The ballot is set for Lexington’s upcoming Town Council race.
Four people have filed for the May 2 special election to replace Steve Baker, who stepped away from council due to a move to Florida. The winner of the election will serve out the remainder of Baker’s term, which ends in 2025.
The Chronicle has already reported campaign announcements for two of the hopefuls — Gavin Smith, a 30-year-old who owns his own public and government relations firm and was a partner in the scuttled Navy Yard on Main beer garden, and Edwin Gerace, a 53-year-old realtor and former town Planning Commission member.
The other two candidates to file before the March 6 deadline are Constance Flemming, a 71-year-old music teacher who was elected to council for one previous term in 2002 and currently serves on the town’s Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee, and Matthew Graham, the 36-year-old owner of Lexington-based contractor Palmetto Renovations.
Flemming named managing growth among her chief concerns, noting that “it’s something we all are pretty much concerned about.”
She said the town’s growth is leading her to consider proposing a change in how council candidates are elected should she win the seat, shifting council positions from being elected at large to being tied to specific districts of the town.
“The mayor would be at large and maybe one or two other members, but divide this up to have representation from all parts of the town,” she said. “Because when we look at the map, wow, we are all over the place now in comparison to how we got started. And there are people that are concerned, we don't really feel that we're being represented.”
Flemming also said that Lexington, while possessing what she described as an excellent police department, needs to be sensitive to the nationwide conversation going on about the role of police in our society.
“They are about community policing,” she said. “And that's exactly what we need because they are concerned about the citizens and the town of Lexington. Of course, I want to see that continue and be expanded.”
She also expressed concern about the town’s water system, saying that she and others feel that Lexington water bills are consistently a little too high.
“There have been other issues that I have approached the council with that we have worked on,” she said of what makes her the right person to take the open council seat. “I'm on the accommodations tax group. I stay connected. I attend the meetings. Right behind my house is where Lexington Medical Center is building the new office building. And I had the opportunity to speak up for that for the community.”
Flemming and Graham share proximity to that new Lexington Medical building, as the Palmetto Renovations storefront on West Main Street is also close by.
Graham brought up the way that project will reshape traffic patterns near his business to explain how he’d like to see growth managed.
“I think about what the people want — I don’t speak to the people, but I can tell you what I think they want, because I'm one of them — they want better communication, more clear guidelines on how things are supposed to go,” he said.
In addition to emphasizing the need to continue working to curb the traffic that comes with Lexington’s continued growth, Graham said he would like to bolster efforts to curtail crime. Two tactics he suggested were increasing police presence — placing patrol cars, both manned and unmanned, in business parking lots to make it known that an officer or a camera is watching. Graham also emphasized the need to repurpose abandoned buildings, describing them as potential nests for criminal activity.
“Making sure that if we have buildings that are boarded up and abandoned, that they're not that they're either turned into something useful, or that we have them secured in a way where people can't just go in there and basically live under the radar,” he said.
He said people are looking for change, especially when it comes to how the town handles and communicates its business when it comes to managing growth. He added that his experience dealing with annexation issues as a contractor and navigating challenges in Columbia’s Five Points neighborhood, where Palmetto Renovations opened its first location, will help him on council, spotlighting his service on the Five Points Association Board.
“Being in contact with the type of people and the powers that be, if you will, that understand kind of how the mechanics work and what makes things better, I think given me a kind of a leg on understanding and seeing the way it's supposed to go,” he said, “and sometimes the way it should go versus how it actually goes and then figuring out how to bridge that gap.”