EDITOR'S NOTE: North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who is beginning his sixth term in office after his Nov. 8 landslide, recently sat down with reporter Robert Behre to talk about his city's future.
P&C: As you campaigned for re-election and listened to voters, what did you learn?
Summey: "The overwhelming majority that came out to the (campaign) cookouts are satisfied with their government. They may have little issues that to them are important, major issues, but overall, with where our crime rate has gone, our image and the services they receive, overwhelmingly, people were satisfied. ... The 78 percent vote we got was not just vindication of my service but of what they (city employees) do on a daily basis."
P&C: What's North Charleston's biggest traffic issue or infrastructure need?
Summey: "I think the state is going to have to come in, with the port access road potential, and they've got to help us deal with the widening of Interstate 26, basically from I-526 to the peninsula. ... One of the other things we have to do is find a location on the upper Dorchester Road corridor for a Park and Ride and work with CARTA (the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority)."
P&C: What is the update on the city's standoff with the state over railroad plans on the former Charleston Naval Base?
Summey: "We're still in negotiations. I think the state would like to see it resolved. I know we would like to see it resolved without litigation, but so far, we haven't reached any point that indicates that. The primary issue is still where the rail yard is going to be. ... If it's going to be resolved without litigation, I think it will happen within the next three to five months."
P&C: What is the most important thing the governor and state Legislature can do in the coming year?
Summey: "The biggest concern I have is that they quit bickering and do something. It's the same concern we have with what's going on in Washington. They're constantly fighting each other and accomplishing nothing. ... This has been going on now for nine years, and if you look at the budget, the economy of the state of South Carolina, it's showing."
P&C: What is the biggest step the city can take to keep its crime rate falling?
Summey: "We have to continue to get public input, but we need to keep the course in being very aggressive in deterring crime. I make no apologies for that."
P&C: What is the city's biggest capital project in the works?
Summey: "If you ride by and look at where we park all of our garbage trucks (on Aragon Avenue), the garage facility is not adequate. The offices are not adequate. ... We've already gone through the design phase for a new ($35 million to $38 million) public works facility that will go off Remount Road on property we got from the Navy. It will be a state-of-the-art public works facility. ... We don't foresee any tax increase."
P&C: Following your recent knee surgery, how is your health?
Summey: "I'm walking again. ... If you look at my health over the years, it has all been joint-related. As far as my heart, my blood pressure was taken yesterday and I'm 130 over 82. My pulse rate was 78. I just had a physical the other day, and all my blood work came back excellent. I actually feel better at 64 than I did at 54."
P&C: You're thinking about running again in four years. What about after that?
Summey: "I would think at 72 (years of age), I would be ready to step out. I would like to have an arrangement where I could still be an ombudsman, an unpaid one. I love the city. I've worked very hard for the past 17 years. At the end of this term, it would be 21. One more would be 25. I would like to make sure there is someone who comes along who loves it as much as I do and would fight for it as hard as I do."
P&C: Will your son (Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey) follow in your footsteps and run for mayor one day?
Summey: "I think that's a decision he will have to make. I'm one of these people who believe you should let your children make their own decisions. That's why my son's name is Joseph Elliott and not Raymond Keith Jr. I want him to have his own way."