District 25 – 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 Ennis Fant, Derrick Quarles, and Lisa Sweeney, candidates for Greenville County Council District 25, generally representing the Augusta Road areas of Pleasant Valley and Belle Meade. 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. Patrick Prince has also filed to run, but he did not respond to numerous requests to participate in the podcast.

Links:

Ennis Fant

Derrick Quarles

Lisa Sweeney

Sample Ballot

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 Ennis Fant, Derrick Quarles, and Lisa Sweeney, who are running for District 25, which generally covers the Augusta Road areas of Pleasant Valley and Belle Meade. Patrick Prince has also filed to run, but he did not respond to numerous requests to participate in the podcast. But first, a quick primer on why primaries are so important.

Katy Smith:
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 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 25 had only Democratic candidates file. So based on the outcome of the June 11th Democratic primary, either incumbent Ennis Fant or Patrick Prince, Derrick Quarles, or Lisa Sweeney 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.

Katy Smith:
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 Ennis Fant. Well, I’m pleased to be joined today by Dr. Ennis Fant, candidate for County Council District 25. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ennis Fant:
Thank you for having me.

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

Ennis Fant:
Well, I’m Ennis Fant. I’m a native Greenvillian, public schools here in Greenville, chemical engineering graduate, University of South Carolina. Attended both Erskine Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have been pastoring for 34 years, Pleasant View Missionary Baptist Church. And I’m also bi-vocational, both in insurance and real estate. And I’ve always had a knack for politics, even since my early days in college. And they just kind of carried through over the years.

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

Ennis Fant:
The issues facing my district are pretty simple, but they’re huge. Number one, we have to have greater economic growth. And we’ve made some progress there with regards to fee-in-lieu of tax and attracting new industry. Over the past seven years, we’ve had more economic investment as job creation in District 25 than any other, all the other districts combined with the business and technology district on 25 and also with Augusta Grove. $2.8 billion in economic advancement has come to District 25, which has created over 2,400 new jobs. The biggest goal with that is, number one, we have food deserts, obviously, which you’re familiar with. We’ve got to get income up. There are pockets where you have 3, 4, 5, 6,000 people within a three-mile radius, but median household income’s under $40,000. So we’ve got to get higher paying jobs, number one, so people can have more disposable income. The other thing we have to do to get more disposable income is create more homeownership. Greenville County on average is 60-40 homeownership rentals. In District 25 is just the opposite. It’s 60% rentals, 40% homeownership, and many of my constituents are spending 70% of their income on rent and utilities, which is unacceptable. So we’re working to try to create more homeownership as well, along with more affordable housing. So those are kind of the main things we’re focused on.

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

Ennis Fant:
My priorities if reelected this year are basically threefold. One, to amend our current tax abatement policy for affordable housing from 40% down to 30%. Now, once we get it to 30, that’s as low as we can go. Anything after that, obviously, we have to be subsidized. So that’s one goal. A huge goal, like right this moment, is I’m unabashedly in favor of the one-cent sales tax. So anybody who’s against it, can scream, yell. I say publicly, look, we have 250,000 people coming to Greenville County over the next 20 years. It is absolutely failed leadership on steroids to bury your head in the sands and do nothing to prepare for the next generation and the people that are coming here. If we can do a one-cent, number one, we can’t even get contractors to pave the roads we have because we have so little money and are paving so little. Nobody’s interested in setting up to pave a dead end road.

Ennis Fant:
So. If we do a one-cent sales tax, that’s one point zero four billion dollars over the next eight years. That’s great. However, three hundred and thirty seven million of it will come from people who don’t even live here. People who work in Greenville, who come from Laurens, Pickens, Anderson, Spartanburg every day. If you’re riding on our roads, guess what? You should be up and pay for them. So how do we leave three hundred thirty-seven million dollars on the table to fix our roads? It is unconscionable to think that the only people who should pay for roads are people who live in Greenville County who actually own a car.

Ennis Fant:
We’re better than that. So that’s one of the things we got to do. And the other thing we’re working on is to eliminate these food deserts. You know, people in my district talk about food deserts all the time. Until we looked into it more, we didn’t realize there were seven food deserts in Greenville County, one in 25, one in 23, two in District 19, one in District 17 and two in District 18. So they’re everywhere. And when you have more than 50,000 people in Greenville County who suffer from food insecurity, that is a moral tragedy on everybody’s part who believes that’s OK, particularly the negative impact it has on children. So we’re looking at some legislation to provide a fee in lieu of tax agreements, or I guess I should say maybe SSRCs and multi-county parks to grocery stores that are located in food deserts to offset the income they don’t think they’re going to receive because of the lower income.

