Berkeley County supervisor hopefuls make last pitches

Davis

GOOSE CREEK -- The three candidates for Berkeley County supervisor made a final public plea before Tuesday's primaries.

They met in a debate that drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 120 people Friday evening. The meeting at Berkeley County Electric Co-Operative was sponsored by the Berkeley County Republican Party Executive Committee.

All three candidates -- Supervisor Dan Davis, U.S. Rep. Henry Brown and Hanahan Mayor Minnie Blackwell -- are Republicans. The winner of the primary faces no Democratic opposition in November.

Davis, a former Hanahan City Administrator, asked for more time to finish some of his initiatives, including an industrial complex in Jedburg that could draw thousands of new jobs.

"It will be the impetus to bring our local economy back," he said.

He also reminded the audience that, even during a recession, he developed the county's first balanced budget in nearly 20 years and reversed a long-standing trend of dipping into savings.

"It has been a challenge … to deal with our finances during this recession," Davis said. "I think we've done a good job and left the county better than we found it … and I would like to finish a few things we got started."

Brown, a former Piggly Wiggly vice president, promised to use his experience as a Congressman and former state lawmaker to attract new industries.

"The first thing is to know the people who are out there," Brown said. "The No. 1 thing is just contacts. … I really believe economic development would be my strong suit with the contacts I have made."

Blackwell, a science teacher, stressed the need for more government transparency and "servant leadership."

"Being a servant leader means you turn back over the government to the people," she said, adding later, "We (in Berkeley County) don't give the people a chance (to be heard). It needs to be an open government, and everything needs to be laid out on the table. Your responsibility is to listen to the people."

Both Brown and Blackwell criticized Davis for using some of the local sales-tax rebate in this year's budget, rather than using all the money to lower property-tax bills, as voters indicated they wanted when they passed the referendum for a penny sales-tax increase.

"It needs to go back … to the people," Blackwell said. "That's why the people voted for it. … You have to live up to your promise."

Brown agreed.

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"I just feel like that property tax relief was a promise to the people to roll back their property taxes," Brown said. "I just think it's a matter of trust. If you break a promise, there's no way to gain that back."

Davis acknowledged that the sales-tax rebate has "obviously been a major issue during this campaign," but he defended his decision. Council voted for the policy change unanimously last year, and it was the only way to complete projects to draw new industry, such as building a new interchange for the Jedburg industrial park, he said.

"I hope one day that money will be returned... especially when the Jedburg project is completed," he said.

Brown and Blackwell also hit Davis for allowing monthly sewer fees to increase during his administration.

"Those are what I refer to as back-door taxes," Blackwell said.

Davis said rates went up to pay for a loan for water and sewer improvements that was borrowed before he took office.

"That decision occurred … a year and a half before I got there," Davis said. "That's something that's been tied to my campaign unfairly, because I wasn't there."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or dmunday@postandcourier.com.