Local

Meet the candidates: Who’s running in Richland and Lexington counties this year?

Update, 2:05 p.m.: This story was updated to include responses from West Columbia candidate Jimmy Brooks.

Many eyes are on the crowded high-level 2020 races, but Richland County and Lexington County voters will also decide in a few weeks who represents them on a local level.

Several of the county’s municipalities, including the cities of Columbia and West Columbia, will host elections on Nov. 5. Here is what the candidates had to say about what makes them unique, fiscally responsible and worth your vote:

Batesburg-Leesville

Town council seats representing Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 are all open. Charles Simpkins, incumbent candidate for district 4, Twonna Williamson, candidate for district 6, and Chris Derrick, candidate for district 6, did not respond to The State’s request.

Here is what the other candidates had to say:

Olin E. Gambrell III, District 2

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “I lived here for 29 years. I’m responsible for consolidating the Town of Batesburg-Leesville some 26 years ago.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I have 29 years of experience in municipal government in Batesburg-Leesville.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Maintaining the current balanced budget, rehab our existing water and sewer system.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “By having a budget that our town can live by and stick by it.”

What is your vision for your community? “We will grow. We already have two new industries and looking at three more.”

What other leadership experiences have you had? “To add a few: town manager, 29 years; president of six South Carolina Municipal Association committees, Lions Club president, Rotary president, church deacon and church treasurer.”

Johnnie Mae Speach-Lemon, District 4

What is your connection to the local community? “I grew up, went to school in this community and am well-known. I am also a member of a local church, where many of the people in the community are members as well.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I am for the people. I am concerned about what I can do for the people in the community, not what they can do for me.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “My priorities will be the people’s priorities. I intend to meet with the people and listen to their concerns.”

Prior experience: “I am new to the political arena, but I do keep up with current events, both locally and nationally.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars and concerns? “I would only want to use funds that are necessary to accomplish what is needed in the community, and as I stated before, my concerns are for the people I am elected to serve, not for myself.”

What is your vision for your community? “My main vision for the community is to see us becoming more united.”

What other leadership experience have you had? “I have not had many leadership experiences. However, I held the position as a human resources manager for more than 20 years and have been very active in the church where I am a member. On a personal note, I am a mother and a grandmother.”

Paul Wise, District 6

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “My wife and I are life-long residents of Batesburg-Leesville. I’m a former 12-year employee of Burlington Ind., in Batesburg before it closed its doors. I coached girls’ softball for six years with B-L Youth Sports. I have two children who also graduated from B-L High School. They and my two grandchildren reside here.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I have 30 years of leadership skills and knowledge. I have advanced experience in preparing and monitoring capital and operating budgets, and in project and employee management. I have the best interest in seeing my hometown grow and prosper for my family, friends and all residents.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Effective and timely implementation of Batesburg-Leesville’s Strategic Plan; incentives and marketing strategies for economic development; partnering with local schools and colleges for work force development; strategic and responsible use of the hospitality tax; and revitalizing both of the town’s historic downtown business districts.”

Prior experience: “Two years on the board of the S.C. Society of Hospital Engineers; vice president of the Summerland HOA board; member of American Hospital Association and S.C. Society of Hospital Engineers.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I am very frugal with my money and the money of others. I don’t believe in wasteful spending and not having something in return that is worthwhile.”

What is your vision for your community? “Economic development with incentives designed to recruit retail, commercial and industrial businesses, and marketing strategies to retain existing businesses. Our historic downtown business districts being revitalized to enhance their beauty and vitality; to make them more attractive to new businesses such as family restaurants, coffee shops, retail, etc.”

Bob D. Hall, District 8

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “I am a life long resident of this community having been born here in 1939.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? More than 17 years as a business owner and operator, over 40 years in Supply Chain Management and directing a large electronic manufacturing operation for a major International company. I have extensive knowledge of government operations, a desire to see this community grow and being retired will have time and resources to apply to the position.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “My top priorities if elected will be the prompt resolution to our water sourcing problems, facilitating residential growth while limiting congestion and promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency.”

What is your political and leadership experience? I am relatively new to the political arena, this being my second attempt at an elected office. My previous leadership positions include the expansion of a manufacturing facility from 25 employees to over 700 in a two-year span. Relocation of an electronic manufacturing operation and consulting on the establishment of an assembly operation in Peru.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I will push for a 3-year rolling expense budget and a 5-year rolling capital expenditure budget. I am concerned that we had a negative cash flow in the previous fiscal year and are budgeting for the same this year.”

What is your vision for your community? My vision for the future is a mixed-base (residential, commercial and light industry) community with a positive population growth of 4 to 6% per year.”

Eric Gambrell, District 8

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “In 1992, Batesburg and Leesville consolidated to form the great town of Batesburg-Leesville. That consolidation was the sole purpose of my family’s move to this awesome community.

“I moved away, to the Charleston area, for college and graduate school. I met my wife, and built a beautiful family and a career. When our children began school, it was important for us to move home to Batesburg-Leesville so they could have the experience of our great community and schools.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I love the town of Batesburg-Leesville and want what is best for all stakeholders.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “My top priority would be a true statesman and represent the constituents of District 8.”

