City of Simpsonville: Getting to Know Your Candidates

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Dive deep into the City of Simpsonville’s upcoming elections on November 7 as we sit down with the candidates vying for your vote. Today, you’ll hear from Janice Curtis and Paul Shewmaker, who are running for Simpsonville City Mayor. You’ll also hear from Ward 1 candidates Erin Medlin, Chad O’Rear, and Skip Strong. Lastly, you’ll hear from Ward 5 candidates Tim Pinkerton and Jermaine Smith. Discover why they are running for office, what they think are the biggest issues facing the City of Simpsonville, their priorities if elected, and more. We’ve included a lot of helpful links below. Please take a listen and share with your neighbors.

Candidate Links:

Janice Curtis for Mayor

Paul Shewmaker for Mayor

Erin Medlin for Ward 1

Chad O’Rear for Ward 1

Skip Strong for Ward 1

Tim Pinkerton for Ward 5

Jermaine Smith for Ward 5

Election Resources:

Check Your Voter Registration Status

View Your Sample Ballot

Look Up Who Represents You

Transcript

Katy Smith:

[0:09] 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 Simpsonville.

But first, a quick primer on elections in the City of Simpsonville.

In odd number years like this one, the City of Simpsonville holds elections for half of its city council members and in every four years for its mayor.

Seats that are up for election on Simpsonville City Council are for the mayor, Ward 1, Ward 3, and Ward 5.

For mayor, incumbent Paul Shewmaker is running for re-election, and he’s opposed by Janice Curtis and Warner Bouzek.

In Ward 1, Erin Medlin, Chad O’Rear, and Skip Strong are running for the seat currently held by Matthew Gooch, who is not running for re-election.

In Ward 3, Shannon Williams is running unopposed for the seat currently held by Jan Houlihan, who is not running for re-election.

And in Ward 5, Tim Pinkerton and Jermaine Smith are running for the seat currently held by Ken Cummings, who is also not running for re-election.

If you’d like to hear more from these 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 Simpsonville on Wednesday, October 18th at the Simpsonville Activity Center.

To learn more about the event, visit our website, simplecivicsgreenvillecounty.org.

[1:37] And click Resources. On this episode, you’ll hear from all but one of the candidates running.

Warner Bouzek did not respond to numerous calls and emails inviting him to participate.

If you live in Simpsonville and you’re not sure who will be on your ballot, you can check out the links on this episode page to see a map of Simpsonville’s district and to check your sample ballot.

Here’s how the interviews worked. All candidates received the same questions at the time of their invitation to join us and were given 10 minutes for their interview.

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. We’ve put links to their preferred internet presence on the episode page.

First up is the mayoral race, and alphabetically, we’ll hear from Janice Curtis.

Well, I’m here with Janice Curtis from Simpsonville, who’s joining us today to talk about her candidacy.

Janice, thanks so much for joining us and for your willingness to serve.

Can you tell us first about yourself and why you’re running for election?

Janice Curtis:

[2:41] Sure. Thank you for having me here today, by the way.

I’m Janice Curtis. I live in the beautiful city of Simpsonville, South Carolina, where my husband, George, and I have raised our children.

I am so blessed that now our children and four grandchildren get to enjoy our great community as well.

I currently own a facial spa and Merle Norman Cosmetics studio.

I have operated my small business for nearly two decades on Fairview Road in Simpsonville.

I am a proud member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation.

I do travel to my reservation to always vote for our chief, tribal council members, and to vote on issues that affect our tribe.

Gives us all a voice for the direction you want our tribe to go in.

I’ve served as president of the Simpsonville Rotary, a board member of Milltown Players, Celebrate Up State Veterans, the State Board of Cosmetology, and I’ve served as mayor of Simpsonville from 2016 until 2020.

[3:45] During my service as mayor, I and my council team accomplished some wonderful amenities to our community, which include the Simply Home logo and branding, the beautiful Simpsonville Arts Center, the ever-popular Swamp Rabbit Trail on Main Street, public restrooms in the downtown, new public works equipment, and might I add, whenever I took office in 2016, our public works equipment was falling apart, being held together with bailing wire and duct tape.

We had equipment that was leaking waste and constantly breaking down.

All taxpayers deserved better and got better under my leadership.

[4:29] I initiated the Palmetto Pride Cleanup Day in Simpsonville where thousands of pounds of trash and debris were collected annually.

I headed up various fundraisers for city park projects that includes funds to place a cover over the small amphitheater in the city park.

I worked to raise funds for the sensory playground for children with disabilities and I and my fellow council members even served up a pancake breakfast to raise funds for that playground.

I worked with Habitat for Humanity for the beautiful development in our city meal village.

I worked alongside some of my fellow council team members, city employees, county council members, and the homeowners themselves.

Habitat for Humanity requires the homeowners to invest sweat equity in their home while being constructed.

And my personal favorite, I personally did numerous readings of books to our children in various schools in the Golden Strip.

Plus, I passed out dictionaries to elementary school children with my Simpsonville Rotary Group.

It is such a rewarding feeling to visit the elementary schools and see the children’s smiling faces.

As a member of the Simpsonville Chamber of Commerce, I perform countless ribbon cuttings for new businesses and welcome them all into our community.

[5:53] I have established and maintained relationships with various members of the community, municipalities, the county, state, and federal representatives and find these relationships have been most helpful in navigating through leadership roles.

Katy Smith:

[6:09] Great, well what do you believe the biggest issues are that are facing Simpsonville?

Janice Curtis:

[6:13] Some of the biggest issues today that are facing Simpsonville would have to be communication.

As the mayor sustained communication with the county will be acquired.

I will have county representatives at the very least to advise and discuss new development that will impact our city going on in the county.

The city currently requires of all new developments, has requirements with all new developments within the city.

These requirements could be an incorporated additional requirement by the county as well.

I will initiate discussions to bring about change and collaboration.

The traffic of course, traffic is an issue all across Greenville.

The traffic must be addressed. There will be traffic overflow into the communities and backups during road improvements that are planned and to not have additional safety precautions in place is completely unacceptable.