Katy Smith:
Thank you so much. We have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to listeners?

Ennis Fant:
Listen, I think we’re in a great spot on county council, and I don’t know exactly who your listeners are, but I want them to hear me and hear me really good. I love it that Greenville County Council is not Columbia and that it is not Washington, D.C. And if you look at both of them, you can look at the dysfunction of both over county council. What I really like about county council is that we don’t practice political polarization. We don’t practice hyper-partisanship because we don’t think there’s anything partisan about fixing roads or there’s nothing partisan about making sure that EMS gets to you when you need them. And the fact that we can get beyond that and really focus on the issues is really exciting. My whole goal and the whole reason I do this, and I guess it’s from a biblical perspective, I really want to be able to leave not just District 25, but Greenville County better than it was when I inherited it. So when I’m long gone, there’ll be some evidence, whether my name is called or not is not important, but there’s some evidence that I passed this way and made some tangible difference in this community for the next generation.

Katy Smith:
Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you so much for your willingness to continue to serve the people of Greenville County.

Ennis Fant:
Thank you for the invitation. Appreciate you having me.

Katy Smith:
Next up is Derrick Quarles. I’m so pleased to be joined by Derrick Quarles running for District 25. Thanks so much for joining us.

Derrick Quarles:
Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Katy Smith:
Great. Well, Derrick, tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.

Derrick Quarles:
Well, I’m a proud father of two little girls. One will be two in May and the other will be four in July. And they keep me really, really busy. But I’m running for office in green… oh sorry before I get into that, about me. From Greenville, went to Hughes Middle School, Hughes Academy, South Side High School. I will be defending my dissertation my practice run this coming Saturday and I’ll be defending my dissertation hopefully the end of this month. I don’t have the date just yet but my PhD is in higher education administration so my background is in education administration. And again, from Greenville, I’ve been an advocate in this community for almost 15, a little over 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot of the issues in the community firsthand. I’ve dealt with a lot of issues from police brutality to, you know, civil rights issues to housing issues, seen all that stuff. And so it’s kind of created the person that I am today and kind of pushed me into not so much politics, but more so a policy. And again, just excited to offer myself as a candidate for county council, being boots on the ground, talking to people in the community, knowing what the needs are, and feeling like I can address some of those needs. And so a little bit about me.

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

Derrick Quarles:
Some of the biggest issues in the district, specifically 25, are gentrification is a huge issue all over Greenville County, but specifically in 25. I can remember, you know, being in middle school and high school and riding around and seeing houses that were dilapidated, that were, you know, run down and people were still living in these houses. And, you know, I went to college, came back and I started seeing gentrification happening.

Derrick Quarles:
Not so much in 25, but I saw it coming towards 25. It was happening in downtown first. And now when I ride through 25, I see it’s every other house that’s been gentrified and it’s been renovated. And the pricing of the houses are so, you know, ridiculous that people that live in those communities are afraid that the next three or four years they won’t be able to live there anymore. So housing is a huge issue. Affordability is a huge issue. Also, over-policing is a huge issue on that side of town. We recognize that there’s a need for public safety and we respect law enforcement and we know they have a job to do. But oftentimes I ride around, especially like in the more lower-income areas of 25 and I see heavy police presence, just police just patrolling the neighborhoods, you know, out talking to people and not so much like trying to figure out like why they’re there, but it looks like they’re trying to create an issue out of nothing. And so an example of that is a few, well, some time ago, I was just riding through and I saw a police pull over this car and I just pulled over to observe. And the officer saw me and one of them said, the other one, that’s Derrick Quarles. And they literally let the person go. They didn’t ask for a license… And so it just, I don’t know what the issue was, but it was just sad to see that happen. And so of course I reported it to the sheriff’s office because anytime you make contact with somebody, you’re supposed to at least give them a piece of paper saying, I made contact with you. None of that happened. And so just some of the issues. Also talking to seniors in the community, property taxes are going up.

Derrick Quarles:
And so creating a homestay initiative or increasing it, lowering the age for the seniors in the community who are on fixed incomes, so that when housing prices go up and taxes go up, theirs don’t go up. Because they’re having to choose between, and everybody knows this, but choosing between paying for groceries or paying their bills. And I don’t think any senior, anybody want their grandparent having to struggle or worry about they got to pay for the medication or pay for groceries. And another thing is, and this is a Greenville County issue, is in the jails, we see a lot of people that are in the jails who have issues with drug abuse. And instead of the police treating those issues as an addiction and as a medical issue, they treat it as a criminal issue. And so I want to make sure I work with law enforcement so that we can correct that issue so that we can make sure folks have the help they need and so that people can come back into society and contribute.

