Dive deep into the City of Greenville’s upcoming elections on November 7 as we sit down with the candidates vying for your vote. Today, you’ll hear from Michelle Shain and Mayor Knox White, who are running for Greenville City Mayor. You’ll also hear from Dorothy Dowe, who is running for the Greenville City Council At-Large seat. Discover why they are running for office, what they think are the biggest issues facing the City of Greenville, their priorities if elected, and more. We’ve included a lot of helpful links below. Please take a listen and share with your neighbors.
[0:35] On Tuesday, November 7th, there are elections in all six cities within Greenville County.
I’m Katy Smith with Greater Good Greenville, and we are pleased to bring you interviews with most every candidate in contested races.
Today, we feature candidates for the City of Greenville’s Council and Mayor.
But first, a quick primer on City of Greenville elections. In odd-numbered years like this one, the City of Greenville holds elections for half of its City Council members, and in every four years it’s mayor.
Seats that are up for election this year on Greenville City Council are for one of the two at-large seats that represent the whole city, District 1 that generally represents North Main and Botany Woods, and District 3 that generally runs along 385 and represents Nicholtown. Our mayor’s seat is also up for election this year.
No one filed to run against the incumbent in District 1, John DeWorkin, nor against District 3’s Ken Gibson, so while we appreciate their continued service, we are not featuring an interview with them.
The mayor and at-large seat are contested, so in this episode you’ll hear from mayoral candidates Michelle Shain, and incumbent Knox White, as well as at-large incumbent Dorothy Dowe.
Dorothy does have an opponent, Randall Fowler, but he has declined to participate in an interview, so unfortunately you will not hear from him.
Here’s how the interviews worked. All candidates received the same questions at the time of their invitation to join us and were given ten minutes for their interview.
[2:02] Candidates were allowed to bring along a companion, such as a campaign manager, family member or friend, and to record our session themselves. There were no edits made to the interview.
If you’d like to hear more from these City of Greenville candidates, we encourage you to join us in person at a candidate forum we’re hosting in partnership with the League of Women Voters for the City of Greenville on Monday, October 16th at Wade Hampton High School.
[2:43] First up is the mayoral race, and alphabetically, we’ll hear first from Michelle Shane.
Dorothy Dowe, Randall Fowler, Michelle Shain, and Knox White are all slated to participate. To learn more about the event, visit our website, simplecivicsgreenvillecounty.org, and click Resources. We’ve put links to the participating candidates’ preferred internet presence on the episode page.
Michelle Shain is here. Michelle, thanks so much for joining us today and for your willingness to serve.
Michelle Shain:[2:53] Thank you, Katy, for having me here to do this podcast, and I appreciate the opportunity.
Katy Smith:[2:58] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.
Michelle Shain:[3:02] Well, I’m running for mayor because after 28 years, I feel it’s time to really ask ourselves, where do we want to grow from here?
If we don’t make a change in City Hall, Greenville’s on track to have the traffic of Atlanta, the sprawl of Charlotte, and the prices of Charleston.
I have the experience we need to continue our growth, but work to make it more balanced and compatible with the Greenville that we all want to see.
Whether you moved here yesterday because of the charm Greenville offers, or you’ve been here for generations, We all share concern about the impact of this accelerated growth we’re seeing.
I’ve lived in Greenville for 45 years and I’ve been serving the community here for over 30 years.
I grew up on a dirt road on Norris Lake in East Tennessee. I graduated from the University of Tennessee and got a master’s degree at the University of South Carolina.
I’ve been married for 45 years to Michael Shain. We have three children, a daughter and son-in-law. A daughter son-in-law, six grandchildren.[4:03] Michael is a Greenville native who grew up in a family business and so did I.
I actually ran a small business for 11 years and I know what it’s like to meet a payroll.
I served two terms, eight years, as an at- large member of City Council where I was the head of the Economic Development committee at really a pivotal time in our city’s history.
Projects that I oversaw as chair included transformational projects such as Falls Park, which has the Liberty Bridge, Greenville Drive’s Fluor Field, where I helped deliver the deal that saw the team build the stadium on their dime rather than the taxpayers, and the true mixed-use River Place development.[4:43] No time in history have we seen so much transformation happen along Main Street.
So also during and after my time on council, I continued to serve the community.
I was recruited and worked as interim executive director for five nonprofit organizations, starting with the Community Foundation of Greenville, the Children’s Museum in the upstate, YWCA, a Child’s Haven, and I retired from United Way of Greenville as the on-track interim executive director.
