Voters will trek to the polls in Lexington on Tuesday to fill three seats on Town Council.
Six people are vying for those seats -- three challengers, and three incumbents (current Council members Danny Frazier, Todd Shevchik, and Richard Thompson). The top three vote getters will be seated.
In addition, voters will decide whether or not the town will allow off-premises sales of beer and wine on Sundays at town grocery stores, convenience stores and other outlets.
To help voters decide their Council vote, Patch has posed a series of questions to all six candidates. Today, the three challengers -- Constance Flemming, Steve MacDougall, and Tripp Newsome (photos at right) -- are questioned. Tomorrow, Patch will pose the same questions to the incumbents.
NAME: Constance Caractor Flemming
Occupation: Retired Public School Music Teacher (35 years of service)
Family: No spouse; Children: Ebony Bowers and her husband, Jamey Bowers; Grandchildren: Selena (4) and Shayla (6 wks.)
Education: Graduated from Lexington High School (Class of '70) and graduated from Howard University -- Washington, D.C. (Class of '75) BA - Music Education, Minor-Vocal Performance, Graduate hours in Early Childhood and Music Education
Campaign contact: CCFlemming Campaign - P.O. Box 734 - Lexington, SC 29071; Ccflemming@aol.com
Prior experience: Town Council (2002-2006); Served on the South Carolina Arts Commission for seven years, and the Southern Arts Federation based in Atlanta, Ga., as one of two representatives of the S.C. Arts Commission. Appointed by Gov. Carroll Campbell as the first representative to serve on that particular Commission from Lexington.
Explain your political philosophy, especially as it relates to Town Council: My philosophy is to serve as a servant of the people, and give them a voice in their municipal government.
What is your vision for Lexington and why are you running for this office? My vision is to work with the citizens and for the citizens in making Lexington the strong and vibrant family-oriented community that it should be. I am running for this office to bring forth the ideas of the citizens as we work together to strengthen and enrich our community.
What are your top issues and how do you propose to tackle them? One of my top concerns is the Revitalization of Downtown Lexington as we once knew it, as a thriving business area and vital contributor as the County Seat of Lexington.
As a council member, it is my intention to work with the business community and other concerned citizens in finding ways to bring small businesses back to the downtown area, which should also be able to create more jobs.
Another top concern is dividing the town into Districts so that all of the people can have representation, and not just be tied to an at-large system which at times can be very prohibitive in contacting a council person to address a given matter. I would propose to handle this matter by pushing to give the citizens an opportunity to vote on this matter with information on the pros and cons of this matter, thereby allowing them to be able to make the decision based on knowledge about how it will directly affect each of them as citizens of the Town of Lexington.
What other issues do you believe the Council must tackle in the next 5 years? One of the main issues that will be with us for quite a while is traffic concerns. We should have gone through with the bypass a long time ago. However, since we did not, it remains an issue. As we continue to try to cope with this issue, an idea that was mentioned to me on a regular basis as I was out collecting signatures was that it would probably be quite helpful to our traffic situation if we had one or two motorcycle cops to assist with the high volume of intense traffic during some of the peak hours of high traffic volume. The idea rang true for me because of my experience with motorcycle cops in Washington, D.C. They were always the first on the scene of an accident or traffic tie-up. So, I agree with them that we should at least explore the avenue to assist in this serious matter.
Why should people vote for you? The citizens of the Town of Lexington should vote for me to serve as their representative on council because I will speak up and out for them in reference to their needs and concerns. I do not classify myself as a politician, but a servant of the people who will always have a Voice to speak out concerning what is most important to our citizens.
Anything else you'd like to say? The only other thing that I have to say is, "Citizens of the Town of Lexington, please come out and vote on November 8th. People have lost their lives for this right. A Voteless People, is a Hopeless People and the citizens of Lexington are not Hopeless. So, please get out and vote. Let your Voices be heard through your powerful Vote."
NAME: Steve MacDougall
Occupation: Director of Operations for Hudson's Smokehouse Restaurant and Catering.
Family: Wife, Jamie; three daughters, Brittney, Kamryn, and Addison
Education: I am a graduate of Lexington High School and The University of South Carolina, with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies.
Campaign contact: My Facebook page is Steve MacDougall Town Council.
Prior experience: I am currently the longest-serving member (9 years) of the City of Columbia Hospitality Tax Committee and a former chair. I am also Board member Emeritus of the Congaree Vista Guild (12 years).
Explain your political philosophy, especially as it relates to Town Council: My political philosophy as it relates to Town Council is this -- Local Government should be managed like a business. We should treat the small business and the taxpayers that got us to the place we are today like a customer in a restaurant and ensure they are provided with quality products, dependable service, all at a fair price.
What is your vision for Lexington and why are you running for this office? My vision for Lexington as it continues to grow, is to have a proper plan in place to benefit all involved. The quality of the future development is very instrumental in the success of this town. A plan that is active with obtainable goals and realistic forward-thinking ideas that will move this town forward.
I am running for this office because I feel with my small-business management skills and background I can bring fresh new ideas to the table and be a part of positive change for the betterment of my community. A voice for those hardworking small businesses that contribute so heavily to the tax base of the town. A voice for our citizens that continue to support an ever-growing community.
