There are only two candidates running for the Aiken County Council District 1 seat – incumbent Republican Kathy Rawls and former law enforcement employee and Republican Ron Felder. The duo will face each other on June 10 in South Carolina’s primary race. Each were given the same questions during a face-to-face interview, and these are their responses.
• What strengths in your background will you bring to County Council?
Felder: “One of the things that makes my background good to be able to serve the people in Aiken County District 1, is that, again, I’ve been an Aiken County resident all my life. I’ve served in the public capacity as a law enforcement officer, which I’m very proud of to have served. I’ve worked for Batesburg-Leesville as a law enforcement officer, I’ve worked in Columbia as a law enforcement officer and I worked in Aiken County and Lexington County as an officer. I have a way of working with people and being able to solve situations even with people who’ve done something against society.”
Rawls: “I enjoy being able to help people and contribute to the community, and I felt like I can continue to do that.”
• Is there a priority issue, project or item that you are most passionate about or will be vocal about on County Council?
Felder: “One of the things I’ve heard talking with the residents of Aiken County, just one, is that of concern with law enforcement. They’d like to see more sheriff’s deputies out, going down areas and visiting the elderly people, and trying to be a more proactive department instead of a reactive department. ... Also hearing that they’d like to see something for young people to do and keep them out of trouble, such as places for them to learn and be better, productive citizens.”
Rawls: “Priority for the coming year is probably going to be the expansion of Warner Park. We will continue to work trying to get everything finalized with the animal shelter, and I will continue to work with FOTAS (Friends of the Animal Shelter), on the FOTAS Board to save as many animals as we can and to provide (for) now that we have a proper living environment.”
• The General Assembly in the past years has made cuts to the Local Government Fund, which allows the County to be able to pay state agencies, such as the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. If these cuts persist, how will you handle them?
Felder: “I guess the way to tackle a problem like that is see where there can be other changes of resources to be distributed to keep those agencies open. That would be the first way to look at it. Secondly then, if those offices (are) still coming up short, then go to the public and get their feel about a tax increase from that point to justify it. We always want to make sure the people and the public represented are the ones we’re serving.”
Rawls: “The purpose of that fund is to furnish the buildings and office space that different state agencies need here. And if they continue to cut it, I think we will have no choice but to cut services – some of the services we are providing for the state agencies.”
• Do you support a millage increase?
Felder: “As a conservative, I’m always against taxes. As a business owner, I relate to taxes. I have to pay a lot of that as a business owner. As a citizen, I’m always very reluctant to tax increases. That would be the last resort.”
Rawls: “This year I don’t, I’m not sure I could because of the money, the revenue from fines and fees, is apparently going to be down quite a bit. If we had to do a small millage to make up that difference, I would consider it ... I think if we can do anything for employee salaries, we need to do that. I cannot agree to do that in just one department.”
• Are there any areas of the County budget you think could be trimmed?
Felder: “To answer that, I’d have to look over the budget. So I can’t answer that question without looking at it.”
Rawls: “I do. I think that the treasurer’s office could collect all the taxes, including the delinquent taxes. That seems to be an overlap that could be more efficient ... I do think there are other departments we could trim down some. In some cases, I don’t think I would get much agreement with that.”
• What made you interested in running for County Council?
Felder: “The only thing anyone can do to give back to their community is to be able to serve in a public, official position. Again, I resort back to law enforcement, which is one way I served, but I felt like that has a limitation on how much I can do. This gives me an opportunity to serve the community in a more positive light that sometimes, as a police officer, were seen in negative light.”
Rawls: “There are still many things that need to be accomplished, and many of them are in the middle of (being done) right now. We’re still in the middle of paving roads, and getting right-of-ways, and I’m especially excited about the fact that we’re just beginning the expansion of Warner Park because we waited for that for many years.”
• Why should residents vote for you?
Felder: “I give the people in District 1 a fresh perspective, a new, fresh perspective. Someone who can always be accessible to, someone you can always talk to and someone who will always listen.”
Rawls: “I would like to think that my record says I will do the job well and continue to do it. I’m very responsive to citizens and help them in whatever way they need, whenever they need – someone to go to other than just calling the County office or something.”
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter for Aiken Standard.