It appears David O’Neal will be the next mayor of Tega Cay.
Not all precincts had reported results of Tuesday’s election by press time, but runners from multiple candidates gathering precinct data reported O’Neal winning. Election results won’t be certified until later this week.
The first-term Tega Cay City Council member and mayor pro tem believes city voters picked him because staying the course in Tega Cay, particularly with approving residential construction, is “not a viable solution to this problem” of traffic, crowded schools and related issues.
“When I ran two years ago I said I wanted a new city council,” O’Neal said. “Today I realized my dream two years later.”
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The top issue O’Neal heard during the campaign involved houses. He has been consistent in wanting to limit residential building in favor of commercial, which he said shouldn’t be construed as wanting no city growth.
“It wasn’t anti-growth,” O’Neal said. “I’m not against growth. I can’t tell people what to do with their property. It’s the type of growth. And it wasn’t working to have these high density developments.”
O’Neal said he is committed to adding no more small homes on small lots, apartments or similar construction. He also said he isn’t interested in annexing property unless it’s for commercial growth.
“We’re running out of land,” he said. “This is our last opportunity to focus on commercial.”
Two-term Councilwoman Dottie Hersey’s team had runners collecting precinct results, too, and she told supporters at her home within an hour or so of polls closing that she wouldn’t become the next mayor. It was too early to know why.
“I really don’t know too much about it,” she said. “I’m thinking that Mr. O’Neal talked a lot about being anti-growth, and that might have resonated with a lot of people.”
Hersey doesn’t believe there is much limiting of residential growth left to do in the city based on development in recent years. On election night she didn’t see herself running for the council seat O’Neal will leave to become mayor, but didn’t entirely shut the door on future public service. Hersey said when she started on council eight years ago she wanted a new fire station to serve newer Tega Cay, fire hydrants in historic Tega Cay and an increase in city reserves which now are up to about $3.2 million. She and fellow council members accomplished those goals.
“I ran two terms with integrity and I ran this race with integrity, so I feel really pleased with that,” Hersey said. “I hold my head pretty high at this point.”
Hersey finishes her second council term this year. O’Neal still has two years remaining on his first term.
Runners also reported newcomers Alicia Dasch and Heather Overman would emerge from a field of seven candidates to take seats on city council.
Dasch ran on her experience working in government roles in Charlotte. She has a dozen years in budgeting and planning for the city there, which she told voters would serve her home city well. Overman said she wanted a council seat for a simple reason. To make sure her young family and children throughout Tega Cay “grow up in the best city around.”
“I’m really excited,” Overman said. “I’m looking forward to helping Tega Cay for the next four years. We’ve got a whole lot we need to accomplish, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Overman and her team knocked on more than 1,200 doors in the city during her campaign, something she sees as a main reason she stood out among the crowded candidate field.
“I think just getting in front of them and hearing what they had to say,” she said. “I think that’s what made the difference.”
Now the task turns to taking those comments and doing something with them.
“I heard firsthand what the voters had to say,” Overman said. “I’ll make sure they always have a voice.”
Dasch said Tuesday night was a great one for the city, but that “it’s time to get to work and govern.” She believes her work experience is what stood out to voters.
“I think what really resonated was how the decisions of city council impact people’s lives every day,” she said. “We need to understand how government decisions impact people. We need people who understand government, who are thoughtful, who can analyze and understand the implications of those decisions, and that’s what I have to offer.”
Dasch wants investment in city infrastructure and a focus on existing residents rather than attracting new ones. So many new council members — only Councilman Ryan Richard will serve the same role in January he is now — she sees opportunity.
“It’s certainly going to be a fresh start, and that’s even more reason why we need people who understand budgeting and finance and strategy and policy of a city,” Dasch said.
With O’Neal as the pick for mayor, candidates who missed out on these council seats will get another opportunity. The mayor pro tem has two years remaining on his first council term, so a special election will be needed to fill his seat when he becomes mayor.
That election would have its own filing period where new or returning candidates could emerge.
O’Neal is pleased with the group he’ll be leading come January, and says whatever candidate wins the seat he’ll be leaving should pay attention to election results to see what city residents want.
“We’ve got a good balance on council starting in January,” O’Neal said. “We’ll have to pick another person. I hope that person listens when people say — no more houses.”