GOOSE CREEK - Growth and development were the main topics at Goose Creek's mayoral forum Thursday.
Second-term City Councilman Jerry Tekac, 48, is challenging Michael Heitzler, 66, who has been mayor since 1978, for the city's top post. Heitzler has not had an opponent in 16 years.
Most of the questions from the standing-room-only crowd centered on businesses in the city.
Tekac, a senior commercial banker at NBSC, maintains the city needs to be proactive in attracting more.
"I believe we're missing the boat on economic development in our city," he said. "We need to be out there actively recruiting and saying, 'Come here.' It isn't an easy task. It's not going to get fixed overnight. We have to overcome the perception that we're not business-friendly."
He said the city needs businesses like shops, restaurants and doctors' offices, but not big-box stores.
Heitzler, a retired principal, said development will come when the time is right.
"Your city council is progressive and will continue to be progressive," he said. Infrastructure has been laid in the downtown area and "that place is prime and ready to be developed. Business is coming. We have two burgeoning commercial areas waiting to take off."
In addition to the downtown area, business is expected in the master-planned Carnes Crossroads community, which will also have 4,200 homes and add about 12,000 new residents.
"The residents are coming," Tekac said. "Whether we do anything with commercial business at all here, those houses are coming and single-family houses do not pay for the services that we enjoy. The taxes do not cover everything, and I recognize the fact that if we don't encourage more business, people like you and I are going to have to pay more."
Tekac said the mayors of surrounding entities are more proactive in recruiting businesses.
"I do not want to be Summerville, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston or Charleston," Heitzler said. "I want to be a growing and loving and friendly Goose Creek."
He said the city has grown at a rate of about 3 percent for the last 20 years, and that's "just about ideal."
In addition to the mayoral election, five people are running for three at-large council seats. Incumbents Mark Phillips and Mayor Pro Tem Kimo Esarey face newcomers Gerald Stinson, Victoria Morrell and Debra Green-Fletcher.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.