New era coming to Summerville

Bill Collins

SUMMERVILLE -- The man who won't be on the ballot Tuesday still holds the biggest sway in an election many people call a turning point in the life of this town.

Mayor Berlin Myers is stepping down after nearly a half-century running Summerville. Despite a weak mayor-strong council form of government, the 94-year-old has become the cornerstone of the place, so dominant that two of the candidates for mayor conceded that they wouldn't have run if he had announced for re-election.

One candidate admitted to being a little disappointed that Marlena Myers didn't decide to run. She is the mayor's wife and a formidable presence in town in her own right.

A town known for generations as a place run by the same family names, a place where "nobody votes," in one former candidate's words, will have a new mayor and a new administrator, and at least two and potentially three new council members.

It's a shake-up of leadership that leaves longtime residents shaking their heads.

But the change might not be as dramatic as that. All three mayoral candidates -- Bill Collins, Bill Lomax and Dickie Miler -- are longtime public figures.

Among the council candidates, Terry Jenkins, running unopposed, is a former town councilman. For all the focus on the vote as a milestone event, one candidate described campaigning in the neighborhoods as a "spaghetti goo" of localized issues.

The mayor's race is the biggest thing in decades because the town has changed so significantly, even in the decade since Jenkins last served, he said.

"The opportunity is significant. I don't think the changes themselves are, one by one," Jenkins said. "Berlin Myers has done a wonderful job protecting our past and keeping it for our future. But our future is moving fast and we have to catch up to it."

Among the challenges is positioning the town to compete with neighboring municipalities for the local, state and federal funding for infrastructure such as roads.

Because of those needs, one of the decisions facing the new council and mayor is whether to continue with its traditional "weak mayor" government or move to a strong, full-time mayor government such as North Charleston, Jenkins said.

"There are so many needs that are really critical to the town's future. How the next mayor takes us through that is critical. Despite the strong council, the mayor has to lead and the council has to support him," he said.

Summerville residents will seat a new mayor for the first time in nearly a half-century. Voters in Districts 2, 4 and 6 also will elect councilmen, at least two of whom will be new.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. To find out what district you live in, go to dorchestervotes.org and click on "Maps" at the top of the page.

Precincts and polling places:

--District 1: Fire Station 1, 300 W. 2nd North St.

--Districts 2 and 3: Cuthbert Community Center, 105 W. 5th South St.

--District 4: Cornerstone Baptist Church, 888 Central Ave.

--District 5: Fire Station 2, 110 Luden Drive

--District 6: Fire Station 3, 1701 Trolley Road

Candidates for mayor

Bill Collins: 68, 219 Sumter Ave., retired publisher

Top priority: Easing traffic congestion. Become a regular voice at the Charleston Area Transportation Study meetings where road funding is decided. Work with local, county and state government officials for funding.

Quote: "We have to finish the Berlin Myers Parkway."

Contacts: 873-9427, svillebill@comcast.net

Bill Lomax: 67, 112 Old Country Club Road, physician

Top priority: Build a consensus among divided council members and residents, and form a plan on what the town needs to accomplish in the next five years.

Quote: "Our community is so diverse now, and I don't think the new people feel involved in the town. They feel cut off. I think we need to bring them in, bring their ideas in."

Contacts: 873-6873, lomax4mayor@aol.com; Facebook

Dickie Miler: 56, 114 Dan Miler Lane, Realtor

Top priority: Change the climate of Town Hall to be more business friendly, by operating more transparently, reworking fees, streamlining licensing and permitting processes.

Quote: "I want Town Hall to be the most business-friendly town in America. I want to hang a sign that says, 'We are open for business. Welcome.' "

Contacts: 821-1111, rlmiler@bellsouth.com, milerformayor.com

Candidates for Town Council

Candidates Terry Jenkins (District 2) and Bill McIntosh (District 4) are unopposed.

Voters in District 6 will choose a councilman from among two candidates:

Bob Jackson: 54, 140 Summer Ridge Drive, incumbent, design engineer

Top priorities: Commercial development and revitalization of Oakbrook and downtown, including developing a park at Pine Trace, developing a master plan for Oakbrook and following through on a comprehensive plan concept to boulevard U.S. 78 between Sawmill Branch Canal and Alston Middle School, using tax district funding.

Quote: "The economy is turning around and commercial investment is coming. You need at least to have a plan in place, so when the opportunity arises you can act."

Contacts: 810-0449, rjackson28@bellsouth.net, Facebook

Billy Simons: 33, 503 The Grove, Realtor

Top priorities: Encourage economic development and commercial growth with a thorough examination of the tax and fee structure, as well as permitting issues that might be hampering businesses, and resolve budgetary issues by bringing business management experience to council.

Quote: "A lot of folks (in Oakbrook) don't really consider themselves part of the town. We have a diverse mix of people. I think we need a different perspective."

Contacts: 843-301-9459, voteforbillysimons.com