Prior political experience: “This is the first time I have pursued a political office.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I do not have a personal agenda and simply want the best for our great community.”

What is your vision for your community? “I enjoy waking up every day knowing I live in Batesburg-Leesville and work in this community. I would like for every resident to be able to say the same.”

What other leadership experiences have you had? “I am or have been: a youth Sunday school teacher, assistant principal, coach, teacher and director of the Berkeley County Star Academy drop-out prevention program.”

Chapin

The town council has two general seats open and two candidates running, making it an uncontested election.

Mike Clonts, at-large

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “I have lived in Chapin for 20 years and been active in the community through Chapin Baptist Church.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I am currently on Council and have gotten feedback from the community that I am doing a good job.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “We have some staff vacancies to be filled. We are also looking to adjust our budget with the loss of one of our local businesses, Ellett Brothers. Developing our 2020 budget to maintain current services and to be able to invest in the community will be a challenge. Beyond those urgent needs, my priority is to work with Lexington County to manage growth in the area.”

Prior experience: “I have served on town council for one term. I previously served on the school board for Orangeburg 4 school district and I worked for 43 years at SCE&G, building and maintaining power plants and hydro dams.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I recognize the limits of our town income sources and know that we have to be careful with every dollar we spend. Council must be sure of what value projects would bring to the community and be sure that we can pay for them. Every expense is seriously considered.”

What is your vision for your community? “I recognize that growth is coming to our area and would like for us to be able to manage it, but it is mostly outside of town limits. We will have to work with Lexington County to do so, and we must develop a plan for annexation.”

Kay Hollis, at-large

What is your connection to Chapin? “I have lived within the town limits for many years.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I care what happens in the town and community of Chapin, especially with the growth in this area and the interstate highway affecting the town.”

Prior leadership or political experience: “I have have served on town council previously and know the community. My other leadership experiences are few. I was a Girl Scout Leader and a girl’s mission study group leader for many years. My daughters grew up and moved on and I remained leading.”

How would you make responsible financial decisions for the town? “I believe the mayor, town council and present financial director will continue to make good financial decisions.”

What is your vision for Chapin? “For Chapin to continue to grow but retain our small-town, friendly atmosphere.”

Columbia

The city council has three council seats up for grabs: one in District 2, one in District 3 and one at-large.

Howard Duvall, at-large

Age: 76

Occupation: Retired

Prior experience: “Columbia City Councilman since 2015; former mayor of Cheraw 1980-86; Cheraw City Council 1973-80; former executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina; former assistant to Gov. Dick Riley.”

What do you want voters to know about you? “I have experience that is useful as a councilman. In my first term, we brought civility back to our proceedings. I know how to take care of a problem someone is having and work with staff to get it done.”

Accomplishments while on council: “We will be joining the state health plan. That will be a tremendous saving for our citizens. We had 5,000 participating in a self-insurance plan. Those savings will show up in the next few years.

“I represent neighborhoods that ask for help with Five Points, so we debated removing late-night permits and approved stricter criteria. The city issued 22 late-night permits in 2018, and just six this year.

“We also recognized the impact of e-cigarettes and Juul, which are now covered by the same restrictions as smoking. Our smoking ordinance was passed in 2007, before the epidemic of vaping in the U.S. Now it cannot take place in public places, the same as smoking.”

Amadeo Geere, at-large

Age: 31

Occupation: Former Victim Advocacy Coordinator with the SC Attorney General’s Office

Prior experience: “First-time candidate. Currently serve as SC State Delegate on the Refugee Congress ... I am originally from Bhutan and immigrated here with my family in high school.”

What do you want voters to know about you and your priorities? “I will be a voice for change on council. My focus is on economic growth and creating a business-friendly city that spurs much-needed tax revenue and appealing job opportunities for Columbia residents, and that requires addressing the delayed infrastructure needs and current crime issues Columbia is facing.

“I also want to see city council increase public discourse and find ways to interconnect the city with lower-income communities so that all of Columbia benefits from future growth and development.”

Dylan Gunnels, at-large

Age: 26

Occupation: founder of The Agape Table non-profit; partner with financial literacy coaching business with personal LLC, Igesia; formerly worked as a Refugee Services Coordinator at Lutheran Services Carolinas

Prior experience: First-time candidate.

What should voters know about you? “I have a background in ministry and non-profit work, and my entire life has been spent working with people. My desire to run for city council is just an extension of that, solely focused on people. I’m frustrated with the slow-moving bureaucracy and lack of transparency that is slowing Columbia down, especially when it comes to economic development and business retention.”

What would you like to see change in Columbia? “There’s a lack of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as outdated public transit. Many residents are facing food insecurity and neighborhood neglect. We have a lot of collaborations, such as BullStreet, the Vista and Main Street, but it seems like a project starts but it’s never finished (lack of connectivity).

“In the past year, we gained jobs statewide, but we lost jobs in the city of Columbia. Our university graduates go to Charlotte or Atlanta. We have to create the desire to be here and invest here, and the answer isn’t just economic development and taxes.”

