Fort Mill Times

Longtime volunteer seeks Tega Cay council seat

Jennifer Stalford began working to make Tega Cay beautiful almost from the time she arrived. But there’s nothing cosmetic about her next move.

Stalford filled out paperwork on the first day of candidate filing to run for a Tega Cay City Council seat. She said she’s excited but not intimidated. She hopes to improve communication between the council and residents, increase volunteerism and take hard looks at possible annexations.

“It’s really critical that we look at each property to weed out, what will we be really getting out of this,” Stalford said.

Stalford has four children, ages 9 to 15. They’re getting more and more independent, she said, which allows mom more time for council work. They’re also the reason Stalford, whose family moved to Tega Cay eight years ago, wants to see the city grow the right way.

“We intend on staying here a long time,” she said. “I feel like we’re at a pivotal point in the history of our city.”

Stalford describes herself as a conservative spender. She organizes annual events as head of the city’s beautification committee and was integral in work on the city’s Living Memorial Gardens.

She calls herself a “full-time volunteer” and has been working with city groups since she arrived.

About a year ago the city disbanded four of its nine volunteer committees, which Stalford said an impact was felt throughout the city.

“And it was not positively,” she said. “A lot of residents perceived it as, well, I guess Tega Cay doesn’t need volunteers anymore.”

A challenge in Tega Cay, Stalford said, is connecting different neighborhoods or areas that often don’t relate much to one another.

By bettering communication to residents, she said, more people will begin seeing Tega Cay as their city versus identifying more with neighborhoods or developments.

The Living Memorial Gardens project is located in an area near older and newer sections of the city and had volunteers from throughout wanting to help.

“That’s a great tribute to volunteers can do if they work together,” Stalford said.

A booth at the upcoming fall festival already was planned, but Stalford began thinking about meet-and-greets and other opportunities to get her message out when another name joined the ballot last week.

As of Thursday, Stalford and Lisa Marie Johnson were running for the two council seats.

In addition to two council seats up for grabs, Tega Cay will elect a mayor at the Nov. 5 election. Mayor George Sheppard filed to seek reelection, and Councilman Ron Kirby is seeking the job, too.

“Being mayor of Tega Cay has been one of the toughest experiences but also one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had,” Sheppard said.

“I never pictured myself as the mayor of a city but four years ago many people expressed their confidence in me when they voted for me.”

Sheppard said a lot of progress has been made in those four years and he wants to “help keep the city moving in the right direction.” Kirby is a long-time Council member who said previous

“I have been asked since the 90s to run for mayor and I said I wasn’t ready,” Kirby said. “Now the time is right. I feel like I’m the right person to turn the steering wheel for the next four years.”

Kirby said he has goals as any candidate would, but he also said his decision to run for mayor rather than a council seat isn’t a statement against Sheppard’s work or leadership.

“I just think I’m the right person for the job,” Kirby said.

In Fort Mill, the only two names on the ballot as of last week were incumbents Larry Huntley and Nathan Blythe, both to return to their Town Council seats.