Get to know the four candidates running for seats on Lexington Town Council

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Four candidates are seeking three open seats on the Lexington Town Council.

The three candidates who receive the most votes will be elected. The candidates are: Hazel Livingston, Todd Lyle, Kathy Maness and Todd Shevchik. The candidates will serve four-year terms.

Council members are paid a $10,500 salary, mayor pro-tem makes $11,500 and the mayor makes $12,500 a year.

Hazel Livingston

Livingston was first elected to council in 1998, and has been nicknamed the “matriarch” by council members because she is one of the longest-serving members on council. She has served as mayor pro-tem since 2004. Livingston is also a liaison for the town’s traffic committee. She works in sales and customer relations for Green Earth Services, a landscaping business in Columbia.

“I thought last time would be my last hurrah,” she said. “And one of the reasons I decided to re-run is no one seems to want to champion and work for the green space, ... And because we do have so much youth on our council that I do feel you need some diversity,” she said.

Livingston has played a significant role in the preservation and creation of green space throughout the town — a promise she said she keeps to former council member Virginia Hylton, who retired the first year Livingston was on council.

“We’re building all this stuff and it’s wonderful — I love Chick-fil-A, I love Starbucks, but we need a place where families can go hang out and play Frisbee and football and meet other families...that’s kind of been my passion,” Livingston said.

She also spearheaded beautification efforts that were funded by proceeds from the annual Wine Walk on Main Street. She was also active in the restoration of the Palmetto Collegiate Institute, which is now an event venue.

Livingston said she would use another term on council to complete an overhaul of Virginia Hylton Park, the oldest park in the town. The renovations would enlarge the park from 6 to 9 acres, bring back a koi pond, install art made by community members and add several “pocket parks,” subdivisions for different visitors — yogis, teenagers, picnic-goers.

“I’m hoping that we don’t use any tax dollars on it, that we do it through fundraisers and donations,” she said.

While working on the redesign, Livingston assembled a committee of community members and also surveyed local residents. She said she would use a similar approach to ensure council better communicates with town residents about potential projects.

Some of her other goals are to create more walking trails and small green spaces throughout the town, bring more prepared foods, music and art to the town farmers market, organize a weekly “night out” to promote Main Street retail stores and find alternate funding streams for the town’s traffic infrastructure plan.

“I have several ideas of how we could fund some of that stuff by working with our legislators,” she said.

“It’s council’s responsibility to figure out how to put the green spaces in, how to get the roads fixed, how to work with the school [district] to make sure that the schools are there for the communities that are coming in and that our businesses can be supported,” she said.

Todd Lyle

Lyle was first elected to council in May during a special election to fill the unexpired term of Ted Stambolitis, who resigned. Lyle owns a real estate brokerage and is a partner at Reeves & Lyle law firm in Columbia. Lyle is a major in the Army Reserve and is on the board of Mission Lexington.

He graduated from Lexington High School. In 2003, he earned a bachelors in civil engineering from The Citadel and in 2015 he graduated from the USC law school following a one-year deployment to Iraq.

This is Lyle’s first time in elected office, which he said is an asset to council.

“An opportunity for a new look at things, a fresh set of eyes, some type of change, is a good thing as we’re evolving as a society,” he said.

Should he be reelected, Lyle said his focus will be on the long-term success of the town, steering council toward “delayed gratification.”

“This is my hometown and I want to make sure we grow the right way, because we can’t stop it from growing necessarily, but we can make decisions and affect governance by looking through the lens of, ‘Does this make sense, 20,30,40 years from now?’”

Part of the shift from short-term to long-term planning involves considering the potential impacts of development and being “careful” when approving certain expansions, Lyle said.

Traffic is one of Lyle’s top priorities, he said, as well as improving communication with local residents. He said he would like town staff to hire a social media manager who can ensure there is transparency and a consistent flow of information, instead of a monthly newsletter.

Kathy Maness

Maness has been a council member since November 2004. She was reelected in 2008 and in 2012. Maness is executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association and was the first South Carolinian to serve as national president of Women In Municipal Government. She is on the board of directors for the National League of Cities.

Maness is also a liaison for the town’s planning commission and historic preservation committee and has been on school improvement councils for 20 years, including the River Bluff High School improvement council currently.

She graduated from USC with a bachelors in elementary education and a masters degree in early childhood education. She is a former teacher — she taught third grade at Erwin Elementary in Lancaster County.

Maness is the second most senior council member. She has been on council throughout the inception and development of the Icehouse Amphitheater in downtown Lexington, as well as the addition of new parks and the road improvement plan.

She said one of her goals, if she is reelected, would be to improve traffic and continue the road improvements. She also wants to continue advocating for education and prioritize the thoughts and opinions of town residents.

“My tagline when I ran the first time was, ‘New leadership that listens.’ I’ve taken out the ‘new.’ I think it’s very important to listen to what the people say,” she said.

Maness also wants to continue adding amenities, she said, such as more and better parks. She said she wants to ensure the town acts in a fiscally responsible manner and the town is secure for residents.

“We need to make sure that our police force has all the personnel, equipment that they need to keep Lexington a safe place,” she said.

Todd Shevchik

Shevchik is the only candidate who is not an incumbent, though he previously served on council for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016. He was defeated in the 2016 election, though he attributes his loss to people voting only for the presidential race and not being informed about other races.

Shevchik is the publisher of Lexington Life magazine and said he brings a business mind to the council.

“I’m able to see finished products before they’re done or conceptualized. I’m also a collaborator, bringing council together amidst difference and making sure everyone is heard,” he said.

While on council, Shevchik said he helped tighten zoning within the town, pass a signing ordinance to place restrictions on the heights and types of signs allowed in town. He also worked on road improvement plans, one of which has been completed. If he is elected to council, Shevchik said he will try to get the road plans fast tracked to completion.

“The plans are in place and I think people are going to like it and I’m very proud of approving that and figured out a way to get funding for it that’s fair,” he said.

He said he would also seek funding plans for future intersection fixes, including on county, state and federal roads, according to council members.

Shevchik also said he wants to require the Lexington 1 school district to take responsibility for road improvements and budget for infrastructure upgrades when crunching numbers for school construction.

School districts are required to comply with a DOT manual that includes sections related to school access and design, but the road improvement outcomes are “not enough,” Shevchik said.

If he is elected, he said he will also push council to budget for one or two additional town police officers and he will advocate for “responsible growth.”

“As soon as you get content, 10 years goes by. So we need to keep working,” he said.

Cueto can be reached at 803-771-8621, @isabellacueto