Candidates Field Questions at Forum

WINNSBORO (Oct. 27, 2016) – Three candidates for the District 2 County Council seat – Jimmy Ray Douglas, Joyce Renee Green and Clyde Wade – and one candidate for the District 3 seat – Peggy Swearingen – answered questions for almost two hours from moderator Ron Smith, Chairman of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce during a Candidate Forum on Oct. 17, at the Winnsboro Woman’s Club. The Forum was sponsored by the Chamber.

Two candidates seeking election in District 3 did not attend. Chamber president Terry Vickers said she received no response from an invitation to candidate Kirk Chappell, and she said candidate Mikel Trapp told her in a phone conversation the day before the forum that he had not received the invitation nor her follow-up phone and email messages and that he had made other plans for the evening.

After self-introductions by the candidates, Smith asked some questions posed by the Chamber and others from the audience.

All the candidates agreed on some issues – that sufficient infrastructure should come to the County before industry is brought in; that the County should continue to (financially) help save the hospital; and that County employees should not be fired as a way to cut back on the County’s expenses. But they disagreed about other issues. For instance, when asked how to improve recreation in the county, Green said she was happy with the local mini parks in different areas of the community because she felt many in the county lack transportation to go to a central recreation facility. Wade debunked the idea that transportation was a problem and agreed with Swearingen that there should be a recreation facility that would include a sports complex, swimming pool and other offerings that would especially benefit youth and senior citizens in the county.

Asked why each was more qualified than his/her opponents, they said:

Douglas, a life-long resident of Fairfield County, has owned and run a business for over 40 years.

“I’ve always tried to stay up with what’s going on around town. A few years ago, I had some questions about the Fairfield County government. My concern for the misappropriation of funds led me and a friend to hire a CPA group to complete a forensic audit on the expenditures of the County for 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. This audit prompted a SLED investigation.

“Through this process of reading each entry piece by piece and item by item, I learned a lot about the workings of our County and about how our County was spending our tax dollars. I feel this knowledge has given me a unique insight into what is going on in our County government and, as a result, I am optimistic that I can make a real difference when elected to the County Council.”

Green has been a teacher in Fairfield County schools since 1989 when she moved to the county.

“I’ve been working in Fairfield County with the population and the community people, teaching and working with parents and their children. I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a number of income brackets, educational levels and social behaviors and with that I will be representing a diverse population. I am able to have empathy, I communicate with people and I’ve always enjoyed communication with them through that interaction with themselves and love for children. I’ve worked with the NAACP, the youth, lower income children, 911, individual life instruction and I am a team worker.”

Wade is retired from DuPont and is now a cattle rancher in Fairfield County where he raises Certified Black Angus Cattle.

“I had 34 years of supervisory experience with DuPont in management in the power business in two different states and two different manufacturing sites. I managed a power and energy budget for DuPont while making operating, mechanical and electrical decisions on a daily basis. I developed and administered a multi-million dollar power operating budget for the stockholders of the DuPont Company.”

Swearingen, a longtime employee in the insurance industry who grew up in the ‘Dark Corner’ community of Fairfield County, said she has a good understanding of what the underserved areas of the County need.

“I feel I’m qualified because I’ve worked in the insurance business all my life helping people solve problems. And I would like to help Fairfield County solve some of its problems. I am my church’s treasure and I know we have to have a balanced budget. I work for a family owned business and there are similarities between running a business and running the County.

“I am not afraid to help move this County forward. I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve worked on a farm, cut hay, fixed the fence and run the cows. I’m ready to go to work for Fairfield County residents.

What are the two most important issues in the County?

Douglas: 1. High property taxes and wasteful spending of tax payer dollars. 2. The need to bring good paying jobs to the County.

“Because of the high tax rate, no one wants to invest in Fairfield County either by starting a business here or moving to our county.” He said there are currently more than 100 foreclosures in Fairfield County, due in part to high taxes.

There must be accountability for the money the County spends, and profit and loss must be given highest consideration, Douglas said.

“Without good jobs for residents and good financial management by the County, we will never be able to improve our quality of life in Fairfield County.”

Green: Adopt strategic plan.

“The most important thing is economic development and that part of the strategic plan that offers it. If the County would adopt the strategic plan, then we would have options for improvement of all our situations. But it has to be adopted by the County. We need a strategic planning staff person to address the economic development components of the plan so we can implement those that are appropriate for our whole community.”

Wade: 1. Recreation, transparency, citizen awareness. 2. Taxes and jobs.

“Recreation in the County leaves a lot to be desired. I believe there is money available to build a central recreation complex for use of all citizens in Fairfield County. Continuing to build and maintain mini parks is not the answer. Youth programs in adjacent counties are drawing our youth to their programs because our facilities are less than standard. Directors in other counties tell me they will not come to Fairfield County to play our teams, which are very few now because our facilities are not up to standard. A modern complex would bring to the County new revenue through hosting various tournaments and will increase the level of youth participation in our programs.