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

Derrick Quarles:
Priorities are working with developers. I know a lot of developers want to come into 25. It’s one of the most underdeveloped areas in Greenville County. And so working with developers to make sure that if they want to build, that they want to do partnerships with Greenville County and 25, we welcome it. But it has to be that folks who live there can stay there. And I get that market rate has to, it’s a reality. Like I have a market rate home and I respect that and I know that I welcome market rate homes, but I also want to see more income-based housing. I looked at a stat last week from HUD that talked about the number of folks who receive affordable housing or who receive funding from HUD in Greenville County. And the majority of the folks from what I saw were white people. And I don’t have an issue with that. The issue I have with that is I want those funds to be allocated equitably across the board so that other folks who need that assistance can also have that assistance.

Derrick Quarles:
So that would be a priority for me. Another priority, again, is working to make sure that the taxes of seniors are protected, that they’re lowered so that they can maintain their properties and stay in their homes. And also just making sure that seniors have, you know, like they have issues with their homes, like their homes are older. A lot of the ones who’ve been in their home 30 and 40 years, they have issues with roofing, issues with plumbing. And so figuring out how the county can help, you know, to address some of those issues, because I’ve done some of that as a civilian working with the county. And so I know that it’s possible and I know that could be done. So those will be some of the priorities. So, again, just working with the sheriff’s office to make sure that diversity, equity, and inclusion is happening and not just textbook, but it’s happening so that our community feels it, but also so that the officers in the agency feel it. Because I talk to officers all the time. I talked to a couple yesterday of all colors, of all politics who want to see the sheriff’s office, you know, doing a better job. I’m not saying that it’s not doing a good job, but I think we could all do better. And so I want to make sure that I’m working with the sheriff. We have a pretty solid relationships working with the sheriff’s office and even the police department to make sure that folks feel safe in the community, but also so that their offices and deputies feel like they have security in their jobs and they feel welcome at work.

Katy Smith:
Wonderful. We have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to say to listeners?

Derrick Quarles:
Yes. Another issue, I’m sorry, in 25 is, and I’ve talked to a lot of folks and I won’t say the names to protect the conversation, but, I know that there have been a couple of different companies that wanted to come into Greenville County, specifically into District 25. And they looked at that area and they declined to come in 25. And it’s because of a few issues.

Derrick Quarles:
One being the air quality, which we don’t think about that, but a lot of companies do, especially companies overseas. They value that kind of stuff. And so I know specifically in 25, we have a lot of issues like the waste plant is over there. And so figuring out how we can create a cleaner and safer environment or for folks in 25. I was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago for work and I was at a conference and we were at a waste facility. You would have never known because they made it so beautiful and then they put chemicals in the water and you couldn’t smell anything. And so I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it happen and so I want to be able to bring that same thing to Greenville. Because in the summertime, that waste plant, you can smell it all up and down Maulden Road. And again, that’s an area where you have a lot of folks who have, you know, health issues. And so them coming outside and smelling that, it could contribute to what they have going on. Also, we have more Title I schools in District 25 than any other district in Greenville County. And so working with our principals, our superintendent, our school leadership, because education, again, is my background, to figure out what those needs are so that teachers feel supported, principals feel supported, but also so that our students feel supported and feel that they have the support and the skills that they need to be productive citizens.

Derrick Quarles:
And I’ve learned from Title I schools that the students are not, you know, they’re not less smart than any other group of people. They just don’t have the resources oftentimes. And so working with the school board to figure out how we can work together to, because right now, the school board isn’t working with County Council, to my knowledge, at a high level. And so we’re figuring out how we can work together to create a better education system for our students in Greenville County.

Katy Smith:
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. And thanks so much for your willingness to serve.

Derrick Quarles:
Thank you again. I’m glad to be here.

Katy Smith:
Last up is Lisa Sweeney. I’m pleased to be here with Lisa Sweeney, who is a candidate for County Council District 25. Thanks so much for joining me today, Lisa.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Yes. Thank you, Katy, for having me. I’m excited. Super excited. Yes, ma’am.

