Candidates vying for the position of Berkeley County Supervisor met in the same forum for the first time during the Berkeley County Republican Women’s meeting in Goose Creek on Oct. 7.
All three claimed to be running as conservative Republicans — Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis, Moncks Corner Mayor Bill Peagler and Jerry Beckley each addressed the meeting, stating their qualifications for the job.
“I knew deer hunting season started a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t know it was political hunting season already,” Davis said, joking with the full house audience that packed the meeting room at the Berkeley Electric Co-op offices.
Davis is wrapping up his second term as supervisor, which was a contention point for Beckley.
“I think eight years is long enough to be county supervisor,” said Beckley, who brings 15 years of state and local government experience to the table. “If elected you will not see me seek a third term. The Berkeley County Supervisor should not be a permanent position. If you have run for more than two terms, are you running for the people or are you running for yourself?”
Davis politely disagreed, saying it takes time to build and cultivate inter-county relationships, and for various projects such as the county road improvements and Jedburg Road development to be completed.
“I didn’t anticipate running for a third term,” he said. “I decided to seek a third term primarily for what we have going on in Jedburg and the penny program (LOST). It isn’t as fun as it looks like but there are projects out there that I started and I want to finish them.”
Peagler, who began his political career in 1996 after being elected to Moncks Corner town council, is in the middle of his third term as mayor of Moncks Corner. He said it is time for the infighting among factions of county council to end.
“The infighting … is dragging us down and I pledge to stop it,” he said. “I work well with people and have been bringing parties together, and helped thousands of people during my legal career. I plan to make new development stand on its own, and not be subsidized by taxpayers.”
Peagler also pledged to work closely with the school board and promised the days of county ambulances breaking down while on a call will come to and end.
“I promise to give you my best effort,” he said. “As taxpayers you are my customers. I will strive to earn your trust and work toward customer satisfaction.”
Moncks Corner’s population has increased by 25 percent since Peagler became mayor in 2004. “Moncks Corner has successfully weathered the economic downturn without furloughs and increasing taxes,” Peagler said.
Beckley said this upcoming primary election would be about vision, trust and leadership.
“People have stopped trusting their elected officials and as your supervisor I will go door to door, from one end of Berkeley County to the other, to help rebuild the trust between residents and government,” he said. “The days of leading from behind are over.”
While admitting he is the new face in the crowd, Beckley criticized Davis for Daniel Island’s plans to secede from Berkeley County and join Charleston County.
“The people of Daniel Island feel like they are not part of the Berkeley County family,” he said. “Nine percent of the population responsible for 15 percent of the county’s revenue ... losing Daniel Island would cause an increase in taxes across the county. We have to set priorities. I think our priorities are a little skewed.”
The candidates were also asked to list their greatest strengths in what they would bring to the table if elected supervisor.
“My strength lies in my ability to get along with people,” Peagler said. “In my profession, I negotiate with people all the time. As mayor I talk with people all the time. You don’t see Moncks Corner in the headlines because we get along and work together. We’ve done a lot without making headlines.
“That’s the only way you’re going to learn and the only way you’ll get problems solved is to work with others.”
Beckley said his strength lay in his conservatism.
“I’m a fiscal conservative,” he said. “I believe we have to live within our means. I’m good at pinching pennies. I believe in conservative values. We have to have some priorities and we need to take those priorities seriously. I can negotiate pretty well and I’m willing to meet with anybody half way, but I will not compromise my conservative values.”
Davis said his greatest strength was in his experience, 32 years as a small business owner, and 15 years in local government.
“Finances have become the most important thing in county business in recent years,” he said. “Because of the recession it has become important. In 2007 when I took office, we had a six percent fund balance. The reason you need a fund balance is for tax anticipation. It is also a sign of financial stability and financial health.
“Today we have about a 20 percent fund balance so we are in a much better financial state.”
Davis said during tough economic times Berkeley County made tough decisions to secure its financial footing.
“In 2007 we had a lease purchase debt of more than $4 million,” he said. “This was money going down the tubes. We’ve been very austere in managing our debt. We took furloughs, lost staff and have reduced our debt ratio. This year we wrote our last check on our lease purchase debt and owe no more.
“I’m not here to tell you I’ve done that. I have a county council that has worked hard together to help accomplish this.”
More candidates could still join the field in the supervisor’s race. The Republican primary is slated for June 2014, and the filing deadline for candidacy in next fall’s election not until the end of March.