District 18 – Meet your Candidates for Greenville County Council

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This episode of Simple Civics: Greenville County was made possible by support from Beth and Mike Andrews, supporting civic engagement from all of our community’s residents, and Upstate Warrior Solution, a community-based nonprofit organization serving warriors and their families in the upstate of South Carolina, and LiveWell Greenville, bridging access to healthy eating and active living since 2011.

Meet Mike Barnes and Kelly Long, candidates for Greenville County Council District 18, generally representing the Greer area. In this episode, each candidate has 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the voters. Your vote is so important! Please take a listen and share with your neighbors.

Links:

Mike Barnes: https://www.facebook.com/VoteMikeBarnes/

Kelly Long: https://votekellylong.com/

Sample Ballot: www.scvotes.gov

Transcript

Katy Smith:
On Tuesday, June 11th, South Carolina holds its statewide primary elections.
I’m Katy Smith with Greater Good Greenville, and over the next several weeks, we are pleased to bring you interviews with most every candidate in contested races for Greenville County Council.
Today, we feature candidates Mike Barnes and Kelly Long, who are running for District 18, which generally covers the Greer area.
But first, a quick primer on why primaries are so important.
The statewide primaries are when political parties choose their candidates to be on the ballot in the general election on November 5th, when we will also vote for president.
This primary on June 11th will be for important offices like state legislature, which discusses things such as roads and bridges, education, taxes, abortion, and guns, our County Sheriff, and our County Council, which considers issues such as zoning, roads, public safety, and more.
In the Greenville County area, we have 37 offices across the county that will be on primary ballots.
For almost half of those, only one party had candidates that registered to run.
Meaning that practically speaking, the June 11th primary is the election.
In South Carolina, we don’t register to vote by party, and all primaries are open, meaning that you are free to vote either the Republican or Democratic primary ballot. Of course, there are other parties, but they do not have a primary in our state.
We did an episode that explains how this works, and we’ll link it in the show notes for you.
District 18 had only Republican candidates file.
So based on the outcome of the June 11th Republican primary, either incumbent Mike Barnes or Kelly Long will be the only candidate on the ballot in November.
If you want to see which district you live in and who will be on your ballot, you can check out the links on the episode page for a sample ballot from the South Carolina Election Commission.
Here’s how the interviews worked. All candidates received the same question at the time of their invitation to join us, and they 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 the participating candidates’ preferred internet presence on the episode page.
First up, alphabetically, is Mike Barnes. I’m delighted to be here today with Mike Barnes, who is running for re-election for District 18 on County Council.
Thanks for being with us, Mike.

Mike Barnes:
Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
And thank you all for taking your time, busy schedule, to allow us to come and speak.
And I’m Mike Barnes, Christian conservative Republican.

Katy Smith:
Great. Tell us about yourself and why you are running for re-election.

Mike Barnes:
Love and compassion I have for the community.
I am a people person. I love my county.
I love I love my city and I just want to make it be better if possible.
It’s good but let’s make it be better. If we’re number one in the state county wise let’s be number one. Let’s step up up to the table and be what we need to be to be number one all the way around.
I enjoy working with people, especially hands-on. I like to work with the people.
I do a lot of work behind the scene that people don’t realize that you do, but I really try to work with the people individually to create their best interest and see what they actually need.
A lot of people need things, but they don’t know how to go about getting there.
And I just hope to be a part to where I can get them to that point.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues facing your district?

Mike Barnes:
The biggest issues facing our district, I think, is growth… infrastructure.
Growth comes with a lot of problems, but you have to grow or you have to exceed and go forwards or you die.
And the growth of the people versus the infrastructure not growing, I think, is what our problem is.
Our roads are not adequate really for all that could be developed and hopefully we’ll be working on getting the infrastructure in and the roads uh water sewer and whatever it might be. Uh… in the past three months, I guess it’d be we have changed uh the zoning for subdivisions and going from some three-quarter acre lots going to an acre and a half, with 10 houses or more.
But it’s not on just a lot or something somewhere, but on the subdivisions, if you put a subdivision with no sewer, you have to have an acre and a half to develop it per house.
And that would basically cut down on the growth a little bit or slow it down.
In that situation, I think we’ve kind of got our horse in front of our cart in front of our horse.
But we’re working real fast to get things up to par now, try to get on board.

Katy Smith:
Good, thank you. What would be your priorities if reelected this year?

