Nine-year Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings said he is running for mayor this fall.
Seekings, 59, currently represents about 12,000 residents in the city's 8th council district, which covers much of the city's downtown historic district, an area that not only sees a dramatic influx of tourists each year but also has many streets likely to flood.
He joins a race that includes incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg, Councilman Gary White, first-term City Councilman Harry Griffin and Will Freeman, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for a state House seat last year.
“At this point in my career, after nine years on City Council and 30 years being involved in this community, I feel like I’m qualified and fit to lead the city in a way that it needs today,” Seekings said. “With the challenges that face us in terms of infrastructure and growth and transitioning from a small town to a large city, it is time to have a regional approach to it and I have myself in a position on all of those issues to succeed, I believe.”
Seekings said the city's three biggest issues are infrastructure, flooding and mobility, and he has a plan to address them. Seekings said he believes the Calhoun West drainage project needs to be a top priority, followed by the Church Creek drainage basin and West Ashley drainage issues.
“Water doesn’t know geopolitical boundaries, transit doesn’t know geopolitical boundaries, affordable housing doesn’t know geopolitical boundaries,” Seekings said. “We need to partner, especially on affordable housing, with other areas, with other towns and with the county to build affordable housing for our workforce. All of those things are going to take cooperation, and that’s just not there right now. That’s leadership. That’s 100 percent leadership.”
In his district, Seekings said he led the charge to install check valves in water drainage pipes to ensure sunny day street flooding would stop.
His position on regional boards, such as the Charleston Regional Transportation Authority, puts him and the city in a better position to receive assistance for county funding. In his role at CARTA, Seekings said he turned the authority from having a $6 million a month deficit into one with sound budget books and an agency leading the Lowcountry Rapid Transit project.
He said he’s shown leadership in the community, too, by taking over as executive director of the Cooper River Bridge Run.
Seekings said he has never voted to increase property taxes, considers himself a forward-thinker on environmental issues and has a good working relationship with county and state leaders.
Seekings said the last few years have been years of “stagnation” during a time the city has grown dramatically, and that the city lacks direction and leadership.
“For four years I think all of us, not just on City Council but the citizens of the city of Charleston, have looked for leadership and a plan and it’s been absent,” Seekings said. “And without leadership and a plan, where do you go?”
Seekings also said he feels there’s been a lack of planning for transportation and flooding infrastructure in the city: “Right now in the city of Charleston, in really quite a stark way is we don’t necessarily have that, particularly when it comes to growth and management and flooding. Where is our plan, what is our plan? That is leadership and we don’t have it and I’m ready to talk about that, to bring it to the floor.”
Tecklenburg, 63, said it is easy to “start taking shots” during the political season but tentative plans for drainage have been presented, as well as plans to address affordable housing and transportation.
“They’re not just words on paper, they’re being converted to action, which is intended and will help the lives of our citizens,” Tecklenburg said.
Tecklenburg said under his leadership the city developed a separate storm water department focused on drainage and flooding. He said the city has hired people to clean drainage ditches. He said the city has received grants to help fund infrastructure projects, analyzed the Church Creek drainage basin and the city is implementing projects to address those challenges, all while work continues on the Spring/Fishburne Drainage Improvement Project and the city’s 150-year-old archway tunnels are being improved for better drainage.
He said the city has worked in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, and by doing so, secured funding for the city on a number of projects.
“We’ve been getting things done,” Tecklenburg said.
Seekings council seat is not up for election this fall, and if he does not win the mayor’s race he said he will remain on council. Though a part-time job, Seekings said he believes he pursued the job as a full-time endeavor by being available to his constituents.
Seekings, a civil litigation construction attorney, said he would focus solely as mayor of the city if elected.
“One of the things that has been out there that has slowed my ability to get in this race is a case I’ve been working on for 14 years, a case that's literally been protecting the property and investments of senior citizens for 14.5 years, that ended Friday that gives me a clear path to move forward and pursue what is a job clearly, I believe, I’m fit for.”
Originally from London, Seekings moved to the United States with his family in high school and moved to Charleston for a clerkship job. He lives near the College of Charleston with his wife Michele.
Filing for mayor and City Council races opens later this summer, and the election is Nov. 5.