[7:14] The city has a traffic plan in place which will take at least 18 months to two years to complete.

And those pains will be felt during the transitional period.

They need to be addressed today.

Day one, I will open a realistic discussion with state and city on traffic flow during this transitional period. I will communicate the findings and the impact to the community, including the business owners in the downtown area.

In addition to that, we have some flooding issues in Simpsonville.

Some of our residents are experiencing massive flooding and property destruction when we have heavy rains.

I’ve already reached out and met with county, state, and federal representatives for help.

Together we can make a difference in abating and correcting our stormwater issues in the city.

Doing nothing is not a reasonable option for taxpayers in our city.

I myself have experienced flooding at my home. This must be addressed.

Katy Smith:

[8:16] Thank you. What What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Janice Curtis:

[8:20] I am running for mayor because I have a love for Simpsonville that is unsurpassed.

I know Simpsonville needs leadership that can get the hard work done, someone that is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

I love my community and serving my community to bring about a place where all can feel a sense of community and family.

Katy Smith:

[8:45] Thank you. Will we have a little bit more time? Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Janice Curtis:

[8:49] Certainly. I know that I’ve put my heart and soul into improving Simpsonville for all.

I know that I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and do the hard work in making the hard decisions for Simpsonville.

I’ve proven that I am a capable and dedicated leader and look forward to serving my community once again.

I therefore respectfully request your vote November 7th. For me, Janice Curtis, a proven leader.

And thank you so much for allowing me this time today to address my neighbors and friends.

Katy Smith:

[9:24] Thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much for your willingness to serve our community.

Janice Curtis:

[9:28] Thank you.

Katy Smith:

[9:29] Next up for Mayor is Paul Shoemaker.

Well, I’m pleased to be joined today by Paul Shoemaker, who is running for re-election as mayor of Simpsonville. Thank you for joining us.

Paul Shewmaker:

[9:39] Thank you. I’m really glad to be here. It’s something that I really enjoy doing.

Katy Smith:

[9:43] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for re-election as mayor.

Paul Shewmaker:

[9:48] So I’m finishing up my my first term as mayor of Simpsonville.

And the primary thing I ran on to become elected to mayor four years ago was mainly a matter of style, that we go back to having a mayor with leadership, civility, and integrity, and being able to bring a calm demeanor to our city council meetings and to the office of mayor.

[10:14] And the other piece of it was a communication thing, and I feel like I’ve been successful in all those things. We’ve had very calm council meetings.

I’ve been to 86 consecutive council meetings without missing, and they’ve run very smooth. The other part of it is communication.

One of the big issues that was a concern for me was making sure that when we have developers who come in to develop property or annex property into the city, that we communicate out to the community and mostly to the people who are most affected who touch those properties that are being developed.

And I spearheaded an ordinance that was passed a couple of years ago that puts it on the developer to communicate to all adjoining property owners that they are working on this development and what public meetings are coming up.

They have to do this at least two weeks in advance of the first public meeting.

And that way people get informed that, hey, there’s something here I need to be concerned about rather than just having the little sign beside the road with the phone number on it.

It’s been very effective because once one person finds out who’s impacted, they communicate it on Facebook and that kind of thing and it gets around.

So that’s been something I’ve been very proud of. But so many good things going on in Simpsonville The other main reason I want to run is because I think the continuity in the mayor’s office is really important.

We have three council members who are stepping down. I respect their decision to do that. they have various reasons for doing that.

[11:37] With three guaranteed turnover in our council members, I think it’s really important to continue that continuity in the mayor’s office rather than having four new people come in and just a majority of council come in and try to start from scratch the first of next year.

Katy Smith:

[11:52] Great, thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues that Simpsonville is facing?

Paul Shewmaker:

[11:57] I think we have three primary issues that come to mind when you talk to people about what is most concerning to them.

Traffic, parking, and stormwater runoff. Those are the three big things that are really impacting Simpsonville right now.

A lot of growth in Greenville County, a thousand people a month move into the county, and that definitely impacts Simpsonville.

Simpsonville has become a place to come to, not a place to pass through, and it shows in our downtown. We have a hundred percent occupancy now in our businesses downtown.

And so it’s a popular place, people complain a lot about that traffic that comes with that growth.

It’s a fantastic problem to have, and it’s a very difficult one to deal with.

We’re working on a plan to improve traffic flow in Simpsonville, but I’m always careful to warn people it’s not my objective to make sure that people get to go through Simpsonville faster. I don’t want people driving faster through Simpsonville, but I do want traffic to flow a little bit smoother.

So I think controlling growth is something that’s important that we need to be thoughtful about.

And I think that applies across all six cities in the county and the county.

And I’ve been advocating for all of us to work together to talk about how we can manage that growth rather than turning into the next Atlanta-Fulton County with wall-to-wall neighborhood sprawl.

[13:14] And that that’s a big problem. Stormwater is the other issue.

When we have these extremely large rain events, a very, very short period of time and a lot of rain we have.

Oh, you know, there’s a fair number of homeowners that are being impacted by this.

A couple of people who are seriously impacted, their yard’s entirely full of water, more or less their yard being turned into a retention pond because of the short amount of time when you have that much rainfall, there’s just nowhere for it to go.

[13:47] And it’s an extremely difficult problem to address because it’s so expensive.

We just had a road washed out a couple of months ago, it’s still not repaired.

We’re waiting on the materials to come to repair that. A hundred foot of asphalt and one culvert, half a million dollars.

That’s 2% of Simpsonville’s budget. So to fix everybody’s problems is incredibly expensive and it’s difficult to figure out where to come up with the money.

And when we talk to other agencies, the county, the state, they have their own sets of rules and what it boils down to is we can do something like the South Carolina Office of Resiliency.

They said, well, we’ll be glad to set up a low-interest loan.

Well, that still means the money comes out of Simpsonville’s pocket, but at better interest rates.

So it’s difficult to deal with. We’re working on a plan, and I am not promising anybody who is impacted that we will be successful in putting this through, but we’re hopeful we’ve got something that will help the most impacted citizens in Simpsonville.

[14:47] We’ll just have to see if we can get that worked out, but we’re hopeful that that will take place.