Why are you the most qualified candidate for the job? “I’m the only candidate with detailed plans for public safety, economic development, infrastructure, riverfront parks, food insecurity, and safe and affordable housing.”

Sara Middleton, at-large

Age: 27

Occupation: General Counsel for LTC Health Solutions, business owner and developer of historic properties (The Grand on Main, Topgolf, Good Life Cafe, 1626 Music Venue, Michael’s Cafe, Revive Wellness Studio)

Prior experience: First time seeking office.

Why are you running for city council? “As a local business owner and community advocate, I understand the importance of making Columbia more attractive to new investments, while also nurturing our existing organizations. By inviting growth and investment to Columbia and streamlining the process, we will generate more revenue to help support core services like public safety, infrastructure and schools.

“By properly funding our police department, we can combat violent crime, and look for innovative ways to bring our citizens together to support and provide opportunities to everyone.

“Raising our already-high property and utility taxes isn’t the solution to funding core services. Instead, we must be encouraging growth and investment that will generate revenue and quality jobs for our residents. As the only at-large candidate who has created businesses and quality jobs in Columbia, I will use my experience and knowledge to help grow Columbia into a world-class city.”

Ed McDowell, District 2

Age: 70

Occupation: Retired after 42 years as a United Methodist pastor, including stints at Francis Burns and Trenholm Road in Columbia.

Prior experience: Columbia city council member since 2015.

Accomplishments while on council: “We’ve put $3.5 million into infrastructure work to turn brown water into clear water. Three years ago, residents of the Booker Washington area brought mason jars of brown water to city council. It posed a real hazard, but since, we’ve opened up new vistas of opportunity and hope.

“In public safety, ShotSpotter [technology that uses data to report the location of gunfire to police within 45 seconds] has been a real determinant in combating gunfire in Districts 1 and 2, but it could be expanded citywide.

“There are a number of proposals for housing complexes, particularly where Gonzales Gardens was torn down to be replaced with mixed-income housing. The eight or nine houses built have already been sold before they were completed. People have asked about the fate of Allen Benedict Court. We’re not going to do anything with that right now. Perhaps some time down the road, but it depends on the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Council can be a rambunctious place, but this council has been very civil as we tackle problems, and we have some grand opportunities to get things done.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, District 2

Age: 57

Occupation: Author/Activist

Prior experience: “No previous elected office experience, but I served as Foreperson on the two-year state grand jury that identified networks of public corruption, and resulted in ethics reform and dark money bills filed for consideration in the 2020 legislative session.”

What do you want voters to know about you? “I am a partner and collaborator with organizations, and have worked for decades with city, county and state government to conduct community projects. I am a preservationist who has saved critical histories and historic sites in District 2, and I am a longtime trusted community activist.”

What are your main priorities? “My campaign is focused on inclusive, transparent, accountable government at every level through:

Health equity

Housing justice

Economic development

Education

Environmental justice

Public safety, police accountability and criminal justice reform

“My main goals are supporting equitable allocation of funding that will improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all sectors of District 2; building better two-way communications with constituents; creating a human rights commission to review current and proposed city ordinances and better protect vulnerable communities; and improving collaboration at all levels of government in the service of my constituents.”

Anna Fonseca, District 2

Age: 54

Occupation: Residential Land Developer, Licensed Certified Planner (AICP)- The American Institute of Certified Planners

Prior experience: “Over 20 years of private sector, state and county governmental work experience in the field of planning and development.”

What are the key issues of your campaign? “The need to focus on public and private partnerships in order to implement plans, revitalizing existing neighborhoods by attracting a variety of new housing and increasing new housing downtown to help support existing businesses and attract new ones. Also, how pedestrian safety, connectivity and traffic control are impacting our neighborhoods due to our lack of authority of our roads.”

Moe Baddourah, District 3

Age: 56

Occupation: Field engineer and businessman (Baddourah Properties, owned Moe’s Grapevine.)

Prior experience: “Member of city council since 2012.”

Accomplishments while on council: “During my first term, I made it my mission to end the annual raids of money intended for water and sewer maintenance, which left us with higher-than-necessary water rates and unmet sewer repair needs.”

What are your goals, should you be elected? “Improving public safety and reforming business fees. I want to ensure our police department has the resources it needs to effectively combat crime, and I want to make public safety our absolute highest priority.

“Regarding business fee reform, about 65% of property in the city is exempt from taxes and business fees. The remaining 35% shoulder virtually all of the costs of city services. I want to remedy this by eliminating the fee exemption for businesses that have an IRS tax exemption but otherwise operate like any other profitable company. (Charities wouldn’t be affected.)

“My campaign is about fighting for the changes needed to move Columbia forward.”

Will Brennan, District 3

Age: 39

Occupation: Owner, design & construction firm Historic Adaptive Reuse Developer

Previous experience: “2018 candidate Richland County Council, District 5. Animal Mission board member and former president; past member of the City of Columbia Tree & Appearance Commission; past member, Riverbanks Zoo Society board member; Richland 1 Foundation.”

