Linda Page, as a life-long Mount Pleasant resident, knows where the town has been. She also knows where it is.
And she has laid out a positive vision for where it should go.
That well-rounded perspective, and her proven ability to work well for positive results with others on and off Town Council, makes her the right choice for mayor.
As she told us: “I have a strong understanding of yesterday in Mount Pleasant. That doesn’t mean I want it to stay like it was in 1959, but I want to honor that past.”
Though a political newcomer at the time, she won a place on council four years ago as the top vote-getter out of 19 candidates seeking four seats.
Since then, her impressive performance on council has confirmed the electorate’s good judgment in choosing her.
And as she reviews Mount Pleasant’s transformation over the last half century from a small coastal community of 5,000 or so to a sprawling suburban municipality of more than 70,000, she sees both the inevitability — and the lessons — of rapid growth.
“It’s coming,” she told us of the projected population climb to 100,000 or more over the next two decades. “We have to be mindful of it, and we have to steer it.”
Unfortunately, Mount Pleasant’s residential growth at times has outpaced the pace of infrastructure projects, including schools and roads, needed to sustain it. The town even initiated a building permit cap 12 years ago to help slow that runaway train.
But the cap is long gone, and after shaking off the effects of the Great Recession, the development train is back on track and picking up speed.
And while the town’s short-term fiscal needs require new growth, the long-term challenge is to recognize the perils of unrestrained development. So the crucial task for the person replacing Mayor Billy Swails, who is stepping down after one term, is to manage that growth efficiently and wisely.
Some of Ms. Page’s critics charge that she is too pro-development. And too many of the candidates running for mayor and council sound as if they’ve forgotten the costly lessons that forced the implementation of that building-permit cap.
But Ms. Page rightly stresses the need to balance residential growth with commercial growth that delivers “not just retail jobs, not just restaurant jobs.”
That’s why she joined fellow council member Chris O’Neal earlier this year on the losing end of a 7-2 vote that changed the zoning from commercial to residential for a 46-acre tract by the Grassy Creek subdivision along Long Point Road.
She wants to advance economic development by setting aside more commercial zones for companies that would bring in high-tech — and higher-paying — jobs.
As a successful businesswoman, she knows the importance of selling customers by providing good products and services.
She also knows that “to sell the quality of life” to companies considering Mount Pleasant “you have to protect the quality of life.”
She aims to encourage residents of the “donut holes” — unincorporated areas surrounded by Mount Pleasant — to come into the town.
But she’s wisely wary about the idea of annexing land across the Wando River. And she wants to more clearly “define the line” where northward development will stop, calling it, at this point, “a moving target.”
She’s an advocate of improved bicycle and pedestrian access, citing an enlightening trip to Indianapolis, where she saw that a major bikeway could serve as an engine of economic vitality.
As for some residents’ concerns about the brevity of Town Council meetings, she defends getting most of the decision-making work done at earlier committee hearings, pointing out that they are open to the public.
Yet she added with a laugh that the Town Hall meetings “will be longer” if she wins the mayor’s race — “because I talk more than Billy.”
And Ms. Page, whose down-home manner is a good fit with her common-sense approach to various issues, emphasizes keeping “open lines of communication with the county, towns and state.”
She has clearly kept the lines of communication open with fellow council members during her first term.
And her practical, informed vision for Mount Pleasant makes a persuasive case for promoting her to the mayor’s job.