Mike Barnes:
As chairman of public safety, public safety is my priority for Greenville County.
Uh public safety is more than crime and drugs. We have a great sheriff, we have a great sheriff department and we need to provide EMS, fire department, and sheriff department we need them provided with proper tools to work with where the tools are salary, where there are cars, where or ambulances, fire trucks, whatever.
We need to provide those departments with the proper, best efficient equipment that we can provide for them because neither of the three produce any revenue for the county, but these right here are something you have to provide for every citizen of Greenville County plus everyone traveling through.
If you’re traveling from North Carolina to Georgia and go through South Carolina, in Greenville County, we have to provide safety for you, whether it’s fire department, EMS, or the sheriff’s department.
And I think it’s keeping certified and well-trained firemen and EMTs and deputies… it’scheaper to be able to raise their salaries to keep them than it is to allow them to go to a neighboring county or city for more money.
As much as it costs to certify any of the above it’s cheaper to pay competitive salary and keep them rather than letting them go because it costs so much to train any of the three above and in some cases it’s a year or year and a half before they’re able to be certified so it’s… it’s just a safety step to be ensure that they stay here in the environment and they have our support, not like they’re being the lost child out there and not having any support.
So that is basically one of the main things that I see is we need more deputies.
Of course, the more people you have means more schools.
It means more teachers. Everything works hand in hand the more you have so.

Katy Smith:
Thank you we have a couple minutes left is there anything else you’d like our listeners to know.

Mike Barnes:
I guess I would say make a statement here all this reverts back to needs versus wants, that’s what we need is what we need. Want come later.

Katy Smith:
Thank so much, Mike. Thank you for joining us, and thank you for your willingness to serve.

Mike Barnes:
Thank you.

Katy Smith:
Next up is Kelly Long. Well, I’m pleased to be here today with Kelly Long, who’s running for County Council District 18. Thanks for joining us, Kelly.

Kelly Long:
You’re welcome. I’m glad to be here.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. Well, tell us about yourself and why you are running for office.

Kelly Long:
Absolutely. I live in District 18 in Greer, South Carolina, and I’m a lifelong resident of Greer.
And um both sides of my family, my husband’s family, and my family both reside there um pretty much all but one of us in that district and so that district has always been very dear to me um and i care about the people and I’ve been blessed to know a lot of the people throughout the years and I’m one of those people I like to know everybody so I try to learn anybody new that comes in our district and um.
I have always been a servant leader, and I grew up in Greer, and I was in the financial services industry at the age of 16.
My grandfather was an old banker.
I call it old banker because he did everything the old way, but his name was Jim Bennett.
He was from Duncan, and he worked in Greer his entire life at a very small bank called Bank of Greer.
So I have spent my life in the financial services industry 37 years and in about 2017 I went out on my own. I was in management and I had 60 employees, a lot of stress, I was on call 24 7 and when I found out I was going to be a grandmother I took a step back said you know I think I’m going to return to my first love which was lending. So I took a step back and now I just do mortgage lending and that’s by choice and it it also allows me to have time to step back from my job. I have a great employer and and I really am self-employed I just choose whether or not I want to do a 1099 or W-2 and I like to take advantage of the benefits but basically I’m self-employed and I’m able to take a step back and to continue, do my job, and also take time to do this role as well and so I prepared a year ahead in advance to run.
But basically, at the end of the day, I feel like we have lost our voice in District 18.
And I say, I feel like, because I feel like that too, personally.
The taxpayers are not being listened to.
And we’re just going through a lot of change, which change isn’t bad, but how it’s managed needs to be in the proper way, where everybody involved is winning in the situation, everybody’s better off.
So I view this as there needs to be three wins.
It has to be the people that live here have to win.
Our area, the government needs to win to be able to function and give the services.
And the people that move their businesses in here, they need to win.
And when any one of those wins get out of whack and somebody loses to make that person win, that doesn’t work.
So I feel like we’re out of whack right now and the taxpayer is the one losing and our citizens are losing and they’re losing confidence in our leaders so I’ve served in many capacities through the years and I just feel like it was my time to step up and serve again.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues facing your district and the county?

Kelly Long:
Um, there, there are quite a few, but I will settle on a couple here.
First of all, is I believe we need to look at the growth that we’re experiencing.
We need to manage it better.
I think we need ethical growth, not exponential growth.
And we’re having a lot of overdevelopment. We’re losing our, um, we’re losing our pasture lands.
We’re losing our beauty. The exact reason people are coming here, you turn around and you look and there’s apartments five stories high.
And, you know, there’s a place for that. I’m not saying we don’t need that.
I am saying there’s too much of that and we need to slow that down.
We need to continue to grow economically. We have to.
But we’re way past that. And we’re just looking at exponential growth and then not preparing for the infrastructure that it takes to take care of that growth.
We’re growing first and not worrying about that. We don’t have impact fees or anything in the county that puts that burden of the money on the builder that’s making the money.
And most of the time it’s out-of-state builders.
It’s been putting on the back of the taxpayer and that’s just ethically wrong.
And you know, it’s not sustainable. So we have to be smarter and make the people that are earning the money pay the fees, not people that have no win in that situation.