Why are you running for city council? “District 3 is my home. I returned here after college to start a business and raise a family. During the past few years, our district has not had adequate representation. Issues have been left dangling, neighborhood needs have been neglected.

“We need a strong voice on city council, one that understands our communities, is engaged in our neighborhoods and is committed to serve. I have proudly served on many community and area boards and commissions. These experiences have given me unique insights into the needs of this community, as well as the developing priorities of our city.”

What are your priorities? “Improving city services (particularly public safety), creating a more open budgeting process and finding economical and environmentally sound plans to utilize our rivers as a recreational and tourism resource. There is a world of possibility flowing past our city.”

John Loveday, District 3

Age: 35

Occupation: Principal, SC Whitmore School, a public online high school designed to support at-risk students statewide as a dropout prevention program.

Prior experience: “I am a first time candidate ... I am a husband, father and principal of an award-winning public school. Every day, parents trust me with their kids and our future. We should trust our elected officials just as much. I am also responsible for creating and executing a multimillion-dollar budget and supervising a staff of over 40 employees.”

What are your top priorities? “Making Columbia a more livable city for everyone, which means investing in infrastructure and public safety, becoming a more pedestrian-friendly city, providing more opportunities for young professionals and small business owners, and expanding affordable housing.”

“Clearly, Columbia is experiencing a public safety crisis. We have strong leadership at the Columbia Police Department, but they need more resources. It is unacceptable that the CPD currently has a 20% vacancy rate, which equates to 80 positions.

“It is also a major burden for 35% of taxpayers in Columbia to be responsible for supporting the other 65%, which are non-taxed entities. We need both a short- and long-term plan for economic development and expanding our tax base. That plan must include reviewing all non-taxable entities and ensuring everyone pays their fair share.”

Irmo

In Irmo, voters will get to choose the mayor and who will fill two at-large council seats. These are the candidates:

Hardy King, mayor (incumbent)

Occupation: Owner and operator, Kings’ Furniture Revival

Prior experience: King has been on Irmo Town Council since 2005. He has served as mayor since 2011.

What would be your priorities, should you be elected? In an interview with The State, King said the first thing he wants to do is remove council member Barry Walker, one of his opponents, from town council. King is also in the process changing the rules of decorum for council meetings, taking some of Robert’s Rules of Order and codifying them as ordinances. He will also focus on making Okra Strut, the town’s annual celebration, profitable and deciding how the proceeds could best be used — possibly for Irmo beautification or to donate to charity, King said.

He also wants to create a business overlay district that would create a “downtown” section with two-story, side-by-side buildings (much like Main Street in Lexington). King’s hope is to continue attracting new business and growth to the Irmo area.

Barry Walker Sr., mayor (incumbent council member)

Occupation: retired, former executive chef of Mac’s On Main

Prior experience: “Council member in Irmo for over 15 years.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I focus on listening to the needs and concerns of the Irmo community and I build relationships. My experience gives me a great understanding of the direction Irmo should go in. Our community deserves to be built with respect. I bring that quality to the Mayors office and will be the town leader we can be proud of.”

What would you do for Irmo, if elected mayor? “I want to continue to build a town that attracts a strong business community and encourages families to plant roots and raise their children in Irmo. I want to promote the town and its natural infrastructure in a sensible way. My relationships with the Irmo Chamber of Commerce, Lexington-Richland 5 school board and my state representatives will benefit the citizens of Irmo.”

What is your philosophy on managing growth and development in Irmo? “I want to encourage citizen input in the growth and management of the town, which includes the formation of committees to give direct input on different development issues in the Town.”

Walker’s term will expire in 2021.

Mike Ward, mayor

Occupation: Cybersecurity/technology consultant for Turtle Creek Concepts; independent agent for HealthMarkets; State PTA representative for Lexington, Saluda and Newberry counties.

Prior experience: First time running for public office.

Why should voters choose you? “I’m different than what we have on council now... I see myself as a good fit and I’ve got the leadership experience in the nonprofit world and in the private sector running my own business,” Ward said in an interview with The State.

Ward, 34, said he wanted to get involved in Irmo Town Council during the battle over front yard parking. He heard “a cry for change” often, he said, and noticed that residents were growing tired of “overbearing ordinances.”

“They want to be listened to and they want to be understood,” said Ward, whose mother-in-law has been an Irmo resident since the 1990s.

Top priorities: One of Ward’s top priorities is to rewrite the front yard parking ordinance to make it less restrictive, he said. Ward researched how other municipalities handle concerns of residential road overcrowding and blight and he wants Irmo to have a similarly “very detailed” ordinance. Another aim of his is to unite the community by using sit-down group meetings and town halls.

Ward, who said he is “definitely pro-growth,” also wants to solidify the town’s strategy for handling new business and development, starting with cleaning up the municipality’s zoning laws.

Kelly Busch, at-large

Prior experience: Busch ran for Irmo Town Council in 2017.

