County Council Candidates answer our questions

Primary Elections were held on June 14, 2022. Candidates are shown below:

We have updated this post for the November 8, 2022 general election.

Make your voice heard in the South Carolina primary election! Early voting is open now and election day is June 14th (any runoff elections will be held June 28th).

You can check your registration status and sample ballot here

South Carolina has open primaries, which means that any registered voter can vote in the primary of their choice. Voters may only vote in one party’s primary. 

Governor McMaster recently signed into law No Excuse Early Voting, which means you can vote early without an excuse now in person at County Square. Check your sample ballot options, make a plan, and get yourself to the polls to make your voice heard! 

As a 501c3 non-profit we do not endorse candidates, we do this only to inform voters.

Our Questions

1. South Carolina and Greenville County have some of the highest pedestrian and cyclist fatality rates in the country. What do you think the main safety issues are for improving conditions for walking and biking in your district?

2. What funding sources do you recommend for completing local safety improvements for biking and walking?

3. Are there issues that are important to you, that you think Bike Walk Greenville and our audience in Greenville County should be aware of?

District 17 

    As development is increasing in rural Greenville County, what ideas do you have to promote resource conservation and quality of life for residents of District 17? 

District 19 

    Now that an underpass has been ruled out as an option for safe crossing of 253 on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and construction of a bridge (in collaboration with the Union Bleachery developer) is a number of years out, what solutions would you recommend for immediate safety improvements at 253 and the Swamp Rabbit Trail?

District 23 

    The City of Greenville has been working on biking/walking infrastructure improvements to provide a needed connection between the Swamp Rabbit Trail and the West Village, with limited success to date. What ideas do you have to bring additional trail connectivity to West Greenville?

District 26:

 As development is increasing in rural Greenville County, what ideas do you have to promote resource conservation and quality of life for residents of District 26? 

Candidate Responses District 17

Sheryl Guarniero

Democrat

  1. In district 17, many of the roadways lack sidewalks and proper bike lanes. Additionally, there needs to be educational campaigns and signage to inform drivers to be aware of cyclists and pedestrian traffic. There needs to be increased visibility and for the roads in which sidewalks and bike lanes are not possible, we need to provide alternate routes for individuals using those modes of transport like extending the swamp rabbit trail or creating a similar right of way. 
  2. Funding is available from many resources. There are federal and state grants focused on transportation and safety enhancements from the DOT as well as other private organizations. If an area is booming with new housing or business development, the individual developers should be required to perform traffic studies which include the potential use by cyclists and pedestrians. The need to account for bike lanes and sidewalks should fall not only on the community but also the developers creating these new issues. 
  3. As a road cyclist and mountain biker myself, road safety and design is important as well as proper education for both drivers AND cyclists so we can share the road responsibly and safely. 

As development is increasing in rural Greenville County, what ideas do you have to promote resource conservation and quality of life for residents of District 17?  

We need to work in partnership with the local community and non-profits to ensure that we preserve green spaces and parks, redesign roadways where we are able to promote safety for all users, and support community engagement and pride through involvement and education (like local farmers markets, group hikes for all ages, collaborative community design that supports alternative modes of transport, etc.)





Joey Russo

Republican Primary Winner

  1. The way I look at this issue, like most of our issues in Greenville, come down to growth. For far too long we have been on our heels and reactionary to the infrastructure improvements that need to be made in order to grow well. Greenville County must make the investments that are necessary in our first responders and infrastructure to appropriately manage the growth that has been for so long unchecked. 
  2. We need to think creatively by utilizing public/private partnerships and federal grants in order to make these improvements. We must recognize that green space and access to trails increases our quality of life.
  3. I am a former Greenville County Sheriff’s Deputy and I have seen the tragic consequences of poorly designed roads that don’t allow for the safety of the driver’s, bikers, and walkers. I believe we are well past due for fresh vision and new leadership that is ready to tackle the issues we’re facing and I am ready to do my part in facilitating real solutions. 

 As development is increasing in rural Greenville County, what ideas do you have to promote resource conservation and quality of life for residents of District 17?  

I would promote utilizing various strategies for resource conservation. Through strategic/long term planning Greenville County can improve the safety for bikers/walkers along trails, parks, and roadways. Working closely with the private sector and grant funding for recreation areas, green space, and bike/walk paths that improve the quality of life that is so often damaged by growth. 

Joe Dill

Republican

  1. Our roads are too busy to handles bicycles, pedestrians, and cars. I was instrumental in creating the Swamp Rabbit Trail which was created to get bicycles and pedestrians off the road. Money needs to be spent to extend these trails.
  2. When the state paves a road now, it already includes a bicycle lane. On roads where bike lanes exist, state law needs to be enacted to require bikes stay in their lanes and cars in their lanes. This has been done in Washington State. It would make for a safer environment. Some County roads are too small for two cars to meet; much less adding cycling and walking to them. The state has C funds and the Federal enhancement grants that could be applied for that could be applied for and used for safety improvements.
  3. In my district people get real upset when all of the lane is taken up by bicycles. We have to find a way that we will not be penalized for living in such a pretty part of the county.

