details visit
A Little House Christmas graphic ad from NCP
10. Christmas Caroling
While the holiday season always brings about fun activities, events, and parties for all to enjoy, sometimes we just need a night off from the hustle and bustle for reflective time with family and loved ones. One tradition that harkens back to times past is that of traditional holiday caroling. Caroling is a festive no-fuss way to brighten your neighbor’s evening, bring joy to those around you, and something anyone can do! When making your plans this Christmas season, consider taking time to purposefully go with family and friends to visit and sing with your neighbors. Not everyone must be a singer, you just have to be willing to share joy with those around you. Bring a few pages of your favorite holiday tunes, knock on a few doors, and spread the Christmas cheer.
Carolers singing
BONUS: Smithsonian Museum on Main Street
The Newberry Opera House is welcoming the Smithsonian to their lobby! Crossroads: Change in Rural America is an interactive Smithsonian created installation that will be on display in the Opera House lobby from December through February. The exhibit highlights the history of rural America, its story, and what’s to come for these classic American communities, including Newberry! The exhibit opens on December 16th and runs through February 2nd. Viewing is free and open to the public.
Postcard of downtown Newberry from the early 20th Century
Mary Alex Kopp
Tourism & Events Manager
City of Newberry Parks, Recreation, and Tourism