5 vie for 2 seats on Tega Cay Council

TEGA CAY -- Originally designed as a recreation community for homeowners along Lake Wylie, Tega Cay now is sprawling along S.C. 160 to invite commercial development that will provide a stable tax base for homeowners.

Next year, a Wal-Mart will open in Stonecrest, drawing even more commercial interest. Multifamily housing already is cropping up around it, and the proposed Gardendale development will double the city's geographic size.

Growth, planning and the recreation community's future character are primary concerns that have drawn five contestants to vie for two at-large seats on the City Council in Tuesday's election.

Tega Cay residents for decades have referred to the character of their city as "the good life."

The two incumbents, Ron Kirby and Larry Harper, have resided in Tega Cay more than a decade each and stand on previous accomplishments: development agreements to phase in growth, enhanced recreation facilities, including a new community center, installation of a sewer line to Rock Hill, relocation of the police department headquarters, among other things.

"The other candidates are fine people," Kirby said. "But right now, Tega Cay needs Kirby-Harper commitment and experience."

Three challengers

Candidate Hope MacBride, spokeswoman for "Us Against the Wal," the group that opposed Wal-Mart's construction, acknowledges growth is inevitable in the city. But she wants to assure the city can provide the infrastructure, public safety and school facilities necessary to serve the growth.

Her family moved into the Fort Mill school district to provide educational opportunities for their son and have remained in Tega Cay because of the city's open atmosphere and diversity.

"I am passionate about preserving the diversity and quality of life that brought many of us to Tega Cay," she said.

Candidate Ron Kazel agrees with MacBride on pressing issues, including open government. Kazel, who dubs himself "the only independent thinker" in the race without ties to special interests, also cites a need for "citizen empowerment."

"We're changing from a small, insulated 'gated community' lifestyle to what?" he asked. "There's the main issue. How do we maintain the reasons that brought us here while responding to the challenges of change?"

Candidate George Sheppard, too, speaks of the need for a candidate who can reconcile the need for economic prosperity with the wishes of the community. He wants to retain Tega Cay's community atmosphere while keeping an open mind.

"I will deal with business fairly in accordance with the facts and the feelings of the entire community," he said.

Here is some biographical information on each of the candidates, in alphabetical order:

• Harper, an Aiken native and a graduate of Clemson University, is seeking a third term. He also spent nine years on the Tega Cay Planning Commission and was its chairman. He works in sales and marketing for Hero Global Services. He has volunteered with every city committee, including finance, public works, recreation, planning, community relations and beautification.

• Kazel was born in Milwaukee and lived in five other states before moving to Tega Cay in 2005. He has a degree from the University of Wisconsin and has taken special study programs at Antioch and Harvard universities. He is retired from United Food and Commercial Workers. Civic activities include municipal Charter Review and Municipal Budget Review committees, the Municipal General Employees, Fire Fighters and Police pension boards, Tega Cay Community Relations Committee, secretary of the Tega Cay Finance Committee and a director of Tega Cay Lions and chairman of its scholarship committee.

• Kirby, a Spartanburg native and automotive sales manager, has been on the council since 2004. His civic activities include the city's public safety and parks and recreation committees, Fort Mill schools foundation, school improvement council at Gold Hill Elementary and Fort Mill High PTA and booster club.

• MacBride, a native of Rochester, N.Y., holds an MBA from Montreat College and is vice president and business support manager for Bank of America. Civic activities include being past president of the Tega Cay Lioness Club and chairwoman of the Tega Cay Finance Committee.

• Sheppard is from Massapequa, N.Y., and has lived in Tega Cay for more than 18 months. He attended the State University of New York at Cobleskill and Hofstra University and is a senior account manager with Bulkley Dunton, a division of International Paper Co. Civic involvement includes parish council, religious education and Eucharistic minister at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, Habitat for Humanity and the Tega Cay Lions Club.