District 20 – 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 Ken Matesevac and Alex Reynolds, candidates for Greenville County Council District 20, generally representing the Taylors area and some of Travelers Rest. 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. Also running is incumbent Steve Shaw, but after scheduling for an interview twice and missing the first and canceling the second, Mr. Shaw declined to participate.

Links:

Ken Matesevac: https://ken4district20.com/

Alex Reynolds: https://www.votealexreynolds.com/

Steve Shaw: https://www.facebook.com/SteveShawGreenville/

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 Ken Matesevac and Alex Reynolds, who are running for District 20, which generally covers the Taylors area and some of Travelers Rest.
Also running is incumbent Steve Shaw, but after scheduling for an interview twice and missing the first and canceling the second, Mr. Shaw declined to participate.
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 20 had only Republican candidates file, so based on the outcome of the June 11th Republican primary, Ken Matesevac, Alex Reynolds, or Steve Shaw 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 is Ken Matesevac. I’m pleased to be here with Ken Matesevac, who’s running for District 20 County Council. Thanks so much for joining us today, Ken.

Ken Matesevac:
Thank you for having me here.

Katy Smith:
Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.

Ken Matesevac:
Well, to give you a little bit of background, I grew up in Pennsylvania.
I came down to Bob Jones University when I was a college student, became a math teacher, moved away for a while, but then came back in 2010 to work here at BJU Press here in Greenville.
And I’ve had family in Greenville for many, many years, so I’ve been coming to Greenville on a regular basis for… really since I was in junior high.
It’s a very nice place. I’ve always enjoyed it here. My wife and I were happy to move here in 2010.
We’re happy to stay here. We don’t want to move anymore.
I’ve joked for years that if we buy another home, it better be a vacation home because we don’t want to move. We like it here. We really do.
Now, I have been involved, been interested in politics for pretty much my whole life. I’ve just always found it interesting.
I was one of those people that when I was 18, I was at the polling place at 7:05 in the morning so that I could cast my first vote.
I was really excited about it. And that’s just a little something about me.
Last year when it looked like the seat would be open and I wouldn’t necessarily pick a fight against an incumbent, but when it looked like the seat would be open, my wife and I thought about it, talked about it, prayed about it.
And when the announcement came that it would be open, we jumped in and we started and we’ve been going strong ever since.
And really, why would I do this? I mean, it’s fun in a way. I guess it’s interesting for sure.
But really, I want to do my part to make Greenville County a better place.
Now, it’s already a great place.
Like I said, I am thrilled to live here. This is a wonderful place to be.
But we can make it even better, and I want to work to that end.

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

Ken Matesevac:
I think one of the biggest things that we need to look at in Greenville County are our finances.
The budget process is not as transparent as I would like to see it be.
I would like to be able to go to the Greenville County website and in a matter of seconds pull up whatever budget information I would like for the current period or even for past periods, or what maybe is even being debated upon for a future year.
I think that would be something important. I think I would be the kind of person who would be the financial watchdog. I would be the one who would be telling the taxpayers, hey, we’re spending X number of dollars on this.
Why? Is that a good use of your tax money?
Let the taxpayers weigh in on that. I think a lot of them would say, yes, that is a good use of, and no, it’s not in some other cases.
I think that’s a perfectly legitimate function, but I would be the kind of person who would look at the budget line by line with a pencil or a highlighter in my hand, and I would be marking things and writing down questions and then going and seeking out the answers to those questions before I ever voted on a budget to say up or down.
Another thing is Greenville County needs to focus on what I call the core functions of government.
And by state law and longtime custom, there are certain things that Greenville County is obligated to do.
We obviously, for instance, we fund the sheriff’s office, we fund public safety.
Those are important. And with the growth of Greenville County, public safety has to grow accordingly, proportionately, to meet the needs of the people without diminishing the quality of the service.
I think it’s very important. We have other functions. We have registers of deeds.
We have the county auditor’s office. We have a variety of those kinds of things that the county is tasked with doing. We need to do them well.
We, of course, have to deal with the infrastructure and the roads.
The county is responsible for many miles of roads, and they need to be kept up.
And going from voter to voter, I really would have to say that’s the one thing that they complain the most about, is that the roads are not up to the quality that they expect.
And with the increased property taxes last year, they’re going to be even more demanding in that regard.
And I really think that that needs to be a budget priority.
I’m not so sure that it is now like it ought to be.
Another aspect of that would be growth management i know that there have been long-term plans in the past, I’m sure there will be a revised one within the next four years there should be, and I think it’s probably going to happen whether I get elected to do it or not. But we need to be looking at the long-term ramifications of the growth of Greenville County. Where are we going to put people? What’s zoning going to look like?
District 20, where I’m running, is a mostly residential district.
And consequently, a lot of people treasure what green space is left.
And they really don’t want to see a lot more inhabitants in the district.
They want to see better roads in the district.
But those are the kinds of things that I think are really important.
And then another one would be values.
We need to keep in Greenville County what is good and what is moral.
We need to have good government. We need to have transparent government.
We need to be promoting values that the people of District 20 embrace.
And I think most of the people in District 20 are family-oriented. They’re Christians.
They want to see a wholesome environment here in Greenville County.
Not that we don’t have it, but they want to see it preserved.
Certainly, we need to make sure that Greenville County government is behaving constitutionally.
I’m a firm believer that everything should be transparent.
We shouldn’t have secret meetings. We shouldn’t have backroom deals.
It’s not to say that we can’t negotiate, and certainly, there’s a place for that.
But these things need to be out in the open, and these things need to be done in a way where anyone who wants to pay attention can pay attention and understand what’s going on. And I think that will make for better governance here in Greenville County.

