The only contested election in the town of Fort Mill is for the Ward 3 Town Council seat. Incumbent Larry Huntley initially won the seat in a special election to fill the term of his predecessor, who died before his term ended. Huntley, who then won another term in an uncontested election, is now being challenged by candidate Julia Beilsmith.
Fort Mill council members serve four-year terms. (Note: Even though Fort Mill has council wards, voting is at-large, meaning all registered voters who reside inside town limits can vote in this election).
We asked both of the candidates to answer the following five questions:
1. We recently ran a story about the quarterly workshop meetings the town has been holding outside Fort Mill. Do you think this practice discourages public participation? Please explain.
2. If elected/re-elected, would you try to change the policy and encourage the town to hold all public meetings inside town limits?
3. Should the town limit residential growth and why or why not?
4. What does the town lack as far as commercial growth and what can be done about it?
5. What's the biggest issue facing the constituents in the ward you want to represent?
Here are their answers, which were sent to us by email. They have not been edited.
Name: Julia Beilsmith
Occupation: Application Engineer
Political experience: I have worked with and for city, county and state governments for 15 years.
1. It can discourage public participation if there is no one from the area that they are visiting invited from that area needed at the meeting. It should be posted well in advance where the meeting will be held if public participation is of great importance. A note should be added that if they have a quorum. Minutes should be written for the record so that citizens can review as needed or for outsiders coming in like myself to stay up to speed on city business.
2. I would encourage the meetings to be held where the people we are represented and are best available to attend or are best represented by the boards actions. If they don't have the recording equipment how can people like me who watch the meetings on TV keep up? How can the citizens represented by the board keep up with actions taken?
3. We as a community need to be very active in planning and developing the area. The last few years have set a precedence that the growth is not stopping. It will continue with or without Fort Mill's buy in. Community developers will find someone that will give them water and sewer. If we want a say in the growth we need to be involved from the start.
4. We need to take care of the businesses that we have and actively plan with businesses that are looking at our community. Offer the prospective businesses attractive incentives to come to our community. Look for innovative avenues to get our youth involved in developing in our community.
5. The largest issue facing my ward is aging and under sized infrastructure that supports the community. We have multiple communities that are reaching there useful lives of their water and sewer lines and many people that are using the under sized roadways daily in our town.
Name: Larry Huntley
Occupation: Retired from Boral Brick Inc after 17 years as plant manager at the Van Wyck plant
Political experience: Seven years on town council, member of Fort Mill Economic Council, chairman Public Works committee
1. We have about the same amount of public participation whether we meet in town or another location. If moving the workshops back to town would increase public participation, then I would certainly be in favor of it.
2. I am receptive to any ideas that would increase public participation.
3. Fort Mill by itself cannot limit growth. If Fort Mill approved no new building, then York County and Tega cay would just build up to our town limits. We would have the same problems but we would have no say in the matter. A comprehensive plan with York county and Tega Cay is the only solution.
4. We essentially have no commercial growth. We have looked for innovative ways to encourage growth and redevelopment through changes in our zoning codes. The code was altered at Fort Mill Square (old Food Lion) to make it more attractive for redevelopment.
5. It is difficult to name a single issue. Growth, traffic, and infrastructure are all major problems that affect not only Ward 3, but all of Fort Mill. I have addressed growth in Question 3. Traffic will have to be a join effort between SCDOT and Pennies for Progress with input from Fort Mill. Infrastructure is being addressed now.