Candidate forum draws crowd

By Kelly Duncan -

NEWBERRY — The Newberry Business Alliance hosted its 2016 Candidate Forum at the Newberry Opera House earlier this week and it gave the candidates who have opposition a chance to voice their platforms to their constituents.

The first to speak were Fran Person, Rudy Barnes and Mick Mulvaney, all of whom are running for the U.S. House of Representatives District 5 seat. Due to Congress being in session, the incumbent Mulvaney was unable to attend.

Person said her three concerns if elected will be education, workforce development and women in the workforce.

“Also, I feel there should be paid maternity leave,” she said.

Barnes said he wanted to bring a “fresh, independent voice to Congress” and live in a nation where we are “One Nation Under God.”

Newberry County Clerk of Court candidates Beth Folk, who has been with the Clerk’s office for 38 years and deputy clerk for 26, and challenger Richard Lail were up next.

When asked how she would effectively serve as clerk of court, Folk said she would be an active member of the court and maintain the pride and integrity that the office has. Folk said she has experience in real estate and in family, criminal and civil court.

Lail has been the magistrate for Newberry County for 13 years and been in business for 25 years. Lail stressed the need for a more automated office that runs more efficiently.

Folk told the audience that the Clerk of Court’s office recently signed up for which allows residents to pay child support online.

Lewis Lee and Laura Kneece are running for Newberry County coroner.

Lee has lived in South Carolina his entire life and has lived in Newberry his entire adult life. He has served as a firefighter and fire chief of Newberry, as well as director of public safety. Lee has been a coroner for the last eight years.

Kneece lives in Prosperity, where she currently works with a forensic pathologist as a morgue assistant. She has also been a school resource officer and crime scene investigator with Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

If elected, Lee said his goals include continuing to work closely with Newberry County EMS and law enforcement agencies.

Kneece said she will ensure thorough investigations are done and will have open office hours.

“The Coroner’s office of Newberry County needs to become more up-to-date on state guidelines,” Kneece said.

As coroner, Kneece said she will give citizens the best quality service during one of the hardest times of their life and give them the answers they need and deserve.

The longest segment of the night came when the candidates for Newberry County Sheriff — incumbent Lee Foster and challenger David Beddingfield — took the floor.

Beddingfield has 16 years of criminal justice experience, a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and served in the National Guard.

“I want fair and top quality service to all citizens and top quality training for our deputies,” he said.

Foster said he understands and knows the community, and hopes to continue that.

“The first goal is to implement body cameras, as well as extensive training and to develop training that is in the works to be hosted and held in Newberry to further improve the community,” Foster said.

Beddingfield said his top three goals are to enhance capabilities, have in-car cameras and better audio and visual technology. He also said he wants measurable standards and to implement nationally accepted programs.

When asked by an audience member their approach to stopping crime, Beddingfield said he would use community policing, good communication, and establish a sense of trust.

Foster made the point to Beddingfield that the police department has already been using community policing and that community policing doesn’t have to stop at just law enforcement.

Closing remarks included Beddingfield offering measurable standards and high quality service. Foster ended his remarks quoting the television show Andy Griffith saying, “What you don’t understand is this is a small town. The sheriff is more than a sheriff. He’s your friend.”

The next debate posed Newberry County Council District 5 candidate Harriett L. Rucker against Les Hipp.

If elected, Rucker said she would make the office open to the citizens. “I want to be your public servant. I will be there for you, and I won’t talk down to you,” he said.

Hipp said he wants to focus on Newberry County’s industrial footprint and bring in more industries and more job opportunities in Newberry County.

Rucker’s goals include a more open and accessible government, working closely as a team and improving economic development. Rucker has not served on County Council, but her work with the school board filters through the government.

The final segment was between Carlton Kinard and Rick Martin, both candidate for the South Carolina House of Representatives District 40 seat.

If elected, Kinard said his top three goals are “to improve public school, improve roads and bridges and bring jobs into Newberry that are here to stay.”

Martin’s goals include bringing industry into Newberry, bringing in a sustainable source to fix roads to make Newberry County safe, and to give the best constituent service he can.

A question from the audience addressed the issue of Congress having a federal minimum wage.

Martin agreed with the Congressional ruling saying that there is a wage that is set based on a person’s education or job status. Kinard said there should be a federal minimum wage, but if it was raised there need to be funds available to do that.

Unopposed candidates who attended included Donna W. Lominack, County Auditor; Karen Lindler Smith, Newberry County Treasurer; Scott Cain, County Council District 1; Lucy Anne Meetze, Newberry County School District 3; and Leila M. Caldwell, Newberry County School Board District 3.

By Kelly Duncan

Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123, ext.1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.

Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123, ext.1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.

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