What is your connection to Irmo? “I built my home and lived in the Irmo area since 1995, raising four children. I have watched the town through many transitions and feel like it is beginning to go adrift and want an opportunity on council to restore some balance.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I am calm, thoughtful, balanced and firm. I listen. I have worked in dozens of countries and through that experience have gained a wealth of knowledge. I intend to represent on behalf of all citizens.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Restore balance through citizen input, remove or correct unnecessary ordinances, repair infrastructure, more efficiently address crime through community involvement.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “The same way I have been a steward of my own. I have been a W-2 person most of my life and when the taxes come out, we should be getting our money’s worth. I will listen, just like I want the current politicians to.”

What is your vision for your community? “We have a very desirable community. I would like to help keep the ship sailing in the right direction, with community involvement, like the Irmo Arbor Day Committee, and continue and enhance support for the public service and police departments.”

Dan Newbanks, at-large

Occupation: Former marketing professional, financial adviser for Modern Woodmen of America

Why did you decide to run? Newbanks, 41, said he decided to run almost two years ago, when he took note of the controversy surrounding new ordinances council had passed.. He noticed a “consistent pattern of government overreach,” he said, and was often a vocal critic at council meetings and in online forums. He has lived in the town for about six years.

“I felt like there was really nobody that was standing up for property rights for individuals and nobody was drawing attention to the fact that there are right principles for government,” Newbanks said. “...I’m hoping that I can be one person of a view that can get up there and break up the monopoly.”

What are your priorities? Newbanks wants to make the town’s budget more efficient and address its “spending problem,” he said, including the large chunk of the budget that goes to law enforcement needed to enforce the town’s ordinances.

He said he will also comb through recent ordinances — yard parking being his no. 1 — and “question whether or not they’re effective, whether or not they’re enforceable and, first and foremost, is it an ordinance that respects the rights of property owners?”

He also wants to revisit arrangements with utility companies and trash and recycling services.

Why should people vote for you? “I’m the only person that’s running for council that is going to stand up consistently for the same principles,” he said.

Mark Pouliot, at-large (incumbent)

Prior experience: Irmo Town Council member since 2015

Accomplishments while on council: “I am most proud that we started to deal with blight. We passed an ordinance that stopped parking on front lawns and required an inexpensive parking pad. Although it was the most contentious vote I was involved in so far, it really made a positive difference in the community.”

What can voters expect from you, should you be reelected? “Whatever comes up, I will continue to handle. You have to have a heart for the town to do this job; a passion to keep moving forward and tackle the things that are broken.”

What do you envision as the future of Irmo? “Irmo will continue the grow. Why? Low cost of living, no property tax, great schools, located on the interstate, near Lake Murray, plenty of recreation, and an abundance of shops and restaurants close by, businesses continue to want to set up in Irmo.”

How would you address growth and development in the Irmo area? “We have a great, knowledgeable planning commission & Zoning Board of Appeals who volunteer their time in service to the community. They provide suggestions to handle this projected growth and a Comprehensive Land Use Plan that we will go through and revise right after the election.”

What are your top priorities, should you be reelected? “To do my duty, to come to the meetings prepared to vote and remain dedicated to my fiduciary responsibility to the citizenry; to only spend what is absolutely necessary and remain vigilant not to bring back property taxes.”

Pouliot’s term expires this year.

Erik Sickinger, at-large

Age: 37

Occupation: “Senior enterprise account executive at Rock Solid Technologies.”

Prior experience: First time running for office. In his work as a software salesman, Sickinger has met hundreds of local government officials and had a close look at how municipalities deal with citizen complaints, he said. That experience will help him smooth any bumps in Irmo’s system for communicating with residents, Sickinger said.

What is your campaign centered on? “A safer Irmo, more community events, fostering a sense of community, working together to solve problems and preserving Irmo and its green spaces.”

Why did you decide to run? “I really felt like the residents could use a better voice,” he said.

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? Sickinger said making Irmo feel more safe is related to how invested neighbors are in each other, and how well they will look after each other. More events where Irmo residents can meet and have fun would have an overall positive impact on the town, he said.

He also wants to reassess and possibly overturn ordinances that leave code enforcement officers “too focused on aesthetics and visual appeal rather than dilapidation,” Sickinger said.

His focus is also on making sure Irmo grows “carefully,” while preserving green spaces, parks and buffer zones between commercial and residential properties. Sickinger said he would like to see the town add an impact fee to bring in extra money from disruptive developments.

Julius Waites, at-large (incumbent)

What’s your connection to the community? “I have lived in the town of Irmo since 1986.”

Prior experience: “I was first elected to town council in 2015.”

What is your top priority, should you be re-elected? “I hope to continue to improve the town for our citizens without adding a property tax.”

How can voters know you will make responsible decisions with their tax dollars? “Each year our budget is balanced without adding a tax to property.”

What is your vision for Irmo? “I hope Irmo becomes a destination for more people looking for a new place to live and work.”

Waites’ term expires this year.

Summit

In the small town of Summit, three candidates are running to fill three positions: mayor and two at-large council members. None of the candidates — mayoral candidate David Reese and at-large candidates Neal Petty and Mike Hartley — responded to The State’s request.

Pine Ridge

Town council has two open at-large council seats. Beth Spires Sturkie did not respond to The State’s request.

