On the eve of candidate filing, elected leaders in Tega Cay and Fort Mill were mulling a variety of moves that could set the course in their communities for years to come. Including one which could have a ripple throughout his city’s leadership ranks.
George Sheppard began telling Tega Cay residents in July he won’t run for a third term as mayor. He believes if someone can’t accomplish what needs to be done in eight years leading a city, “then it shouldn’t be done by you.”
Plus, he’d like to try his hand at the residential life.
“I have lived in the city for 11 years,” Sheppard said. “I served on Council for two and mayor as eight. I think it's time for someone else to take over.”
Challenges facing the new mayor will be similar to those he faced, from interacting with neighboring municipalities to supporting a growing area. Sheppard believes the city is primed to prosper under new leadership.
“The city is going in the right direction,” he said. “We are financially stable. We are in a better financial position than we've ever been. It would be nice to see someone continue that.”
His time as mayor saw considerable residential and commercial growth. Large projects were part of his run, too, from taking ownership of water and sewer resources to ongoing planning for Catawba Park.
“I completed my bucket list,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard stepping aside makes room for someone else to take the helm, and at least two Tega Cay City Council members will make a run.
“I’m going to run for mayor,” said Councilman David O’Neal.
O’Neal’s seat isn’t up for re-election, so he could remain in it if he doesn’t move over to the center seat or a special election would be held later if he is elected mayor. O’Neal said Sheppard’s decision not to seek a third term is an opening, but O’Neal said he would’ve run regardless.
“I was going to run against George if he ran again, or against someone else if he didn’t,” said O’Neal. “I told George that.”
O’Neal agrees with Sheppard that two terms is probably about as long as someone needs to sit in the mayor’s seat.
“I just think other people should have a chance to do it,” O’Neal said. “If new people don’t come in it discourages people from participating.”
Just prior to the filing period opening, Councilwman Dottie Hersey said she wasn’t sure if she would run for mayor or to keep her current seat. Since, she filed to run for mayor.
“I had to think about it a little bit and make sure it was the right decision,” Hersey said, “but I guess I feel like I’ve been serving the city for eight years, and I like the path the city is on and want to keep us going forward in the same way.”
Hersey believes city finances, current and projected, will be an important part of the election. Less area for annexation means less revenue from developers and business licenses moving forward, while trying to maintain the quality of life Tega Cay residents expect.
“It is sort of steady going forward, but I think one of the biggest challenges we will have going forward for the next several years will be budgetary,” Hersey said. “Again I think I’m one of the best people to deal with that.”
Hersey’s term on Council does come due in November, as does the one held by Jennifer Stalford. Stalford won’t be running for mayor, or even a second Council term.
“I announced years ago that I'm in this for fours years, one term only,” she said.
Filing for the two Council seats as of mid-Monday were Alicia Dasch, Abigail Duval and Heather Overman.
Participation in Tega Cay elections typically is higher than in surrounding areas. Four years ago when Sheppard, Stalford and Hersey won their seats, there were three candidates for mayor and six for Council.
While the mayoral seat in Fort Mill isn’t up for vote this fall, half of the Council spots are. The first and third ward seats — incumbents are James Shirey and Larry Huntley, respectively — come due, as does the at-large seat now held by Trudie Heemsoth. Only Huntley had filed for re-election as of mid-day Monday.
Heemsoth intends to continue her Council service.
“My plan is to run,” she said. “We’ve got a couple of things that we’re working on, so I’d at least like to be able to see those through.”
Council worked to take ownership of Walter Elisha Park, while ongoing efforts range from recreation improvements and sidewalk concerns to building standards for new development through a unified development ordinance.
Heemsoth won a three-way contest in April last year to finish the at-large term of Guynn Savage. Savage gave up the seat when she was voted mayor. Heemsoth, a former school board member and chamber of commerce leader in Fort Mill, collected almost 60 percent of the vote.
“It kind of just whet my appetite, seeing things that need to be done,” Heemsoth said. “I’ve received a lot of encouragement to continue.”
Though two of three seats opening in Fort Mill are ward seats, any registered voter in town can vote for any of the seats.
Official filing for seats in Tega Cay and Fort Mill began at noon Aug. 9. Filing runs through noon Sept. 8. Candidates can file at the York County Registration and Election Office, 13 S. Congress St., York.