Kelly Long:
The second thing would be being transparent about what’s going on in our county, especially in the finances. I’m in the finance world and I’ve been versed in fraud.
I’ve done forensic work before. I’ve cooperated with FDIC when we’ve had embezzlement cases.
Um back in 2008 when we had the economic turndown I worked to um with a local bank and I managed the new trid that the regulations that came down from Maine to Florida. So I’m used to working with things where fraud is around and things are going on that shouldn’t be going on. So I am very adamant about being transparent even if there’s nothing going on you’re transparent, you tell everything that’s going on in wine you don’t spend money out of one budget to cover a shortage in another budget, you go back to the drawing board and say, what can we do? What can we cut?
It shouldn’t always be, you know, take out of people’s salaries or charge the taxpayer.
And I just see a lot of that going on right now. And if it’s necessary is one thing, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think we’re just not managing our budget.
And I think we’re not putting the fees on the people that are making the money here. And we are the best place to be.
And we don’t have to give ourselves away. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the United States but here.
And I’m serious about protecting that. So I feel like we need to have people in there that have a financial way about them.
And I’ve got a master’s degree in this and I’ve given my whole life to it.
And I finally have got to a position where I feel like it’s time for me to turn from my career and turn in to that servant leader again and say, hey, I’m here for the people.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Kelly Long:
Absolutely. First thing I would do would be, we’ve had a lot of tax increases in the very recent years.
My first thing would be, I really want to repeal the tax increases that have taken hold the last five years, specifically the two fees that are being charged that our state Supreme Court said were illegal.
And they found that they were illegal. And our county council voted not to give those fees back, but to use them in a different place. And that should not have happened.
So now there’s a second lawsuit to give those fees back.
And those things cost us money. It’s a waste of money having lawsuits.
So I really want to go to council and say, why don’t we just give this money back and get the trust back of the taxpayer and make things right?
Drop these lawsuits and let’s partner with our people, not get into deeper despair over these situations because the situations aren’t going away.
Nobody’s going to forget about it. So that would be number one.
And then I would start making sure, if any way possible, that the developers pay their way.
Instead of paying taxes, they’re doing FILOTs, which is greatly reduced.
They should be paying to fix the roads around the subdivisions.
They should be paying impact fees. They should be paying impact studies.
I don’t have anything against builders, but they are the ones benefiting.
And the county is also benefiting in a tax revenue standpoint.
So I feel like the people benefiting should be the people paying, not the taxpayer, because it benefits us nothing.
In fact we lose a lot of times when we lose our beauty when we’re not doing those things and making sure how it impacts our community. I love our community it’s beautiful and I don’t want to lose that. One part of what I do is I’m actually the South Carolina wildlife chairman for the state of South Carolina for the garden clubs and we’re losing the monarch butterfly over things like this. We’re losing all kinds of birds and I love those things. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to grow up and say, we don’t have any more butterflies or we don’t have this or we don’t have that because we’re not taking the time to do the impact studies.
And I really feel like it’s affecting our people and they’re not happy with what’s going on because we’re not taking the time to do the right things.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. We have one minute left. Is there anything else you’d like to say to listeners?

Kelly Long:
Absolutely. I really appreciate the opportunity and the people that have prayed for me and encouraged me to run.
And I’m really excited about what we can do.
I feel like there are four or five really good people running this time that have never served. They’re business people. They’re all servant leaders.
And they really want to see change come to Greenville County. And I appreciate the opportunity.
Whether I win or not, I’m going to continue to be involved because I’ve been studying for a year, and I’ve just been amazed at things I did not know.
Even though I do stay involved, there was just a lot of things that aren’t apparent to the eye unless you dig in there.
So I’m thankful for the opportunity.
And I want to tell all the districts in Greenville County, if I get voted in, I will serve you.
My vote will impact everyone. And I know that.
And I want them to know me, even if they’re not in my district.
So contact me. And I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

Katy Smith:
Thank you so much, and we appreciate you raising your hand to serve.

Kelly Long:
Thank you. Thank you. 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 Sean Pavone from Getty Images on Canva.

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