District 1 Hopefuls Face Off

RIDGEWAY – Candidates running in the Nov. 4 election for Fairfield County Council District 1 participated in a forum sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce at The Century House in Ridgeway on Sept. 25. They included incumbent Dwayne Perry, Dan Ruff and Michael Squirewell.

The moderator, attorney Mike Kelly, who is serving this year as the president of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, first asked the candidates to share information about their background, education and training. All three said they were raised in Fairfield County. Most of the questions asked came from the audience.

Background

Dwayne Perry: I graduated from Winnsboro High School and hold a BS Degree in Management Science from the University of South Carolina. I served on the Board of Directors for the Fairfield Chamber and the Hospital Board. I moved back to the County in 1998 and was elected to Fairfield County Council in 2008.

Dan Ruff: I’m a sixth generation Ruff in Ridgeway, so I’ve been around here for a long time. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Finance from Erskine College. I served two terms on the Ridgeway Town Council, was named Citizen of the Year for Ridgeway in 2010 and I’ve owned and operated Ruff and Company for over 30 years. I have served on the Board of Directors of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, the Bank of Ridgeway and Community Resource Bank for about 10 years. I’ve served as a deacon or elder at Aimwell Presbyterian Church for 30 years and as a volunteer for the Ridgeway Fire Department for many years.

Michael Squirewell: I was born and raised in Ridgeway and graduated from Winthrop College. It’s a pleasure to be able to serve this community. I’m a lifetime member of Lebanon Presbyterian Church where I serve as an elder. I’ve been in the construction business for over 20 years. I am here to serve you. I’m not here because someone has put me in this race. I’m seriously dedicated to what I do.

What Industry Would You Pursue to Diversify Our Economy?

Perry: When I was running for County Council I focused on economic development throughout the County and improved recreation as well. We’re known for manufacturing in this county. The jobs we have now are from manufacturing. I would like to see more white collar jobs in addition to manufacturing. The goal is jobs that people have the skill sets for. After manufacturing, then we should bring technology in.

Ruff: I think we could recruit retirement communities, tourism and capitalize on Lake Wateree, Lake Monticello and other resort areas. I think if we would recruit timber industry there are some secondary industries that would follow. Along the I-77 corridor we should look at outlet malls and call centers and other things like that. Traditional manufacturing is great for the county, but we definitely need to diversify.

Squirewell: We need to understand what industries compliment the County. Utilities are an area that is under-tapped for the land mass we have. We need to continue to pursue utilities. With the corridor through the middle of the County, we need to pursue different businesses. Manufacturing is what’s been allowed to happen here. But I think we now understand that products in China aren’t wanted anymore. We have to pursue those industries that work for Fairfield County. Manufacturing will be one of them.

What Do You Advise to Reduce The High Property Taxes in Fairfield County?

Dan: We need to start with good government, be transparent and forthright with everything we do. We may have made some mistakes, but we can do something about it in the future. We must use our resources more wisely to reduce taxes presently. In the near future, we have two new reactors and I think we can use that revenue to reduce taxes. But we really need to start now better managing the resources we have and operate more efficiently.

Squirewell: We have not been kind to businesses overall. We need to do a better job of recruiting businesses and lower taxes on businesses. We are spending money in areas we need to be saving. There are some areas we could improve in. We’re taxing at rates we were taxing in 2006 and 2007. We’re being taxed entirely too high. We have to recruit businesses by making it attractive for them to come here.

Perry: From the tax base, that’s how government is funded. Unlike businesses, where we can sell more product to increase our revenue, we have a predetermined amount of revenue that we can get, based on the number of households or businesses that we have to count. So the first thing we want to look at is increasing our revenue. It comes from areas like this — by recruiting industry to help share that tax base. The other way is to cut services, such as deputy sheriffs, EMS or fire stations. That hurts people. The best way to reduce taxes is to bring industry and be frugal in how we spend the County’s money.

Would You Support a Two-Consecutive Term Limit on County Council?

Squirewell: Yes.

Perry: That’s a Catch-22. It’s always good to have new people. On the other hand, if you have someone doing an outstanding job and you really believe in what they’re doing, then if it’s not broke, why would you need to fix it?

Ruff: I am definitely in favor of a term limit. Two terms is long enough.

Would You Support Ending the County Providing Free Cell Phones, Home Internet Service and Mileage Reimbursement to and from Regular Meetings for Council Members?

Perry: Right now, we don’t get reimbursed for mileage to and from Council meetings. I have not collected any mileage this year.

Ruff: I don’t know what perks the Council members get, but I’m fine with none of them. I don’t get them in my business. I’m here to serve and help the county as best I can, so no perks is fine with me.

Squirewell: I’m like Dan. I work for myself and I promise you if I don’t kill it, I don’t eat it. I’m also in favor of reducing Council salaries. I don’t see it beneficial that we’re paying full salaries for less than part time positions on Council. It doesn’t make sense to me.

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