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

Ken Matesevac:
Well, the things that I just went over obviously would be priorities, and I would want to focus on that and draw attention to those things.
To me, the county council seat, so there’s over 40,000 people in each county council district in Greenville County, and the county councilman or county councilwoman needs to be a representative.
That’s the first line of representation for most of Greenville County outside of the six cities and I want to be that person. I want to be the person that they call or email when they say look I have an issue that I think is appropriate to county government and somebody in county needs to deal with it. I want to be the person they call or email and say “hey, I can help you or I can at least point you to someone who can help you.” I can’t do everything thing, obviously, as a councilman.
But I can certainly say, you know what, you need to go to this office at County Square, this office here, and talk to that person and let them know your issue because they’re the ones that can take care of it most effectively and most efficiently.
So I want to be that person. I want to have regular meetings with constituents, whether they be in person, whether it be some sort of a Zoom-type meeting.
I want to be able to meet with the constituents on a fairly regular basis and say, here’s what’s going on at the county level.
Here’s what’s going on at the county level that affects you in District 20.
It may be another matter if something’s going on down in Fountain Inn that may not be a big deal to District 20, but some things are.
And I want to be able to share that with people and give them a greater understanding because unfortunately, as you probably know, most people aren’t paying the closest attention, except maybe at election time.
So I want to be informative. I want to listen.
I want to, in a sense, be the representative.
I want to be the responsible party and go to county council and argue for the causes that District 20 deems important.

Katy Smith:
Great. We have a little bit of time left. Is there anything else you’d like listeners to know?

Ken Matesevac:
An interesting fact about myself, my grandfather, and this would have been back in the 1950s, he served on his local school board up in Pennsylvania.
And my mother, who is 79 years old, is now in her seventh term as a town councilman in a little town of 2,300 people where I grew up in Pennsylvania.
And where the town is located is near a big steel mill, or what was a big steel mill.
My other grandfather worked there most of his adult life. But what I see there is it’s… it’s set up similarly to Greenville County government in that you have a council and the council is responsible for just about everything.
And they hire a very small staff to take care of things much smaller than having in the county.
But what’s interesting is between my mother and the people that are on the council with her.
They’re civic-minded. They’re good people. They are looking out for the best interests of the citizens.
And while many towns like that, that saw better days 50 years ago, have really declined and really kind of, in a sense, gone off a cliff in some ways, they’ve been able to hold things together better because you have selfless people who just want to see the betterment of the borough and they want to see a better town. And they get results that way.
And I would love to see something like that on a much bigger scale here in Greenville County.

Katy Smith:
Great. Well, Ken, thank you so much for being with us, and thank you so much for your willingness to serve.

Ken Matesevac:
Thank you.

Katy Smith:
Next up is Alex Reynolds. Well, I’m pleased to be joined today by Alex Reynolds, who’s running for District 20 County Council. Alex, thanks for being with us.

Alex Reynolds:
It’s my pleasure to be here with you today.

