A replay of the 2011 York mayor’s race between a former firefighter and a longtime incumbent is one of several contested Western York County municipal elections on Nov. 3.
Dan Warren, 51, a retired York firefighter who said he sees a need for change at York City Hall, is challenging York Mayor Eddie Lee’s re-election campaign for the second time in four years. Lee, a 60-year-old Winthrop University history professor, is seeking a fourth term in the job he has held since 2002.
Other contested municipal elections in Western York County include a write-in campaign for Clover mayor and a Town Council race in Sharon, where six candidates are vying for four seats.
In Clover, Town Council member Debbie “Pee Wee” Williams is mounting a write-in campaign against longtime Clover Mayor Donnie Grice. Williams is also one of six Town Council members on the ballot in an uncontested bid for re-election. Nothing prevents Williams from running for both mayor and a council seat at the same time, according to York County elections director Wanda Hemphill.
In the Sharon Town Council race, four seats are up for election. The six candidates are incumbent council members Bob Barnette, Jerry Bradham, Elaine Cheek and Bobby Stephenson and challengers Thomas Childers and Donald Kropp.
York mayor’s race
Warren, who said he has lived in York since 1989, said he spent 20 years with the city, first as a volunteer firefighter and then a paid employee.
“There needs to be some changes,” he said. “I can’t complain about them unless I’m willing to get out and do something about it.”
Warren argued that the city isn’t friendly to its downtown businesses and also believes City Hall “doesn’t work with the community well.”
He said the York Recreation Center used to host frequent softball tournaments that brought people and revenue to town, and the Rock Hill Bicycle Club used to host races in York, but those events are no longer happening.
Warren said York is buying water from Rock Hill, but “we have not done anything to update the water lines in the community. We still have people complaining that their white clothes are turning brown.”
He said sewer lines also need to be replaced. He argued that at some point, the city will need to raise taxes to accomplish improvements in infrastructure such as water and sewer lines.
“The only time we clean our city is during Summerfest,” he said. “And we are putting up really nice fancy street signs now in the historic area, and I’m all for that, but it’s not bringing in any revenue for our businesses and our community.”
Warren argued that the city needs to be more proactive about bringing in more business, improving relationships with the public and upgrading its infrastructure.
Lee, who has served as mayor for almost 14 years, points to his record and accomplishments that include leading a campaign to save York’s historic courthouse and dogging York County leaders to finish the long delayed S.C. 5 Bypass widening.
Lee cited his leadership on the courthouse project, for which he received an historic preservation award, as a top accomplishment. County leaders had mulled abandoning the project a year ago. The County Council voted to move forward with renovations, which are underway.
“We have very methodically made sure we are friendly to the downtown area,” Lee said. “And that gets back to the courthouse. One reason we wanted to preserve the courthouse is the health and vitality of downtown York.”
He also lobbied York County to finish the bypass widening, authorized in 1997 under its Pennies for Progress road improvement plan. “It had been stalled, and I took that as a very important thing that we were owed and we were going to make sure we got what we were owed.”
Other accomplishments he cited included the city’s agreement to purchase water from Rock Hill and the paving of Cooperative Way, near the York Electric Cooperative, the site of an expected economic development project.
Lee said that when he became mayor, York was in the red financially. “The first thing I did was to make sure York was in the black,” he said. “Every year, we have ended in the black.”
Lee said his accomplishments come down to experience.
“I’ve never missed a York City Council meeting, ever, because I’m on the job 24/7 and it requires a mayor that’s here and a mayor that’s available and a mayor that knows how to contact people who need to be contacted.”
Moving forward, Lee said he wants to make sure the York County Council honors a plan to build a county administrative building in downtown York, adjacent to the courthouse.
“I understand how important that is and it might require me to be strong, and I know how to do that,” Lee said. “I proved that with the courthouse battle.”
He also said the community of York, where the first courthouse was built in 1786, plans to observe its 230th anniversary next year. He said that will be “a year of celebration of who we are and who we will be.”
Clover mayor’s race
Clover’s mayor Grice, 49, is the owner of a construction firm, Grice Remodeling in Clover. Grice, who has served as mayor for 12 years and was on the Town Council for eight years before that, is seeking a seventh two-year term.
Williams, 40, who works at Frito Lay in Charlotte, has served about 4 1/2 years on the Town Council. She said she decided to mount a write-in campaign against Grice’s re-election after the filing period for mayor had ended.
Williams said she was encouraged to run by constituents.
Grice said he provides leadership that has been proven during the past 20 years. He said his work has included managing town construction projects that include the fire department, police department and new town hall.
He said he helped the town save nearly $1 million on those projects.
“I have proven myself. I have the resume to back that up,” he said.
He said town finances are in “the best shape they have been in a over a decade,” and he will continue to work with the town’s economic development board, which he leads, as well as York County Economic Development and the state Commerce Department to offer incentive packages to attract “the right industry.”
“I just really love serving this community,” Grice said. “I put a lot of heart and a lot of time into the job and I enjoy helping people with their problems and their concerns.”
Grice said he’s always available to help residents and the town staff deal with problems and concerns, including after recent storms, water line problems and other emergencies.
“I will roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty,” he said.
Williams said she sees room for improvement in the town’s relationships with businesses and some of its residents. She said she wants to “support and empower” the town administrator and equip town department managers and employees with the “tools and training to do their jobs.”
“I can be a leader, and lead with help from others to accomplish the task at hand,” she said.
She said the town needs to make sure local businesses have an “equal opportunity” to receive contract work from the town. She also said the town should raise its salaries to the level recommended in a recent salary study.
“I’ve been a voice for the people,” she said. “I am there when they need me. I make sure I have time for them and if they have issues, I make sure I respond in a reasonable and respectful manner.”
Sharon Town Council
In the Sharon Town Council race, Childers is the only true newcomer to the Town Council. Childers, 38, has a background in construction and is seeking election to a first term.
“I would just like to see some positive changes around town,” Childers said, adding that the town needs to offer more for children and youth. Childers, a Sharon native, said he would like to be involved in the community.
The other challenger, Kropp, 67, is retired from a natural gas company, and served two terms on the Sharon council four years ago. Kropp said he wants to be helpful to the town and that he enjoys being involved.
Incumbent Barnette, 68, is retired after 33 years with the S.C. Department of Transportation, and works part time for the York County convenience centers. He said he has served about 14 years on the council.
Barnette, a 50-year veteran of the Sharon Volunteer Fire Department, said the town has replaced about 80 percent of its water lines and he’d like to see the remaining 20 percent replaced. “I enjoy being on the council, trying to make the town a better place,” he said.
Incumbent Bradham, 70, who owns a machine shop and has volunteered 28 years in the Sharon fire department, has served repeated terms on the council at various times during the years.
Bradham said he’d like to see through town projects that include park improvements, park lighting and a park ramp for disabled people, water line replacement, water storage and improved Christmas lights. “I think I can do a good job,” he said.
Cheek, 67, operates a household cleaning business and is finishing her first council term. “We are working on things to improve the town and I’d like to see more of it,” she said. They include Rainey Park improvements and general growth and development, she said.
Stephenson could not be reached for comment earlier this week.
Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077