Mount Pleasant has some difficult choices ahead of it. For years, it has relied on residential growth to pay the bills, but it’s running out of space, which means it will have to raise taxes, cut spending drastically or allow more density. The town needs council members who recognize those choices and are prepared to make smart decisions.
Voters will fill four at-large Town Council seats in Tuesday’s election. Here are our picks among the eight candidates:
Howard Chapman, 73, has the skills, training and civic experience to hit the ground running. He’s a professional engineer with a specialty in traffic management. He was Mount Pleasant’s first traffic engineer and later director of traffic and transportation for Charleston, then Charleston County. He has also put in eight years on the Mount Pleasant planning commission in the run-up to the town updating its Comprehensive Plan.
So Mr. Chapman’s experience would go a long way in helping the town improve traffic flow and connectivity, as well as plan new roads. He’s committed to managed growth and cleaning up and preserving Shem Creek. We believe Mr. Chapman is the strongest candidate among the field, and voters would benefit from his deep experience and solid record of public service.
Gary Davis, 79, is a fiscally savvy businessman with a background in public finance — skills the town will need as it nears build-out and seeks to create a sustainable revenue base from a healthy mix of housing and business. As a fiscal conservative, he wants to scrutinize spending, refinance debt at lower rates where possible and create efficiencies in delivering services while focusing spending on infrastructure and improving quality of life — all without raising taxes.
Rightfully worried about how development in Awendaw could impact traffic in Mount Pleasant, Mr. Davis wants to engage the town’s northern neighbor in a dialogue aimed at limiting growth. He also backs the creation of more parks. He’s committed to open government, holding fewer closed-door discussions, sticking with the current council-mayor form of government and bringing mass transit to the town’s main arteries. Mr. Davis is a solid choice for council.
Brenda Corley, 49, is the principal of Oceanside Collegiate Academy charter high school and a former assistant principal at Wando High. Ms. Corley is a relationship builder, and we believe her position gives her an edge in understanding the citizenry.
Ms. Corley has a firm grasp on Mount Pleasant’s need to diversify its tax base with a greater mix of business and to transition away from a home-construction dependent economy. She’s anxious to get to work on the town’s Comprehensive Plan and to build consensus on guiding development over the coming decade. She backs the idea of more affordable/workforce housing, attracting new business and better long-term fiscal planning. Ms. Corley is an energetic town booster who we believe will breathe new life into town politics. She deserves a seat on the council.
Mike Lawrie, 37, is an ex-Marine Corps intelligence officer who works in cybersecurity. With a degree in government and legal studies, as well as an MBA, his background bodes well for public service. The Belle Hall resident and father of four says he’s committed to preserving Mount Pleasant’s small-town feel and keeping housing affordable for families.
Fiscally conservative, Mr. Lawrie worries about the town overextending itself for amenities it might be unable to afford long-term. He says he is more interested in core functions like improving traffic and infrastructure. That’s a sensible approach, and we agree with his position of sticking with a council-mayor form of government.
Though we don’t agree with all of Mr. Lawrie’s positions — he’s wary of the town approving “density hubs” — we believe his vision aligns well with the town, and he will bring fresh ideas to council. Voters should give him a chance.