Politics & Government

YORK COUNTY COUNCIL: District 4 race sizzles as incumbent, challenger debate merits of travel

Mike Scott worked in York County government for 18 years, before leaving last year to work for developer Earl Coulston in Fort Mill's Regent Park area. Now, he wants back to the county, this time as a councilman.

He's challenging Democratic incumbent Roy Blake for the District 4 seat. But Blake says he's just getting started, and he's got more work to do on the council.

Scott has challenged the amount of travel Blake has done on the taxpayer's dime. He says Blake has spent $15,000 during the first 18 months of his term. Documents show council chairman Steve McNeely's spending was the second highest, with $11,300 spent over 3 1/2 years.

"There's too much wasteful spending," Scott said.

He said he sees no value in the travel, which was primarily to events such as the National Association of Counties' conference in Washington and the S.C. Association of Counties' conference in Hilton Head.

Blake says he's learned a lot from the trips and brought back valuable information to York County, such as the possibility of joining a prescription drug card plan for county residents.

"There's a lot of knowledge to be gained from collaborating," Blake said.

An exchange at last week's debate showed the two candidates' different personalities. Scott, who told the crowd he runs his mouth, brought laughter when he critiqued several councilmen and then said he would vote for himself as chairman.

Blake, who has been a quiet presence on the council for the past two years, said he would pass on answering the question of who should be chairman.

Scott said York County spends too much money on consultants and other frivolous expenses, such as its twinning program with the Northern Ireland city of Larne.

If county officials chopped unnecessary expenses from the budget, the county could afford to pay for all the police and fire departments to access a new 800 MHz radio system, Scott said. The $48.19 monthly "user fee" has caused controversy with public safety officials.

Blake also said the user fees should not be charged to the municipal departments.

"For everyone to embrace the system, we need to eliminate the fees," Blake said.

County officials have said that would put an unfair burden on residents who live outside city limits, but Blake said the county manager and council could find a way to pay the fees without hurting unincorporated residents.

County Council members serve two-year terms.

• Age: 44

• Family: Wife, Sharon; daughter, Shelby, 14

• Job: Project manager for Coulston Enterprises development firm, developer

Education: Northwestern High School, 1980; attended Winthrop University and York Technical College

• Political experience: None

• Favorite movie: "Rudy"

• Age: 58

• Family: Wife, Tommie; son Roy M. Blake, 35, and daughter Sheneaka, 32; two grandchildren

• Job: Liberty National Insurance

• Education: Emmett Scott High School, 1966; York Technical College, associate's degree in business administration, 1973

• Political experience: One term on York County Council, 2004-present

• Political hero: John F. Kennedy