Originally created 07/20/98

District hopefuls similar



One is a Democrat and one is a Republican, but both candidates for the District 5 seat of the Aiken County Council say they are conservative.

Neither of them has held the office before, but both pledge to seek and eliminate waste from the county budget.

The candidates are Phil Napier, owner of Napier Hardware and winner of the Republican primary election, and Dale Stephens, a retired guard from the Aiken County Detention Center.

Mr. Stephens is running as a Democrat because there were two Republicans on the ballot already, he said.

He describes himself as a conservative and thinks the county should use the resources it already has instead of raising taxes, Mr. Stephens said. The Aiken County Council raised property taxes by five mills to pay for road maintenance and higher solid waste disposal costs.

"Politics are getting to be big business. I wanted to see if I can help the poor and keep taxes to a minimum," he said. He will work to use county road resources more efficiently and improve law enforcement, but has no specific plans yet, he said.

"I'll tell you about that when I get elected," he said.

Mr. Stephens was one of five Aiken County Detention Center employees who were suspended with pay in January during an investigation into the jail's bookkeeping. The State Law Enforcement Division was called in, but no charges were filed and Mr. Stephens and the other employees were put back to work. The investigation is ongoing.

Mr. Stephens said he had planned to retire from the detention center before the investigation and was only working at the detention center part time. He has lived in Aiken County since 1972 and is a lifetime honorary member of the North Augusta Rescue Squad.

Mr. Stephens, 65, is retired. This allows him to be a full-time representative for his district, he said.

"I won't take another job," Mr. Stephens said.

If Mr. Napier has his way, Mr. Stephens won't take the council job, either. Mr. Napier cites his record as chief of the Graniteville-Vaucluse-Warrenville fire department as proof of his leadership abilities.

Mr. Napier has been the fire chief since 1981. The fire department has six fire engines, two service vehicles and a fully-equipped emergency response vehicle, all paid for with a $23 fire fee, he said.

"We've obtained a lot of goods at minimum expenditures," he said.

Mr. Napier, 49, beat incumbent Jim Baggott in the June 9 Republican primary election, getting more votes in every precinct in District 5. He's still recovering from the primary election, he said.

"It's a very stressful thing," Mr. Napier said. "It's an every day job, getting out and talking to people. Everyone should try running for public office at least once."

Mr. Napier is a member of the Aiken County Planning Commission and the Mobile Home Approval Board. He has followed the county council for 15 years, and regularly attends its meetings, he said.

District 5 has 8,598 registered voters. Its largest precincts are North Augusta 26 with 1,352 voters, Belvedere 44 with 1,167 voters and Belvedere 9 with 1,122 voters.

In other districts with elections, District 1 incumbent Kathy Rawls, a Democrat, is running against Republican challenger Andy Windham. Republicans Joel Randall, the District 6 incumbent, and Susan Giddings, the District 2 incumbent, are unopposed.