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Former Rock Hill Mayor Betty Jo Rhea dies at 91

City of Rock Hill
Rhea served on Rock Hill's Parks and Recreation Commission and then on City Council before she was elected as mayor in 1986.

Former mayor of Rock Hill, South Carolina Betty Jo Rhea died Monday after a brief illness.

Rhea served as Rock Hill’s mayor from 1986 to 1997 and was the town’s first and still only woman mayor.

During her tenure, she spearheaded the city’s long-term strategic initiative called “Empowering the Vision.” The plan focused on driving economic development at a time when many of Rock Hill’s textile mills were closing.

Rock Hill’s current Mayor John Gettys said the city is still reaping the benefits of that plan and pointed to the city’s sports tourism and many business parks as an example.

“It’s taken a long time to see the fruits of those ideas and the work’s that gone on. She started, played a role in, even after her tenure as mayor, as a community leader. Still believed in where we were going, she took an active part in getting us there, reaching out to people she felt like had something to offer our community and pushing them to do those things,” Gettys said.

Prior to her two terms as mayor, she served as a Rock Hill City Council member, where she chaired the council’s Sports Complex Committee and worked towards the opening of Cherry Park, a 68-acre athletic facility. In 2008, the tower at Cherry Park was named in her honor.

Rhea was 91 years old.

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