VOTERS IN Lexington County Council District 6 have every reason to reelect Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat, including the fact that his challenger offers little justification as to why he should be chosen over the incumbent in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Mr. Jeffcoat, who is opposed by Cory Norris, a software engineer, is a solid council member who has served the county well. He clearly understands the needs of the county’s residents as well as government’s role in meeting those needs. He supports regional cooperation, looks out for broader county interests and not simply those of his district, and seeks a balance between being conservative in taxing and spending with the need to provide services that meet the demand of a fast-growing county.
That’s not to say we agree with Mr. Jeffcoat on everything. We don’t.
For example, we question his continued support for the dubious Pelion airport project. With Columbia Metropolitan Airport already operating in Lexington County and a well-established general aviation airport — Hamilton-Owens — roughly 20 miles away, it is wasteful, misguided and duplicative for Lexington County to pursue a proposal to expand the Pelion facility. But council members, including Mr. Jeffcoat, are preparing to spend a yet-to-be-determined amount on an expansion. And why not? After all, the federal government will pick up 95 percent of the cost and the state another 2.5 percent. That leaves Lexington to pay a measly 2.5 percent of the cost. Frankly, it’s surprising that officials in conservative Lexington County would be so eager to take advantage of this federal giveaway. Tax dollars — whether they’re federal, state or local — shouldn’t be squandered just because they’re there for the taking.
While we have raised concerns about Mr. Jeffcoat’s ability to do the job he was hired to do as economic director for the town of Lexington while representing citizens’ best interests in the job he’s been elected to do, any part-time elected official with a full-time job is apt to face such a challenge. We encourage Mr. Jeffcoat to exercise care and remove himself from the process when even the hint of a conflict arises.
Although we agree with Mr. Norris’ assertion that the county is wasting time and money on the Pelion airstrip and that the council should be more open and transparent, we have serious concerns about his strong libertarian leanings. He doesn’t hide the fact that he favors as little government as he can possibly get, but we can’t be sure precisely what that means: He says he wants to give citizens more individual liberties and protect property rights, but he could offer few examples of the threat to such rights.
Mr. Jeffcoat is the obvious choice on Tuesday.