Charleston County Council has a tough decision to make this week: whether to give I-526 to the city.

Some members are saying it’s the toughest vote council has ever had to take. To be sure, they are under extreme pressure from extremely powerful state lawmakers who want the interstate completed, and a very vocal community group that doesn’t.

The only consolation these nine council members have is knowing that, whatever they do, their “mother” will still love them.

Beverly T. Craven, the clerk of council, has been taking care of council for 25 years now. She calls council members her “babies,” and she’s had quite a few since she took the job back in 1987.

“Mr. (Herb) Sass is my 40th,” she notes.

Craven may run the council office and help these politicians with whatever they need, but there are some things she won’t do. Unlike everyone else in the county, Craven will not tell them how to vote.

“I don’t try to butt into their business,” she says. “Like children, you watch them grow up and make their own decisions.”

Good times, tough vote

Craven can, however, offer some solace to her brood.

“I really don’t think this is their toughest decision,” she says. “When we were talking about moving the courthouse to Morrison Drive, in my mind that was the hardest thing council had to face.”

Back in the mid-1990s, council considered the idea of moving the county judicial center from the Four Corners of Law (Meeting and Broad for those of you from off) uptown to Morrison Drive.

That debate took up an inordinate amount of council time, drew the ire of many folks in the community and attracted the attention of powerful state lawmakers.

Sound familiar?

History repeats itself, and that council had their mother, too.

Craven, now 79, took over as clerk of council in November of 1987. Earlier that year, her husband James Craven — the local attorney and state lawmaker — passed away. By then her three daughters were just about grown. So when she took control of the council office, she says, it was as if God had given her a new family to take care of.

Craven can still call all her babies by name, and recall little things about each one. Former council Chairman Barrett Lawrimore called Craven his “daytime wife.”

“I told him the next time he bought his nighttime wife some jewelry to remember his daytime wife,” she jokes.

Some of them keep in touch. Most of them give her a kiss when they see her. She’s an important, nonpartisan part of this council.

And this week, they may need her more than ever.

Amazing grace

Over the years, Craven has seen her job change a little.

With the advent of email, she now does little correspondence for council members. But she keeps the minutes and sets council agendas. Which means the council couldn’t surprise her last year when it voted to name its meeting room the Beverly T. Craven Council Chambers.

The sign hanging on the wall still humbles her.

Since the chambers were named, many of the meetings in it have centered on an interstate bypass 40 years in the making.

No matter how the vote goes this week, Craven expects to keep this council working and moving down the agenda. Herding politicians is not an easy job, but Craven does it with amazing grace, poise and humility.

“I have many jobs, but I don’t have the hardest job,” she says. “I don’t have to vote.”

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