Maybe the best way to get a handle on the Summerville election next week is to ride the Berlin G. Myers Parkway to its abrupt dead-end at Carolina Avenue.
The road is one of the signature accomplishments of Mayor Berlin G. Myers' 45 years in office. Conceived in the late 1960s as a bypass and an emergency route over railroad tracks, it became a traffic-management need in the 1990s as growth began jamming Main Street and neighborhood roads. It's still not complete, held up for more than 10 years now by environmental and property owner opposition as well as funding problems.
The parkway is one of the chief reasons the 94-year-old Myers continued to run for the office and mulled it over before deciding not to run this year: He wanted to get it done. Meanwhile, traffic congestion continues to bedevil residents.
The election Tuesday will seat a new mayor for the first time in nearly a half-century and at least two and potentially three new council members. They will work with a new administrator still to be hired. It's a turnover of leadership. The new leaders, though, will grapple with the same major issues: development, infrastructure needs and the money to pay for them.
It's no surprise that all three mayoral candidates list transportation issues among their biggest priorities.
"It's killing the city and frustrating its residents," said mayoral candidate Bill Collins.
"We have got to do something about the roads," said fellow candidate Bill Lomax.
"It's stupefying how we allowed ourselves to strangle ourselves with traffic," said Dickie Miler, a third mayoral candidate.
Councilmen Ricky Waring (District 2) and Mike Dawson (District 4) are not running.
Terry Jenkins, a former town councilman running unopposed for District 2, calls the mayoral race the biggest thing in a quarter-century.
What once was a small town has more than doubled its size and is growing into a suburban if not urban center.
Jenkins doesn't think the changes themselves are significant, viewed one by one. "The opportunity is significant," he said. "Berlin Myers has done a wonderful job protecting our past and keeping it for our future. But our future is moving fast and we have to catch up to it."
Among the challenges is positioning the town to compete with neighboring municipalities for local, state and federal funding for infrastructure such as roads.
"There are so many needs that are really critical to the town's future. How the next mayor takes us through that is critical. Despite the strong council, the mayor has to lead and the council has to support him."
The candidates don't differ widely in what they say their priorities are. Economic development to grow revenue joins infrastructure improvements such as roads. They differ more on their emphases and approaches.
Commercial development is the priority for the two Town Council candidates in District 6, the only contested race among three council seats
Incumbent Bob Jackson, a Bosch development engineer, faces Billy Simons, a Realtor who moved to town last year from Mount Pleasant.
The district covers the hot-growth, newer development neighborhoods in suburban Oakbrook, where identification with the town isn't always as strong as its generations-old neighborhoods. Elections usually are contested, but vote totals routinely come in lower than other town's districts with contested races.
Bill McIntosh is running unopposed in Council District 4.