Katy Smith:

[14:53] Great. What would be your priorities if re-elected this year?

Paul Shewmaker:

[14:58] So, I have a couple of priorities. One is to continue that leadership and integrity and civility that we have seen in our council for the last three and a half years.

The next priority is we’ve got major projects that are on the table being worked on.

One is a new municipal complex that is under construction right now.

The renovation of Simpsonville Park. The park is closed while we’re doing that renovation and building our new municipal complex.

[15:26] The downtown revitalization, I really don’t like that word. Downtown Simpsonville is so vital already, I call it downtown amplification.

We’re just turning it up. And we’ve got a lot of work going on there with improved traffic flow, wider sidewalks, better signage, and just really going to make a difference.

And repaving in downtown will really make a difference in in how people get to Simpsonville and enjoy going to all the places that are so, so enjoyable to go to there.

And then the other thing that’s a big project is an extension of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We currently have just under a mile, nine-tenths of a mile.

Completely amazed at how popular nine-tenths of a mile has been.

But we’re going to extend that another two and a half miles all the way down through Heritage Park to the other end of Heritage Park.

Meanwhile, Fountain Inn is working on their section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

So in the very near future, we’ll have eight or nine miles of continuous trail, protected trail that you can walk and bike and push your baby in a stroller and walk your dog and it’ll be great.

[16:29] Even Lawrence County is talking about doing their own trail and connecting up to the south side of Fountain Inn.

If we got 25 or 30 miles worth of trail on the southern end of Greenville County, that impossible stretch of trying to figure out how to connect between Simpsonville and Malden and get connected to the full trail network in Greenville, like I say, it seems impossible.

It’s all private property and not very good roads. But if we have that 20 miles on the south end and all of the network on the north end, it starts to seem less impossible and more inevitable.

And I’m really looking forward just to the two and a half mile extension.

It’s gonna make a huge difference to Simpsonville, it’s a great thing.

Katy Smith:

[17:08] That’s great. We have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?

Paul Shewmaker:

[17:12] I just want to reiterate that we have these three members of council stepping down. So we’re getting three new council members.

And I think it’s really important that we have the continuation in the mayor’s office, the leadership that I’ve brought and the calm demeanor that I bring to council meetings and the responsiveness that I have to people when they call or email with their concerns.

I think it’s really important to have that continuation and have my leadership help these new council members get their feet on the ground and get going.

The other thing that I will say is, is that.

A lot of great things are happening in Simpsonville. It is absolutely a wonderful place to live.

I think the vast majority of people don’t really think about what’s happening on City Council or what’s happening in City Hall, and it’s been my commitment to make City Council boring so that we don’t have excitement and controversy happening coming out of City Council.

If it’s boring and you’re happy and you’re not paying much attention, maybe you’re less likely to vote.

Happy people are not quite as likely to vote, I would encourage anybody who is happy, make sure you get out and vote in this election, whatever your choice is. But for myself, I would respectfully ask for your vote on November 7th.

Katy Smith:

[18:26] Thank you so much for joining us today, and we appreciate your willingness to continue to serve.

Paul Shewmaker:

[18:30] Thank you. I’ve been happy to do this and really do appreciate you bringing this forum to the voters.

Katy Smith:

[18:37] Now we’ll hear from Ward 1 candidates, starting with Erin Medlin.

I’m here with Erin Medlin, who’s running for Simpsonville City Council.

Erin, thank you for joining us today and for your willingness to serve.

Erin Medlin:

[18:48] Yeah, thank you for having me. It’s such a privilege to be here.

Katy Smith:

[18:51] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for election.

Erin Medlin:

[18:55] Okay, thank you. Well, first and foremost, I am a wife to a wonderful husband named Ben.

I have three awesome children, all products of the Greenville County School District.

I am a first year college English teacher, a realtor, and I volunteer in some of our organizations around my local community.

I have deep roots in the upstate of South Carolina, but when it was time to get married and start a family, my husband and I settled on Simpsonville and we love it.

We purchased our current home in 2015. And for any of your listeners that live in Simpsonville, you might remember the city was going through a lot of changes at that time.

So I started to get involved and my husband and I, we started going to city council meetings to see what was going on.

We were deeply invested in the success and the future of our city, and it was during that time that I learned about all of our local boards that Simpsonville needed volunteers for.

So I applied to serve on the Board of Zoning Appeals in Simpsonville, and I was appointed to the board by city council in 2019, and I’ve served as a board member ever since that time.

I just have a passion and a drive for service, and I just think our community is wonderful, and I want to keep seeing us succeed in Greenville County.

And so I felt like the logical next step was to run for Simpsonville City Council.

Katy Smith:

[20:22] Great. What do you believe the biggest issues are that Simpsonville is facing?

Erin Medlin:

[20:27] Two things. I think the first thing is growth and economic development, how to maintain the development we’re already seeing and how to continue and grow in a smart and sustainable way.

Growth and economic development is a big issue facing Simpsonville right now.

We are rapidly growing. People want to live in Simpsonville.

They want to start their business. They want to build housing there.

And these are great problems to have. We want these problems.

These are far better than, say, dying as a town.

But we need to have the conversations about, what do we do to accommodate that growth? How do we maintain the growth that we’ve already built while keeping an eye on the future and our investments to make sure that the city still works for us?

Because with rapid growth and development comes a lot of growing pains, and the city of Simpsonville is already feeling that right now with traffic and outdated infrastructure.

[21:22] And that sort of leads me into my second point, which is we need to update our infrastructure.

We need infrastructure that works for everyone. Right now, our citizens are struggling through this rapid development.

For many of them, it can take 30 to 60 minutes just to travel through downtown Simpsonville to get to work.

Walking, riding bikes is not always safe. of our neighborhoods are dealing with people trying to find a way out of that traffic and cutting through.

And we want to make sure that the people that live in our neighborhoods like Poinsettia and Powderhorn and all of our downtown areas aren’t also having to battle the traffic that’s coming through there to get out of downtown.

We also have problems with our sewage systems, water rain offs.

We have a lot of outdated sewer systems that need upgrading.

