Irmo, Lexington candidates talk transparency, government power at stump event

Posted 11/1/23

The Lexington County Republican Party hosted an event for residents to get to know the council and mayoral candidates for the Nov. 7 election.

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Irmo, Lexington candidates talk transparency, government power at stump event


The Lexington County Republican Party hosted an event for residents to get to know the council and mayoral candidates for the Nov. 7 election.

On Oct. 19, the Lexington County Republican Party and The Standard newspaper hosted a Lexington County Municipal Candidate Stump at Wings and Ale in Columbia, where they said all candidates were invited. 

Irmo had three candidates present, with Gabriel Penfield and Phyllis Coleman, both running for a seat on Town Council and incumbent Mayor Barry Walker, who’s up for reelection. Lexington had two candidates, with Greg Brewer and Will Allen running to grab one of the three at-large Town Council seats on the ballot.

During the event, topics of transparency, municipal power in enacting restrictions on citizens and businesses and managing the size of town government were all discussed.

Growth was a common issue for all candidates when it came to the problems they identified within their towns.

Walker said infrastructure and growth, both within and around Irmo, are the top two problems the town is facing, with the third being managing money from the federal government. He stated that in terms of infrastructure a majority of roads within the town are maintained by the state Department of Transportation or Lexington County. 

Outside of growth, Coleman said her other two big issues are policing and inclusion, claiming that some people in historic neighborhoods are being ignored.

“I understand that when it gets bigger, you don't know everybody,” Coleman said. “But there's a certain type of manners that I think we're losing in our home.” 

Coleman said she believed Irmo is on the precipice of losing its small town feel.

Penfield was the only candidate who didn’t directly point out growth, with his top three issues involving road infrastructure, crime and the level of contentiousness on Irmo Town Council. 

“As long as people are quibbling over who's in power, we're not leading the town,” he said.

Allen claimed that the “explosive” growth within Lexington is an issue alongside traffic and the town becoming a “tourist destination.” 

Brewer echoed this sentiment, leaning into the traffic that would come if Lexington became a tourist destination.

Brewer claimed that council doesn’t have enough professional diversity, adding that it has a “builder, developer, real estate ecosystem” that needs to be broken up.

The topic of municipal government’s power to restrict citizens and businesses brought a variety of answers.

“Absolutely none,” Allen said in regard to the amount of power a municipality has in this regard. “That's a big reason why I'm running is because 2020 was a big wake-up call that local municipalities have a lot more power than people realized.”

Brewer shared a similar sentiment, saying, ‘I don't appreciate being schooled on how to be compliant and subservient and on my knees.”

Walker and Coleman shared a different point of view, with Walker stating that they didn’t know anything about COVID-19 just that “if you're elderly or if you have some pre-existing conditions like me, you got it you died.”

He stated that the disease did not discriminate against Democrats or Republicans, adding that he knows an equal amount of each are in the ground right now because they didn't take the precautions.

Coleman stated that she wore a mask, didn’t allow family in the house and went grocery shopping when it was as empty as possible because she was caring for her elderly mother, adding that she had to go off the information given at the time.

Penfield shared a more neutral position, saying that nobody wants to be told what to do but at the same time, without order, the world would devolve into chaos.

All candidates agreed that municipalities having transparency is important with Walker stating that Irmo puts its checkbook up on a state transparency website so that anyone can look it up.

Allen said honesty and integrity are everything and should be the highest priority for any elected official, promising he will never lie about anything that the Town Council is looking at.

Brewer followed suit of Allen, mentioning that there should be more transparency through the town's website.

“Everybody's pretty into Facebook … people talk and they comment and all that can happen on the town website,” Brewer said. “That's what transparency means”


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