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Candidate questions: Laurie Parks

Posted: October 17, 2016 5:40 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2016 1:00 a.m.

In an effort to provide as equal a forum as possible, the C-I recently reached out to all the candidates by sending out questionnaires. The candidates were asked to answer all questions in their own words and the C-I tried to edit the answers as little as possible; most edits were done for space issues only. Here are the candidates’ in their own words.  


Q:  Why are you running? 

A:  I’m running for Mayor because our City has come so far and I believe with my leadership we can continue with the positive momentum. We really turned a corner in 2012.  We are going forward with many exciting projects and I want to keep the City moving in the right direction.  It is important to me to earn everyone’s vote and to be a Mayor for everyone in our City. I would like to start hosting an open monthly meeting to discuss concerns and issues with any citizen.  These would be held during the day, at rotating locations throughout our City.  Not everyone feels comfortable attending city council meetings and this would be a more personal way for me to listen to our people.  I think that a successful mayor is an accessible public servant.


Q:  What experience do you bring to the position?

A:  I have a lifetime of leadership. When I first moved to Camden, I wanted to get involved in the community so I participated in Palmetto Leadership Kershaw County.  I went on to chair that program and won the chamber’s Nettles Award for service. I also graduated from Leadership South Carolina and, more recently, the Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative through Furman University. I have chaired our youth leadership program for 16 years, Junior Leadership of Kershaw County, because I believe a true leader inspires and nurtures the next generation -- they are our future.  I have served on the Kershaw County Foster Care Review Board for nearly ten years insuring that our children in foster care find permanent homes.


Q: What personal information would you like to include about yourself, such as family, education, career, civic involvement, church affiliation, etc.

A:  I have been married to Wes 27 years. We are both University of Georgia Bulldogs.  My daughter, Caroline, works for Francis Marion University in the School of Education and my son-in-law, Jon, is originally from Lugoff and is a police officer for the city of Florence.  They have a two-year-old daughter and their plan is to move back to Camden to raise their family.  My son, Connor, graduated from Central Carolina and works in the IT department at Camden High. We are active members of Lyttleton Street United Methodist Church.  We have both taught Sunday school and have served on and chaired numerous committees. We are a Camden family.  I have been a small business owner, so I understand the challenges they face. For the past five years, I have volunteered with the Sacks of Love Program, which provides at-risk children sacks of nutritious, non-perishable food that are given to students who have little or no food to eat on weekends or holidays.  I have been a life-long Girl Scout volunteer, whether it was as a Brownie Troop Leader or sitting on the board of the Girl Scouts of the Congaree. I was recently recognized as a Girl Scout Woman of Distinction.  I am proud to say that I am the incoming president of the Camden Kiwanis Club.  Through them, I have been able to go out into our schools and help support our Terrific Kids Programs in seven county elementary schools and our Key Clubs in four high schools, including Camden Military Academy. I also volunteer and serve on the board of Special Olympics Kershaw County.  


Q:  What makes your background and experience so uniquely suited to the job?

A:  I have made sure that I have been involved in our Community and understand the wants and needs of the community. I have worked my way up through the City ranks, first by being appointed to serve and vice-chair Kershaw County’s Human Relations Commission and then on to serve and chair the Camden Historic Landmark Commission. I attended City Council meetings for almost two years before I ran for public office, so I would understand and become familiar with the issues the City and its citizens were dealing with.  Once I was elected to city council, I was part of a committee to rewrite the Camden Historic Guidelines, to make them on-line and user friendly.  Last year I helped spear-head the passage of the “Bailey Bill” a city tax incentive program to help owners rehabilitate historic properties.  I also spent a number of years working in Tourism at the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.  This is where I learned how to market all that Camden and Kershaw County had to offer tourists.  After being elected to council, I was on the steering committee that secured the services of Arnett and Muldrow to re-brand Camden and develop a marketing/tourism plan.


Q:  What are some issues/problems you want to work on to solve or accomplishments you wish to achieve?

A:  I want to continue to grow our city the “right way” while remembering our wonderful history and small town charm. I want Camden to be a place where families choose to live and grow, where their children can get a quality education.  I want our citizens to feel safe.  I want businesses to come to Camden to open their doors and I want visitors to come and spend time here.  I want to make Camden a destination again.  We still need to look to ways to strengthen our economy, provide a better quality of life and build on local assets.  How do we do all of that? – by coming up with a plan and working together.  I have worked on getting Camden back into the Main Street program. We have re-applied and hopefully we will know in the next couple of months if we were accepted.  This is a program through the Municipal Association of South Carolina and it is a revitalization program that promotes the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts – our Downtown.  We want to fill those empty store fronts - get businesses back downtown and also open up some downtown living options.  New businesses mean new jobs and an increased investment downtown.  We’ve seen it work in other historic downtowns and now we want to work on it for Camden.  There are no quick fixes for a declining downtown, which is why we have applied for help from the experts.  We actually will go through a “boot camp” for the next three years where they come in and do intensive studies on growing our business district.  Arnett and Muldrow told us what businesses we needed; Main Street is going to show us how to get them.


Q:  What is your number one goal – that is, if you could only accomplish one thing in one term, what would it be and why do you believe it is so important?

A:  I can sum it up in one word: “unity”. We have to work together with our county. I would like to have joint meetings.  We are stronger if we are a united front.  This is the only thing that was on my list of priorities that I have not been able to accomplish in my four years on council.  I still have a goal of working closely with Kershaw County Council.  I do think that we have come a long way in four years and we need to continue that open dialogue.  We have been able to share information and have had wonderful conversations that we had not been able to have previously.  With the change in leadership on both councils, we have begun to work together, but it still needs to be developed.  That door is open now where it wasn’t before.  Camden is the county seat and a part of Kershaw County.  What one governing body does affects the other.


Q:  The campaign has been ongoing for several months now. Undoubtedly you have been out meeting people and trying to find out what is important to them. What are some insights you have gained with this experience? How is what you have learned comparing/contrasting with any preconceived notions you may have held?

A:  Our team has knocked on hundreds of doors in Camden, and I have spoken at local churches and community events, so I feel that I have a good handle on the concerns of our citizens.  One of the biggest things that I have heard from people are the many misconceptions about how the City spends money and what projects we can and cannot work on. As a small business owner and someone that works with many nonprofits, I know a City has to be run like a business. We have to be mindful of our reserves.  We have to be mindful of our core functions of government and we have to be mindful to keep costs low for our citizens.  People don’t understand why we have holes in our roads, but can afford billboards.  These projects are from two separate funds and the state of South Carolina has very strict laws on what money can be used for what project.  Many of the streets in Camden are actually owned by the state and the City has no money or authorization to work on them.  Billboards fall under tourism which is funded through our Accommodations Tax and/or Hospitality Tax.


Q:  What’s the most recent book you have read and/or movie you have seen? 

A:  I love to read and am always reading more than one thing at a time! Right now I’m reading “Historic Camden – Part One and Two” and “A History of Kershaw County, SC” as part of my research on my house for the Haunted Legends Tour.  I used to belong to two book clubs in Camden (one at the library and one at Books On Broad), but now that I have less time to read for pleasure, I always have an Audio Book playing in the car! My husband and I are movie fanatics and try to schedule a regular date at the movies! We saw “The Magnificent Seven” when it came out and now I want to go back and watch the original.  One thing people may not know about me is that I love scary movies and can’t wait for all of the fun Halloween festivities in the City and especially the Haunted Legends Tour. 


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