Landing challenges incumbent Haynie for Mount Pleasant’s top post
By Patra Taylor
“All politics is local.” Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill’s insightful observation about “public service” may have slipped from the national consciousness for a generation, but “grassroots support” (the opposite of bigwig support) is officially back in vogue. For the 2021 election season, couch-potato politics is definitely out, and informed consent activism is definitely in. With the elections just three months away — November 2 to be exact — it’s time to kick off those comfy house slippers and lace up those new running shoes. It’s time to change the world for the better, and that means getting informed and getting involved locally.
For town of Mount Pleasant residents, all eyes should be on the race for mayor. In June, Mount Pleasant Town Council member Kathy Landing tossed her hat into the mayoral race, looking to unseat incumbent Will Haynie. Mount Pleasant is the fourth-largest municipality in South Carolina, with a population pushing 95,000, and more and more big city issues are challenging the small-town state-of-mind for which Mount Pleasant is known across the South. With the battle of ideas between Landing and Haynie about to shift into high gear, this is the time for the town’s constituency to understand both candidates’ positions. Fortunately, the initial dig for inquiring minds is an easy one. Check the town council’s voting records since the last election and find out where Haynie and Landing stand on the issues. How they voted in the past is a good indicator of where they hope to lead the town over the next four years.
Though the topics of money and religion remain taboo, for the next 90 days discussing politics needs to be everyone’s favorite pastime. Ask friends and family their opinions about the candidates, then respectfully listen to their answers. Attend a town council meeting. Go to public venues where people gather. Chances are one or both of the candidates will be there talking to voters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as neither of the two bites.
Attend events where one or both are scheduled to speak. Buy tickets to a fundraiser. Sponsor a fundraiser. Become a campaign volunteer. This election season is expected to be as exciting as the 2021 college football season … well, almost.
It is a distinct honor to introduce the mayoral candidates for the town of Mount Pleasant.
Kathy Landing’s passion for public service grew out of a lifetime of volunteering in her home community. Born in New Orleans, Kathy moved in with her brother, a chaplain at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after losing both her parents. There, her brother put her to work as the organist in his small church, an enormous responsibility for a 13-year-old. “That gave me a heart for serving the community,” states Landing, who was first elected to Mount Pleasant’s town council in November 2017. “I was involved in community service through high school and college. Once I became an adult and started building my career, I continued that.”
After graduating from Duke University with a bachelor's of science in biology (pre-med) and a master's in financial planning from the College for Financial Planning, Landing discovered Mount Pleasant in 1984 when her husband, Joseph, was stationed in the area with the United States Navy. As her career as a financial planner grew, it seemed her involvement in community organizations kept pace. She has served many organizations including the S.C. Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Scottish Society of Charleston and the Junior League of Charleston in various capacities. For more than two decades, she has volunteered for Operation Smile, an organization that provides major and potentially life-saving surgeries for children in need throughout the world.
“Operation Smile has been my true love in terms of advocacy since 1988,” says Landing. “I started out raising money for events. Eventually, I became a board member and ultimately chairperson of the board for the Carolinas chapter, a role I served in for eight years. That’s when I learned I could be impactful in a leadership role — not just in my business, but in the community.”
When she and her husband became empty-nesters, Landing found herself at a turning point. As a certified financial planner and senior vice president of investments for Raymond James and Associates, Landing’s 32 years of experience in finance, as well has her lifelong commitment to community service, seemed to point her toward public service. “I’m a high-energy person,” continues Landing. “I thought there must be something more I was supposed to be doing. I finally decided that if I applied my background to public service, I could make a bigger difference, so I ran for Mount Pleasant Town Council.”
Fast-forward three-and-a-half years: In June, Landing announced to an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 100 supporters that she was running for mayor of Mount Pleasant. “When I ran for town council,” says Landing, “I was concerned that residential growth had way overtaken the town’s infrastructure services and that too many people had to cross the bridge for jobs and services. I wanted Mount Pleasant to have a much more robust, diversified economy. I quickly realized that our new mayor had a whole series of things he wanted to do that weren’t part of why I ran. Town council spent a lot of time on those things.”
What is Landing’s vision for the town’s future?
“As mayor, I am committed to treating every member of town council with respect and dignity, even if they vote differently from me. I think that’s important.
“I want to be the mayor of all of Mount Pleasant,” she continues. “There’s an attitude out there that newcomers are not welcome, but I disagree. I will represent everyone, including natives and newcomers.”
Landing points to this year’s Earth Day activities that were geared toward community building as well as protecting the environment. She’s also working on a project to honor Hometown Heroes in November. “Community-building activities help bring residents together.”
Landing continues, “As mayor, I will also continue to do things that promote Mount Pleasant’s history as a fishing and shrimping community, and the importance of Shem Creek and what we need to do to preserve it.
“Solving the traffic congestion problems is still the number-one concern of at least half of our citizens,” she says. “We’re already widening roads where we can. We’re adding the next leg of Billy Swails Boulevard, which will give us a third artery north, which is important. We’re fixing the intersection at Patriots Point Road and Coleman Boulevard. That’s going to help, especially since that total area at Patriots Point is going to be expanding.”
