Last night my little town of Lamar, South Carolina, hosted a candidates forum to give voters an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for Town Council and the Mayor’s race. Our Town employees did an excellent job organizing the event, which was held in the Fire Department’s fire truck bay. I brought some sound equipment and setup a very basic sound system for the candidates.
There are two Council seats up for election, which Councilwoman Mary Mack and myself currently occupy. We’re both running for re-election, so we are officially running unopposed. Residents will have two votes to cast in the Town Council race, one for each position.
As such, Councilwoman Mack and I were invited to tell voters a bit about ourselves and our visions for the town. The main event was the mayoral forum, which was structured in a series of questions (nine or ten) posed to each candidate. The mayoral candidates received their questions in advance, and the audience was not allowed to ask questions (although I think several people did after the forum formally adjourned).
Both candidates acquitted themselves nicely, differing mainly in the margins. Councilwoman Inez Lee focused on cleaning up the town, literally and metaphorically, frequently invoking Franklin Roosevelt’s “First Hundred Days”: we have a number of dilapidated buildings on Main Street that are eyesores. James Howell, a local landscaper, focused on improving the town’s infrastructure and zoning to make the town more attractive to businesses.
All candidates for all offices touted the need to fix Lamar’s water system, so we sell our own water again. We are currently purchasing around four million gallons of water each month from the Darlington County Water and Sewage Authority, paying rates that are onerously high for residents.
As for my little blurb, I focused on a few areas: improving public safety by expanding our police department; encouraging growth by advertising Lamar’s attractive qualities and proximity to nearby communities; and improving/restoring delivery of basic services, such as reopening Town Hall more than two days a week, and—of course—fixing our water system.
If anything, I wish the event had been open to questions from the public. Granted, I was relieved not to be put on the spot—ha!—but that’s kind of the point when running for office. I certainly don’t have an answer for everything—and I’d be the first to say so to a constituent—but questions are a great way to learn what really matters to people. Questions also force elected officials to stay sharp.
Regardless, it was a good event, and I was thankful that all candidates had an opportunity to speak to voters. Now for the election!