We need places for that runoff to go and storm drainage that needs to be maintained and even updated.

Our citizens should not be scared every time a storm comes through.

And I know my husband and I have personally experienced that storms make us very nervous for the flooding that occurs in our backyard and even into our basement.

These issues do not produce a high quality of life for our people and we really need to prioritize them.

Katy Smith:

[22:47] Wonderful. What would be your priorities if elected this year.

Erin Medlin:

[22:52] Number one smart and sustainable growth. I’m a big believer in smart goals.

Those are goals that are specific What are we trying to achieve?

Those are goals that are measurable.

What are the parameters? How do we know when we’ve achieved it?

Are they achievable? Are they feasible? You know We can’t wave a magic wand and just make things things go away because we want to and we have to have a plan in Place, are they relevant?

Are they meeting the goals that we set out for ourselves and are they time bound?

Do we know how long it’s going to take to achieve this goal?

Do we have the proper parts in place to make it within that time frame?

So is everything we’re working on today to encourage smart and sustainable growth, taking our future into account?

And what do we invest in? And with who are we doing these jobs with?

My second point would be partnership.

[23:47] Partnerships are really important. We need to work with our county and our state representatives that are already there. We need to work with our nonprofits.

I had a chance recently to sit down with David Vaughn. He is my South Carolina state representative, and I learned that we already have the funds earmarked for infrastructure updates in Simpsonville.

However, the price speds that were originally quoted have now gone up, and we don’t have the necessary funds.

On City Council I will work ASAP to secure that extra funding that is needed so that we are open to market fluctuations once again.

We do not want to see attempts to raise taxes on the table so partnerships are really important for the success of securing more funding. And lastly I would say communication.

Being transparent in government is a non-negotiable and you can always expect that from me through every process.

I will always put the needs of the city first for every issue that comes up before council and of course I will always take into account input and feedback from our citizens.

Katy Smith:

[24:55] Great, thank you. We have a little more time is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Erin Medlin:

[25:00] Yeah, absolutely. Well as an active community member in Simpsonville I have the experience already on the local level.

I promise to always do my homework on the issues that come before council just as I have over years on the Board of Zoning Appeals. I am a lifelong learner and I am committed to doing what is best for the city and her citizens.

I am eager to learn and ready to serve Simpsonville and I am humbly asking for your vote on Election Day, November 7th.

Katy Smith:

[25:28] Erin, thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much for raising your hand to serve.

Erin Medlin:

[25:32] Thank you so much for having me.

Katy Smith:

[25:35] Next is Chad O’Rear. I’m pleased to be here with Chad O’Rear, who is running for Simpsonville City Council in Ward 1. Thank you for joining us.

Chad O’Rear:

[25:43] Thanks for having me.

Katy Smith:

[25:44] Great. Well, Chad, tell us about yourself and why you are running for office.

Chad O’Rear:

[25:48] Well, first, my name’s Chad O’Rear, and it’s kind of nice to have a distinctive last name when you run for office.

It’s a little more recognizable on a ballot. So that kind of gives me a little bit of an advantage, I guess. But the biggest thing about myself is I’m actually a native not only of Greenville, but of Simpsonville.

[26:06] And I think when when you have an affinity for a place like I do, I think you will represent them as well as possible and be a lot more open to dialogue, discussion and really just care more.

And that’s part of the reason why I’m running, is because I don’t feel like the Simpsonville City Council cares right now.

But a little bit about me and my background, I laugh and tell people, when you’re from Greenville, it’s kind of an anomaly today.

When I grew up here, everyone was kind of from around here, this state, but every school I ever graduated from was in Greenville County.

I went to the old Simpsonville Elementary, the old Bryson Middle School, and then I went to to school in Greenville at Christchurch and then I finished at Furman where I played football and was on our one and only and hopefully will change this year national title team.

So being a student athlete makes you definitely work very hard.

You have to judge your time. You have to be able to juggle a lot of things.

And so that taught me a lot of lessons in life doing that. But the biggest thing really about me is that, you know, I am from Simpsonville.

I care about Simpsonville, and I’ve watched people that aren’t necessarily from that area come in on the council and not be the type of not only politicians, which I hate to use that word because I’d hate to be tagged with that myself, but people.

[27:35] I’ve actually been brutalized by the city government and their treatment of people.

I’ve been about pulled out of council meetings, all because you point things out that you don’t like about your government.

And that’s one part of the reason I’m running is because, you know, it gives people a voice, and you might tend to care a little more if that voice is someone that has your same experiences in that city.

I’ve watched this city boom over the years from, you know, a town that literally was outside of Greenville to I can drive downtown Greenville in 16 minutes if no one gets in my way.

So we are on top of everything now, and everything is coming our way.

So when you have someone in place there that truly understands the city, its history, and you care about its future, you’re going to tend to make a little bit better decisions than other folks might.

So twofold reason is I love Simpsonville. It’s my hometown, and I didn’t care for the personal treatment of the city government I had to deal with on two separate occasions where I disagreed with what they were doing, how they were doing it, and who they were doing it for.

And so I figured instead of paying $25,000 in attorney’s fees to try to rectify a decision they made, I would run for office and work from the inside to do what’s right for all of Simpsonville, not just a handful of people in Simpsonville.

Katy Smith:

[29:04] Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues that Simpsonville is facing?

Chad O’Rear:

[29:09] Well, I think like several hot spots in Greenville County, the biggest issue facing Simpsonville is our traffic flow, or lack thereof.

It’s just getting worse and worse every day.

Just the other night I spoke at a function. I left my house at six o’clock.

It took me eight minutes to go 1.2 miles at six o’clock at night.

The city has not done anything to address the traffic problems.

They have done plenty to allow for development for many developers, and that goes back to an issue I had with the city about allowing development in my own neighborhood.

When I phoned the city on that, they thought it was in my best interest and theirs to give the developer my personal cell phone number, who in turn called me the next day after my run-in with City Hall and insulted me on the phone.

And so for 45 minutes he tried to talk his way out of one, paying the fees he owed our neighborhood, HOA dues, and to talk us out of opposing what they wanted to do in our neighborhood.