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

Alex Reynolds:
Sure. I’ve been a resident of the Taylors and Eastside areas for nearly 15 years, and in that time, I’ve been very involved in the Main Street Taylors area specifically.
I worked for Taylors First Baptist, and during my time there, we launched Taylors Town Square, which is a community development organization.
That organization did a lot of work to improve the Main Street Taylors area, and through that work, it got me involved in the revitalization of the Taylors Mill and the ongoing work to create a historic park down at Chick Springs.
I worked on the Taylors Community Plan also as a part of that organization.
We did a Main Street Taylors zoning overlay, all sorts of other projects around Main Street and the mill.
All of those efforts really helped me see the importance of local government and the need for good leadership.
I got involved in serving in one of Greenville County’s boards for the Historic and Natural Resources Trust, which works strategically to preserve natural areas, historic sites, trails, and farms so that future generations can really see and understand our history and values.
I have a young family, and we’re building our lives here, and I want to make sure that I’ve done everything I can to make this place even better for my son to grow up in as well.
So I saw the need for leaders focused on the challenges that are core to Greenville County’s responsibilities, and I really felt called to step forward and serve my community as a champion for those things.

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

Alex Reynolds:
Yeah, I think we need focused leaders who are really working to solve, again, those core problems Greenville County is facing. I think those are a few things.
One, we’ve got to manage growth better, right? That means, two, tying growth, I think, to the infrastructure to support that growth.
We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of our roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure to really make sure that if growth is happening, that we’re not thinking about the infrastructure to support it as an afterthought.
Finally, we’ve got to make sure that we’re supporting our first responders, emergency personnel, and making sure that they have what they need to respond in some of these areas, right?
There’s parts of District 20 that are pretty far out from the core areas of Greenville, really far away from where most of the emergency services are headquartered, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got adequate manpower and support to reach those areas.
So those are kind of the three core things that I see that we’ve really got to focus on.
And I think if we bite off too much more than that, it’s really hard to get much done.

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

Alex Reynolds:
Sure. As I said, I think we’ve got to manage growth. And I think that works out in a couple of ways.
One, we’ve got to make sure we update our land use policies, the zoning ordinance, land development reg, subdivision ordinance, to really make sure that we tie growth to infrastructure.
And that’s going to be hard work, right? But we’ve got to have a more comprehensive view of what it means to support development while at the same time, making sure that the infrastructure is there to support it and making sure that there’s adequate capacity in all of those things.
We’ve also got to work on creative solutions to maintain that infrastructure, right?
That is our roads, bridges, and all those things. We’ve got to make sure that we partner with municipalities.
We’ve got to make sure we partner with the state and all the other stakeholders that are involved, REWA, the sewer districts, all the different things, right?
To make sure that all those entities are working together so that we can find real solutions to those particular challenges as well.
And again, I think those two things go hand in hand. And a body as small and a deliberative body as small as Greenville County Council, right, there’s 12 members.
We’ve really got to make sure we’ve got leaders who have the proven ability to work with others to get things done.
Through all the work that I’ve done in the Main Street Taylors area and Taylors Town Square and all those things, I think I’ve proven my ability to work with others.
And I want to apply those skills to solving these bigger challenges for our community.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. We have a little bit of time left. Is there anything else you’d like to say to listeners and voters?

Alex Reynolds:
Yeah, I really do think because of all my experience in the work in the Main Street Taylors area, the Taylors Mill, and just broadly in the Taylors area in general, I’ve said Taylors about three times there, but I really do believe that I’m qualified for this position.
I think at the end of the day, we have to work up, right?
I think change really happens best when you start at the local level and figure out, okay, how do you work with my neighbor, right? Then how do I work with this specific area?
And I think for me, this is just the next step up, right?
How do we take the skills that we’ve learned along the way? I think it’s really hard to learn those skills if you’re just kind of starting at one of these more medium levels, right?
I’ve put in years of work building the skills, building relationships, figuring out how the structures of county government work.
I’ve seen them work well. I’ve seen them work not well. And I think that I can bring all those skills to bear for the betterment of the citizens of Greenville County Council District 20 and the county as a whole.

Katy Smith:
Well, thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much for your interest in serving the people of the community.

Alex Reynolds:
It’s my pleasure, thank you for having me today.

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 from Getty Images Pro on Canva.

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