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KCC candidates tackle the issues

Posted: October 5, 2010 3:00 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Eric Boland, Gene Wise and Tom Gardner

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Three Republican and three Democratic candidates for seats on Kershaw County Council took stage Monday night for a political forum at Lugoff-Elgin High School co-sponsored by the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce and Kershaw County School District (KCSD).

Questions ranged from economic development and education funding to property taxes and the upcoming Capital Projects Sales Tax.

All of the candidates agreed expanding the tax base was a need of the county, though answers varied as to the best way to do that.

Chairman (countywide)

Bobby Gary, Democrat

Elected to Kershaw County Council in 2008, Gary is a 1991 graduate of Camden High School. He runs a commercial and residential maintenance business, and is a board member of the Kershaw County Literacy Association and a volunteer for United Way of Kershaw County (UWKC) and Habitat for Humanity.

Gary highlighted efforts to go green, an ethics policy and having the capital projects sales tax go to a referendum as accomplishments of council.

He wants to establish a “bridge of communication” between Elgin Town Council, Camden City Council, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, KCSD and Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce to work together on economic development and improving the county.

Of the capital projects sales tax, Gary said he believes if passed it will provide opportunities for the youth of Kershaw County.

Gary said one of Kershaw County’s best assets is the way its residents treat people.


Gene Wise, Republican

Wise moved to Kershaw County’s Lake Wateree nearly a decade ago. He is the general manager of the Target Distribution Center in Lugoff, one of the county’s biggest employers. Wise has been named Business Person of the Year twice and served on the boards of the chamber, UWKC, Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County and Kershaw County Public Schools Foundation.

Wise said he’s worked consistently on job creation and economic development.

“You can’t teach it if you don’t know it, and I know what leadership is. I have the leadership experience,” Wise said.
He talked about the negative impact Act 388 has had on the local school district, as well as small businesses.

Wise said he’s struggling with the capital projects sales tax because of the uncertainty of tax collections. But Wise said there are advantageous projects within the list that will benefit the county should it pass.


District 5

Stephen Smoak, Democrat (incumbent)

Smoak was elected to Kershaw County Council in 2006. A partner for the Savage, Royall and Sheheen law firm, Smoak has served on the Kershaw County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs and is a past president and current member of the Kershaw County Bar Association.

Smoak noted that in difficult economic years, as a member of council’s finance committee, he’s helped to cut $2 million out of the county budget and improve the county’s bond rating.

He said council “has to foster a political atmosphere that is friendly to everyone – big businesses, small businesses and individual residents.”

Smoak said Act 388 is “out of our hands” and deemed it an “unmitigated disaster.”

He believes recreation projects need to be looked at as a tool to market the county, and said the capital projects sales tax is an opportunity to greatly enhance recreation opportunities in the county.


Eric Boland, Republican

Boland is headmaster of Camden Military Academy and has lived in Camden for nearly 30 years. He has completed an executive leadership and management program from the Mendoza Business College at The University of Notre Dame.
Boland said he views it as government’s duty to provide law enforcement, fire protection, education and a good climate for economic development.

“I’ve spent my entire professional career bringing people together to work toward a common goal,” Boland said.
Boland said he believes Kershaw County should “be another Lexington, (S.C.) … with growth and jobs and a tax base,” that provides opportunities for citizens.

He believes the current property taxes are at a fair rate and shouldn’t be raised.

Boland said he isn’t in favor of taking out a bond should the capital projects sales tax pass in November, because it would in essence be spending money the county didn’t have.


District 6

David Branham, Democrat

Branham is an assistant principal at North Central High School where he graduated in 1993 before attending Clemson. He eventually earned a Master in School Leadership from the University of South Carolina.

“One of our top priorities should be the safety and security of our residents,” Branham said.

Education, he said, is the key to economic development.

“There’s no excuse for wasteful spending or for ineffective county operations,” said Branham.

Branham, too, doesn’t want to alter property taxes.

He said he would be in favor of issuing bonds for the capital projects sales tax because construction costs increase over time and there are low interest rates available right now.


Tom Gardner, Republican

A small business owner and nearly lifelong resident of Kershaw County, Gardner graduated first in his class from Mt. Pisgah High School in 1973. A 1977 graduate of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke with an accounting degree, Gardner has operated Sports Connection in Camden for more than two decades.

Kershaw County is a great place to live, Gardner said, but “I think it can be a better place.”

Gardner wants to provide tax incentives for businesses looking for a county to operate. He said the Applied Technology Education Campus and Central Carolina Technical College are assets of the county to train workers.

Gardner is opposed to the capital projects sales tax because it’s not the right time in his view.

Current District 6 Councilman Gary Elliot is not seeking reelection.


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