So when I talked to the city in almost verbatim, and I don’t name names, I don’t do stuff like that, one of the city planners looked at me when I said, look, you know what they’re planning on doing, we, as we be in our neighborhood, we don’t agree with it, and we don’t want it done that way. He looks at me and he says.

[30:34] We’re going to recommend to the City Planning Commission that that be approved and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I am the last person you tell that to.

So from that point on, after I dressed him down for exposing my personal cell phone number to a developer, we showed up at the meeting the next night after I was warned, warned, that was the word, by the city, not to speak of HOA matters.

[31:02] Well, that was the to the matter was when when we when I spoke at the Planning Commission meeting on behalf of my neighborhood, I pretty much told them, you’re well within your rights to approve what you want.

But we don’t even have to talk to them as our Architectural Review Board because they are so far in arrears with us in dues that if they start building those houses, we’ll own them.

And we won that battle for a 4-0 vote, which I think stunned the city, but cemented my legacy of not being very favored in City Hall.

[31:39] So that is a huge issue. Traffic and development. I’m not anti-development at all.

I promote it, but you’ve got to be smart about this. You’ve got to keep your infrastructure on pace with your growth, because when you try claw that back later, it’s going to be infinitely more expensive to correct than it is to do it right the first time, and the city seems to have no inclination. In fact.

[32:06] Barricading streets now. They barricaded the street down from my house, and that was my second fight, the one that was going to cost me $25,000 to fight, because the city illegally closed the street. And I have all the evidence.

I have all the FOIA requests.

They actually changed their FOIA request policy because of me, because I called them to task so often.

[32:28] But I proved what I wanted to prove. But it takes the legal system to get it undone, and every lawyer I talked to minimum 25k.

I’m like, I’m not going to spend 25k to reopen a street. I’ll just run for office and see if I can get elected and try to get things like this corrected.

You can’t go around doing personal favors for people in closing streets that the taxpayers fund.

And it harmed our traffic flow.

What we really want to do is, I want people to get home as quickly and efficiently as possible and safely.

But now they’re just piling cars in, shut down. They just passed an ordinance two weeks ago, giving the police, and I love the police, don’t get me wrong, subjective powers of determining whether you or I or anyone else cuts through a private business’s parking lot to avoid traffic.

That’s their priorities. They’re wanting to bus people who drive through whatever, a back me business’s parking lot, and they can fine you for that, but they get determined what you’re doing behind the wheel of your car.

They They get to determine, well, I think Chad just passed through.

Well, maybe Chad left his wallet at home and had to go back and get it, and he was coming back.

But no, I’ll get pulled over because they said that. So that’s their priority now. They’re not fixing traffic. They’re making it worse.

And we can’t do that. We’ve got to we’ve got to get this under control and it’s not being done. And that’s going to be a priority.

Katy Smith:

[33:50] Thank you. So what else would be your priorities if elected this year?

Chad O’Rear:

[33:54] You have to piggyback on that.

First priority would be to re-look at the SCDOT recommendations that the city did, rubber stamp, about the traffic flow patterns in Simpsonville.

I personally think they’re insane.

But number one priority, and the city has a policy that I think is the only one of its alike in the state, you actually have to have a super majority vote of our city council to hire or fire a department head in the city.

[34:28] I think there’s one other exception to just simple majority vote.

So now what that did is that stripped the citizens themselves of the ability to have a more functional government, because if you get a job that’s protected, like it almost certainly is, when you have to get five out of seven, that’s tough.

And I think the mayor may be exempt from that vote, so it may actually be five out of six.

That’s almost a Herculean task. So what you’ve done is you’ve insulated the city administrators and department heads literally from ever losing their jobs.

So who do you think the driving force behind a lot of what’s going on in Simpsonville is?

People that don’t fear for their jobs.

I’m not trying to get rid of anybody. I just want people to do their jobs properly.

If you do it properly, you tend to keep it.

So that would be a priority, fixing that and and really working on the traffic and the development portion together. I want development.

Keeps tax bases low when there’s more valuable houses there, and we’re all about that. So we just want to hand in hand, keep those two together, and try to make the best decisions right now versus having to redo it later.

Katy Smith:

[35:40] Thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you for your willingness to serve. Thank you!

Lastly, for Ward 1 is Skip Strong. Happy to be joined today by Skip Strong, who is running for Simpsonville City Council. Thanks for being here and for your willingness to serve.

Skip Strong:

[35:56] Thank you.

Katy Smith:

[35:57] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you are running for office.

Skip Strong:

[36:02] Okay, my name is Skip Strong. I am 53 years old.

My wife, Kim, and I have been married for 31 years, and we have two kids.

I’m running for Ward 1, which has been held by Matthew Gooch.

He’s served three four-year terms, so he’s been there for 12 years.

My mom and dad moved here to the upstate into the Golden Strip when I was a toddler, and I’ve been here ever since. I basically had two zip codes since we moved here, 29681 and 29644, Fountainhead.

We did live in that part of the Golden Strip for a while. Went to Woodmont High School and Hillcrest High School, and that was the old Hillcrest High School, the old building, which is now the Bryson Middle.

I went on to Greenville Tech. I worked full-time during the day and went to school at night.

Managed to get on the Dean’s List and I graduated with an associate degree in machine tool technology, which is what I do. I’m a machinist.

I’ve been at the same company for over 23 years, going on 24, and we build injection molds for the plastics industry, that’s what we do. I am blue collar.

[37:12] I believe in faith, family, and hard work. I’d rather be tired than hungry.

I’m loyal. I’m dependable. I’m the guy that returns his shopping cart.

What I’m probably most known for in the area is I’m a drummer, and I’ve served and volunteered on worship teams at the churches I’ve played.

[37:37] I’m a member of First Baptist Simpsonville where I play now.

Now, you may say, well, what does that have to do with council?

Well, being a musician takes teamwork, and there’s really no room for selfishness.

So I believe in working together for the common good and reaching middle ground when necessary.

Katy Smith:

[37:58] Great. What do you believe the biggest issues are facing Simpsonville?

Skip Strong:

[38:03] I’ve talked to some city leaders in the area, people that work and live there, and there’s been a few things come up. comes up commonly.