Simply Civics Greenville County has a podcast with both candidates

Candidate Responses District 19

Ivan Mathena

Republican

  1. There are a number of large roads, often in unincorporated areas, and that can lead to a lack of civic focus Re walking/cycling conditions. Crosswalks, traffic lights, biking lanes, and sidewalks are all options for improving walking/cycling conditions.
  2. I’d need to first sit down and assess the county budget VS expenditures before I make recommendations about how to pay for these improvements.
  3. In the middle of the campaign, my step-brother lost his life due to a skateboarding accident. He was not wearing a helmet, and happened to fall and hit his head at just the right angle. As an avid cyclist, I can’t tell you how many times I have hopped on a bike without a helmet. As a community, I think it’s important to stress the need for helmets. 

Now that an underpass has been ruled out as an option for safe crossing of 253 on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and construction of a bridge (in collaboration with the Union Bleachery developer) is a number of years out, what solutions would you recommend for immediate safety improvements at 253 and the Swamp Rabbit Trail?

Maybe some railing so that cyclists/children can balance themselves once they hit the median. Additionally, that would give drivers an added issue that warrants concentration. Also, maybe some directional lanes, for the cyclists, so that there is an orderly transition across the road.

Wide open to suggestions. I *hate* crossing 253, on bikes, with my family.

Benton Blount

Republican Primary Winner

  1. My campaign started with Let’s Build a Bridge. That bridge is intended for the trail over highway 253. But there are many other safety issues that can be addressed on the trail.  A friend of mine once said you cannot climb Mt Everest all at once but it requires one step at a time. One step at a time we can make Greenville a better place to live.
  2. There a couple of sources that are available even beyond using property tax dollars. The accommodations tax is meant to be used for this type of community improvements. 
  3. Quality of Life is an important role that County Council can play in the community. There are more improvements that can be made to the trail but I am also focused on building more passive parks in the district and Greenville County. Additionally I believe we can collaborate with the mill water tower owners to get those rusty towers painted. I have said in my campaign materials could you imagine a painted water tower with a mural of the historic mill. Or even see Shoeless Joe Jackson as mural over the mill he worked and played mill baseball.

District 19 

Now that an underpass has been ruled out as an option for safe crossing of 253 on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and construction of a bridge (in collaboration with the Union Bleachery developer) is a number of years out, what solutions would you recommend for immediate safety improvements at 253 and the Swamp Rabbit Trail?

 A bridge should have been built years ago. I will push to have a bridge built as soon as possible.

Jackie M. Clark did not respond to our questions

Willis Meadows did not respond to our questions

Simply Civics has a podcast with 3 of the 4 District 19 Candidates

Bussin’ podcast has interviews with Benton Blount and Jackie Clark

Candidate Responses District 23

David C. Mitchell

Democrat

1. Greenville’s growth has created an excellent environment for new and current residents to enjoy work and recreation in our beautiful downtown and surrounding areas. The tremendous growth and development have also caused pedestrian and cycling safety issues due to a lack of infrastructure that supports walkable communities and access to biking pathways.

As a Greenville County Council representative for District 23, I will focus on implementing the Unified Development Ordinance to address infrastructure development that effectively plans for growth to include safe roads, walkable communities, and biking lanes. My focus will be to grow smart while considering the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.

2. Funding is always a challenge when considering improvements to our county; however, there are some options for paying for improved infrastructure. We can seek more funding from the infrastructure bank that has allocations for sidewalks, bike lanes, and pedestrian crossways. We can also consider a penny sales tax with a transportation component that will provide a dedicated funding source to GTA/Greenlink to create a reliable bus system that is efficient and user-friendly. The goal will be to generate funding resources to address the lack of safe and accessible pedestrians and pathways for pedestrians and cyclists.

3. Income-Based Affordable Housing in District 23 is needed now. Lack of income-based housing impacts every facet of our lives. It affects our economy as companies go where their employees can afford to live. It impacts our historic communities as they get swept away under gentrification. It impacts our young people and low-income earners as they can’t find affordable homes. As a member of the Greenville County Council, I will work to ensure we find solutions

The county needs Improved Access to Reliable Greenville Transit Authority service for District 23 means better access to better jobs, shopping, and recreational activities. As a member of the Council, I’ll prioritize securing a dedicated funding source for Greenlink service expansion for our community, improved routes, and the frequency of bus service. 

