Fort Mill Times

Council District 5 race contested

Longtime York County Council incumbent Curwood Chappell will face Fort Mill native Ashley Martin in a June Republican Primary.

Chappell has served as the District 5 representative for the last 16 years. Martin, a political newcomer, said she thinks it's time for a change in leadership in the Republican-leaning district.

"There's so much change and growth going on, we need someone young and vital," Martin, 27, said. "I think I can bring peace in the valley. The days of profanity and finger pointing need to come to an end."

The incumbent explained the dust ups Martin referred to.

"Sometimes, that's the only language people understand," Chappell said. "The world is in so much turmoil because we always try to get along. There comes a time when you have to make a stand."

Chappell said he has always put the people of his district first, and doesn't accept any donations or gifts, even meals. He pays his own travel expenses when on county business as well, and said he is not swayed by special interests.

"The chair belongs to the people. If they want someone in that chair to play a zombie, and roll over and play dead and go along to get along, don't elect me," he said.

However, Martin claims if Chappell remains on the council for two more years, the county's business will be dominated by personal agendas. And she said he is not representing the best interests of his district because he has voted for "every tax increase," that has come before the council.

Also, because half of the county's voters are women, Martin said they need a female voice on the council.

"I think with the people running now, there is so much positive change possible. We really need people to come out and vote in the primary," Martin said.

Martin grew up Republican with parents who talked politics around the dinner table. At Winthrop University, she was a member of the College Republicans. She also served as the vice chair of the York County Young Republicans. She grew up in Old Williamsburg off Doby's Bridge Road and graduated from Fort Mill High School.

Martin wants to visit other municipal councils across the state to see what works and what doesn't for other areas, and possibly bring back some ideas for York County if elected. She said issues such as the Rock Hill airport expansion and county and city landfills will have to be addressed, though she hasn't taken a position on those issues. She did say she wants to see more commercial development to offset residential growth.

Chappell is adamantly opposed to a new landfill in the Rock Hill section of District 5, which led to a lawsuit pitting the county and Rock Hill against one another. He said it would be too close to two schools and hundreds of homes. He has also been critical of the way the council has dealt with some road issues

Former coroner wants job back

Jim Chapman, who resigned as coroner in 1994 over a dispute with the York County Council over wages and hours for the now full-time position, is seeking to regain the office in November. He will face Fort Mill resident Pete Skidmore in a June Democratic primary. The winner will go on to face interim Coroner Sabrina Gast, a Republican, in November.

"I've always served the people of York County," Chapman, a former paramedic with Piedmont Medical Center, said. "I've cared for and protected and looked after them my whole life."

The coroner's office was a part-time position paying $7,000 a year when Chapman took over in 1984. By the time he left office the council had turned it into a full time position paying $30,000 a year. However, in 1994, when the office went full time, Chapman refused to quit his paramedic job and the council voted to return the office to part-time status. Chapman decided to leave and his replacement, Doug McKown, came in as a full-time coroner.

"Under the circumstances, I though it best to step down so the office could progress," Chapman said.

Chapman credits the staff he hired, most of which are still working in the office, with modernizing the Coroner's Office and laying the foundations the office has now.

"The challenge was the coroner's office had a not so good reputation," he said. "There was no filing system when I took over, so we created a system that correlated photos and evidence with the files."

In addition to pushing for the office to be made a full-time job, Chapman also convinced the County Council to provide a vehicle for the office. He also embarked on a program to provide more extensive medical training for the office staff, which now includes three coroners in addition to the elected head of the office.

Chapman currently works for Belk in Charlotte, providing corporate security services.