The traffic and the parking.

We’ve had tremendous growth, but there is eight locations to park in downtown Simpsonville, which is really nice, and it’s all free.

[38:28] And they’ve already started working on the downtown master plan, and part of that is the counter-clock pattern of traffic that’ll go out, or in to Curtis Street and out College Street, kind of around First Baptist Simpsonville.

And that’s gonna be one way. I think that’s gonna help and hopefully that’ll help with with parking too But we really have had a lot of growth.

That’s that’s been a concern but anything great Will have growth.

That’s just just natural I’m reminded of The New York Yankees catcher in the Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.

He was always good for some quotes he said Well, he was asked about a restaurant and he said, ah, nobody goes there nowadays.

It’s too crowded so I’m I don’t think that Simpsonville was quite there yet to Yogi Berra status, but We’ve if my numbers are correctly if I read right we have just about Doubled our population in 25 years, which is unbelievable Communication was brought up a couple of times problems.

[39:40] And personally, I think that the city leaders do a really good job of communicating to their constituents, but I’m sure there’s always room for improvement.

The website that Simpsonville City has is very thorough and very good, and there’s lots of links to it, you know, that pretty much answers any question that you want to find out.

Another issue, I believe, is this election, November 7th. There’s three seats open on county council.

[40:11] So there’ll be changes there, three of the six. The council before, years ago, a few years ago, was interesting at best.

You know, it was not uncommon for a newsgroup to come out and record some of the council meetings because there might be some fireworks.

But The last four years has run fairly smooth, pretty smooth.

And I’d like to be a part of that. I’d like to be part of that continuity.

Council has been working on through with order and integrity these last four years Me personally, I’m easygoing a mild manner and I try to be respectful and obey the Golden Rule.

I Greatly believe that how something is presented Greatly affects how it’s received And I think there’s plenty of respect in the council and the chambers One good thing about the city, too, though, they just recently received the highest form of recognition in governmental accountants.

Things are good. Things are good in Sempciville, and I’d like to be a part of that.

Katy Smith:

[41:25] Thank you. What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Skip Strong:

[41:29] Well, as I mentioned, the tremendous growth. Throughout all of that, our first responders and our law enforcement, our men and women and Blue have been above and beyond. They’ve handled this very well.

I’d say the general consensus among Simpsonvillians is that they feel safe.

If they park downtown and they walk to restaurants or shops or the various music venues we have, they feel safe.

And And I think we tend to take that for granted. That’s a very valuable feeling.

I think we do tend to take that for granted. I am a staunch supporter of the men and women in blue and our first responders, those people that run toward the trouble when the rest of us would probably run away.

I think Chief Hanshaw has done a great job.

[42:27] I firmly believe in fully staffing, equipping, training, and supporting our law enforcement and first responders to keep up with the growth that has happened in Simpsonville over the past several years.

And I believe we need to address it now.

Our police officers are well-maintained and staffed now, and I’d like to see that continue.

I think a fully-staffed law enforcement is an excellent deterrent against crime.

Our police officers right now have about a five-minute response time, and that’s tremendous.

And that’s about… The city of Simpsonville is right around 10 square miles and roughly 25,000 people. They do a great job.

And they take pride in their work, those that wear the badge.

And I think we need to maintain that level and comfort and safety as we grow.

Katy Smith:

[43:24] Great. Well, we have a few more minutes. Is there anything else you’d like to tell listeners?

Skip Strong:

[43:28] I think it would be a privilege and an honor to add my voice to the already wise voices of counsel, and I’d like to work with them and address issues and problems that come up.

I think middle ground can be found when we don’t agree, and I’m happy to do that.

I’d like to say, too, that a lot of times people vote when they’re unhappy.

If you’re happy, I’d say get out and vote November 7th.

I think that’s important to let your voice be heard and take ownership in your city.

I am strong for Simpsonville, and I would greatly appreciate your vote on Tuesday, November 7th.

Katy Smith:

[44:18] Thank you so much for joining us and for your willingness to serve our community.

Skip Strong:

[44:21] Thank you.

Katy Smith:

[44:22] Next, we’ll hear from Ward 5 candidates, starting with Tim Pinkerton.

I’m pleased to be joined today by Tim Pinkerton, who is running for Simpsonville City Council in Ward 5. Tim, thanks for joining us.

Tim Pinkerton:

[44:33] Yeah, thanks for having me.

Katy Smith:

[44:34] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.

Tim Pinkerton:

[44:39] So my wife and I, Tracy, have been married for 35 years, and we have two grown children and a grandson just turned one years old.

And we moved to Simpsonville on a relocation about 28 years ago.

Bought a house in Poinsettia neighborhood in Simpsonville, and decided to stay.

Both our backgrounds are in construction and engineering, so I have 35, 40 years worth of infrastructure-type building.

And one of the reasons why I’m running, there’s a couple reasons, but one of them is my background in that venue of construction and engineering I think goes well with what the city needs as far as their growth.

I mean, it’s been growing for many years since we’ve been here, and it’s going to continue to grow, but I feel like my knowledge will help with some common sense building.

And some of the other reasons are, I’ve talked to my neighbors.

We felt like we were underrepresented.

You can tell, actually, that the incumbents aren’t running in one, three, and five, but we just didn’t feel connected to the city as much as we should be.

[45:54] I also think that we need fiscal conservatives in the board to make sure that we’re fiduciaries to the citizen stacks dollars.

So that’s some of the reasons why I’m running, but again, it’s more about the growth than anything.

Katy Smith:

[46:09] Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues that Simpsonville is facing?

Tim Pinkerton:

[46:13] Well, there’s some big ones, but I think if you listen to the pulse, it’s going to be traffic and stormwater management or part of that infrastructure.

Like, Simpsonville is a small town. I mean, it was a farm town and a mill town before it became what it is now.

And even though some of the roads have grown around it, especially the 385 corridor, and there’s a railroad track that runs through the middle of downtown Simpsonville.

With the more people that we put into and around the community, it has just become very congested.

There’s a lot of cut-through neighborhoods, and it’s made it almost impossible to get around the city at certain times of the day.