Katy Smith:[5:12] What do you believe are the biggest issues that Greenville is facing?
Michelle Shain:[5:16] Thank you for asking me that. I feel like we’re facing multiple overlapping issues.
It’s complicated, but it’s caused by accelerated growth.
Some of the things include homes that new and longtime residents can no longer afford.
Many of our longtime residents are being pushed out.
Traffic and neglected infrastructure that we must update instead of waiting for a crisis.
We’re seeing an the increased risk to erosion of our green space, very important.
And we need more protection for small businesses that have made Greenville be who Greenville is. That’s the secret sauce.
And they’re really struggling to stay, in particular on Main Street, because of rents.
We have an affordability crisis that’s also affecting public safety.
We have police and firefighters, as well as other critical workforces like teachers, being priced out of the city they serve.
Katy Smith:[6:12] What would be your priorities if elected this year?
Michelle Shain:[6:16] I think that, I’m going to go back one time to say a little more definition around what is attainable housing mean.
It’s really seniors on fixed income and the next generation of Greenville residents who want to live and work here as young adults, veterans on fixed incomes and our longtime residents.
We simply can’t trade tread water and keep up with this issue.
We actually have to get ahead of it to protect everyone’s investment in Greenville.
Teacher housing is being built in Fairfield County as one innovative solution that maybe we should consider.
Traffic and neglected infrastructure, what does that mean? More development means more issues for stormwater and for sewer pipes. Some of the pipes are over 100 years old.
And we also need more equal access to city amenities like sidewalks and parks.
These things are have simply not been adequately addressed and we’ve got some work to do there.
Katy Smith:[7:11] Great, well we have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to listeners?
Michelle Shain:[7:17] You asked me about the priorities and so let me touch that real quickly.
We have a missing inventory of homes. Cost of homes for seniors on fixed incomes, I’ve already talked about young families who have skyrocketed.
The cost of skyrocketed traffic congestion is up. Our neglected infrastructure like stormwater drainage and aging pipes are outdated, I’ve already said, and overburdened because of accelerated growth.
And we need more robust public transportation, which I know is an important thing to most people, so that our neighborhoods are better connected to, as they continue to grow into jobs, into other park amenities and jobs.
But we need to ensure that our downtown and hospitality workforce have sufficient options to live close to where they work.
And we need to revisit smart, safe ideas like park and rides and additional parking options, even for our city high schools, they’re struggling.
And it’s very important to address, again, the increased risk of erosion of green spaces overdevelopment can bring and I would update our infrastructure today so it can handle the growth of tomorrow.[8:27] So we really we need a mayor who not only believes we can do both balance the gravel that we know and love and and to restore balance to development but we need a mayor who can do both or who’s willing to do both and taking on those critical growth challenges will be my first priority.
To find out more about me, please go to my website, www.michelleforgreenville.com, and we hope you’ll vote November 7th. And one last thing I’d love to add is, you know, we’re a postcard city.
We’re on every top ten list. I also want us to be a city where solutions are born.
Because we are innovative, collaborative and creative and that spirit is what make real who it is. And I want us to be more than just command and control.
I want us to be utilizing all of the assets we have in our backyard from Furman to Clemson to USC to Greenville Tech to Wofford, North Greenville, everybody can come together and help us figure this out.
I think that’s really important to be collaborative, But we’re smart here.
We have the brainpower. Let’s use it and let’s be the city that people say, let’s go see how they did that.
So thank you very much for having me today.
Katy Smith:[9:44] Thank you, Michelle, for being with us and thank you so much for raising your hand to serve.
Next up is incumbent Knox White. So I’m so pleased to be joined today by Mayor Knox White, who is running for re-election. Thanks for being with us today and for your service.
Mayor Knox White:[9:58] Thank you. Glad to be here. Excited to be here.
Katy Smith:[10:00] Well tell us about yourself and why you are running for re-election.
Mayor Knox White:[10:03] Okay well thank you very much. I’m a native of Greenville which makes me a little unusual.
I went to Christ School and Greenville High School and off to Wake Forest and USC Law School where I was an immigration lawyer for many years.
Here in Greenville I’ve got two wonderful grandchildren.[10:19] I’m in that great category of having kids who left Greenville after college and came back and suddenly discovered that Greenville’s a cool place to be, that Greenville’s an opportunity city.
So I’m living that in my own life, that my own kids came back.