Daniel Davis, at-large (incumbent)

What is your connection to Pine Ridge? “I moved to Pine Ridge in December of 1992.”

Prior experience: “Served on the Pine Ridge zoning board for some time prior to being elected as a council member in 1995.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I believe in doing what is in the best interest of the Town, even if it is unpopular. I am interested in hearing all sides of an issue before making a decision.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “The town will be facing some major issues in the near future as it pertains to growth in housing. While I am not opposed to growth, consideration must be given to the impact of this potential growth on the schools, the traffic, and infrastructure. We must be very deliberate in our decision making.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “The council has a responsibility to be mindful of how and why money is spent; as such, we scrutinize all spending. However, we are careful to support local causes that have a positive impact on the community (e.g. local library and Senior Center) through donations.”

What is your vision for your community? “We can have controlled growth that does not overshadow the small town atmosphere we enjoy. Although some in the community are opposed to growth, it is inevitable; our task is to ensure we do not lose our identity.”

Pelion

Two council seats are up for reelection in Pelion, but no candidates filed to run by the filing deadline. Voters can elect write-in candidates on the ballot.

Swansea

Two town council seats, for Districts 3 and 4, are open. Michael G. Luongo, who is running to fill the District 3 seat, did not respond to The State’s request.

Ray Spires, district 4

What is your connection to Swansea? “I was born and raised in the Swansea area. I have lived in the town for nearly 25 years. I love my town and it is a family to me.”

Prior experience: “I served as mayor of Swansea for 17 years ... I have served on the Joint Water and Sewer Commission for 15 years and taken numerous classes, including about budgeting and properly handling meetings, through the Municipal Association of South Carolina.”

What makes you the best option for the voters in District 4? “I have the knowledge and skills to work for the good of the town and the citizens of my district. I have a good working relationship with local, county and state government.”

What are your top priorities, should you be elected? “To be a good listener, to be available, to research grants and to improve all areas of the town.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars and concerns? “Study the pros and cons of all money decisions, find what is the best for all of Swansea and watch for wasteful spending.”

What is your vision for Swansea? “Improvement and growth, everyone working together for our town, revitalization of our downtown area, a beautified entrance to our town and proper signage for our business downtown.”

Doris W. Simmons, District 4

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “I have lived in Swansea for 35 years. I have an Accounting office here and my husband’s family has been here since the town incorporated.”

Prior experience: “I have served on town committees and ran for town council and mayor. I am a member of the Lexington 4 school board. I served in several positions on the SC National Association for Tax Professionals.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I am an accountant, which gives me an advantage in helping to bring the budget into a positive position. I want to use my knowledge to put Swansea in a position to pay off outstanding debts to the state that prevent Swansea from obtaining some state funds.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Security for our citizens, then balancing the budget and cutting out unnecessary expenses. Setting up committees with locals to work with small businesses and schools.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars and concerns? “I am known to advise clients to be ‘tight with money,’ plan for high expenses, low income and put away money for the unexpected, which always happens. These guidelines will also work for our cash-strapped town budget. I also am available to listen to citizens’ concerns.”

What is your vision for your community? “I want to revitalize downtown. I want to work with the schools to bring jobs for our younger citizens to Swansea. My long-term plan is a way to bring a transportation service to Swansea that will allow access to jobs located away from our area.”

Springdale

Three candidates filed to run for three at-large council seats in Springdale. Cory Hook, who is running for one of the at-large seats, did not respond to The State’s request.

Viki Sox Fecas, at-large (incumbent)

Connection to the community: Fecas has deep family ties to Springdale, she said. Her grandfather and father were both former mayors of the town, her parents still live in town and she grew up in Springdale, she said.

Prior experience: She has served on council and played a role in shaping the town’s master plan, she said. Fecas has also served on the Board of Zoning Appeals for 10 years, five of those years as chair.

Fecas is a longtime employee of the University of South Carolina, where she has worked in recruitment, orientation and for the past 35 years, teaching an introductory course for first-year students. She also earned a doctorate’s degree in higher education administration, which she said equipped her for managing a town.

“The lenses of relationship-building and budgeting and personnel was really second nature to me, and so it enabled me to grasp the town,” she said.

Priorities: When it comes to Springdale’s future, she said her focus is on smart growth that attracts “the right kind of people.”

“We want it to be something really nice for our town, an asset, something special,” she said.

In September, town council discussed identifying rundown rental homes that have many calls for service or code enforcement issues and having private firms “flip” the houses.

Fecas said she also wants to continue making Springdale safer by keeping an eye on a handful of hourly rental hotels in town and trying to add more traffic lights to slow down speeding.

Steve Hallman, at-large (incumbent)

What is your connection to the local community you wish to represent? “I’ve been a resident of Springdale for 55 years, I know the people and the community and try to make decisions that are best to preserve and grow the town.”

