Following Nov. 7’s municipal elections, two of Lexington County's four largest municipalities have new mayors.
Following Nov. 7’s municipal elections, two of Lexingotn County’s four largest municipalities – excluding the City of Columbia, which mostly resides in Richland County – have new mayors.
In Lexington, the change is historic, with Hazel Livingston – previously the mayor pro-tem and the only candidate to file following predecessor Steve McDougall’s decision not to seek re-election – taking over as the town’s first female mayor.
In Irmo, previous mayor Barry Walker was unseated, losing a close race to Bill Danielson, previously a member of Town Council and the mayor pro-tem.
Elsewhere, in West Columbia, Cayce and Summit, mayors won bids for re-election.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Livingston acknowledged that its rewarding to be the first woman to hold Lexington’s top elected office.
“It’s kind of neat,” Livingston said in response to being the first female mayor. “I have granddaughters and for them to be able to say that they can accomplish something like this is kind of a neat feeling.”
Once she assumes the role of mayor, Livingston told the Chronicle that her first step will be to talk with all the council members and find out what issues are important to them and what they would like the town to focus on.
She added that she also wants to find the best ways to communicate with the citizens, as all of them are different and have different ways they want the town to communicate.
When it comes to the council she will be leading, which installed two brand new members Nov. 7 alongside Gavin Smith, who joined the body in May, Livingston said she’s excited to work with them and see what the council can do.
“Hazel has absolutely been a blessing to me, since I joined the Council in May,” Smith told the Chronicle. “And I have no doubt she's going to be a blessing to the town of Lexington during her tenure as mayor”
Smith added that Livingston has gone out of her way to ask for his input and opinion on issues and isn’t afraid to push back when it’s needed.
“It certainly was emotional,” Danielson said of his mayoral win. “It was very pleasing to see those results.”
He added that it’s hard to set expectations when it comes to the election results.
The challenger shared that he would like to improve the police department by adding officers and increase speed mitigations in a variety of ways, to continue to support small businesses and see how the town can help them since they are the backbone of the community.
“I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to serving all of the citizens and looking forward to speaking to the folks when they're ready to speak to me,” Danielson said. “I hope that we can continue to move the town forward.”
“Barry Walker has been on the council for a long time and mayor for the last four years and I thanked him for his service and everything he's done,” he added.
Walker posted to Facebook on Nov. 8 that while the election results didn’t turn out as he had hoped he believed that the vote count separating the two candidates was a testament to the fact that the direction Irmo is heading in is a positive one.
“Although my time as Mayor may be coming to an end, I am not stepping away from my dedication to the Town of Irmo,” Walker shared. “I will continue to be an active member of this community, working alongside all of you to make our Town an even better place to live.”
Courtney Dennis, Irmo’s town administrator, told the Chronicle that the special election to fill Danielson’s seat on council will likely be held in early February, with filing set to open near the end of 2023.
West Columbia saw incumbent Tem Miles comfortably reclaim his seat against challenger Melissa Sprouse Browne.
“It went great,” Miles said of the campaign. “It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with so many folks across our town and to have meaningful discussions about our city.”
Miles emphasized that he was proud of the amount of residents that came out and voted to continue moving the city in the same direction, adding that city government is a team sport.
The mayor also expressed his gratitude that all council incumbents on the ballot were re-elected.
“I see that as a show of overwhelming approval from the citizens of the direction we are heading and services provided by our staff,” he said.
Browne, a former member of the city’s Beautification Foundation, didn’t commit one way or the other when asked if she would seek public office again in the future.
“I really enjoyed meeting so many new people in my community,” she said. “I remain committed to fighting for those who need a voice in how our city is governed. I will continue to advocate for small government, lower taxes and smart economic development.
“I learned a lot on the campaign trail and plan to share my knowledge with other women who plan to seek public office. Women are under-represented in elected positions and that needs to change.”
In a close race, incumbent Elise Partin beat out Abbott “Tre” Bray 1,172 votes (52.86%) to 1,043 (47.05%).
When asked if these were the results she was expecting, Partin shared that less than one in five of Cayce’s citizens voted.
“What that typically means is that generally people like the direction that we're going,” Partin said. “They like our low taxes and fees, they like the smart strategic way that we operate.”
Bray told the Chronicle that he is going to continue being a member of the Lexington County School District 2 school board, though has hope that he will run for another elected position in the future.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome.
“Just knocking on doors and feeling the level of discontent with so many folks. I felt comfortable that we should get up above 40%-45%,” Bray said. “You know, you always hope for a last-minute kind of win, but I would say within 100 votes is almost exactly what we were expecting.”
David Reese, who ran unopposed, won 100% of the votes to win re-election as mayor of the small town of Summit.
Reese told the Chronicle that council and members of the town had asked him to stay on, so he decided to run for another term.
“I live right here,” Reese said, speaking on the importance of serving his town. “This is a tight-knit, small community. Most people know each other and look out for one another.”
This will be Reese’s second term as mayor, having previously served as mayor pro-tem in the past and on council for a total of 14 years.
He shared that his goals for the town include maintaining a clean feel, making sure the town runs smoothly and to maintain the close contact they have with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.
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