Office: Beaufort City Council
Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: 25 years
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Family: Wife of 10 years, Melissa Murray, educator; twin daughters, 13 months old, Genevieve and Josephine Murray
Education: Beaufort High School
Current occupation/employer: I own Beaufort based Kazoobie Kazoos and New South Shirts.
Employment, military and volunteer history: Employment --president, Kazoobie Kazoos 2000-current; owner, New South Shirts 2010-current. Volunteer -- board chairman, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce; president, Leadership Beaufort Alumni Association; graduate, Leadership Beaufort Class of 2010; commissioner, city of Beaufort Redevelopment Commission; fellow, Riley Institute of Diversity, Furman University; co-chairman, Blue Ribbon Task Force for Economic Development; board member, Arts Council of Beaufort County; member, United Way Fundraising Committee; past member, Rotary Club of the Lowcountry; volunteer, Main Street Beaufort; volunteer, Child Abuse Prevention Association; volunteer, Lowcountry Jaycees; volunteer, Beaufort Film Festival; OLLI instructor, USCB, two classes; presenter, Books Sandwiched In, Friends of the Library; CHOICES instructor, Beaufort Middle School
Public offices held: None
Unsuccessful bids for public office: N/A
Other prior political and government experience: No
Key endorsements you've received: Henry C. Chambers, Steve Brown, John & Erica Dickerson, Kendall Erickson, Malcolm Goodridge, Dean Moss, Edie Rogers, Anita Singleton-Prather, Mike & Nan Sutton, Alice Wright. Please visit my Facebook page for a complete list of endorsements.
Campaign contributions: $6,763.97
Campaign expenditures: $3,870.59
Biggest contributor: Malcolm Goodridge, $1,000
Why should people vote for you?
I love this place and it's been my family's home for almost 100 years. I've been a dedicated volunteer for the past five years, and have participated in local government and a multitude of civic organizations. My volunteer experience gives me the background knowledge needed to be an effective city councilman. My work experience starting and growing small businesses gives me the skills to lead, prioritize, manage finance and develop data-driven benchmarks for success in order to hold people and organizations accountable.
What are the three most important issues you would address if elected?
This biggest challenge we face in the City is our shrinking tax base in both the residential and commercial sectors. The city has done a good job of controlling costs through the recession, but just like in our businesses and households, our expenses will continue to rise unless we want to cut into services and quality of life amenities. A shrinking tax base requires city residents and business owners to contribute more in the way of fees and taxes. The problem is that we've had a double-digit decline in the per capita income of city residents and many of our businesses are struggling. Asking residents and businesses for more, when they are making much less, is a terrible idea. I believe the best option is revenue expansion (adding more customers to the system), and we do this by encouraging private investment in the residential and commercial sectors.
We can't preserve historic structures, or build and maintain more parks and green space if we don't have economic vitality. The good news is that we've done a lot of the homework needed to develop a plan moving forward. We have an economic-development study, a downtown retail report and the Civic Master Plan that offer guidance. Now it's time to look at all of this data with as many community stakeholders that would like to be involved and figure out how we best implement the pieces that fit in our community. The goal is to have an economically thriving community that encourages the private sector to create better paying jobs for our residents, and allows us to maintain and expand our amazing quality of life. Preservation through prosperity.
What other issues do you see as important?
Prioritizing capital improvement projects and finding the funding to move them forward. Stormwater system maintenance and construction. Parking needs to be addressed. Development is taking private spaces offline, thus reducing capacity. Tourist trips are increasing as measured by hotel and vacation rental occupancy, thus increasing demand. Reducing capacity while increasing demand is a recipe for failure that will hurt downtown businesses and employees.
What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
Require all committee, board, and council members to attend S.C. Freedom of Information Act open-meeting training and provide a copy of the S.C. Press Association booklet, "Public Official's Guide to Compliance with South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act." Record all council, committee, and commission meetings and post the video online, with the goal of televising. Use social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) to update the public on upcoming meeting agendas and other ongoing projects in the city. Revamp the city website to allow additional online services, i.e. business license application/calculator and renewal, zoning and permitting request, etc. This will not only make it easier to do business, but save valuable staff time by reducing data entry and simple requests.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony, been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? No
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details. No
Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?
I grew up in Mossy Oaks and had a great childhood riding bikes through the neighborhood and ruining clothes in the pluff mud of Battery Creek. I want my children to have the same opportunities. Melissa and I are invested in this community. Both of my businesses are located in the city as well as the cottage we restored and currently live in. I'm an avid boater and try to spend any free time on the water.