The City of Greenville has been working on biking/walking infrastructure improvements to provide a needed connection between the Swamp Rabbit Trail and the West Village, with limited success to date. What ideas do you have to bring additional trail connectivity to West Greenville?

We have to focus on planning the future expansion of the Swamp Rabbit Trail and the West Village by allocating funds that adequately address the needs and desires of the local communities. We have available funds in tourism fees that can address the trail infrastructure. In the same way, we promote the development of communities; we need to have the same focus on the smart and safe development of our trails and parks. We have to budget money equally on trail expansion and upkeep, similarly to investing in local parks. Tourism dollars are limited; however, we can better prioritize projects that have the same level of importance as other recreational infrastructure in the city and county of Greenville.

Alan Mitchell

Democrat Primary Winner

1. Many of the roads and streets in Greenville County have worn pavement edges and ditches on the sides. These conditions can cause cyclists and even drivers in cars to lose control when close to the pavement edges. Streets are narrow and do not leave much room for maneuverability for cars when cyclist are on the roads. Also, we do not have enough bike lanes and chevrons marked on the pavement in higher traffic areas. At night, cyclist need to wear more reflective apparel and have more reflectors and/ or lights on their bikes. Streets need better lighting for evening and early morning riding. Everyone needs to be better educated on the rules of the roads for cyclists and drivers, and we need to watch for cyclists like we do for motorcycles.

2.The Build Back Better America infrastructure bill can provide a much needed boost to the road and streetscape improvements that are needed and overdue. We should also be able to secure additional State, County, and City funds to do what is necessary to keep the citizens safe.

3.Many studies have been completed over the years that deal with cyclist and pedestrian safety. We need to review these studies and implement the strategies that are enumerated in those studies. Some of the elements in these studies call for more bike and walking trails, improved road surfaces, road edge design elements, pavement markings, signage, better lighting and more. It’s time to pause studying and implement the improvements that are already called out in previous studies.

There is much growth and development occurring in West Greenville. Much of it is spearheaded by outside developers. We can get them involved to design the needed interconnectivity into their development plans and help fund the trail connections. All of these projects need to be balanced for the motorized vehicles, cyclists, and the walkers. Then, if the City, County, and State can provide a fair share, the burden is not on any one entity. Additionally, we should be able and willing to secure Federal funding to make the trail connections a reality. We all need to coordinate and work together on these and similar projects.

Ben Carper

Republican

Candidate Responses District 26

Lynn Ballard

Republican

1. My District covers 230 square miles (the Southern 1/3 of the County).  Much of the district is flat and farmland with many narrow, winding roads.  I have spoken with the leader of Greenville Spinners about a couple of roads where the bicyclists were in potential danger, and he shared it with the group.  If the cyclists will ride no more than two abreast it will be much safer for them and for the vehicles.  When there is a large group of cyclists, and they are riding three or four abreast it is very dangerous.  Since I spoke with leader of the group, I have not come upon large groups riding together in that manner.  Since there are very few sidewalks in my District, I recommend that walking be done on the trails at the local parks – Cedar Falls Park and Loretta Wood Park – bot of which have great walking trails.

2. Biking and walking are generally considered to be recreational activities.  Greenville County has an excellent Parks and Recreation Department.  I would recommend that funding for projects, etc. be requested through this Department.  Also, there may be various grants available for some of these projects.

3.The biggest issue that concerns me was mentioned in my answer to question 1.  While the population in my District is spread out over a vast area, that brings with it much less traffic than in more populated areas.  It is not unusual to drive down some of the roads in my District and never see or pass another vehicle.  This situation would be very appealing to cyclists, in my opinion, but it also carries an element of danger.  Since most drivers are used to driving on roads with little traffic they can tend to become “too familiar” with the route.  We all try to be alert to any changing conditions as we drive, but it is important for cyclists to also be very alert to oncoming traffic from both directions.

The biggest issue that concerns me was mentioned in my answer to question 1.  While the population in my District is spread out over a vast area, that brings with it much less traffic than in more populated areas.  It is not unusual to drive down some of the roads in my District and never see or pass another vehicle.  This situation would be very appealing to cyclists, in my opinion, but it also carries an element of danger.  Since most drivers are used to driving on roads with little traffic they can tend to become “too familiar” with the route.  We all try to be alert to any changing conditions as we drive, but it is important for cyclists to also be very alert to oncoming traffic from both directions.

Rick Bradley did not respond to our questions

Greenville Chamber Ratings

The Greenville Chamber actively advocates for policies and supports business leaders and their representatives in forwarding pro-business legislation that will benefit the Upstate.

Every year, we issue ratings for candidates running for office throughout Greenville to help the business community make decisions about which candidate to support. The Chamber does not endorse candidates.

Ratings are based upon a candidate’s written responses to business-related questions followed by in-person interviews conducted by local business leaders. You can find their ratings at this link

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