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

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Okay. Well, first of all, my name is Lisa Bailey Sweeney. I grew up in District 25, born and reared there all my life. I am from a very large family, which is of 12 siblings. My father, who was a World War II veteran, my mother, who was a domestic engineer. They both are deceased now, but it was always about the community. I had a father who actually fed the entire community. So my parents were well known as community leaders. And also, too, I was child number 10. So I was one of the ones that was blessed to go off to college, which I am a graduate of Benedict College, HBCU school. I majored in criminal justice, and also, too, I went through the Army ROTC program, so I was commissioned as an officer in the military. So I spent a great deal of my life during the first few years after I graduated from college, traveling as an officer in the military. I got commissioned as a captain and promoted and ended up coming back to Fort Gordon, Georgia, which put me a lot closer to home where I did my command time.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Actually, after I completed that, I went into law enforcement to work as a detention officer. I got promoted, been there for eight months, loved it, enjoyed it. And I spent seven years there. And after doing those two wonderful buckets, I say my bucket list dreams, I ended up going into paraprofessional and working as an in-school suspension facilitator at Eastside High School. That’s where I first started out at and then ended up with owning my own nonprofit, working with children in the community, which my nonprofit is called Lisa’s Schoolhouse Rock. And now I am currently at Wade Hampton High School working here as an intervention specialist along with doing in-school suspension facility… facilitator.

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

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
As of now, one of the things that a lot of people are concerned about as far as with the county is that we are progressively growing here in Greenville, South Carolina. But the homeless issue has been one of the main issues that a lot of people are concerned about in the county as well as in our district. I know in the district where I’m running as county council, we have a major concern as far as with the food shortages and then, of course, too, with housing.

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

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Well, my priority right now really is with housing. And that’s due to the fact that we have a lot of our citizens there who have been born and raised there. Some of them are losing their houses as well as some of them have children that are homeless right there within the district because of not having affordable housing. We’ve had several seniors who have purchased their housing, but because we’ve had several other gentrification issues that are starting to happen with the taxes going up for them and living on a fixed income, they’re just not in a place to where they can afford to pay the taxes on their houses. So as a result to that, we want to make sure that we have something in place to where not only are seniors taking care of with the housing issues, but also too just some of the ones that are actually living on the streets or living in the hotels that need to be able to be put in some housing. So we don’t have anything that’s in place right now to where we can be able to make sure that they can be accommodated for what’s pulled in from off the streets, as well as being on the verge of actually being evicted from some of their homes.

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

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Well, I think the main thing is our voters are really looking for some leadership that they can not only trust, but also can work with.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
They have their best interests in heart, especially there again, when it comes to the housing issue.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
And I want to be able to let them know that as a leader, I’m not just able, I’m just not able to just fight for them, but I’m also able to be able to execute some things that are needed in reference to get this housing situation under control. I have looked into several other communities from out of states that have some not only affordable housing, low-income housing that we could have put here, but also to make sure that once we come into an agreement as far as how we’re going to move forward in making this happen, I want to assure them that it will come to fruition. And also too, I’m the type of leader to where I am very approachable. I do want them to know that if they do call me, I will answer my phone. And on top of that too, I will get back with them.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Growing up as a child and being reared by some impeccable leaders back in the late 80s, early 90s, that was one thing that they always made the community feel very secure and confident in is that they will be able to not only receive their phone calls, but also to have an answer for some of the concerns and the issues that they need. I just see where nowadays it’s almost it’s not…

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
For people are considered to be important or the community is considered to be known or acknowledged is that their thoughts, their actions, their concerns, their issues are important. And it really is to a place to where it’s when it comes to just the tax dollars that we are managing, that we are actually over, that we’re actually responsible for. They need to know that they tax that is their tax dollars and they need to know that those tax dollars are going to be channeled and funneled into those areas to where the needs need to be met. There again, just even going back to the food insecurities that we have, the grocery stores, although it’s been told or imposed upon the people that they don’t have the income that’s available to be able to have a quality grocery store. Well, we know as a people that live in that district that that is not the case.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
We really can’t afford to have quality grocery stores. And also, too, we can make sure that the ones that they are interested in, we can make that happen. And the same for the housing, making sure that we have all housing that’s in place to where people can afford to stay there, as well as just making sure that the process is fair so that when they do fill out the applications, when they do put in for the different type of grants of funding, extra help that is needed, that it is there and it is there for them.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. I appreciate you taking part today and I appreciate your willingness to serve the community.

Lisa Bailey Sweeney:
Thank you so very much.

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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