NEWBERRY — In November, Newberry County voters will decide who they want to represent them as the District 40 representative in the State House.
The incumbent, Democrat Walt McLeod, is running for re-election, while Richard Martin Jr. is running against him as a Republican.
Martin said he believes Newberry County needs a change, and he believes he is the one to bring change.
Martin believes that McLeod’s tenure has made him complacent and that term limits should be implemented to prevent what he calls career politicians. McLeod was first elected in 1996.
“I like McLeod, but he has been in office a long time, and I believe he has forgotten who he works for,” Martin said.
Martin said the defining moment that made him decide to run was when a friend came to him for help.
“I had a friend, recently laid off, who came to me and asked if I could hire him,” Martin said. “He said he would do anything, even sweep the floors. I was unable to hire him, but I was able to make some calls and find him a job, but it was in Columbia.”
Martin said people should not have to go to other counties to find employment.
“I do not believe we can keep going like we are going. We are getting worse. We need jobs in Newberry County,” Martin said.
If elected, Martin said he would work to bring new businesses to the county, decrease the crime rate, help lower property taxes, improve the county’s literacy rate and help to improve the lives of the elderly.
Martin said his first priority is bringing jobs and new business to Newberry County.
“If we do not start bringing jobs into the county, things are going to get worse. I want to keep today’s youth in Newberry, and I want them to have good paying jobs. There is no reason why they should not have that in Newberry,” Martin said.
Martin wants to work with the Economic Development Board and have incentives to bring businesses to the county. One way he would like to do this is by using existing buildings in Newberry.
“We need to think outside the box,” he said. “We have existing building that used to be factories or other businesses that have moved on. New businesses can move into those building and they do not necessarily have to use them for the same purpose.”
He said he would also like to do what New York is doing: offer 10 years tax free for any new business that come into the county. The idea is to allow new businesses set up shop and allow for job growth. Martin also believes that for businesses to come to the county, they need to be recruited.
Martin said he would work with existing businesses to help with their tax rates.
“The policy of tax and spend and burden the small businesses has got to stop,” Martin said. “Pre-existing businesses should get tax breaks. They are hiring our people. Instead of taxing them to death, we should help build them up.”
Martin also said there are ways to help lower the crime rate, which ties back in to his desire to help businesses locate in Newberry.
“We need stricter sentencing and penalties for any gang-related crimes, and we need to give children an outlet to help them avoid bad situations,” he said. “When I was growing up there were arcades all over Newberry. Now they are all gone. We do not just need hang outs, but basic wholesome activities, things the entire family can do together.”
Martin said a bowling alley and movie theater considered locating in Newberry, but both developers backed out.
“The developers of the bowling alley decided that it would take too long to make their money back due to high tax rate, and the same thing happened with the movie theater,” he said.
Property tax, literacy
According to tax-rates.org, Newberry County property owners pay on average $872 per year in property taxes for a median house value of $102,300, which is roughly 0.85 percent of the home’s assessed fair market value. This makes Newberry County one of the counties with the highest property taxes.
Martin said he does not believe this is a fair rate for Newberry County.
“The taxes are outrageously high. We should have the lowest tax rate. This is not Myrtle Beach property, and I would fight like crazy to lower property taxes,” he said.
The National Institute of Literacy estimated that 29 percent of the citizens in the county and 34 percent within the city of Newberry are at Level 1 literacy, which means these residents could not fill out a job application, read a food label or read a story to their children.
To help combat this percentage, Martin said more community leaders need to get involved in education.
“We need to have community leaders do everything they can to keep children in school. They need to take a stance and get involved,” Martin said.
Martin also believes the education system plays a big part in the county’s literacy rate.
“We cannot lump all children into one big box,” he said. “Everyone learns at different rates. One child may be more advanced and can work alone and another may need more one on one attention.”