I think if I’d asked them to come back to Greenville, they would’ve looked at me like, never, no, I’m not gonna do that. But they did, and it says, Marcia and I are blessed to have two grandchildren right around the corner from us.
I’m running for mayor because this is an exciting time in the city of Greenville.
It’s always been my goal to make Greenville the most beautiful and livable city in America. I’ve kept that as my mantra all these many years.
And now that we’re on the top 10 list for most livable city, for most family-friendly city.
I’m still excited about where we’re gonna go from here. We have so much going on.
We do everything in the city for the people who live here, whether it’s Falls Park, Unity Park, or even our new code.
It’s just great to see people who are excited about Greenville.
But I’m running because we’re at a moment in history coming out of COVID, we’re kind of running on all cylinders.
The economy’s strong, people are coming to Greenville, they do see this as an opportunity city.
And I want to use this opportunity to really push the new initiatives that we have out there for neighborhoods, for affordable housing, for new green space.
The new code, I’m going to talk about in a minute, I’m sure.
Those are the reasons I’m running for re-election.
Katy Smith:[11:40] Great. What do you believe are the biggest issues we’re facing in the city of Greenville?
Mayor Knox White:[11:46] Well, we’re fortunate that our issues are issues related to our success.
Again, coming out of COVID, we need to remember this, a lot of cities have reversed, have gone backwards.
Crime is on the rise in cities across the country, major cities, but also in South Carolina and North Carolina. A lot of cities have seen their downtowns fall back again.
We’re just the opposite. We’re on every cylinder. Our downtown has never been stronger. We have more retail than ever before.
People are still moving to our community. Jobs are still here.
A very different situation. And crime in Greenville is actually down.
So our issues are about growth. It’s about how we manage our success.
And I like to say how we shape our growth. To me, that’s the big issue.
Katy Smith:[12:28] Great. Well, what would be your priorities if reelected this year?
Mayor Knox White:[12:33] Well, the priorities are going to focus all around how we do shape our growth.
Touch on a few things. When you have a growing community, you’re going to have more traffic, for example.
And what I like about our city council is that we’re never just doing the usual thing.
We look to be innovative, to do things that no other city does.
So when we talk about traffic, we look at things like the parallel parkway.
People said it was impossible to deal with traffic on Woodruff Road.
We found a way with the parallel parkway.
Augusta Road is an issue we’ve been working on for years. The new reworking of the traffic calming on Augusta Road is a good example.
We do things that other cities simply don’t do. And then the neighborhoods, we have traffic calming, speed humps, and those kind of things, all about managing and shaping the growth that we have.[13:19] Affordable housing, of course, is a high priority because when you have a community that people want to be a part of, people move here.
One of the issues you have across the country in successful cities is affordable housing because housing prices are driven by the market.
Well, our strategy, getting back to your real priorities for the coming years, our strategy is about pushing back against the market.
A lot of cities just say, well, can’t do anything about that, just like dealing with traffic on Woodruff Road. We think we can.
So our strategy has been to push against the market and doing the kind of things we’re doing in affordable housing.[13:56] I’ll touch on that along with some other issues we have, but let me just kind of continue in that vein.
We began to fund to address the affordable housing gap, and it is a gap, sometime after 2012, 2013, setting up committees to really look around the country for best practices.
What are other cities that are ahead of us in the growth curb, what are they doing about issues of affordable housing?[14:17] And the best advice we got was to set up a housing fund, an independent non-profit group that can leverage public money and do more with it. So, we set up the Greenville Housing Fund in 2018.
In short order, I think we had a goal of $3 million. We actually managed $10 million. So, $10 million for the Greenville Housing Fund, and they created over 1,000 new housing units.
In 2023, we tripled that amount. We’re looking for ability for the Greenville Housing Fund to leverage our dollars to create a fund of $30 million.[14:53] That’s the largest investment in affordable housing in South Carolina by far.
Charleston, I think, is 24 million.
We’re going to be 30 million when this process is underway. And we’re doing it, unlike a lot of cities, without a tax increase.
Puts us in a very rarefied position too.
But all of this is, you know, sounds like numbers, but behind the numbers is the creation of new housing units. And we have a goal there.
Our goal is to close the gap of about 3,700 units in the city, not speaking of the county, just the city.
And we’re confident that with this investment, we’re going to meet that goal.
In fact, my goal is to exceed that goal, and I believe we will.
So it’s a combination of new investment dollars into affordable housing and in combination with, and this is very important, the new incentives we put in place in our zoning code.