Prior experience: “I have served on council in Springdale for 21 years ... I’ve worked as VP of franchise operations for Hardee’s. I also serve as a lay minister and chairman of deacons at my church. I’ve served on interschool council as a liaison for the school/parents and district office.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I’m a good listener, I’m honest and I understand that I don’t have all of the answers. I pray for guidance and direction on all matters that are before us and I try to build and use relationships to get things done for the town. I value and preserve the resources our town has been blessed with and have a people-first mentality.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “To continue positive growth for the town, continue to be fiscally sound as a town and excel in police and sanitation while exploring other options to better our town.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I’ve always been open to public feedback and I don’t like raising taxes. I also ask lots of questions when monies are being spent for different projects.”

What is your vision for your community? “I hope we never lose sight of the people we serve, who are mostly homeowners. I also see the opportunity for positive growth to add housing within the town and further develop our commercial corridor.”

West Columbia

One of the most contested elections in Lexington County is in West Columbia, where the mayoral seat and four council seats are open, for district 2, 4, 6 and 8. Candidates Robert Trevor Bedell (District 2) and Ronnie Lindler (District 4) did not respond to The State’s requests.

Here is what other candidates said:

Madison Duncan, mayor

What is your connection to West Columbia? “I am a lifelong resident, born and raised in West Columbia. I am also a proud graduate of Lexington 2 (Brookland-Cayce High School, Class of 1987).”

Prior experience: “This is my second time running for mayor of West Columbia.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “ I have the commitment and energy to make a positive difference. I love West Columbia and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “The citizens of West Columbia are my number one priority. Along with that comes affordable housing, the best water quality, lower taxes and a great quality of life. I want to make West Columbia the place to live and succeed.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “There is some aging infrastructure in the city. I want to see those types of issues resolved the first time and at the lowest cost. I have experience managing a large construction budget. I want to be a more efficient, more accountable, and more transparent city government leader.”

What is your vision for your community? “I envision a West Columbia that continues to give great public services. Our sanitation department, fire department, and police department are among the best. Also, I want to provide positive leadership, work to improve city government and more importantly, make the citizens proud.”

Tem Miles, mayor (incumbent council member)

What is your connection to West Columbia? “My wife and three daughters and I have lived in the Avenues of West Columbia for 14 years ... Additionally, I am a small business owner in the city of West Columbia.”

Prior experience: “I have served as city councilman for District 4 for six years and as mayor pro tem for the last two years ... I am a past president of the Greater Columbia Citadel Club, former member of the Epworth Early Intervention Center’s Fund Development Committee and Advisory Board member of the Therapy Place.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “My experience and my passion for the people of West Columbia and the role I have played in working with all members of city council to make West Columbia a cleaner and safer town in which to raise a family, invest, do business and live.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Keep the cost of living and doing business low and the motivation for redevelopment high.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “By working to keep the taxes and water and sewer rates as low as possible while continuing to provide effective service for our citizens.”

What is your vision for your community? “We have to make sure West Columbia continues to be a safe place for our citizens, address blight and rundown properties in our commercial corridors and neighborhoods, and to continue to push for revitalization so that all parts of our city can enjoy the progress we have made thus far in district 4.”

Jan Anderson, District 8

What is your connection to district 8? “I was born in West Columbia, and have lived here all of my life. I graduated from Brookland-Cayce High School.”

Prior experience: “This is my first political campaign ... I have served on PTA/PTO boards and on the Lexington 2 school improvement council.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I have a true passion for serving others and my community. I offer dedication, integrity, sincerity, honesty and most importantly a lifelong perspective of what moves our great city forward.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “To reunite our community and city, listen to citizens’ thoughts and opinions on ways to continue the positive momentum of our city, and to hold periodic community meetings in order to build relationships with the people and be a true voice for them at council meetings.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I am a very caring and conscientious woman who takes her community’s values to heart. Therefore, I would be a good steward of taxpayers’ money as if it were my own. I was raised in a family business and I know the value of a dollar. I will be a conservative watchdog for others and their hard-earned money. I will also take my communities’ thoughts and concerns with me to council meetings.”

What is your vision for West Columbia? “One where the people have a voice, there is a sense of unity, crime is manageable and the city operates efficiently. All are attainable if those elected work in the interest of those who voted for them, and not in the interest of themselves.”

Jimmy Brooks, District 6 (incumbent)

What is your connection to West Columbia? “I grew up in the Cayce-West Columbia area and graduated from Brookland Cayce in 1992. After college, my wife and I decided to move back here to raise our family.”

Prior experience: West Columbia city council member for four years ... “I have managed people in the financial industry for over 20 yeas. I have also served on school improve councils at schools in our community.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “Spending the last four years in the position has helped me understand the needs of the residents of my district. I also bring a different view of things to the table as a former business owner and now as a manger in business world.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Commercial growth on the Highway 378 corridor, keeping taxes low and working with other local agencies in Lexington County for a better community for us all.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “I have always been against tax increase just because we can. I will not vote for an increase unless it involves replacing aging infrastructure or for public safety. I would be open to a decrease if we can eliminate wasteful spending.”

What is your vision for your community? “That we continue to be a safe and clean community to live in. At the same time, we need to make sure we grow at the right pace and with the right business.”

