SUMMERVILLE — Mayor-elect Ricky Waring launched his campaign to lead the town he’s lived in for all of his 70 years some 13 months ago.
After narrowly defeating Dorchester County Councilman Bill Hearn on Tuesday in the largest voter turnout the town has ever seen for a mayor’s race, Waring said it’s time to start thinking about how best to address the problems facing the rapidly growing town.
As he said during the campaign, that starts with getting Town Council working together to determine what the group's agenda should be over the next four years.
That part should be easy, as Waring knows or has served with all six of his council counterparts.
"Getting to know them is not going to be any trouble at all," he said Wednesday. "So what we need to do together is make sure we’re all on board for what we think is best for the town. And I think we are, based on what they said and what I’ve said."
Waring edged out Hearn in the election by a mere 261 votes — 3,266 to 3,005. Hearn received more votes in the close loss than current Mayor Wiley Johnson received when he won the election in 2015; Johnson did not run for re-election.
After conceding the race Tuesday evening, Hearn said he would run again for his County Council seat, which he's held for 19 years.
A big part of solving the problems facing Summerville starts and ends with communication, Waring said. For too long, he said, a lack of open lines between the mayor's office and council members has been the root of discord in the town.
His focus, he said, will be on face-to-face meetings with anyone who has a stake in Summerville's future: council members, town employees and all the way up to city and county officials in the tri-county area.
"My first 100 days I want to have civility back in the town where everybody is working good and feels good about their jobs," Waring said.
In terms of specific policy focuses, Waring said much of that will be decided once he and the new council are inaugurated in January, as consensus is key in the town's weak-mayor form of government.
"We pretty well all agree that growth is something we need to manage," he said. "We need to catch up on infrastructure, and traffic is definitely an issue. How we are going to approach that is yet to be found."
One point he wants to focus on is doing whatever possible to get the Berlin G. Myers Parkway extension completed — which the S.C. Department of Transportation estimates at its earliest would be in 2024.
Part of that focus also includes holding off on building a roundabout at the Five Points intersection. Waring said during the campaign he is against the roundabout until the parkway is completed, a position he still holds.
"I think we can hold off that roundabout if we can find out something (definitive) on the parkway this year," he said. "Personally, my opinion is we hold off spending that money and focus on building the parkway."
Incoming council member Terry Jenkins, who supported Waring during his mayor campaign, said Tuesday it felt great to be back in the seat he’s held two times prior. His focus will be working with other council members to build consensus on issues facing the town so it can begin to move forward.
Doing that under Waring’s leadership, he said, will be a blessing. Jenkins and council members Aaron Brown and Walter Bailey all publicly supported Waring during the campaign. Councilman Bill McIntosh was in attendance at Waring’s victory party, and Waring thanked Bob Jackson for his work in the town’s 6th District.
“Ricky’s heart is firmly in Summerville, and we have a chance to do some great things,” Jenkins said.