“Council already has the right process in place to deal with taxes and jobs. Economic development is a work in progress.

Swearingen: 1. Transition from volunteer to paid firefighters and better pay for EMS personnel. 2. Recreation

“We need to pay our volunteer firefighters and pay our EMS personnel enough to keep them here. We need to bring their salaries up.” Swearingen said there are places in the county where, if a house caught on fire, it would burn up because there is not adequate personnel to put the fire out. She said the County goes to the expense of training EMS personnel, then when they’re trained, they go to neighboring counties for higher salaries. She said having adequate emergency personnel might favorably influence industry recruitment.

“We have to address recreation. We have health issues in the county. Chester has a YMCA where they can do aerobics and swim. It helps all ages, but especially for our elderly who could exercise all year inside.”

How would you improve the economy in Fairfield County?

Douglas: Lower property taxes.

“We can’t improve the economy in Fairfield County until we lower property taxes.”

Green: Hire an Economic Development Director

“We need to offer small businesses training for longevity. We should hire an Economic Development Director to offer ideas and make suggestions. We can work with our City Council to help local businesses improve their situation, to train them and let them know what’s out there to improve their situation.”

Wade: Keep our economic development people busy.

“I think they’re working hard to draw business to the County. I don’t have a magic wand. It’s a work in progress and just continue that.”

Swearingen: 1. Help small businesses. 2. Promote tourism.

“We have to build on present assets. Maybe some small business incentives, a planning/financing team to help small businesses with ideas. We have small businesses that are still thriving. Walmart’s gone. Mack’s gone. We have to look at tourism – Lake Wateree and Lake Monticello, the Clock. If we could get our economy going, we could grow.”

Do we need two County Administrators (explaining that County Council retained the previous Administrator, Milton Pope, for $3,000 per month for six months as a consultant after hiring Jason Taylor as the new Administrator)?

Douglas: No. Davis Anderson could answer any questions that might arise.

“No, we do not. Davis Anderson ran the County when Milton (Pope) was there and he’s there now so we can ask him any questions if we need to.”

Green: Pope is training new County Administrator

“I think that he (Pope) may be training our new Administrator. He may be hired for two months for training just like substitute teachers are trained or any other job that has an administrator. If you have the education but you may not have the experience. Pope had the experience and the education and so he may be training, obviously. But we don’t need two for the long term.”

Wade: This is a transition period.

“No we don’t need two administrators. This is a transition period for a new man coming in and not knowing anything but what he’s read in the newspaper or on the street, but once that transition has been made he (Pope) needs to disappear.”

Swearingen: New Administrator knows what he’s doing.

“I believe he (Pope) was hired for six months for a transition period. But Mr. Taylor was an Administrator before he came here and I think he knows what he’s doing.”

To view the candidates closing statements, which are lengthy, go to blythewoodonline.com or our Facebook page The Independent Voice of Blythewood and Fairfield County.

Douglas: If elected, I would propose an in-depth look at the money allotted by Council to build buildings in hopes of bringing industry to our county. I would expect there to be a cost analysis to determine if ‘build it and they will come’ has produced anything other than overwhelming debt and empty county owned buildings.

I support innovative ways to bring diverse businesses to Fairfield County to create jobs for the residents. My long-range goal for our County is to lower taxes for its residents. This can be accomplished by electing a County Council whose first priority is to eliminate wasteful endeavors and practices that result in wasteful spending.

Electing County officers dedicated to what is right and best for this county as a whole is the only way a change for the better is possible. Lower taxes will entice businesses to locate in Fairfield County, increase job opportunity and population to offer a better quality of life and a better Fairfield County for all of us.

Green: I have the best interest in our community. I think the strategic plan should have a lot of bite to it and we should investigate that. My aim is for us to become more self-sufficient. We had jewelry stores, restaurants, drug stores. We can go back to that with the right planning. I will be acting on your behalf. A – accountable and assessable; C – a conduit, communication for all; T – truthful and transparent and S – a steward and supportive. I will work for the weak. It is better to give than receive.

Wade: We are headed in the right direction. Transparency has improved and cooperation between Council members is better. I will work to make that even better. It won’t be my district. It will be Fairfield County’s district. I will represent all the people in Fairfield County.

Swearingen: You know who I am and what I’m about. I promise to work hard. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. I will work for District 3 and I will work for Fairfield County. I’ve been attending Council meetings and if elected, I will attend all the meetings. I want to pay our firefighters and EMS personnel higher salaries. We need a full house of EMS personnel for our county to flourish and bring in new businesses. If elected, I will serve faithfully.

 

Comments

  1. Pat Williams says

    CLEARLY, Jimmy Ray Douglas is the best informed, prepared & most dedicated to represent District 2 on County Council. He personally helped pay for an audit on County expenditures to expose & bring an end to wasteful spending.

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