Fairfield candidates have their say

WINNSBORO – A virtual candidate forum organized by Nocola Hemphill for the SC Democratic Black Caucus, Fairfield Chapter, was held Oct. 1, and attended by two write-in candidates for county council, an unopposed candidate for the school board and the county’s incumbent sheriff Will Montgomery.

The two-hour forum was moderated by Hemphill, attorney Natasha Pauling and college student Lamar Richards.

“This is not a debate,” Hemphill clarified at the opening of the forum, “but a conversation.” While Hemphill had prepared a list of about 20 deep-dive questions that had been emailed to the panelists earlier in the day, the moderators relied mostly on question of their own choosing.

Much of the early questions and answers focused on the school district and education in Fairfield County.

“What grade would you give our school district right now and what suggestions do you have?” Hemphill asked school board candidate for District 6, George Harris

“I think they’re doing an excellent job considering everything. Any organization has challenges, but looking at the strides they’re making, I would give them an A. There’s a lot on the plate of administrators as it relates to addressing COVID 19,” Harris said. “I don’t have anything negative to say about what they’re doing right now.

Richards asked, “What are your plans to make educating our people a more united effort?”

County council write-in candidate Quincy Pringle said parent involvement is key.

“We need to get parents more involved. As a county council member, we need to partner with the school district and partner closely to see what strategy we can come up with to get parents involved,” Pringle said.

Pauling asked, “How can we break down the walls of territories and between various departments?”

Council write-in candidate Tony Armstrong addressed the question in terms of education.

“I’m not an educator,” he said. “Dr. Green is an educator. He is the expert. I must be supportive to his understanding rather than a leader. As a council member I will share ideas and work in a partnership in the school. What we must do is to help children succeed in life.”

Pauling asked Sheriff Montgomery about the animosity that exists between the police and the public in communities around the country, noting that that Fairfield has not experienced that animosity.

“Regarding the way we are perceived and treated by police officers, what training/techniques would you suggest for modern police officers to embrace so they can have a viable relationship with all the communities they serve?” Harris asked.

“We work with the community,” Montgomery said. “Community policing is one of my top strategies. Without the community, policy is nothing. We have to have a good relationship with the community. Use-of-force training is very important. We train our officers what to do and not do in certain situations. We train all the time.”

Asked why they are running for office, the two county council write-in candidates had this to say:

Armstrong said he had three reasons: to help the county; to fulfill an obligation to senior citizens and not abandon them; and the tax base in Fairfield is too high – we need to provide more to the people in the county. We must have growth and grow education.

Pringle said he served on the Behavioral Health board for 15 years after being appointed by former councilman for District 4, Kamou Marcharia who had mentored him. Now Pringle wants to take Macharia’s former seat.

About 15 viewers watched the live program and Hemphill said many more have viewed it since then.