Fort Mill Town Council has one seat open, and three people vying to fill it.
Trudie Heemsoth, Ned McAteer and David McWilliam are all contending for the at-large Council seat made available when Guynn Savage stepped aside in January to become mayor. The special election is April 5, with a runoff April 19 if needed. All registered voters who live inside Fort Mill town limits are eligible to cast a ballot.
We sent each of the candidates a short questionnaire to provide a thumbnail biography and the opportunity to answer four questions we hope provides some insight into their qualifications to serve on Council. Their responses to the four questions have not been edited:
Trudie Bolin Heemsoth
Occupation: Retired (from York County Regional Chamber/Fort Mill Office Director after 11 years) 25 years prior Telecommunications Specialists. The last 8 years at Belk Store Services, Belk Corporate Offices in Charlotte, NC
Academic Career: Fort Mill High School and attended York Tech
Prior elected office(s) held: Fort Mill School Board 1980-1994 … First Female elected to public office in Fort Mill
David James McWilliam
Academic Career: College of Charleston B.S. Bio Chemistry B.A. Chemistry University of South Carolina School of Law Juris Doctor
Prior elected office(s) held: First Baptist Church Fort Mill Secretary of the Deacon Board
Occupation: Retired Engineer
Academic Career: Lancaster High School, graduate York Technical College – degree in Heating, Air, Refrigeration Winthrop University – Business
Prior elected office(s) held: 8 years (2 terms) Fort Mill City Council; Fort Mill representative for PDRTA; during prior Fort Mill City Council terms, I chaired the Parks and Recreation Committee
Questions and responses
1. Many residents concerned about the pace of residential growth want the town to at least try a temporary moratorium. Is this something you would support – why or why not?
Heemsoth: Yes, I agree, with the concerned residents with the pace of residential growth but no, I would not support a moratorium. A moratorium could do more harm to commercial growth than it would do to reduce residential growth. The Town Council could also encounter a lawsuit by a property owner if the property owner wasn’t able to sell his property.
McWilliam: I would not support a moratorium because it is an oversimplified solution to a complex problem. It would only push the problem down the road, where we will inevitably be forced to deal with it. Easy answers don’t solve hard problems.
McAteer: I do not support any moratorium that would attempt to regulate or slow down growth.
2. If you do not support that idea, what do you propose to control residential growth?
Heemsoth: I think the zoning codes should be reviewed and/or changed, if that is possible in order that fewer homes are built on an acre of land. Fewer homes would definitely be fewer cars on the road. I realize that our town has a tremendous number of cars traveling the roads of Fort Mill everyday but not all of them are residents here in Fort Mill. Yes, the majority of them are but vehicles come through Fort Mill everyday getting to and from I-77. Vehicles from Indian Land, Mecklenburg and various other places east of Fort Mill, going to and from work.
McWilliam: Controlling residential growth will require ingenuity and discernment in order to maintain the character of our town. By paying close attention to project proposals on a case-by-case basis and making refinements to our zoning ordinances, we can guide development without harming new business, our schools, or current residents.
McAteer: Because we live in a great city when you have something good to offer everyone wants to be a part of it. It is our responsibility as a city government to forecast the effect of growth and meet the needs that it creates.
3. Please tell us one innovative idea you could propose to improve the quality of life in town that would require a modest (under $1 million) expenditure, but could provide a substantial return on that investment?
Heemsoth: I know that land is at a premium, but if we had land that could be made into an addition parking lot(s) close to the downtown area, once there are several more stores and restaurants on Main Street, business owners could see their sales/profit climb. I think that when some of the stores on Main Street make changes and bring in different types of merchandise, Main Street may have shoppers back on the street. This isn’t something that will happen overnight but will take several years.
McWilliam: The charm of downtown Fort Mill is one of our town’s greatest assets, and working with the Parks and Recreation department to beautify and make it more pedestrian friendly would maintain the character as well as attract small businesses to take a greater interest in this area.
McAteer: My idea for improving the quality of life in our city is to build and operate a Civic Center. It would consist of an auditorium with stage and at least 1500 seating capacity. It would have meeting room space, a general all purpose space that could support the arts and sciences. Of course this project would far exceed $1 million dollars to facilitate.
4. If it's still possible for the town to purchase the Leroy Springs-built Recreation Complex, do you support that idea - why or why not? For residents concerned about the complex closing, what do you suggest the town do?
Heemsoth: If the property is still available and the Town Council hasn’t definitely decided it wouldn’t be a financially wise decision to purchase the Complex, then I would say look at it and see what kind of shape it is in, how much would it cost to purchase and maintain. Would it be profitable and would it be a wise use of the tax payers’ money?
I think that if/when the Recreation Complex is no longer available, the town should look at some way to continue a recreation facility for the residents. I know there is a Parks and Rec department and there may have been some discussion that I am not aware of going forward about recreation.
McWilliam: As with any expenditure, it will be critical to determine if the property could be purchased and operated at a price which would provide a good investment for the town of Fort Mill. We should evaluate the short-term and long-term prospects of decisions requiring this size of investment.
McAteer: I strongly support a plan that would purchase the Recreation complex and any other properties that could be developed for sporting activities such as soccer, etc. with seating such as the Manchester project in Rock Hill.
Free voter photo ID event April 5
The York County Voter Registration and Elections Office will be holding a free Voter Photo ID 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 5 at Unity Presbyterian Church, 303 Tom Hall Street, Fort Mill. Although Voter Photo IDs issued by the elections office are not required in order to vote, anyone interested in having this identification or in need of having this identification in order to vote are encouraged to come to this event. Other acceptable forms of identification for voting purposes include SC Drivers License, SC ID issued by the DMV, military ID with a photo on it, Veteran Affairs cards, and passports. For more information, call the York County Voter Registration and Elections Office at 803-909-7194 or go to yorkcountygov.com/regelect.