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York Co. Council chair Motz fights to keep seat

York County Council Chairman Buddy Motz faces strong challenges on Tuesday, thanks to three candidates and a political climate marked by frustration toward incumbents.

"Nationally, the economy is in a downturn," Motz said. "We're in a downturn locally. From a political standpoint, it's a sense of, 'Elect somebody new, and throw out the incumbent.' I'm having to work through those obstacles."

Britt Blackwell, Alex Haefele and Terry Hutchinson seek to unseat Motz in Tuesday's Republican primary for District 6, which represents northwestern Rock Hill and the Newport community. There is no Democrat in the race.

Blackwell said the race is likely headed for a June 22 runoff, based on what he's hearing from political watchers. Motz has a different take, saying if Tuesday's voter turnout reaches double digits, he feels confident about avoiding a runoff.

Foes: Too much reacting

Motz's challengers say he too often fails to anticipate problems, such as tighter zoning rules affecting neighborhoods around the Rock Hill/York County Airport and a more recent controversy over behind-the-scenes changes to the planned Crystal Lakes subdivision.

"There's got to be more of an effort to have a vision...instead of letting things happen and reacting to what happens," Blackwell said.

Blackwell, a Rock Hill optometrist, noted former York County planning director Susan Britt resigned a few months after the uproar over Crystal Lakes.

"All of a sudden a big adjustment occurs," he said. "It makes you wonder a little bit. It just, to me, pointed out a problem that's existed for a long time -- a lack of communication."

Blackwell described Motz as a liberal, though he did not give any examples when asked.

"It's just his general conduct with issues," Blackwell said.

Motz, a retired Rock Hill insurance executive, portrays himself as a centrist.

"Ralph Waldo Emerson said you should live your life by its equator," Motz said. "Sometimes you have to go out on the right, sometimes you come back on the left.

"I don't look at County Council as a partisan position."

Motz pointed to proactive steps such as York County's 25-year land use plan and a budget that avoids a tax increase and results in a reserve fund of $28 million at the end of next year.

Haefele said he would bring 25 years of business experience to the County Council. The Rock Hill developer faults York County for poor leadership in figuring out how to dispose of solid waste -- a problem that has led to lawsuits and bickering over the past several years.

Haefele said he opposed the airport overlay district because it was unfair to homeowners in the area. After a brief phone conversation Thursday, Haefele did not return calls for comment.

Making his first run for office, Hutchinson said he shares the limited government views of the Tea Party movement. The Rock Hill auto technician cites the smoking ban as a case of government overreach.

"We've got people that have been there too long," Hutchinson said. "We need to put fresh faces up there -- people who have no political ties to anything."

Too cozy with the elite?

Motz said he's aware of perceptions he's too cozy with the Rock Hill elite that supports the arts and downtown revitalization. Last year, Motz voted to give $450,000 in hospitality tax revenues to help build a $1.2 million children's museum on Main Street.

Rock Hill represents a large part of his district, Motz said. "You have more activity in Rock Hill simply because you have more people."

Motz noted that he has supported projects elsewhere in York County, such as renovating the library in downtown York and bringing a museum to the western York County town of Sharon.

Blackwell did not take a firm position on the children's museum, but he expressed doubts on whether the venue would attract enough visitors to be successful.

If elected, Blackwell said he would adhere to his belief in term limits and avoid staying in the seat too long.

"You become part of the system," he said, "and you kind of lose sight of who you're serving."

Meet the candidates

Buddy Motz

Age: 63

Address: 2047 Poinsett Drive, Rock Hill

Occupation: Retired independent insurance executive

Education: Master's degrees in business and liberal arts, Winthrop University; pursuing master's degree in history, Winthrop

Political experience: In sixth two-year term on County Council

Family: Wife, Mary Ann; two sons, Troy and Mark; three granddaughters

Community: Sertoma Club; Kiwanis Club; York County minority scholarship board; chairman, RFATS transportation committee; Catawba Council of Governments; treasurer, St. John's United Methodist Church; former Boy Scout troop leader

Terry Hutchinson

Age: 51

Address: 1514 West Lakewood Drive, Rock Hill

Occupation: Master technician for Pep Boys in Rock Hill

Education: Graduate of RHAM High School in Connecticut

Political experience: None

Family: Wife, Grace; three children, Karyn, Terry John and Cindi

Community: Member of several motorcycle rights organizations

Alex Haefele

Age: 57

Address: 3108 Lake Wylie Drive, Rock Hill

Occupation: Developer and homebuilder

Education: Degrees in math and economics, Denison University in Ohio

Political experience: None

Family: Fiancee, Annie Williams; three children, Benjamin, Tyson and Morgan

Community: York County Regional Chamber of Commerce, York County Homebuilders Association

Britt Blackwell

Age: 54

Address: 2020 Cavendale Drive, Rock Hill

Occupation: Optometrist, Blackwell Eye Associates

Education: Pre-medical degree, Clemson University; doctor of optometry degree, Medical Center, University of Alabama

Political experience: Member, Rock Hill school board, 1994-2002

Family: Wife, Martha; two children, Christina and Phillip

Community: American Optometric Association; S.C. Optometric Physician Association; Catawba Optometric Society; York County Regional Chamber of Commerce; member, Ebenezer ARP Church