Plus, the city’s traffic plan that they have out there now is calling for this counterclockwise traffic movement.

Many people don’t even know what that means in Simpsonville.

If you talk to people in Simpsonville, they don’t even understand what’s getting ready to happen.

I voice my opinion on that when they ask for public comments.

You have no other way of making traffic better, and you’re gonna try these counter, clockwise or clockwise movements.

I said it should go clockwise because the traffic coming into Simpsonville from the east will now come up to a one-way stop, basically, and you have to turn right and then left to get to Main Street, which is gonna force people through to Poinsettia and some of the other neighborhoods.

[47:43] The response from the city at that time, and that’s, I think, last year, said that, it actually was a state DOT, said, both ways would help eliminate traffic, but the city voted to go this counterclockwise way, and the response at that time was, well, we understand there’s gonna be some issues with local traffic, however, we’ll monitor that later on, which, to me, is just the wrong way about doing business.

If you know there’s going to be a situation, you should mitigate it now so we don’t have problems later on. That is one of the other reasons why I thought I need to get my voice in there to make sure that we’re taking care of the people and the way we do traffic flow.

The other is stormwater management. And interestingly enough, to me, it kind of ties in the same way that traffic does, because when you have small stormwater that’s been designed, if it was even designed in neighborhoods, to control the water that you.

[48:39] Designed for that time, whether it be 100-year floods or whatever.

They don’t hold up now when you force a lot of new impervious areas around the city.

In my neighborhood, we take water from all the way from Main Street, about several blocks away.

And it floods the neighbors, it floods the yards, all the way up to the houses.

So I went to a city council meeting to voice my opinion on that.

And the response I got from the mayor at that time, I guess for basically city council, let’s just say, was, we can’t afford to take care of your problems unless we cut services like the police department or maybe first responders.

[49:19] And the other part, the other kind of comment was, well, if we fix yours with tax dollars and it doesn’t affect other people in the city, then they might not like it very much if we’re spending money on your problem.

And I, and you can say that about anything, really. It’s a, that’s kind of a poor excuse to me that we can’t take care of our infrastructure going forward.

So those are two issues I think that resonate with the citizens as we stand right now.

I think that’s just one of the two important things to take care of.

Katy Smith:

[49:56] Thank you. What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Tim Pinkerton:

[50:01] That’s interesting. There’s an ordinance, number one, that was passed back in 2018 that took away a simple majority from the council to a supermajority of five council members in how we hire and fire certain officials, especially the city manager today.

[50:23] None, if most, excuse me, most, but if not all, the people that voted for that unanimously back in 2018 are either not on city council or will not be.

So going forward, is this what we want as a city, to have to have a super majority to hire and fire? I think it takes away a lot from the citizens, their ability to control the city.

And it actually excludes the mayor’s vote. So that’s one thing I think that we really should look at.

It would take an effort to do it, but I think it’s well worth pointing that out to the citizens that this is actually what happens. This is the way your city council is run and some of the ordinances.

So that’s a couple of things I like to seek or one thing I like to see.

The other is in the growth, it’s back in the growth vein.

Simpsonville is gonna continue growing.

A traffic shift, there’s a push to, well, it’s going to happen probably, but to revitalize downtown city landscape and hardscaping, that sort of thing.

[51:31] It needs to be looked at. I did put in a request for information to find out who we’re actually contracted with in the city.

We haven’t really contracted with anybody other than the county and maybe a project manager, the way I understand it, to do the studies on traffic, or not traffic, but the hardscape and the uplift of downtown Simpsonville.

What I don’t want is it to be an upgrade for a legacy for somebody or a resume.

If we’re going to do upgrades, that’s fine, but we also need to make sure that we’re using that tax dollar base that we do have to fix this infrastructure problems that we have. To me, it’s more important.

I’ve lived in a lot of different good cities around the United States and around the world, actually, and seen what cities can do to enhance their walkways and make it a viable place for the people to come into.

And Simpsonville’s got a lot of businesses in downtown right now.

Unfortunately, the way the traffic is and the way that it’s not walkable, those sort of things I agree you can do and clean up, but we do have to make sure it’s safe for our citizens and get these traffic and infrastructure problems taken care of first.

Katy Smith:

[52:56] Thank you. We have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Tim Pinkerton:

[53:01] Yeah, again, I would just say that And my background fits the city.

And going forward with that engineering construction background, I can be a very big asset to how we can grow. Hi.

I’m concerned a little bit about further growth as far as bringing in more communities and more city limits.

Before we continue to grow that way, we need to make sure that we’re taking care of that tax base that’s already there.

My neighborhood’s been there for, I guess, since the 60s or 70s, and it’s a big neighborhood of 320-some, 330 houses, and the neighborhoods around me are are fairly old, too.

We need to take care of those areas, make sure that they’re not forgotten.

Our property values go up and down, but they’ve gone up quite a bit, but we want to maintain that. And people aren’t going to want to move into the older neighborhoods if we’re not taking care of them.

Katy Smith:

[54:04] Well, thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you for your willingness to serve your community.

Tim Pinkerton:

[54:09] Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you guys today.

Katy Smith:

[54:13] And lastly, we’ll hear from Ward 5 candidate Jermaine Smith.

I’m pleased to be joined by Jermaine Smith who is running for Simpsonville City Council in Ward 5. Jermaine thanks so much for joining us.

Jermaine Smith:

[54:25] Oh thank you for having me.

Katy Smith:

[54:26] Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.

Jermaine Smith:

[54:29] Okay well again my name is Jermaine Smith. A little bit about myself that me and my wife have been residents of Simpsonville for the last 17 years.

We moved there because we saw how great the city was and just being able to see the growth and the development that has been taking place over the last 17 years has been amazing.

A lot of different things from small businesses to large businesses to restaurants, residential areas, recreational, pretty much had everything that we were looking for.

And so for myself is that I did a lot within the community of Greenville as a whole, but also within Simpsonville that I coached for a while at the high school at Hillcrest for a couple of years, I’m mentoring a lot of different young men coming through the football program.

