LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC — Time-for-change talk abounds in Lexington County communities as the Nov. 5 ballot approaches for several municipal races.
As many as six of 14 towns and cities could have new leaders as challengers press for advantage with insistence that a fresh outlook is better than retaining experience at Town Halls.
Those facing contests include two of the longest-serving mayors in the Midlands – Stan Shealy of Chapin with 32 years and Pat Smith of Springdale with 29 years.
Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre, a rising star in Midlands political and business circles, is in a match with another town leader running as an outsider.
Two new mayors are guaranteed with the retirement of incumbents in Batesburg-Leesville and Pelion, but the change doesn’t assure a different approach as most candidates are political allies with similar outlooks.
The ranks of women mayors could double from the current two in Cayce and Summit. Barbara Smith is unopposed in Pelion while Councilwoman Rita Crapps is seeking the post in Batesburg-Leesville.
There won’t be elections for office in Irmo, Pelion, Pine Ridge and Summit as candidates – mostly incumbents – in each are unopposed and elected automatically.
But referendums are on tap in Irmo and Pine Ridge on tax hikes for libraries and fire hydrants, respectively
Many council races in Batesburg-Leesville, Springdale and West Columbia feature multiple candidates.
Here’s a snapshot of mayoral contests:
Batesburg-Leesville: It’s a choice among two town leaders and a newcomer in the town of 5,400 residents on the west edge of the county.
Steve Cain says he is much more than a foe of a water plant on Lake Murray. “We need a mayor who can think outside of the box and a new management team with a more contemporary conceptual approach to governing.”
Goals include broadcasting meetings, letting paying bills online and transforming an empty supermarket into a new Town Hall, according to his Web site. Other town leaders oppose those ideas.
Cain, 46, also is running for re-election as a town councilman, a post held for eight years. He was jailed twice since April for failure to pay child support.
Rita Crapps intends to focus on attracting new jobs, calling it “vital to populate our industrial park and vacant buildings.”
Proceeding with a water plant on nearby Lake Murray is “the only answer” to better utility service, she said.
Crapps, 53, has been a council member 21 years. She is a state prisons administrator.
Bob Hall, 73, wants better planning for growth and daily operations.
A longstanding battle over where to put a new town water plant has “put into the background a lot of things that need to be addressed,” he said.
Hall, a 73-year-old retired business executive, is making his first run for elective office.
Chapin: Mayoral contests are rare in this quiet community of 1,500 residents on the north shore of Lake Murray.
Shealy is focusing on road improvements, particularly widening Columbia Avenue and adding a bypass on the south edge of the community.
His plans include more beautification, adding a park and walking trails around the new Town Hall, converting a train depot into a local museum and finding a home for the local theater troupe.
Shealy, 66, is on the public information staff at the state transportation agency.
Challenger Skip Wilson insists town leaders need to do a better job of preparing for growth.
He proposes bringing in a technology school into the community, paying better attention to the concerns of business owners and raise money for a new theater.
Wilson, 58, is a financial adviser making his first run for public office.
Lexington: Coping with steady growth tests the mettle of town leaders in the community of 18,000 residents in the center of the county.
Halfacre wants to proceed with the town’s first attempt at urban redevelopment – a plaza surrounded by new retailers to lure shoppers downtown.
He also pledges to continue seeking ways to ease road congestion, including a network of computerized signals.
Halfacre, 65, has been mayor nine years after 10 years as a councilman. He is chief executive officer of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce.
Challenger Steve MacDougall talks of “a new conversation” at Town Hall that burnishes its image but offers few specifics on how to do that.
He generally favors the traffic relief, downtown revival and civic beautification plans in the works.
MacDougall, 50, is a restaurant operations director. He has been a town councilman two years.
Springdale: A slate of challengers is seeking to sweep out four town leaders in this bedroom town of 2,600 residents near Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
Mayoral challenger Michael Bishop is promising a better focus on redevelopment along Platt Springs Road, the town’s main commercial thoroughfare.
He also is promoting term limits of eight years for town leaders, with the ability to return after stepping aside. “It’s time for a change of scenery,” he said of Town Hall.
Bishop, 42, oversees seed and pesticide uses through Clemson University. He ran for Town Council two years ago.
Smith calls his tenure vital to encourage businesses to come to town.
“The more experience you have, the contacts you make, the more you can get done,” he said.
Smith 62, directs a school providing alternate education for teens,
Swansea: Political battles over finances and downtown revival persist in this town of 800 residents in the southeast corner of the county.
Councilman Jerald Sanders is pressing for a closer look at spending practices, saying overhead and salaries can be reduced to devote more money to services for residents.
He pledges to end a “disconnect” between Town Hall and business leaders on redevelopment of the community’s small downtown.
Sanders, 63, is a retired recreation specialist who has been a councilman four years.
Mayor Ray Spires said the town is on the road to reducing red ink and has done what it can do to make the community more attractive for business. “This is my family,” he said. “I’m very proud of where we are.”
If re-elected, his goal is to create a community center with walking paths.
Spires, 57, has been mayor 13 years.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.