What are your top issues and how do you propose to tackle them? My top issues are Traffic, future quality development, and tax, water and sewer rates. I propose that the traffic issue become a major focus and begin immediately taking head on this underlying issue that will stall growth. It must become a priority; steps need to be taken to move these projects along. We must bring all parties to the table and discuss, make a decision and move forward.
2. Quality development -- as we continue our growth and Lexington becomes more appealing to outside interests we must maintain a high standard of development for the community. I plan on being on the forefront of these discussions.
3. Water, sewer and tax rates -- with many of our citizens struggling, incomes down, and our seniors on fixed incomes, we have to look closely at our rates and ensure that they are fair to all. This means asking the tough questions and getting answers.
What other issues do you believe the Council must tackle in the next 5 years? Other top issues are economic development thus creating jobs for the immediate area. We must also properly maintain the infrastructure of the community to provide long-term service to the town. We must be proactive in our efforts to manage the growth that we know is yet to begin.
Why should people vote for you? The voters of Lexington should vote for me because I am vested in this community. I grew up in Lexington and have spent almost all of my life here. I live here, I work here, I am part of the community. I have two small daughters that will grow up in this town and I plan on being a part of the future of this town so that I can provide for them a safe, clean, comfortable environment for them to prosper. I am a hardworking dedicated 20-year small businessman with a proven background. I will bring positive change to the table and will make sure our government is open, transparent and accountable to the people.
Anything else you'd like to say? On Tuesday November 8th, I would be honored to have your vote.
NAME: Tripp Newsome
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant; Captain in the Army National Guard Field Artillery
Family: Married to Dr. Brandi Newsome; two daughters, Ella 6, and Sophia 4
Education: BS in Accounting from The Citadel, 1996; graduate of Hartsville High School, 1992
Campaign contact: On Facebook, Tripp Newsome for Lexington Town Council; cell phone: (803) 463-5765
Prior experience: No political experience; Self employed, President/CEO of Newsome & Company, P.C.; Battery Commander of Field Artillery Battery, 3 Deployments –- Managed 150 troops in a combat zone; setup Radio Relay towers across southern Iraq; ran a Civil Affairs team in Afghanistan attached to Special Forces 10th Group, in order to help local villages set up a government and infrastructure in the Kapisa Province of Northern Afghanistan. Recipient of the Bronze Star.
Explain your political philosophy, especially as it relates to Town Council: You deserve an accountable, responsible, forward-thinking, and assertive government. To grow economically we need more incentives for small businesses. With massive growth in population we need to ensure that the police, fire, water and sewer systems are able to withstand and service the recent annexations.
Traffic remains a huge problem. Clogged traffic all across town leaves our thoroughfares bumper to bumper. We must revisit a bypass plan, or at a minimum the one-way pairs that were once spoken of. Lexington is a wonderful community to live in, visit, beautify, and educate our children. The town has simply outgrown its current form of government. We need to abolish the petition to run for Council, and establish districts. By doing this, we will have a more responsive, competitive, and responsible Council.
What is your vision for Lexington and why are you running for this office? My vision for Lexington is for it to completely stand on its own. We are too far geographically from Columbia to be considered a subdivision town. We need to abolish the petition to run for council. We should have districts implemented … this keeps your council honest, gives your residents a responsive, responsible person to engage with, and provides an amount of healthy competition to the fray.
What are your top issues and how do you propose to tackle them? Traffic –- One-way pairs running through main street (out of town) and Butler street (into town). A truck route for pass-through traffic/bypass.
Teenage entertainment –- Teens with a place to go are less likely to get into mischief. There is a significant lack of options for teens in the Lexington area. Possibly a sports complex/skate park/under-age dance club, etc.
Sewer Tap Fees –- It is extremely difficult to bring new homes into Lexington with the Sewer Taps at the current rates. This puts a damper on owning a home, and passes unneeded expenses to the homeowners.
Hospitality Taxes -- In-town businesses and residents pay a large percentage of the town’s revenue. If we can drop sewer rates by three percent and institute a two percent hospitality tax on prepared foods and beverages it will help spread the burden to “out of town” citizens who come to town to eat and drink, utilizing our hospitality, our police department, our roads, our street sweeps, our grease traps, and sewer systems.
Imagine the time, or actually ask the police chief, how many officers are tied up patrolling drinking establishments instead of cruising through neighborhoods protecting our property. How many man-hours are spent between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights dealing with paperwork, sobriety tests and patrolling commercial areas?
Revenues from the Hospitality tax must be used for tourism … it could fund a large portion of the "VISION PLAN." Bike paths, Parks and Recreation, certain street work, etc. That money is already coming from the Sewer system. I don’t think an $11 million overage in sewer and water accounts is a good thing, as it has been touted. I think I am being way overcharged.
Anything else you'd like to say? Thank you in advance for your support! I am humbled by the opportunity to serve you. Regardless of whom you decide to vote for, please remember to vote on November 8th. It is one of our most valuable, yet disregarded freedoms. Too many people have sacrificed too much for you to give up the opportunity to be heard.