Editor’s note: Randy Ra Shad Gaines is one of two candidates running for a vacant City Council seat held by former Councilman Don Wells who was elected as the District 81 Representative to S.C. State House in November. Philip Merry is also running for the seat – his story was printed in the Monday edition and can also be viewed at www.aikenstandard.com.

  Randy Ra Shad Gaines believes that Aiken City Council needs someone with a fresh perspective, and he says he has that.

Gaines, 28, is running for the vacant City Council seat as a Democrat and, if elected, he would be the youngest sitting member.

“I believe that it is time for Aiken to find the right avenues to be a force to be reckoned with as we approach the next 100 years,” Gaines said. “We have to find the right combination when it comes to our people and our resources to make sure that Aiken is sustained, and that cannot be done if we’re using the same people and doing the same things.”

Gaines would like to see a stronger forum between city officials and the younger residents. He said there needs to be more of an effort made by the city to reach out not only to young professionals but young families, too.

He said Aiken’s current economy doesn’t really support a large young professional market. Gaines pointed out that he’s pursuing a career in sports or entertainment management and it’s something that he isn’t going to find in Aiken.

He said the area does have a strong base for careers in medical, science, technological and engineering fields, which the city should continue to build upon.

Though Gaines believes that attracting business to Aiken shouldn’t be City Council’s main focal point, stating that is the job of the Chamber of Commerce, he feels the economy itself should be a concern.

Gaines said that not only will more jobs keep the younger generation in Aiken but, with more people working, the area will experience less crime.

With that in mind, Gaines said Council walks a fine line when it is approving a concept plan of a new business, in making sure residents living in the vicinity of a proposed project are not negatively impacted and the business itself can still accomplish its goals when locating in this city.

“It’s something that we’ll have to be mindful and careful of,” Gaines said. “It’s going to be on a case-by-base basis.”

,As for Aiken’s historic character, he believes that the heritage and culture of the city can be preserved as it changes but it depends a lot on individuals or groups in the community who want to share their history and how they go about doing so.

Gaines would like to see more interactive history that covers a wider spectrum of Aiken.

“You can’t expect the City Council to preserve your history if you are not doing anything to present your history to the masses,” Gaines said.

Gaines feels that the property taxes will continue to stay where they have been for the last two decades because he doesn’t see a reason for them to rise. He said Aiken has the money it needs to get most if not all of its tasks completed, like through the Capital Projects Sales Tax funds, and there are no large, special projects that calls for a need to raise taxes.

Lastly, Gaines said City Council has to assure that Aiken is accessible and approachable to everyone.

“Every resident should feel that they are valid and that they are important,” Gaines said. “Every resident should have the same opportunity whether they live in a gated community or live in the bricks. Every child should have a great education regardless of their Zip code, and every city park and every recreation facility should be fair and equal. Access in Aiken should not be based on where you live. It’s a right that every citizen has, and we need to make sure that is the case.”

Gaines, a South Aiken High School graduate and an ordained minister, later went to Voorhees College and transferred to USC in Columbia, where he studied sports and entertainment management.

Most recently, he was a field organizer with Organizing For America in Florida for the 2012 Obama/Biden Campaign. He was also an Aiken County delegate for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. He served as president of the S.C. Young Democrats from 2007 to 2011.

Gaines has been the owner of The Letter R, a political strategy and business development company, since 2009.

The unexpired seat, currently an at-large position, will be on the ballot during a special election on March 12, in which any city resident can vote.

In November 2013, the term officially expires and will be on the ballot again but under the new six-to-one plan as District 6. 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.

Gaines currently does not live in District 6 and said, though he’s considering moving to that part of town, he has to make sure it will be a move right for him.

Gaines is holding a “Get out to Vote Rally” this evening starting at 7 p.m. at the Aiken Men of Action building located at 640 Old Airport Road.