New council members set to take office in Lexington, Cayce, Irmo and Batesburg-Leesville

Posted 11/16/23

Multiple municipalities saw shake-ups on their city/town council following elections on Nov. 7. Cayce, Lexington, Irmo and Batesburg-Leesville all saw seats change hands.

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New council members set to take office in Lexington, Cayce, Irmo and Batesburg-Leesville


Multiple municipalities saw shake-ups on their city/town council following elections on Nov. 7. Cayce, Lexington, Irmo and Batesburg-Leesville all saw seats change hands.


While Todd Lyle, the only incumbent on the ballot, held onto his seat, the election saw two newcomers – Will Allen and Jeannie Michaels – installed into the other at-large Town Council seats in Lexington.

Both Allen and Michaels shared that they were pretty confident when it came to their chances of finishing in the top three.

“I learned a lot in about a two month span, but it was very much led by the Lord, without the Lord there's absolutely zero reason why I should be a councilman elect,” Allen, co-owner of local restaurant Mama Rabbits Nibbles and Sips, told the Chronicle. “He's really grown me in a lot of different ways, and has been just a huge part of the whole process and all the outpouring of support and love from our neighbors has really been overwhelming.”

Michaels, previously a longtime member of the town Planning Commision, said she’s very excited to have won and is ready to start working with the other council members to get things done. She shared that having a fairly new council, with her and Allen joining Gavin Smith (elected in May) as recent additions, will bring in a lot of fresh ideas and thought processes.

“I worked very hard, knocked on a lot of doors, talked to a lot of people, did a lot of campaigning,” Michaels said. “It's a hard race, it was probably hard for everybody that was out there working. So yeah, it feels very good that my hard work paid off.”

Lyle, who finished first in the seven-candidate field seeking a seat on council, didn’t respond to the Chronicle’s request for comment following the election.

‘We have a lot of people who care about this town. We need to continue to have people in leadership positions that do care that have the town's best interests at heart,” Lyle said at a Nov. 1 candidate forum, framing his run for re-eleciton. “But we also need to have the integrity to continue to follow the rules of respecting the individual rights and property rights as others while still making decisions for those long term goals.”


Cayce saw one change on council, but it was an impactful one.

James “Skip” Jenkins, the city’s long-standing mayor pro-tem, was unseated by Byron Thomas, public outreach director for Rep. Joe Wilson. Thomas’ margin of victory was five votes.

“I’m so excited, I'm still dreaming right now. So, I haven't made a post yet because I'm still like ‘Wow,’” Thomas told the Chronicle. “It won't truly hit me until I get sworn in.”

Thomas’ campaign included a promise to create a $1,000 scholarship for Brookland-Cayce High School students, with original plans to name it after Jenkins. Thomas told the Chronicle that while he still plans on keeping his promise of creating the scholarship it will no longer be named after Jenkins, who said during the race that he didn’t want it named after him.

Jenkins told the paper previously that Thomas didn’t approach him about the scholarship before announcing his intentions to start one and that he took exception to Thomas framing it as something he would “when I win.”

Thomas said has since called and apologized to Jenkins and hopes to be able to work with him in the future.

The now former council member told the Chronicle that he questioned the legality of how Thomas won, but declined to elaborate further. He said he plans to move on  to bigger and better things after the loss saying, “Let’s see what he does,” in response to Thomas taking the seat.


Erik Sickinger, Irmo’s lone incumbent up for reelection, held onto his seat on Town Council, joining newly elected member Phyllis Coleman, barely edging Gabriel Penfield. Sickinger received 890 votes (31.91%), Coleman got 675 (24.20%) and Penfiled got 650 votes (23.30%), 

Rounding out the rest of the results, Jeff Allen got 488 votes (17.49%), and George Frazier, who was declared ineligible after filing ahead of election day, with 72 votes (2.58%).

After the election, Penfield filed two protests, one taking aim at the votes that were cast for Frazier and the other having to do with activities that allegedly transpired at polling locations. Hearings were held Nov. 10, and ultimately, the county’s election commission voted  unanimously to keep the election as it stands for both hearings.

Penfield told the Chronicle he is unsure if he will pursue further appeals of the results.

Making him the longest standing member on council. The council will welcome a new member in Phyllis Coleman, who will be taking the seat of former council member Kelly Busch.

Sickinger, who believed his odds for re-election were in his favor, shared that this time of transition for the town of Irmo will bring a different set of opinions and ideas, adding that the change that the council is seeing is a necessary one.

As the most tenured council member, Sickinger said he hopes to make new candidates feel welcome and comfortable – including whoever wins the coming special election to fill the seat vacated by Bill Danielson, elected Nov. 7 as mayor.

Coleman said it felt wonderful to be voted onto council.

“Feels good to be like the first Black female in the whole town's history,” Coleman said. “It feels good that at least one person on that council has serious roots in the Town of Irmo.”

As to that historic nature of Coleman's win, Town Administrator Courtney Dennis told the Chronicle he believes  she is the first Black woman to be elected to council, but it's difficult to be sure.

"Our town goes back to 1890 and it is hard to know the race of each individual council member that has been elected," he said. "There has not been a black female council member in recent memories. I am not comfortable confirming this on behalf of the town at this time unless we do more research which could take a while."


The town of Batesburg-Leesville saw one incumbent unseated, as as District 4 Town council Member Johnnie Mae Speach-Lemon lost to Betty Barnes Hartley.

The Chronicle was unable to reach Hartley to ask about her win, but she previously told the paper that she was running out of concern for the residents and the change coming to the town.

She shared that her goals include having services for senior citizens in response to the town's current elderly populations and ensuring that there are educational opportunities for children.

“Housing is the No. 1 concern in the area,” Hartley said before the election, “that we have affordable housing for all people.”


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