Cayce’s Nov. 7 ballot will feature two competitive City Council races.
Along with a competitive and somewhat contentious race for mayor between incumbent Elise Partin and Lexington County School District 2 Bard Member Abbott “Tre” Bray, Cayce’s Nov. 7 ballot will also feature two competitive City Council races.
Incumbents James “Skip” Jenkins, the city’s mayor pro-tem, and Phil Carter, who respectively represent Districts 2 and 4, have filed for reelection and both face challengers.
Marie Brown and Byron Thomas, director of outreach for Rep. Joe Wilson, have filed for District 2.
Melvin Fields and Marcy Hayden have filed to run against Carter, who has served on council since 2015.
Fields didn’t reply to the Chronicle's questions regarding their campaigns.
Thomas has been a resident of Cayce for six years. He serves on the city’s event committee and is the board chair for the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce Cares Foundation. As part of his work with Rep. Wilson’s office, he attends multiple events within the county and surrounding area.
He said he decided to run due to encouragement from people in the community and what he sees as a lack of growth within Cayce, with it potentially falling behind neighboring cities.
“Cayce has so much potential and I want to tap into that potential to bring amazing jobs, opportunities, and to beautify our city. I’ve always encouraged people to shoot for their dreams and take risks,” Thomas said.
“Now, I'm walking my talk. As a young family man, I want more families to look at Cayce and want to live, work, and play here, because ‘Time For Life’ begins here,” he added, referencing the town motto.
Thomas said his first priority if elected would be to create a scholarship for a senior at Brookland-Cayce High School. He plans to give $1,000 of the citizens taxpayer money that he is paid back into the community. He hopes to name the scholarship after Jenkins.
“I don’t view myself as running for Skip’s seat, I view myself as running for the people’s seat. Skip is a great man and he’s done a lot for the City of Cayce and I respect that,” Thomas said. “But for the City of Cayce to take that next step, to get us in the end zone, it’s going to take new leadership and a new vision. I’m hungry and motivated to get the job done.”
Currently serving as Mayor Pro-Tem, Jenkins has been on council longer than any of its current members. He told the Chronicle he wants to continue serving as there's a lot of unfinished business that needs to be completed.
“If I were to not run for re-election, somebody would replace my seat … then they gotta start from scratch,” Jenkins said. “It took many years to get to this point. … So I don't see the advantage of starting over.”
Jenkins said his priorities will be to continue work on fostering business within Cayce and working to get streets repaved. He emphasized that the city itself does not own any of its streets so more work has to be put into negotiating to get things completed.
Asked about challenger Byron Thomas wanting to start a scholarship in his name, Jenkins said he wasn’t approached by Thomas about the matter, adding that the challenger was wording it as “when I win.”
He said Thomas gave him a call to say he was running for his seat but that that was the only conversation he has had with him.
“That tells you off the bat that he's in it for other purposes, he's not in it to help the city he's not in it to help the District 2, District 1, District 3, District 4, working as a team or working for Cayce, he’s not in it for that,” Jenkins said. “I don't want to be slinging mud, I don't think this is slinging mud. That’s just my opinion as to why he is running.”
Brown was born and raised in Cayce though lived around the area and a couple other states at one point, ultimately moving back and residing in her hometown once again. Brown told the Chronicle that she wants to run for council due to District 2 going through a type of “urban decay.”
According to Brown, her long and strong family history within District 2 gives her a loyal and vested interest in the district.
“Knowing so many of my fellow residents and their family members personally, makes me feel more dedicated to the community and also gives me more of a personal concern and drive as the representative for District-2 and all residents of Cayce,” she said.
If elected, Brown's priorities include restoring residents’ pride in their community, adding that younger residents are the future of the district and city, making it important to get them invested in where they live. Brown added that she wants to encourage residents to attend council meetings so that they are fully informed and to play a major role in getting residents to recycle.
“I truly feel that every positive difference makes a difference,” she said.
Hayden has been a citizen in Cayce on and off for 20 years, having lived in her current neighborhood for 17 years. She represents the city in multiple ways, serving on the Cayce Historical Foundation, the State Archaeological Society of the Midlands, the Women’s Club of Cayce, and on the Cayce Museum Commission as secretary.
She told the Chronicle that she is an advocate for community engagement and involvement in all levels of government.
“I want to see Cayce continue with the wonderful progress that it has been making and continue to welcome people to our city,” Hadyen said. “I want to see our government be welcoming to citizens who want to have an active role in city government.
“And I've experienced along with others some hurdles to serve as a volunteer, and I don't want that to continue happening to others.” she added.
She emphasized that she was one of three women Carter rejected when seeking to volunteer on one of the city’s various boards, commissions and foundations, adding that in the end they were able to get approved and serve.
“While it's not a major part of why I want to serve, it is a part that I am concerned about and want to make sure doesn't happen to other people.” she said.
If elected to council, Hayden told the Chronicle she wants to support the city's parks, museums, arts and cultural organizations. She added that she wants to make sure Cayce is a place that welcomes people and supports local business.
Carter told the Chronicle he is seeking re-election to see some projects, like the Avenues Storm Water Project, to completion, adding that he has gained the necessary knowledge and understanding of the city to continue being an effective and contributing member.
His goals for the new term include continuing to be a good steward of tax dollars.
Carter said the city has some work to do with promoting development and new businesses, adding that it must build on its tax base to offset ever-increasing costs.
Carter touched on how the council is good at balancing the demand on their services, giving 100% support to its employees. He added that the city’s employees were outstanding throughout COVID-19.
The incumbent also emphasized the way council has supported the city’s police and fire departments with critical technological updates, new equipment, personnel, adding that they have maintained quick response times and excellent service.
“I receive compliments regularly about all of our departments,” Carter told the Chronicle.
As to Hayden’s assertions about how her appointment process was handled, Carter told the Chronicle that her campaign will not add any tension to the election. He emphasized that Hayden wasn’ t rejected for city appointment but rather the vote was tabled for 30 days to gather more information about process and procedures.
Asked if the city needs a mayoral shift, Carter said that decision lies with the voters.
“It is refreshing that all available positions have a contested election,” he said. “It proves the engagement and involvement of the citizens of Cayce.”
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