Many residents have suggested that the town “fix the lights.” According to Landing, a major upgrade to the traffic signals is now in place. “It’s called the Hawkeye Radar System. While implementing that system, we experienced several glitches, which are currently being resolved.
“Twenty-eight thousand people cross the bridge every day to go somewhere else to work,” points out Landing. “We need more jobs on this side of the bridge. That’s something I’m already working on.”
Landing is proud of town council’s relationship with police and fire departments. She has helped organize the Inaugural Mount Pleasant Fire and Police Ball, which has been rescheduled for Saturday, October 23. The event will be held in the ballroom of the Ferry Wharf Hotel.
“My entire career was built on helping people plan for the future,” concludes Landing. “As mayor, I will get up every day ready to solve problems and protect the quality of life in Mount Pleasant.”
After nearly four years on the job in the town of Mount Pleasant’s top post, Mayor Will Haynie is running for reelection. According to Haynie, he’s running on his record, not running away from it. “I can confidently say that the things I said I was going to do in my first term I did.”
A graduate of The Citadel with a degree in business administration, Haynie’s career includes serving as chief executive officer for several nonprofit organizations in the area including the Lowcountry Land Trust and the South Carolina Maritime Foundation. Besides his duties as mayor, he currently owns a media/marketing/PR advisory firm in Mount Pleasant. His wife, Suzette, is a teacher at Jennie Moore Elementary School. For many years, he earned “cool points” and gained community exposure as a freelance sailing columnist for The Post and Courier; such experience also gives him credibility on quality-of-life issues.
Indeed, even during his time on town council, protecting the quality of life in the town was a top priority for Haynie. Job number one was to get control of the intense urban development.
“Sixty days after I was elected mayor, I unveiled my Palmetto Principle of Leadership for the town,” says Haynie. “Protect, plan and restore are its three pillars. Drafting that comprehensive plan was a multi-year process that included input from a committee made up of 40 citizens,” says Haynie. “Town council passed the plan unanimously.”
Referring to his Palmetto Principle of Leadership during his state-of-the-town address in 2020, Haynie stated that protection measures the town had put in place included increased tree buffers and protecting the Highway 41 corridor from proposed designs inconsistent with residents’ best interest. It also included protection of the area’s marine environment and town’s seafood supply with the first comprehensive plastic packaging ordinance passed by a major municipality.
“We reduced high-density construction, we’ve lowered building heights and we’ve restricted hotels to certain districts,” Haynie says, adding, “It’s those types of things that protect the ambiance and quality of life in the unique place. Am I happy with everything that gets designed? No. There are some things I’ve voted against and I’ve been on the losing side of. But sometimes those things come back around, and there’s a fix.
“Here in Mount Pleasant, we’re reining in residential development. We’re now limiting building permits to two percent growth per year … that’s down to about 725 permits per year from 1,600 or 1,700.”
A moratorium on multi-family construction projects was renewed for another two years, with an exemption for affordable housing. “We have our first affordable workforce housing project in Mount Pleasant in many years,” says Haynie. “Gregorie Ferry Townhomes is on Winnowing Way off Highway 17. There are other projects in discussion that could result in affordable rental housing.”
According to Haynie, during his first term, the town of Mount Pleasant rolled back taxes, lowering its millage from 41 to 39 mills. “We put two of those mills, which averages about $40 for a $400,000 to $450,000 house, into a lockbox that can only be used to service debt to fix our infrastructure. Now we’re fixing drainage, and we’re building roads. That lockbox will always be there. I’m real proud of that.”
Haynie chairs the transportation committee for the town of Mount Pleasant. “One way to alleviate transportation congestion is through the use of 21st-century technology,” he says.”
According to the SCDOT, “Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) is a strategic approach to proactively improve mobility for all modes of transportation by integrating planning and design with operations and maintenance to holistically manage the transportation network and optimize existing infrastructure.” For many reasons, including increasing travel demand, limited funding, physical constraints and changing public opinion, expanding roadways is not as immediate a solution today as it once was. “S.C. Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall tells us that sooner or later we’re not going to be able to acquire more right-of-way to build four or six more lanes of traffic,” states Haynie. “We are now laser focused on managing the traffic in the infrastructure we have. Our residents pointed out a number of problems with the technology and those problems are not being addressed.
“As for infrastructure improvements,” continues Haynie, “things are moving forward on the Billy Swails Boulevard extension and the Long Point Road extension. These things tend to take years … these two projects were in the planning phase when I was elected mayor. They are fully funded.”
Also in the works is All America Boulevard, a $5 million project in north Mount Pleasant. The addition of this frontage road will allow citizens easier access to businesses without having to enter traffic on Highway 17.
One of the other items on Haynie’s agenda during his first term was to save the town’s shrimping fleet. When Wando Dock, one of Shem Creek’s last remaining shrimp boat docks, quietly went up for sale, Haynie championed its purchase. “Buying Wando Dock was an action taken by town council,” he says. “Nobody does that alone. But because we had the foresight to purchase that historic dock, many of our shrimpers still have a place to process their catch.”
“Look where we are now,” he concludes. “I’m proud of my record. I’m running again to help keep the town on this path.”