Because under this new land-use code that people heard about, there are powerful incentives in there for multifamily developers, in particular, to include affordable housing in their developments, that we have been pushing every developer we can to always include 20% set aside.[15:59] With this new code, we have new tools to make that happen.
So a combination of incentives to the private sector and real cash investments is going to help us exceed the goal that we have for closing the affordable housing gap. I’ve had people say, well, how can Greenville close the gap like that?[16:17] Greenville’s different. We frequently take on issues that other people can’t seem to solve. Look at our downtown.
Look at the way this community handled the issue years ago of substandard housing.
We had neighborhoods 20 years ago that were over half the houses were uninhabitable.
We had house fires. We had crime rampant, et cetera. You don’t find that today.
So we can tackle big things and do things that other cities don’t do.
And that’s what we’re going to do in the affordable housing side, incentives and investment.[16:47] The other big issue, a priority for me, is public safety. Getting back again to coming out of COVID, a lot of cities across this country are seeing a spike in violent crime.
We’re seeing that, unfortunately, in Asheville, North Carolina, close in, some other cities in South Carolina.
Greenville has been just the opposite. Our crime has gone down as our city has grown, has gone down after COVID. So public safety is still a huge priority for the city.
This year in our budget, we’re hiring 16 new police officers.
That includes more police officers, special resource officers in our schools, which has been a high priority of the city council, to get more resource officers in our schools, but 16 new police officers.
We’re also investing in our law enforcement by renovating a building for a new police headquarters. I don’t know if people have heard about this, but it’s a big deal for the city.
We’re spending a lot of money on this one, a new police headquarters, something we wanted to do for many years out on Halton Road.
The current LEC, where they work with the county, is a 1970s building.
To be blunt about it, it’s a miserable place to work, and I wouldn’t ask our police officers to work there. So, new police headquarters. And then finally….[17:54] We’re investing in neighborhoods as we have for many years. Just as we’re going big on affordable housing, we’re also going big on neighborhood investment.
So this past year, the city council, actually two years ago, excuse me, we approved a $24 million bond for neighborhood infrastructure.
That’s $24 million for sidewalks, traffic calming, road repaving. It’s unprecedented.
It falls in a long line of great investments in neighborhoods. We’ll be doing that now.
By the way, road repaving, just to be specific about something, next year we’re going to fund $18 million of road repaving in the city, which is a record, by the way.
So we’re doing these kind of things because we always put neighborhoods first and neighborhood investments important.
And I want to mention quickly some surprises. Maybe they’re in store.
I hate utility polls that we’re going to underground more utilities, especially on Augusta Road, $10 million in utility undergrounding next year.
Expansion of our trail system, we just expanded and on Lawrence Road, we’re going to do it again. So get ready for that. And we’re also going to be expanding the wetlands at Unity Park. So lots in store.
I think at the end of the day, though, it’s a great honor to be Mayor of Greenville, but at the same time, I want to keep… We want Greenville to be the most beautiful, livable city in America, but I also want Greenville to be a place that’s welcoming to everyone. That’s why housing is important.
That’s why green space is important, great public spaces. And finally, we need a city where civility still rules.[19:21] My city council operates on a nonpartisan basis. We rejected hyper-partisanship.
I don’t want to ever see the city of Greenville go in that direction.
Civility still matters.
And at the end of the day, it’s about the residents here and the fact that my kids have come home. A lot of kids are coming back to Greenville, a lot of grandchildren coming back to Greenville.
At the end of the day maybe that’s the best test of whether we’re on the right track.
Katy Smith:[19:44] Excellent. Well thank you so much for joining us and thank you for your willingness to serve again.
Next is the At-Large seat and we’ll hear from Dorothy Dowe.
Well I’m pleased to be here with Dorothy Dowe who’s running for re-election for Greenville City Council At-Large. Dorothy thanks for joining us today.
Dorothy Dowe:[20:01] Thanks for having me.
Katy Smith:[20:02] Well tell us about yourself and why you are running for re-election.
Dorothy Dowe:[20:05] Sure. So in 1989 I was fortunate enough to be recruited to come here to work along with my husband with what was then the largest engineering firm in Greenville.
CRS Serene Engineers, now called Jacobs Engineering Group.
We have two beautiful children, Bailey and Parker, who are both grown.
They were born here and educated in the Greenville County Public School System.
I hold a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University and my professional engineering license is in the state of Alabama and after coming here I earned my MBA from the Darla Moore School of business at USC.
