City Councilman Harry Griffin’s decision to run for mayor of Charleston, announced like the good millennial he is on Facebook, took me by surprise, I must admit.
“It is time to lead Charleston to a new age,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “An age where our residents no longer have to suffer from the consequences of broken government.”
Not knowing too much about Griffin — he has been on the council only 15 months, after all — I turned to those who know him best. Here’s what I learned.
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The election of Griffin (AMHS 2013) at 22 was big news in the Talon, the Academic Magnet High School newspaper, four years after his graduation:
“At AMHS Harry was the a member of the football team all 4 years and he also played baseball and wrestled. His senior quote was, ‘It’s Gameday!’ He won the very prestigious West Point Leadership Award and his prediction was that one day he would become the President of the Citadel. His Senior Superlative was ‘Most Likely to become President.’
“His teachers remember him as an energetic positive influence in any classroom situation. Ms. Hurt says, ‘he made us laugh.’ His claim to fame was reciting the presidents backwards at the talent show and the next year as host he recited them in Spanish (gave their names Spanish inflections).
“Making a difference in the world has always been important to Harry and it looks like he is well on his way. Watch this Magnet Alum soar!’’
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Linda Leier Thomason says Griffin was a classmate of her son’s and used to play tag football in her driveway and celebrated birthday parties on her screened porch. Her blog was chock full of useful insights:
‘‘He stood out as a leader and made no apologies for it, even as a child. ... I especially took interest when, as a 3rd grade student, he announced on a local TV station that he’d one day run for President of the USA. I knew he could, and should.’’
‘‘The second oldest of four boys, this 2016 Citadel graduate is a Project Manager at Neal Brothers Charleston, Inc., a 100-year-old international export packing company led by his father, Darryl Griffin, Sr.’’
“He sought out campaign advice from two-term council member Marvin Wagner. Wagner was also the first to congratulate Harry on his win and told him to get ready to work.’’ (Aside: If you have ever been to a City Council meeting let this sink in; if you have not, ask someone who has.)
“Given an opportunity to appoint a President and Vice-President, he’d appoint the current office holders. ‘We needed something different because the same old political practices were not working.”’
“Harry looks forward to one day being a husband and father. For now, he’s content to spend time with his four-year-old brother, Timber, and to watch his brother, Buster, march in step at Citadel parades. He writes his own music and sings Karaoke. Harry dreams of a trip to Hawaii where he can turn off his phone and lay on the beach for a week.’’
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Finally, I turned again to Griffin’s Facebook page. There I found a post about my own Feb. 10 column, which reported two polls showing Mayor John Tecklenburg with daunting approval ratings with voters. Wrote Griffin:
“I don’t believe these numbers. Not one bit. Commentary pieces like this are what is devastatingly wrong in Charleston. The good ole’ boy system. This article has intimidation written all over it and makes me sick to my stomach. We don’t need to scare off challengers.
“I have always been transparent on any decision I’ve made and how I feel about issues. I am here to tell you I will not be supporting Mayor Tecklenburg’s re-election. I believe that somewhere, in this city, we have a resident who would better serve our hardworking taxpayers.’’
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Griffin seems to have found that resident. As someone who has been rooting for a contested election (be careful what you wish for, my wise old mom warned), I am pleased to have been helpful in some small way in Griffin’s decision-making process. I do apologize, however, if I upset his stomach over Sunday brunch at the Bear-E-Patch diner in West Ashley.
Griffin’s announcement is good news. He is a candidate who could launch a thousand columns. Welcome to the race, Harry.
Steve Bailey writes for the Commentary page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sjbailey1060.