North Augusta Council candidates discuss transparency, Meriwether Monument, other issues


NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WJBF) — We are one day away from elections in North Augusta. The primary election is Tuesday, February 9. The winners of those races will face the Democratic challenger in both the City Council and mayoral races in April.

Dave Leverett

“There are several issues that were prominent and it’s still prominent today,” City Council candidate Dave Leverett told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk. “We don’t have enough input from citizens as to what’s most important to them,” City Council candidate Elizabeth Jones added.”

It’s crowded on the election stage. Three people hoping to be mayor and eight others seeking out council seats. Among the eight, Jones and Leverett.

Jones is banking on her experience in budget management and community-building capacities. “I’m the former director of mental health, developmental disabilities, and addicted disease for a 14 county area. I’ve also worked as an advocate for senior adults for over 30 years,” she said.

Leverett is leveraging on his time advocating for the residents of North Augusta at council meetings. “I have become familiar with a lot of the issues in the city by being a citizen advocate,” he said. “I’ve also had several years’ experience, 20, 30 years’ experience as a problem solver and engineer,” he added.

Elizabeth Jones

Some say there are issues with getting timely information from the City. Both candidates insist that they will push for a new level of transparency. “I think information ought to be to a citizen ought to be free. Shouldn’t have to fill out a FOIA request. If we want some information about the city, we ought to be able to get it and it ought to be an open discussion,” Leverett said.

Jones agrees. “If it’s information that has been discussed and disclosed in a City Council meeting, then it’s information that all citizens should have access to,” she added.

One item on the minds of several candidates running for the municipal elections is the Meriwether Monument. As we told you before, the monument, in a prominent spot in North Augusta, memorializes the only white man killed in the Hamburg Massacre in 1876. Some say the text is racist.

“I want to know is why the people who are in control are not asking the same questions that City Council people are being asked about the monument — who have no control over what can be done with it,” Jones said. “They’ve already told us that it’s a state issue. So I’m giving it back to the state saying, please handle your problem,” she added.

“There are two historical threads on the Meriwether Monument. One thread is what happened on those weeks or days back in the 1870s. But then there’s a second thread, which is the history of the monument itself,” Leverett shared. “Just like the people back in 1913 or 16, whenever it was, what they did told the world says for a hundred years what their community was, what we say is going to tell what we thought was most important and what kind of people we are.,” he added.

Leverett went on to say, “I’m still debating what that answer is. I think it’s a very important question that you need to give a lot of thought to. I think the jury’s still out on mine on that.”

The two names may look familiar. The pair was a part of a group that ran as Constitution Party candidates in the previous election.

“The Constitution Party was a means whereby a group of citizens all that, although Republicans, all their lives, they wanted to differentiate themselves from the standard, from the sitting government and the issues that they want differentiate on were fiscal responsibility and transparency and indebtedness,” Leverett said. “We ran as Constitution Party, even though everyone running in the Constitution Party was a full-time Republican. So that point being made and having established who we are, we’re back in the Republican Party running this time,” he added.

“In my mind, we’ve all been Republicans because we voted Republican. I ran Constitution Party because I was trying to get a message across saying citizens 40% voted for me. We’re not happy with the state of affairs in North Augusta. Sometimes if you are part of the equation, then your voice isn’t heard because people don’t believe you saying, how are you going to talk against a party that you are running as a part of? So we were still saying, we want transparency, conservative values, the same thing the Republican Party stands for. We were just running under a different banner,” Jones said.

In addition to transparency and continuing conservative values, both say they are going to be laser-focused on moving South Carolina’s River Front City forward by having a higher level of financial responsibility.

“Nothing can be done without knowing your financial blueprint so that you know what you’re able to do and start making long-term projections about what is most important to the citizens of North Augusta,” Jones shared.

“I think we need to be focusing on what’s going to happen with the new 13th Street bridge. It’s a big project. It’s going to cost lots of money and it’s something that we probably need to budget for right away. But with our focus on throttling down Georgia Avenue and with access issues into Riverside Village, the bridge is something that needs to be discussed and talked about,” Leverett added.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

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