So I spent the 23 years raising my children for…[20:48] You know, to be good citizens and devoting myself to serving our community.
I’ve been my Neighborhood Association President, a member of the City Public Safety Citizen Review Board.
I served on multiple nonprofit boards, including Pleasant Valley Connection, the League of Women Voters, Rosewood House of Recovery, and I currently serve on the board for United Ministries.
I’m an elder at my church, Westminster Presbyterian.
When raising my children, I gained extensive experience as a PTA volunteer, rising to the ranks of president of PTA, as well as Sports Booster Club leadership.
My current professional role, my so-called day job, is I own my own small business.
I own Strategic Vectors Academic Planning and Consulting, and I founded that with a partner over 10 years ago.
So I was elected to council in 2019 as Greenville’s at-large city council member, and for the last four years, I applied what I learned as an involved citizen prior to being elected to serving the people that I worked with and beside for the last 34 years in Greenville.
My constituents include every citizen, every resident of Greenville, as well as the city’s stakeholders.[22:00] So in my role on council, I also have several positions that I was appointed to by the mayor.
I am the liaison to the Greenville Transit Authority, the liaison to the Greenville downtown airport, the liaison to visit Greenville, South Carolina, and I was elected by my fellow council members to serve as vice mayor pro tem beginning in 2021.
So I’m basically all things transportation and tourism in these liaison roles and stand as third in line to the mayor and council member, Brock Fleming, as vice mayor pro tem.
But all of these experiences have really allowed me to build strong relationships with the doers of our community and give back to our community in multiple ways of service.
I’m running for re-election because I believe I’m doing solid work on council.
I’m running on my record and I really enjoy my job so I want to continue that service. It’s been a great privilege.
I think the quality of life for every Greenvillian is where I want to keep our focus on council in the next four years and I recognize that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Now more than ever I believe we need experienced people on council who understand the issues we’re facing, who are good listeners, who can take input and provide the information to ensure that our constituents and stakeholders stay engaged.
And I want to continue the service to be willing to make the hard decisions that represent our best interest as a community.
Katy Smith:[23:25] Great. What do you believe are the biggest issues that are facing Greenville?
Dorothy Dowe:[23:30] So at the macro level, I think managing our growth is always going to continue to be our big issue going forward. We are facing the same challenges that other successful cities are.
We do have a workforce shortage.
We do have a strong economic development group that’s helping to build Greenville, but we have to improve our access to affordable housing and address our transportation challenges.
But all of these things are interconnected and it’s going to take strong leadership and experience in Greenville to manage those going forward.
Katy Smith:[24:00] Great. What would be your priorities if re-elected?
Dorothy Dowe:[24:05] So I ran in 2019 prioritizing access to affordable housing, access to transportation and managing our growth to bring us forward.
I want to continue those priorities but I also want to add in some work on really looking at our infrastructure lying beneath the surface of the grounds.
We do have a lot of storm water sewer infrastructure that needs our attention and needs prioritizing.
I also think we can do a better job on addressing our sustainability goals and I’d like to roll up my sleeves and get my hands into that some.
I certainly will continue to be the champion for affordable housing funding and finding revenue streams to support that as well as improving our mobility options in Greenville.
I just think it’s really important that in these next four years we have the A-team on deck.
I said that a lot in 2019, I still believe that and I absolutely believe that I have the background and the skill set and the knowledge of the city as a longtime resident to be part of that A-team.
Katy Smith:[25:02] Wonderful. Well we have a little bit more time left is there anything else you’d like to tell our listeners?
Dorothy Dowe:[25:09] Sure, you know, I think it’s really important for our listeners to stay engaged.
We will be regularly reviewing and revising our new Greenville Development Code and I intend to be a champion of that as I was in getting it across the finish line.
We’ll be bringing on our new intelligent transportation system to help with our traffic challenges and I want to be scrutinizing that very closely to see if it’s helping us do what we want to do to improve the quality of life for our citizens.
Very soon we’ll be updating the tree ordinance as well as identifying sustainability-driven projects that we can bring forward.
So I just ask that my constituents stay engaged. I will continue to be a great communicator for them. They can follow me on social channels at DoweDorothy and certainly subscribe to my quarterly newsletter where I really do my best to communicate all the news of the city.
Katy Smith:[25:58] Wonderful. Dorothy, thanks so much for being with us today, and thanks so much for your service to our community.
Dorothy Dowe:[26:04] Thank you.
Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of Podcast Studio X.
Image via Kruck20 on Canva.