The Republican Primary for the Laurens County Council District 4 special election is set for Tuesday, July 9 with challengers Jennifer Garrett and Brown Patterson vying for the seat.
With no Democratic challenger, the winner of the GOP Primary will be the presumed winner of the Sept. 10 special election.
The Advertiser asked both candidates several questions leading up to next week’s election. Here are their answers:
Q: With the elections of Jeff Carroll and Kemp Younts last year, two new faces appeared on County Council. The winner of this election will be a third. What is your opinion of the current makeup of council and how you will fit in?
Garrett: Currently I respect each of those serving on council. I think if chosen by District 4 to represent I can bring further unity and a voice for the people to press forward. I think most of the council members currently serving see that the County is in a position to make great strides. It will take communication and teamwork from all.
Patterson: I believe the current make up of council is quite diverse in their backgrounds. I have watched the new members observe and after their first few meetings, began to contribute more and more. There is a sense of professionalism expected from council, in the meetings and outside as well. I have served on multiple boards as well as chaired committees. I am well versed in Roberts Rules of Order and will be ready day one to carry on a productive meeting with no learning curve at all. As far as what I feel I bring to the table that is not already there is a strong diverse agricultural background and a view from a younger generation, not influenced by previous council members. I believe I will fit right in and be a productive member of Laurens County Council.
Q: With the election winding to a close and two forums under your belts, what have you learned during this process?
Patterson: I have learned that most residents are unaware of what happens inside council chambers. They also struggle with where to go when they have a problem that is county related. I held one town hall forum last month to engage the residents of the county. If elected to County Council in addition to being fully available to meet one on one, I intend to host quarterly forums around the county to give the people of Laurens a time and place to voice their concerns and be able to hear what council is doing to improve the wonderful county we live in. I will also encourage my fellow council members to join me at each so that all the districts will be represented.
Garrett: It has been a learning experience and also a blessing. It excites me to hear how much the residents of District 4 are ready to put forth the effort to move forward while preserving community.
Q: Two weeks ago, Ten at the Top held a community workshop at The Ridge. A panelist called Laurens County the “golden egg” of the Upstate. What does that mean to you?
Garrett: We are a “golden egg” due to the overall position in the upstate with resources such as rail, highway, air, and sea access in close proximity. But, also I do believe because of the heart of the community is standing and awaiting the movement of growth to capitalize. The number of small business and family owned small business continue to thrive and will welcome those who come to our slice of South Carolina.
Patterson: Laurens sits in the upstate nestled between the mountains and the ocean. We have 2 major interstates cutting through our county as well as a recreational lake on the south side. South Carolina will soon have the deepest and widest ocean port on the East coast, as well as being the only state to have two inland ports. We have the potential to bring solid industry into this county to support larger suppliers in the upstate, Charlotte, or Charleston. We should be the first choice for work and play, if we would only market ourselves correctly and lay out the infrastructure to attract businesses and people. Ms. Lisa Stevens of Greenville said “Laurens is sitting on the golden egg of the upstate.” Well, we may be sitting on it, but if we don’t get off it and let it hatch, then the county will rot out from underneath us. We must grab the bull by the horns and make this county what we want it to be.
Q: What do you think can be done to work with the state to curtail unfunded mandates and restore the annual local fund that, by law, is supposed to be dispersed to counties and municipalities?
Patterson: Well, like with any issue that would be tackled by our state legislators, I will work with them and advocate on behalf of the residents of Laurens County. I already have an established relationship with not only our local delegation but many members of the House and Senate from across the state, as well as other members of leadership in Columbia. As far as the Local Government Fund goes, H3137 was passed into law on May 20th this year with a 106-1 vote. It added verbiage forcing the LGF to be funded.
Garrett: We must reach out to our local representation in Columbia to help push. Those being Willis, Verdin, and Jones and make sure they continue to advocate for us. It will take an informed base of constituents, county council, and surrounding municipalities to press the representatives in Columbia to continue working for us.
Q: Why did you choose to “throw your hat in the ring?”
Garrett: Simply because I Love Laurens County. As a life long resident involved in the community, poll worker, T-ball coach, Eastern Star Member, Advocate for the Shriners, advocate for Children with Autism speaking before med students, numerous school and church boards, and following or attending council for the past 13 years I have the desire to continue to serve the community in this capacity.
Patterson: My family has a deep history in Laurens, I am lucky enough to be able to live here and raise my son. I have been concerned with the direction our county is going for some time now and being involved in the business community and ag community I found this was a concern shared by many in the county. I feel I can make a difference. My already established relationship not only with county officials, but also with many citizens throughout the county, give me a head start on gathering a consensus about the direction we need to be making to grow the county. I have the drive, the vision, and plan to move this county forward. We need a few more doers in this county. When the seat came open, I had to ask myself if not me than who, if not now, then when?
Q; In what ways politically are you similar to your District 4 predecessor Stewart Jones? How do you differ?
Patterson: The greatest similarity is a desire for transparency and accountability, both of which provide taxpayers with knowledge of how their tax dollars are being spent. I, like Stewart, feel this is critical. The biggest difference is emotion, not to be confused with passion. While being passionate about issues is good, allowing emotions to get out of control limits the ability to rightly represent constituents. While I am very passionate about Laurens County and doing the right things for our betterment, I will not allow my emotions to overcome my ability to effectively lead our county into the future.
Garrett: Due to individuality I think it is hard to compare yourself to anyone directly. I will say that Jones did love community. He also stood for accountability and transparency. All of which I support, encourage, and aim to continue to improve. I would like to differ myself by always being a listening ear to those in the district to have a voice. I also have no plans of pursuing any higher office other than to serve District 4.
Q: What would you do in terms of zoning or land use in Laurens County?
Garrett: Zoning is a terrible idea countywide. I don’t see a way in which it can be implemented widespread without compromising residents’ solidarity. However with the influx of industry in some areas I do feel some sort of land use planning with great community involvement and research could be implemented to help ensure protection and growth. This will take in consideration the agriculture community and their practices. Helping provide and ensure ground water and air protection. With +/- 90% of our county being ag related we must protect one of our largest, oldest, and most diverse industries.
Patterson: As far as countywide zoning, I have said I am against it and will continue to advocate against it. I am, however, interested in Land Use planning. Clinton is proving right now that it works. They took an area, Exit 54, and went in with intentional plans and sought after restaurants for a certain area, then industry in another area, and here soon, we will have a QT gas station there as well. They took an area that needed improvement, made a plan, and executed that plan. I believe other parts of Laurens County could do the same, we need to be intentional in our planning moving forward.
Q: What is the biggest challenge that faces Laurens County heading into 2020?
Patterson: Controlled growth. We must take the reins on the direction this county is going. We are losing our core population of working adults. We need to right the ship and grow our community in the areas we want it to grow. Industry and quality of life with help change this backwards trend we have been experiencing for far to long. With the right leadership and dedication, this county can be that “golden egg” referenced earlier. I believe I can help lead Laurens into the next decade, and with the help of all of Laurens County, we and make Laurens the go to place to live, work, and play in the upstate!
Garrett: I truly believe it is industry and providing a landing point for it. This to include but not limit to a declining infrastructure, housing for employees, and a trained workforce. With support of good practices from the LCDC we can continue this progress. Our future deserves it.