Van Wyck’s first town election Tuesday

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VW voters to choose first council, mayor

By Reece Murphy

When Van Wyck voters went to the poll in August, they chose to become a town and set up its governmental structure. Next week, residents of the state’s newest municipality will decide who will run it.

Van Wyck’s inaugural election to seat its first town council and mayor is Tuesday, Nov. 14, atthe Van Wyck Community Center, 5036 Old Hickory Road. The poll is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Only registered voters among the 429 or so residents inside the original town limits – about 285 voters as of last count – are allowed to vote in the special election.

The town limits run east from the railroad tracks at S.C. 5 to the intersection of Van Wyck Road, then southeast along Van Wyck Road to the intersection of Steele Hill Road. The boundary continues northeast on Steele Hill Road to the intersection of Old Hickory Road, southeast on Old Hickory to S.C. 5, then northwest on S.C. 5 to the railroad tracks.

With Van Wyck resident Sean Corcoran running as the sole mayoral candidate, voters will choose only four at-large, nonpartisan council members from a field of nine candidates – all of them political newcomers.

Lancaster County Elections Director Mary Ann Hudson said since Corcoran is running unopposed, he will be named mayor at 10 a.m. on canvass day, Nov. 16.

The four town council candidates who receive the highest votes win the seats and will serve two-year terms.

Hudson said absentee voting is currently open, but closes at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, so time is of the essence for interested voters.

United in desire to see town succeed

Corcoran said while he and the other candidates lack governmental experience, they share a desire to see Van Wyck’s incorporation effort succeed. He said that means first protecting the rural community’s unincorporated property owners from Indian Land encroachment.

“We've put in a mountain of effort to get the town to this point, and we have much more to do as soon as the first government is seated,” Corcoran said. “Foremost of those, we must expand the town's boundaries to include our neighbors who do not wish to become residents of Indian Land and were left out of the Van Wyck original incorporated area.

“This is a critical step because the area that will be Indian Land, assuming the IL referendum succeeds, will include all properties north of S.C. 5 that are not part of Van Wyck,” he said. “Anyone left out in the cold will quickly find themselves living in a large city, where their vote and their voice won't count for much.”

In an effort to help voters decide between the candidates, Carolina Gateway offered candidates an opportunity to say what sets them apart from the other candidates, and why voters should choose them.

William Acree

A retired business owner, Acree said what sets him apart is that he doesn’t see himself as running for public office.

“I have no political aspirations. My intentions are to step up and help Van Wyck become a successful town,” Acree said. “Last question was, why should people vote for you? My answer would be self-serving. They should vote for what is important to them.”

Kelly Bishop

A retired chiropractic insurance biller, Bishop said she has wanted to serve on Van Wyck’s first town council since the community began discussing the incorporation effort in early 2016.

“I love Van Wyck, but that doesn't set me apart, because all of the candidates love Van Wyck. That's one of the things that makes our town so special,” Bishop said. “I want to work hard keeping our town special. Progress is a natural thing, but not at the expense of our people.”

Terri Currie

Currie is a third-grade teacher in Unionville, N.C., and owner of Belfair Farms Riding Academy. Currie said what sets her apart is that she’s a farmer and understands their issues.

“We have been boarding horses and instructing riders for over 20 years in Lancaster County,” Currie said. “I understand the concerns large landholders have with the incorporating into the town. 

“Their interests was in the forefront in my decision to run for office,” she said.

Bob Doster

A well-known local sculptor, Doster said voters will do well with any of the candidates running.

“I think all the candidates running for town council are equally qualified, because each will put the best interest of the people of Van Wyck first,” Doster said. “The voters are going to win in this election because of the commitment of the candidates.”

Troy Elmore

A retired general manager of Lancaster County Natural Gas Authority, Elmore was succinct in his answer to why folks should vote for him.

“Because I think I am the best candidate (or the worse one, LOL!),” Elmore said in his emailed questionnaire response.

“No, I was going for funny, but since you asked, can you just add that my experience as the general manager at the Natural Gas Authority makes me a good choice,” he said.

Xavier Kee

Kee, a special-needs educator at Indian Land Elementary, is a Van Wyck native and, at 29, the youngest candidate running, a fact he lists as one of his strengths.

“I am a younger longtime resident of Van Wyck, who has different perspectives and insights on things,” Kee said. “Van Wyck residents should vote for me because I would be a great candidate that can provide leadership, support, and positive decision making that is best for the town of Van Wyck.

Pat Oglesby

Oglesby, a retired medical secretary, has been deeply involved in community leadership for years, including in the incorporation effort.

She said one of her strengths is that she chose to live in Van Wyck and appreciates its character.

“Although I am not originally from Van Wyck, I have lived here for 40 years,” Oglesby said. “I have the perspective of living in other rural areas, as well as Van Wyck. 

“I understand the kind of community values and town structure that Van Wyck wants to form for future generations,” she said.

Richard Vaughan

A Van Wyck native, Vaughan touts his extensive experience in community leadership after moving back from Lancaster in 1997 as what sets him apart.

“I hit the ground running by becoming involved in the Van Wyck Presbyterian Church and the Van Wyck Community Development Club,” Vaughan said. “I served as president of the club for 10 years and chaired the annual Celebrate Van Wyck Festival for approximately 12 years. I was instrumental in obtaining grants for the expansion and upgrades to the community building and grounds. 

“The residents can be assured I will continue to work diligently to help our town maintain its small-town atmosphere, while being open-minded with progress and development we will be facing in the future,” he said.

Cassandra Watkins

Watkins is a janitor and a hospice volunteer. She said her only qualification is her commitment to unity and success of Van Wyck.

"I'm not qualified, I have no political background and I'm the least of the least of all of my fellow candidates,” Watkins said. “I will have to learn as I go and seek God for wisdom and direction. If elected or not, I will continue to love, serve and pray for our community."

Turnout forecast

Hudson said only three people so far have cast absentee ballots, which is about normal for Van Wyck.

She said she expects the number of voters next week to be higher than the 26 percent turnout for the Aug. 15 incorporation vote.

“That was lower than what I had expected,” Hudson said. “The difference this time may be that the candidates are actively trying to get voters out to vote.

“Because nine candidates are on the ballot, I would expect the turnout to be a little higher,” she said. “People will be electing the council that will be making some important first decisions, so hopefully voters will get out and vote.”

 For more information on the election in general or absentee voting, visit the Lancaster County Voter Registration and Elections Office at 101 N. Main St., Lancaster, or call (803) 285-2969. The elections office is open the day of the election from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151 or follow on Twitter @ReeceTLN.