4 seek to become South Congaree mayor

tflach@thestate.comAugust 25, 2013 

— South Congaree’s next mayor will come from a group that includes a former mayor, son of a former mayor, current town councilman and a political newcomer with the same name as the police chief.

Voters in the Lexington County community will pick one of the four as well as a new council member Tuesday.

Each candidate for mayor is pledging to heal the political rifts that have been a hallmark at Town Hall for a decade.

The choice of voters will serve nearly three years in replacing Jerry McCormick, who resigned the post in May after expressing frustration at persistent infighting.

One vacancy on Town Council also will be filled after Richard Green joined McCormick in quitting due to the friction. Candidates for that post are Jeff Boatwright, Jay Kates and Barbara Sox.

The winners will cope with the fallout of a May 1 raid on Town Hall by FBI and SLED agents in which documents and other materials were taken for reasons never made public other than no town money is missing.

Here’s a snapshot of each candidate for mayor in the town of 2,300 residents:

Andy Gambrell is a familiar name in the community after serving as mayor for nine years, county councilman for four more and town councilman for another four.

“I’ve been the firing line” in dealing with myriad demands, he said.

“We need to get to the point where this is not our side and your side but everybody working together,” he said.

Gambrell, 66, wants to create a waiting period between public comment and final adoption of town measures, rely on volunteers, create community events and work to bring in new business.

Brian Jackson is making his first try for public office, but he is a well-known name locally as the son of a one-time mayor.

He’s upset with “all the bickering,” promising to promote unity while listening more to the concerns of residents.

Developing “a real sense of community” is overdue, he said.

Jackson, 36, also wants to encourage retailers to come to the community.

Josh Shumpert could be the second town leader with that name, but he says local residents “know the difference” between himself and the police chief who is a distant cousin.

His experience as a businessman means “I’ve dealt with problem-solving,” he said.

Changing the climate means promoting cooperation instead of tolerating “groups working against other groups,” he said.

Shumpert, 29, wants to attract new business as well as keep town finances in good shape.

Jerry Smith is hoping to become the leader of the five-member council on which he has served for 18 months.

As mayor, his focus will be on setting the tone for unity.

“We want to become one,” he said. “I want the spotlight on us for the right reasons.”

Smith, 48, also favors replacing the tradition of a town administrator overseeing the daily operation of Town Hall with a clerk who enforces decisions on finances and personnel largely left to council members.

Poll site moved

A leaky roof at Town Hall means a new voting site in South Congaree for a local ballot Tuesday.

The new spot is Ebenezer Pentecostal Holiness Church at 622 Colonial Drive, a facility that Lexington County election director Dean Crepes says has been used for voting previously.

It will be the only site to cast a vote in the election.

With a partly cloudy forecast, county election officials shifted the site as a precaution against rain.

Polls in the nonpartisan races are open from 7 a.m.– 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The top vote-getters win separate races for mayor and council member. There is no runoff.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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