Joseph Dickey, District 4

What is your connection to the community? “West Columbia is where my wife, Kiosha, and I have decided to call home and start our family. I have also moved my law practice, Dickey Law Group, to District 4. I love the West Columbia community and its people and fully believe that West Columbia is the ‘best Columbia.’”

Prior experience: “This is my first entry into politics ... Member of Japan America Association of S.C. board; board of directors, S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center; Congaree Park HOA board.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “As an employment and education attorney, I regularly represent individuals and government entities in difficult situations. Transparency, accountability, and understanding is vital to a successful resolution. District 4 needs a councilman who can continue moving the city in a positive direction while not allowing the city to lose its character and history.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Ensuring that development and growth is handled in a way that puts our community and our people first. As it pertains to District 4, I would address methods of code enforcement, work on retention within and growth of our public safety department, and recommend using resources to build on our infrastructure by properly maintaining roads.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “It is important that District 4’s councilman ensures the community is informed and understands city actions that affect them. My neighbors — everyone in District 4 — will always be able to reach me with their concerns.”

What is your vision for your community? “To be a city where people can raise their families, own property, pursue their careers and better their livelihood. I also want to see West Columbia stay attractive for future investments, development, and job creation.”

Rod Lorick, District 8

Connection to the community: Born and raised in West Columbia.

Why are you running? “I’m at a point in my life that I’m really trying to give back and of course, support my community and be a good steward ... I was born and raised in that beautiful city. I only want the best for that city.”

Prior experience: First run for public office but “I’ve won everywhere I’ve been” as a football coach. Works in sales during the day, has been college football coach for the past 20 years in South Carolina. Served on Native American Indian Affairs Commission’s ad hoc committee in the S.C. Governor’s Office; twice served as chairman of Beaver Creek Indian tribal council and part of S.C. Native Chamber of Commerce board.

Why should voters elect you? “I don’t mind working hard, I enjoy teamwork because that’s what I preach to my team ... that goes with politics, also. There are nine votes on that council so you’re going to need a team player, somebody who understands that concept.”

What are your top priorities? “We’ve got to continue building relationships, whether it is with Lexington County, whether it is with the South Carolina Department of Transportation” or business owners, Lorick said, and ensure that West Columbia has strategic growth. “You can’t just go in and throw up some condos and bulldoze people’s homes.”

He said he also wants to continue investing in the city’s assets, such as the riverwalk, and providing excellent city services. “My water and sewer bill has been the same for probably the last 30 years,” he said.

David Benjamin Moye, District 8

What is your connection to West Columbia? “I’m a third generation West Columbian, I grew up in the Mill Hill and am a lifelong member of Mt Tabor Lutheran Church on B Avenue.”

Prior experience: First time running for public office, founded Brookland Dwellers non-profit.

What makes you the best candidate for the job? “I’m the only candidate who has been active the past few years and gotten positive results in the community. I also have years of real estate experience at a time when the city could use someone on council who can properly evaluate development proposals and communicate the city’s vision plan clearly to developers.”

What would be your top priorities, should you be elected? “Responding to day-to-day problems individual constituents face is always the top priority. Other than that, reducing crime, cleaning up neighborhoods and attracting the best neighbors is my goal.”

How would you be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and concerns? “Things I will work hard and fight for: All economic development spending proposals should contain yield numbers. As a real estate professional, I think there is room for growth in the way West Columbia negotiates deals, which would amount to millions of saved tax dollars. West Columbia’s long-term plan is not as clear and detailed as it should be.”

What is your vision for your community? “I think District 8 can be the best place in the entire region for local food, shopping and lifestyle, with unforgettable skyline views throughout the district. It should be a safe, affordable, walkable community for children to play in and senior citizens to age in place comfortably.”

Dave Shaw, District 8

What is your connection to West Columbia? Shaw told The State he has lived in West Columbia for 13 years and during the first 8 years, he felt the city was “stagnant” but has begun moving toward invigoration and development.

Prior experience: “First foray into politics ... I’m just a single resident, living in a house I purchased 13 years ago.”

Priorities: “There are people who have serious concerns about safety and crime and litter,” he said, and those issues need to be addressed before the city can focus on new development.

“I”m not going to get lost in this vision I have for West Columbia without addressing those core things, like crime, like safety,” he said.

Shaw also said he wants the city to have “solid infrastructure” — roads, parking, clean traffic patterns, building codes — in place before “questionable” development has a chance to come in.

“We don’t want things like that happening [in Columbia] over here,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that everything is transparent.”

Vision for the city: “This could be the most booming area in this entire region.”

To check on your voter registration, request an absentee ballot, find your voting location, determine what district you live in, or learn more about local elections, visit SCvotes.org. To learn more about candidates on your ballot, visit vote411.org.

The State reached out to all candidates at least twice. Most candidates emailed responses, while others responded via phone interview. Answers were edited for brevity, clarity and style.

Isabella Cueto is a bilingual multimedia journalist covering Lexington County, one of the fastest-growing areas of South Carolina. She previously worked as a reporter for the Medill Justice Project and WLRN, South Florida’s NPR station. She is a graduate of the University of Miami, where she studied journalism and theatre arts.
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