I’ve worked in different areas within Greenville from doing Harvest Hope, working with my local church as a youth pastor and an assistant pastor, working with countless young people and different adults and different other organizations to basically help the citizens of, or the residents of Greenville, but also Simpsonville as a whole.

[55:41] And one of the reasons why I decided to run for Ward 5 is that I am part of, I was elected this year to be on the zoning board for Simpsonville.

And so getting into that process, but also being able to work on some other campaigns last year really kind of got my eyes open to.

[56:02] What residents are looking for, what our community needs as far as a community leader when it comes to city council.

Because one thing that we always or that we should know is that a lot of times we look at what can federal government do for us when a lot of times we bypass what our local government actually can do for us, because your local government affects you faster than federal.

So, the people that are in your city councils, on your county councils, that are representing your district, that are at Columbia, your governors, lieutenant governors, those individuals affect you a lot faster than who actually sitting in the White House.

[56:41] And so, that was one of the things that I wanted to get more involved in because I saw in talking to people just a few of the things of what they were looking for and what I could possibly do because now being a part of the Zoning Commission, being able to see certain things that were coming into the city that was being beneficial because it was helping local businesses, entrepreneurs, and I just want to be a part of that so that I can see exactly what I could do to try to attract more business to the area, attract more developers that will help with residential areas but also recreational because Simpsonville does have a basically like a vision, a master plan of how they want things to be done within the city.

And just so that those particular entities can understand, hey this is if you’re coming to Simpsonville or you coming to Simpsonville because you see what Simpsonville can offer you.

[57:37] But also too we want to make sure that where you are bringing fits.

The residents that are currently there, but also attracting the new residents that are eventually that will be coming to the area as well. Great.

Katy Smith:

[57:51] What do you believe are the biggest issues that Simpsonville is facing?

Jermaine Smith:

[57:55] Right now, the biggest issue that I see that we’re facing is the traffic.

And it’s a good thing. It also could be a nuisance as well, because anytime you see something growing, you have to deal with the traffic standpoint.

And what a lot of people don’t realize, what they do realize that vast majority of the roles that are in the city are under SDOT regulation.

A lot of people think they’re part of the state. They’re actually under SDOT.

[58:24] And working with city council, working with county council, state representatives, probably try to get a little bit more of a understanding of how we can get the traffic lights timed a little bit better.

Maybe be able to widen some roads if that’s possible, maybe even cut some accesses that may be causing traffic delays when it comes to certain places within Simpsonville.

Because a lot of the traffic that we’re seeing within the city occurs around the Fairview Road, Harrison Bridge Road, and also Main Street that comes by, most people know about the big clock in Simpsonville, that causes those three particular areas is a lot of traffic.

And it’s because of the growth of the city, but there’s some things that can be addressed.

And I think that the state is looking at addressing those things.

But when there are certain situations where you start and see a uptick in growth in areas, Sometimes you may have to adjust your time schedule when you would normally.

Address something to kind of fix some things a little bit sooner.

And so I think that’s the biggest issue that we’re seeing right now, is traffic.

Katy Smith:

[59:30] Thank you. What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Jermaine Smith:

[59:35] My priorities would be, for one, to work with those within City Council to see if we can, you know, get those traffic issues addressed a lot sooner, but also working with developers that are coming into the area to, you know, basically build a partnership with them.

[59:51] Because we do have a lot of large companies that are within the city of Simpsonville but we do have a lot of local business owners that we want to still make sure that we support because that’s to me that is a very good telling sign of a healthy city is when you’re supporting your local businesses and that is one thing that I want to make sure that is on the forefront of my plate if I’m elected to office is that getting out talking to our local business owners, being able to help them as far as getting their names out there, maybe creating some types of events to say, Hey, we want to highlight this local business for this week.

That way, you know, because people may not know, it may be something they’re looking for to get posters made or whatever, and it can bring business to them versus having to go outside of Greenville or outside of Simpsonville to get those services done.

And so working with developers to create partnerships with them, if they’re bringing in commercial areas, okay, What are the commercial businesses that you’re bringing in so that we may be able to kind of partner with you to try to get a job market for you for people that live in the city?

If it’s a residential, okay, what type of residential are you bringing?

You bring in apartments, townhomes, single family homes.

[1:01:07] Because we want to make sure that we are highlighting you as far as with that.

If they are connecting that and also bringing in some recreational areas where there may be another park or a walking area, we want to highlight all of that.

And so my thing is working with those developers in a partnership, but also addressing some of the traffic issues as well, because as those developers come, traffic will get even more. So those are the two things that I’ll really be focusing on.

Katy Smith:

[1:01:31] Thank you. We have a little bit of time left. Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Jermaine Smith:

[1:01:36] Yes, I would just like to share with everyone is that what I am looking at doing is that, you know, a lot of times people say, well, hey, I’m not a politician, but as you’re coming into this, this is the arena that you’re playing in.

[1:01:49] And my whole thing is really being my authentic self the whole time as far as letting people know is that, hey, if I don’t have the answer, let me go back and research it and let me get you the answer for that.

Just leaving you, you know, hanging out there, waiting on something, because every night, you know, all the time, we don’t have the answer.

And sometimes we have to go back and look for it and be able to get that to the people as quick as possible.

But my whole thing is really to allow and showcase Simpsonville as a whole to let Simpsonville be the example for the other cities within Greenville, but also for the upstate is that, hey, if you’re trying to do something, if if you’re trying to get something done, hey, come talk to us because we have the roadmap and we have the expertise to get things done.

And we can be the model, not only for Greenville, but for the upstate as a whole.

And also for South Carolina is that this is a great place to live.

We have good people that are working and living here.

We have a great city council that has his hands with the community.

And so that’s one of the things that I’m really striving for to, you know, basically put a face to the name for city council and being more open, which our city council that’s currently there now is doing.

Um, but really making sure that our existing residents understand that they’re not being left out, that they’re being included, but we also want to make sure that we’re attracting those new residents that are coming in from other areas of the country as well.

Katy Smith:

[1:03:17] Thank you very much for joining us today. And thank you so much for your willingness to serve.

Jermaine Smith:

[1:03:21] 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.

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