Fountain Inn, Local, Mauldin, Politics, Simpsonville

Merritt wins run-off in Mauldin, McLeer takes over in Fountain Inn

With Simpsonville’s Paul Shewmaker already set for installation as their new Mayor on January 14, the other two neighboring communities had to wait until the runoff votes were counted. Terry Merritt unseated incumbent Dennis Raines in Mauldin and George McLeer defeated Sam Lee to complete the sweep of incumbents in the Tri-City area.

According to Fountain Inn ordinance, Mayor and Council elected officials are sworn in on the first meeting in December. George McLeer was installed at a ceremony just prior to the regularly scheduled Council meeting on December 2.

In Mauldin, Councilman Terry Merritt will be sworn in as Mauldin’s Mayor on January 6.

With the unique situation of having three new mayors representing these neighboring cities, the Sentinel thought it would be appropriate to propose a series of questions for these new city officials to answer in the same article.

The questions presented to the new mayors will be repeated in the article with the answers and comments from the three Mayors following.

What was the most important element of your campaign that resonated with citizens? Why do you think you won the election?

Terry Merritt:

My promise to be visible, available and factual. Staying positive for the future of Mauldin and being available.

Paul Shewmaker:

Communication was my big campaign theme and one of the main things I will concentrate on when I take office. This message must have resonated with the voters.

George McLeer:

During the campaign I knocked on over 1,200 doors, hosted or attended ten meet and greets, and had numerous one-on-one meetings with residents and business owners to hear their concerns. That level of access, openness, and communication was the most important part of the campaign, and was the part I also enjoyed the most. With the growth that we’re experiencing, residents were ready for a change in our approach.

What would you like to see accomplished during your first year in office?

Terry Merritt:

Actual progress on making our city center real and beginning of actual progress from SC DOT on our E. Butler Road from Mauldin High School to Highway 276.

Paul Shewmaker:

It’s important to continue the good work and plans that City Council has already put in place. There have been successes and I look forward to working together with the rest of council in continuing the good work they have under way.

George Mcleer:

One of my focuses will be working with our entire Council together as a team to identify common goals and work to address them. We will have our Council retreat in January where we will set those goals and then get to work reaching them. Ultimately, all of our accomplishments are made together as a Council and not individually.

As Mayor, your constitutional duties will include officiating at Council meetings. Do you plan to make any changes to procedures with regard to public participation or agenda preparations?

Terry Merritt:

My vision is to have our City Administrator, Mr. Brandon Madden, and myself to be visible and available at set dates, times and various locations to meet with citizens in a casual environment. Our council chambers must be updated so citizens can hear their elected officials as we conduct the cities business. I want our meeting agendas to be set and published no later than the Thursday afternoon prior to our regular monthly meeting on the following Monday night.

Paul Shewmaker:

I don’t plan to make changes to the procedure of how meetings are conducted other than doing my best to follow the standing rules as defined in the code of ordinances. There are legal implications in how agendas are set, motions and resolutions are adopted, and minutes are documented. This needs to stay crisp. As mentioned before I would like the citizens of Simpsonville to be more easily able to get information in advance so they can decide if they want to make informed comments in the time allotted at Council meetings. For example, if you look at a Simpsonville City Council meeting agenda and the supporting documents prior to a meeting, very limited information has been on offer. If you look at a Greenville County Council agenda you will see they publish extensive information prior to their meetings. Simpsonville should be able to do the same.

George McLeer:

Growth and transparency. Both of these issues are loaded with issues themselves – infrastructure, staff development, quality of life, public safety, etc. – but growth and transparency are the most important items in front of us. We can’t close Fountain Inn to progress, but we also don’t want to grow out of our small-town charm. That balance is going to take a lot of effort on our part. We will have to build relationships with property owners and developers to ensure that when development occurs, it complements our identity. We have to take into greater consideration the impact development has on our infrastructure and public safety and make sure we can accommodate growth. And we have to encourage development that strengthens our identity, not development that takes it for granted.
Positive growth though only occurs when the public is informed on it, and has had opportunities to have their voices heard. Government (at every level) should be much more easier to use and access. At every turn, we should be asking how to make the process and information more accessible to our residents and business owners.

What are the most important issues facing the city as you take office?

Terry Merritt:

Mauldin becoming more of a destination for dining and entertainment, continuing our Economic Development growth, along with proactive attention to our infrastructure issues.

Paul Shewmaker:

The most important issue is having a plan and as a subset of that, how to deal with traffic or at least not make it worse. Council has been working on a master plan and I’m getting up to speed as fast as possible. And there has been input taken and plans considered for how to deal with our traffic woes. Mostly I am keenly aware that there is much I don’t know and six members of council who have experience I don’t have. I’ve been meeting individually with council and city staff and I’ve been studying hard. I plan to hit the ground running

Paul Shewmaker:

The most important issue is having a plan and as a subset of that, how to deal with traffic or at least not make it worse. Council has been working on a master plan and I’m getting up to speed as fast as possible. And there has been input taken and plans considered for how to deal with our traffic woes. Mostly I am keenly aware that there is much I don’t know and six members of council who have experience I don’t have. I’ve been meeting individually with council and city staff and I’ve been studying hard. I plan to hit the ground running.

George McLeer:

Growth and transparency. Both of these issues are loaded with issues themselves – infrastructure, staff development, quality of life, public safety, etc – but growth and transparency are the most important items in front of us. We can’t close Fountain Inn to progress, but we also don’t want to grow out of our small town charm. That balance is going to take a lot of effort on our part. We will have to build relationships with property owners and developers to ensure that when development occurs, it complements our identity. We have to take into greater consideration the impact development has on our infrastructure and public safety and make sure we can accommodate growth. And we have to encourage development that strengthens our identity, not development that takes it for granted.
Positive growth though only occurs when the public is informed on it, and has had opportunities to have their voices heard. Government (at every level) should be much more easier to use and access. At every turn, we should be asking how to make the process and information more accessible to our residents and business owners.

With three municipalities only miles apart, are there any plans to communicate with other mayors on common issues? Swamp Rabbit Trail, public transportation, traffic issues etc.

Terry Merritt:

Absolutely, our three cities working together with visions and goals to make the GOLDEN STRIP a great place to live, work, play should be a priority for all three of us. I would like to see us get together on a regular basic with our respective City Administrators and discuss our goals and visions as defined by our duly elected councils.

Paul Shewmaker:

I’m looking forward to working together with mayors McLeer and Merritt. We are already making plans to get the three of us together along with our respective city administrators next month. I’m confident this is the beginning of an ongoing relationship and hopefully leads to a partnership where we can accelerate projects like the Swamp Rabbit Trail and coordinate our response to issues common to all our communities. With a sweep of the incumbents in all three cities I think the voters are expecting something better. Let’s get to work.

George McLeer:

During the campaign I began posting Agenda Summaries and also recordings of the Council Meetings – all to help citizens understand the issues being discussed, and hear, beyond our basic meeting minutes, how we made our decisions. I’ll continue to do that and make it a part of our process as a City.

The Sentinel pledges to be a vehicle for communication between these Mayors, Council members and our citizens. We encourage editorial submissions and contributing articles to enhance our information flow.
For information about the Sentinel you can reach us @ sentinelinternet.com or by calling our offices at 864-275-0001.♦

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