Filing for a vacant Aiken City Council seat doesn’t open until Friday, but someone has already announced their intent to run.
Aiken City Design Review Board Chairman Philip Merry is seeking to fill former Councilman Don Wells’ seat. Wells was elected earlier this month as the District 81 Representative to S.C. State House.
“With Wells’ election, Columbia’s gain is our loss here in the City of Aiken,” Merry said. “Because of his departure, we lose the common sense voice of a small business, family man on City Council.”
The unexpired seat, currently an at-large position, will be on the ballot during a special election in March.
In November 2013, the term officially expires and will be on the ballot again but under the new six-to-one plan. The two current City Council at-large seats will become single-member districts, and the mayor will still be elected by all eligible City voters.
Merry said he lives within the newly formed District 6, which is what the current at-large seat will encompass.
Merry, a graduate of Wofford College with a degree in business and economics, is a native Aikenite. He worked for an insurance business in Greer for about two years before returning to Aiken and currently works at Hutson-Etherredge Companies, a local insurance business established in 1876. Merry also ran his own residential construction business, Merry Custom Homes, since 2006.
Merry has served on the DRB for approximately 10 years, six of those as chairman.
A large portion of the historic district is in the newly formed District 6 and, with years of assisting in the preservation of the historic integrity of the area, Merry feels he would be a good fit. He also has strong family roots in Aiken, which makes that preservation even more important to him.
He said the quaint, historic image and unique character of Aiken intrigues so many, and it’s important to maintain that.
“It’s the reason that a lot of businesses want to be in Aiken, but it’s businesses themselves that make that preservation possible,” Merry said.
Merry said he wants to see more businesses come to Aiken and jobs created and that his experience on the DRB has helped him learn how to balance the priorities of Aiken’s Historic District goals and the dreams of private property owners.
“It’s about the future; it’s about all of our kids and grandkids, and it’s about a common sense and collaborative approach to the issues that face our city,” Merry said.
Merry said he made the decision to run around Thanksgiving, a time when family and friends who don’t live near each other make an effort to visit. He thought of some of his family members who are scattered about and wants more career opportunities for his daughter, Greer, and son, Philip, to pursue so they’ll continue making Aiken their home when they enter adulthood.
“(Aiken is) where my heart is,” Merry said. “It was my goal to move back to Aiken because I love it here, and I want my kids to be able to do the same thing.”
Merry will run as a Republican in this race.
Filing for nomination by petitions and entry of candidates for primaries opens at noon Friday and closes at noon on Dec. 10. If primaries are necessary, they will be held Jan. 22.
The last day to file as a petition candidate will be Jan. 11 at noon. The special election will be held March 12.
Democratic candidates are asked to file at 225 Chesterfield St. N. For more information, call 644-5335.
Republican candidates will file at 127 Greenville St. S.W. For more information, call 648-5626.
Anyone living in the city can run for the at-large seat, but it will be on the ballot as District 6 in November 2013.
To see if you reside in the newly-formed district, the map is available at www.cityofaikensc.gov.