November 2, 2012

Editorial: Choose Kinard in Lexington Council District 1

LEXINGTON County Council District 1 voters are fortunate to have two attractive candidates on the ballot Tuesday.

LEXINGTON County Council District 1 voters are fortunate to have two attractive candidates on the ballot Tuesday.

Jim Kinard, seeking a third four-year term, is an easy-going, steady councilman who has served well. Megan Hutto is a high-energy political newcomer who would be hands-on with residents; she’s smart, offers a fresh perspective and has a strong desire to serve.

While voters can’t go wrong in choosing either of these candidates, we see no compelling reason to replace the incumbent.

Mr. Kinard and Ms. Hutto both understand the need to work with other governments within the county as well as those in adjacent Richland County, have pledged to work to improve dirt roads in District 1 and agree that it is imperative to serve as a countywide representative first and not put their district’s needs above the county’s.

Mr. Kinard, a banker, rightly takes pride in helping to put together the deal to split fees collected in lieu of taxes from companies in the county’s Saxe Gotha Industrial Park among the five school districts, rather than keeping all the money in the district where the park is located. The one-of-a-kind deal should serve as a model for the state. The councilman, who said economic development remains one of his top priorities, said the arrangement will serve the county well as it considers establishing other industrial parks in areas such as Chapin.

Ms. Hutto has labeled her opponent as councilman “no” because, she says, he has done little for district residents. But other than pointing out a vote or two against the budget — he says he opposed even the slight tax increases that were included — she had no other examples.

For his part, Mr. Kinard provided a list of projects he has helped to advance, including establishing a new library in Swansea and expanding the one in Gaston; expanding senior centers in Pelion and Gaston; the construction of the Pelion and Sandhills sports complexes as well as the expansion of a complex in Gaston; and the establishment of the new Pelion Family Practice medical facility.

A licensed commercial general contractor, Ms. Hutto became intensely involved with Lexington County government as she sought to get the assessments on some of her property reduced to reflect the downturn in the economy. The lengthy, confusing process was far from taxpayer-friendly, raising her concern about local government. She later helped others with their property. Ultimately, she said, she decided to run for office to help improve service to residents.

As she has canvassed the community, Ms. Hutto has done far more than ask for votes. She has expanded her community activism; as she has identified problems residents face, she has sought resolutions. She says that if elected she will be accessible and constituent-oriented. She says District 1 needs more recreational outlets and more law enforcement officers, although she isn’t clear on how to pay for those services while fulfilling her goal of keeping taxes down.

During her endorsement interview, Ms. Hutto revealed an impressive quality that is sorely lacking these days: a willingness to change her mind when she learns new information. She said when she first decided to run, her plan was to lead an effort to cut county spending in half and run a tight ship. As she met residents, she was overwhelmed by their need of “just basic things,” leading her to reassess her initial position. We appreciate her willingness to change rather than stick to some preconceived notion or ideology that has no basis in reality.

It would be understandable if voters chose Ms. Hutto. But Mr. Kinard has been a solid councilman; voters should re-elect him.

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