ALTHOUGH neither candidate for the Richland County Council District 7 seat has ever served in an elected office, it is clear that Torrey Rush is more knowledgeable about how local government works and better prepared to serve than his opponent.
Mr. Rush, a Democrat, is a political newcomer who served on the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals for seven years and works in commercial real estate. Republican Celestine Parker, a retired state employee, has run unsuccessfully for public office, including Richland County Council, on multiple occasions.
Both candidates stress the need to bring more accountability and responsibility to the council, an obvious attempt to cast themselves as the better replacement to outgoing council member Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy, who overspent her expense account last fiscal year, supported ill-advised spending and was haunted by lingering questions about a trip she made to Hawaii on the county’s dime in a previous stint on the 11-member body. Mr. Rush defeated Ms. Kennedy in a June primary.
Both rightly argue that the council has made some bad spending and policy decisions, including its plan to construct a large county-owned soccer complex in their Northeast Richland district. Both say the complex, which would be run by the county or its designee and is not part of the Richland County Recreation Commission system, would be superfluous and a waste of public money. Ms. Parker even proposes ending the project, if possible, and selling the property set aside for it.
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While inexperienced and perhaps a bit too reserved, Mr. Rush is smart and is keenly aware of the issues facing the county and District 7. He sees the county’s potential for economic development and improved quality of life. Although Mr. Rush must do a better job of explaining his vision for the county, he possesses a good knowledge of county government and is capable of growing into a good council member.
That’s more than what we can say about his opponent. We certainly appreciate Ms. Parker’s desire to serve, but her surface understanding of the issues leaves much to be desired. Ms. Parker said that after three decades in state government and years of work in the community, she felt compelled to get involved in local government to help bring change. But outside pledging to be more accountable, she offers little in the way of ideas.
Nothing better illustrates the difference between the candidates than their views on regional cooperation. Mr. Rush said it’s key to develop positive relationships with elected officials across the Midlands to improve the entire region, something he pledges to do. Ms. Parker said she doesn’t see the benefit in working with governments outside of Richland County; she said Lexington County has “nothing to do with Richland County” and that “they are two different counties and two different regions.”
She couldn’t be more wrong. Lexington and Richland counties and their municipalities share one economic footprint and must work together to address common concerns — from economic development to pollution — if they are to prosper. Local elected officials must foster that cooperation.
Mr. Rush is a clear and easy choice. Voters should elect him on Nov. 6.