Candidates Meet in Final Forum

WINNSBORO (Nov. 3, 2016) – Two of the three candidates for the District 4 County Council seat – Bertha Goins and Quincy Pringle – and all three of the candidates for the District 6 seat – Gwen Harden, incumbent Mary Lynn Kinley and Cornelius Robinson – answered questions from moderator Ron Smith, Chairman of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, during the last Candidate Forum on Oct. 31 at the Winnsboro Woman’s Club. The forum was sponsored by the Chamber.

Kamau Marcharia, the District 4 incumbent, did not attend.

After the candidates introduced themselves, Smith began asking questions, many of which most candidates were, to some extent, in agreement:

• That property taxes in Fairfield County are too high (only Kinley disagreed, insisting taxes are just right);

• That the county needs more and better paying jobs;

• That the County should continue providing necessary financial support to Fairfield Memorial Hospital;

• That businesses and industries in Fairfield County should attempt to hire Fairfield residents first;

• That the County should enforce code enforcement ordinances to make the county more attractive;

• That the construction of the football field at Drawdy Park is a prime example of County projects that were a waste of taxpayer money (Harden: “Half a million dollars and it doesn’t even have lights”) and

• That the County needs to cooperate with Winnsboro to solve its water and sewer problems.

Why are you more qualified than the other candidates?

Gwen Harden (District 6) has served 14 years on the Board of Disabilities & Special Needs, 15 years as Secretary of Friends of the library and worked 25 years in the Winnsboro office of the S.C. Department of Juvenile justice. “I’ve been coming to Council meetings for a long, long time. I’ve been involved. We need a new vision for the County and I have one. We need a new way to operation County Council.”

Mary Lynn Kinley (Current District 6 Councilwoman) is a former District Governor of Rotary and was the Director of Public Relations for Fairfield Memorial Hospital for 23 years. “In the next four years, this county is going to change. Experience matters. Do you want people on the team without experience?”

Cornelius Robinson (District 6) served as a Deputy Sheriff for Fairfield County for 15 years and served in the Marine Corps. “I have the energy, the drive and the desire to go door to door. It’s time for change in Fairfield County.”

Bertha Goins (District 4) has served her District 4 community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Jenkinsville Water Company and is a former employee at both V.C. Summer and Fairfield Central High School. “This county is at a point of needing someone to bring change. I know what it is to struggle, to face challenges, to be a mother who has to go 15 miles to the laundry. I know the struggles of my district in Western Fairfield County. We have to do better and we will do better.”

Quincy Pringle (District 4) has been a coach at Fairfield Central High School for 20 years and serves as Chairman of the Behavioral Health Board of Directors. “I am willing to act for all the citizens of my district. We need a fresh outlook on Council with a different way of thinking. This seat is more than a pay check. I will represent the whole district.”

Do you feel the Council has been transparent?

Harden: “Transparency has been one of Council’s biggest problems. I attended an out-of-town Council workshop last year with only about 30 people in the room. I understand that the Chair held it out of town because a large enough room could not be found in Fairfield County. I feel it was held out of town to discourage the public from attending. I’ve seen this Council go into executive session without even a quorum and no explanation. The Chair signed a contract without a vote and without the public’s knowledge. I would like to see Council follow the advice of attorney Jay Bender, the Guru of the Freedom of Information law. I attended one of his seminars and if elected I will suggest Council have him come and explain to us what freedom of information is about and what we can and cannot discuss in executive session. A lot of what goes on in executive session could actually be discussed in front of the public.

Kinley: “I disagree. We (Council) are as transparent as we can be. There are rules to go by and Council follows them. Ordinances direct our meetings. We cannot tell the public everything. I think we have changed a lot. But a lot of the things must be confidential, and I’m not going to go to jail. I apologize if you feel like we haven’t been open. A lot of people don’t come to our meetings because they don’t care.

Robinson: “It’s difficult to judge what goes on behind closed doors. County Council members need to be more transparent. They need to be more open. There are too many times people don’t know what’s going on in Council. That core you have isn’t what you think it is. That’s vitality I’m talking about; youth and energy I’m talking about and one on one I’m talking about. That’s what I can bring to Council.

Goins: “Some things discussed on Council cannot be shared with the public, but the way to solve a problem is usually for those things that can be shared, should be shared. To be even more forthcoming, if elected, I plan to have quarterly meetings in District 4 to keep my community informed as much as possible. And I will encourage all in my district, including the young people, to attend Council meetings. Whatever costs I incur (with community meetings) will be covered with what I get paid as a County Council member. I might consider using ROBO calls to remind people and increase attendance.”

Pringle: “Transparency is much needed on Council. We need to give the voters the power back. We need to get more people, the community, involved and regain the trust of the people, let people know if Council is meeting tonight so they can see for themselves what’s going on. A lot of people don’t even know we have a County Council and don’t take it to heart. We have to change that.”

What should Council’s long range goals be for the County’s economic development?

Harden: “The long range goal should be to lower property taxes in the County. If we want people and businesses to move here, we must make changes. Fairfield County has the third highest property taxes in the state. That doesn’t look good to people who are thinking about coming here.

Kinley: “My vision is to get more jobs and a better quality of life. Some families don’t have lights because their electricity has been turned off. We have a lot of people without education. The health care industry has been the biggest problem here. We brought in Midlands Tech so people could take classes and get better jobs. I keep hearing taxes are high. If we reduce taxes, SCANA will get the biggest tax reduction. (Residents) would only get maybe a $100 tax reduction. Plus we don’t have to pay any fees in this county as other counties do. If you want to cut taxes, what services do you want to do without? I think our taxes are OK. They aren’t that high. The only way to reduce taxes is to bring in more industry.”

Robinson: “We need better jobs and industry, better schools, better housing, better health care and better fire and police protection. Why won’t businesses come into Fairfield County? Experience (on Council) may be good, but it’s not working. We need a new way of doing things. Experience has got us in this predicament we’re in today.”

Goins: “I agree with Ms. Harden. Go back and lower taxes for the folks who live here and as a way to attract businesses and new residents. What are we getting for our taxes? Your young people are leaving because jobs are not available. We have to lower our taxes so we can attract these businesses and bring jobs to the county. When things are working well people will be attracted to us. We also need to renovate our community, fix up the houses and clean things up.”

Pringle: “Once we get ourselves together, lowering property taxes will get our economic development going and we can see what we can do to get project management in here. We need change.”