Candidates for sheriff, school board, house debate | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 19, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: October 19, 2016 at 11:04 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
The candidates for four of the contested races on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot came to the Colleton Museum and Farmer’s Market Oct. 11 to discuss their candidacies.
A debate, sponsored by The Press and Standard, I93.7 radio, Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative and the Colleton Museum, gave voters a chance to hear from those running for Colleton County sheriff, Colleton County School Board District 3, Colleton County School Board District 5 and the South Carolina House of Representatives District 121.
The approximately 150 people in attendance were joined in assessing the candidates by those listening to a live broadcast of the debate on PRTC’s radio station WALI I93.7.
Incumbent Colleton County Sheriff Andy Strickland and his challenger Otis Rhodes, the only contested race in county government, both said experience made them the best candidate in the race.
Rhodes said “my experience, my skills” made him the best candidate for sheriff. Rhodes has 21 years in law enforcement. “I am not afraid to tackle the tough task ahead.”
He said that during his time as chief of the Walterboro Police Department, the crime rate went down. He suggested that the gang investigations conducted by his department and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office prior to Strickland’s taking office four years ago was the starting point that led to last year’s federal indictment of Colleton County reputed gang members under the RICO organized crime statutes.
Strickland, touching on the fact that Rhodes was dismissed by his post as Walterboro Public Safety Director several years ago, said that he had a distinguished career in law enforcement and had never been fired.
Strickland, in seeking support for another four-year term, also pointed to the crime statistics released annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “As the incumbent, the crime rate is down, people throughout the county feel like it is safe again.”
“I’m not part of the problem, I’m part of the solution. The last four years has changed the negatives of law enforcement. I would like four more years to make it even better,” the sheriff said.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The debate brought the two candidates for the South Carolina House of Representatives seat from the 121 District together.
Democrat Michael Rivers Sr. of St. Helena Island and Republican James Broderick of Walterboro are seeking to replace St. Rep. Kenneth Hodges, who decided not to seek re-election. The house district contains a portion of Beaufort County and stretches from the Beaufort-Colleton county line to Walterboro and Bennetts Point.
Both men listed their governmental experience as pluses in their candidacy. Rivers is a member of the Beaufort County School Board, Broderick is a member of the Walterboro City Council.
Broderick told the audience that having him in Columbia representing the residents of the 121st District would benefit residents due to the fact that the Republican Party is the majority party in the state house.
Rivers suggested that partisanship is the problem in state government. “A good idea is a good idea” and if it comes from a Democrat or Republican should not matter, he said. He added that he is supportive of POP, People Over Politics, when it comes to governing.
Rivers said that he considered politics a bad word. Broderick said, “We are politicians, whether you like it or not.”
Rivers said he was “the right person at the right time, the right choice.”
Broderick told the audience he would “make sure everyone in the district is represented” if elected.
The three candidates in the race for School Board District Three were the first to climb onto the stage and face the voters.
District Three is an open race. A redistricting of district’s boundaries moved the incumbent, P.A. Pournelle, out of the district.
Seeking to replace him are Gale Doggette, Noel Ison and Sue Keith.
WALI radio’s Miles Crosby, who moderated the debate with The Press and Standard Publisher Barry Moore, asked the candidates why they were best qualified to serve on the school board.
Doggette, executive director of the South Carolina Artisan Center, said the school district “needs to be run like a business” and suggested that her experience in management made her the best candidate.
Ison said he was “uniquely qualified” for the school board seat because of his three years volunteering with the school district to spearhead a number of special projects. He too suggested his management experience would be a benefit.
When Keith learned that Pournelle would be leaving the District Three post, she thought that someone good needed to run. As she continued pondering, Keith added, she thought “They is us,” meaning she would throw her hat into the ring. “We must be involved in education.”
Keith also said that her management experience from her years working in the health care field gave her the knowledge to tackle the task.
All three candidates agreed that the school district had to find some way to improve teacher salaries and the wages paid to the district’s bus drivers in order to attract and retain good employees.
The three candidates seeking the District 3 seat then exited the stage, and Pournelle and Mary Jones took their place.
Forced to relinquish his current board seat, Pounelle decided to challenge incumbent Jones for the Fifth District.
Joining them on the stage was Patricia Simmons of Green Pond, who will be joining the school board as the representative from the Seventh District.
The redistricting that forced Pournelle from the Third District also moved William Bowman out of the Seventh District.
Simmons was the only candidate to file for election for the Seventh District and is therefore guaranteed a seat at the table when the new school board takes over. She was not asked questions but was given a change to introduce herself.
Also unopposed in the November race was Charles Murdaugh, the incumbent school board member for the First District.
Jones, who spent 36 years as an employee of the school district before being elected to the school board in 2008, told the audience the “school district is like home to me. It is my goal to make sure that all schools are treated fairly and given the best education to ensure that they become successful citizens in our society.”
Pournelle said he was best candidate as he has served on school board almost 30 years. He previously taught school after graduating from the Citadel. “My passion is public education — it is why I continue to run.”