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Connell running for KCC chair

Posted: March 27, 2014 5:12 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Another candidate has thrown his hat in the ring in the race for Kershaw County Council Chairman. Kershaw County native Ben Connell made the announcement earlier this week.

Connell, 32, is a 2000 graduate of Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS). A member of  L-EHS’ wrestling team, he won four state championships and one national championship. He was recruited by the University of Oklahoma and later transferred to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to be closer to home.

“A three-hour drive down here was better than a 17-hour drive from Norman (Okla.),” he said. “I did undergraduate work and law school at Chapel Hill.”

Connell is now a practicing attorney with his family’s firm in Lugoff. Previously, he worked three years at a firm in Charleston. He said his education and experience in the legal field would be an asset for the council chairman.

“I didn’t initially consider running for the chairman until a lot of people asked me to get involved. These were just lay people who live in the community and were also business owners,” he said. “That’s what led the thought process for me and made me ask myself if I could help the community, add value and hopefully bring some businesses here. That’s one of the main things we need.”

Connell said keeping young talent in Kershaw County will be key to economic growth.

“If I look at my peers who graduated from high school with me or were at Camden or North Central, those who were graduating with honors, I’ve noticed they’re in other counties or other areas because there are better opportunities for certain fields in other places,” he said. “I am lucky to be given the chance to come back and work in a firm where I was the maid and secretary in high school. Not everybody has that opportunity and that in part is because there are not the businesses here that allow you to do that.”

He said creating an attractive workforce should begin in the earliest school grades.

“If the class size is too big, people are going to have a harder time getting the curriculum they need in middle school and high school,” Connell said.

Connell said premium recreation areas also attract industries and the professionals who operate them.

“Living in Charleston, I was spoiled by James Island County Park. It was just unbelievable and really nice. On a smaller scale, recreation could be really useful here. Then young professionals who have kids would be drawn to the area. You’ve got to have something for your kids to do,” he said. “That’s one of the big complaints I hear.”

Connell and his wife, Kristin, have two daughters, Annabelle, 3, and Alexis, 9 months.

Connell said his motivation to run for office comes from his athletic background and the community support he received while wrestling.

“When I decided to go to the national (wrestling) championship, the local businesses and people in this area funded that trip. They paid for the travel and the room and the food. We had a nine-hole golf tournament to raise money. That really was a springboard to some national notoriety and helped me get the scholarships I received,” he said. “This community raised me up right and supported me. Having lived in New York City, Chapel Hill for many years, Charleston for a good while, I haven’t found any better people than I’ve found in Kershaw County. That’s why I wanted to raise my kids here.”

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