Aiken voters will choose between two candidates Tuesday in a special election to fill the unexpired seat Don Wells vacated when he was elected to the state House.
Randy Ra Shad Gaines seems to be a likable young man who has looked at the community and considered ways to take Aiken into the future. He wants the city to reach out to younger adults and provide more job diversity to keep them in Aiken. That’s important.
But in this race, we recommend Philip Merry.
Merry is an experienced businessman who has served on many public and private boards. That experience will serve him, and the city, well.
He also is passionate about preserving the city’s historic character. In fact, he served on the Design Review Board for 10 years, six of those as chairman.
His insider view of the historic nature of Aiken gives him unique insight into how to build on the old while bringing in the new and building a strong economy.
“We have to balance those two (historic preservation and business) in which many consider to be conflicting entities,” Merry told the Aiken Standard. “They go hand in hand. In order to preserve the great historic properties, you have to have a vibrant economy.”
Merry said the City Council must create an environment that will foster a high quality of life with a low cost of living. That, he said, can be done by broadening the local economic base.
Much as been made about Gaines not living in what will be District 6. Now the seat will be elected at-large.
But, later this year Aiken will convert to a single-member district form of government, so there will be a mayor elected at-large and six Council members elected from specific districts.
Members will have to live in the district they represent.
This seat expires then and will be on the ballot again, but under the new plan as District 6.
While incumbency helps with re-election, it’s no guarantee. So while it matters that Gaines doesn’t live in the district during the next election, it shouldn’t be a deciding factor in this election.