NORTH AUGUSTA - A near-capacity crowd turned out Thursday night at North Augusta Community Center to hear what candidates for city council and mayor had to offer them.
And with all the candidates Republican and the main issues totaling three - namely, riverfront development, keeping video poker out of the city and replacing outgoing police Chief Bill Heim - their stories didn't vary much.
Here's what the three candidates to replace retiring Mayor Thomas Greene had to say:
Carolyn Baggott, 53, currently serves on council and said she would remain committed to the careful, steady growth of the city's riverfront. She also vowed to do all she can to keep video poker at bay. "Video poker is the vulture that is preying on the citizens who can least afford to lose the sums of their meager incomes," Mrs. Baggott said.
Dane Anderson, a 32-year-old political newcomer, said he favors growth in the area, but not without first enhancing the city's present assets and ways of life. "Some have interpreted that to mean I'm against change and growth, but the point I want to make tonight is growth without prosperity is not progress," Mr. Anderson said.
Lark Jones, 47, currently serves on council and said he would concentrate on bringing more business to the area around Interstate 20 and Martintown Road. "That is the least developed interchange in the area. We need to change that," Mr. Jones said.
Two incumbents and four challengers are vying for three council seats. A third incumbent, William Gray, chose not to run again.
Incumbent Pat Carpenter, 46, said she will continue to serve the people of North Augusta with "an open, honest and sincere heart."
Incumbent Phil Mottel, 36, said he would push to provide more services to seniors and retirees and also support riverfront development. "I strongly believe I know well the city's values, needs and concerns," Mr. Mottel said.
Daniel Geddes, 20, quickly answered the two most frequently asked questions: "Yes, I am old enough to do this and yes, I am serious about being your city councilman," he said. He added that his youth and inexperience would make him more inquisitive and diligent.
John Felak, 39, emphasized maintaining public access and development on the riverfront. He also said his role directing recreational activities at the Savannah River Site would help him in running a city. "Every day I provide services and facilities to a very large group of individuals," he said.
Kenneth McDowell, 42, said he believes in "very simple and realistic goals that take care of our immediate needs first" with regard to developing the city and riverfront.
Don Smith, 59, said he thinks "the first priority of tax dollars in North Augusta lies with the citizens of North Augusta, with the upkeep of their yards and paving of their streets."
All candidates said they would look to hire a new police chief from within the department first, but would not rule out hiring an outside person if he or she were more qualified.
A primary will be held March 11, and if necessary, a runoff will follow on March 25. The general election is April 29. No Democrats qualified to run.