North Augusta City Council candidates address growth, opportunities | News

Candidates for North Augusta City Council have a variety of ideas about the future of…

Candidates for North Augusta City Council have a variety of ideas about the future of North Augusta. There are eight candidates, which will be narrowed down to four following the Republican primary on Feb. 9. Seven Republicans are running and will be vying for three spots on the ballot during the general election on April 27: David Buck, Pat Carpenter, Ronnie DeLaughter, Elizabeth Jones, Dave Leverett, Jenafer McCauley and David McGhee. Trina Mackie is the only Democratic candidate and will also be on the April 27 ballot.

The Star sent each candidate the same three questions. Below are their answers, listed in alphabetical order. No response was received from DeLaughter by press deadline. Responses have been edited for length and style. 

David Buck 



David Buck




1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I have lived in North Augusta all my life, having been born and raised in our community. I have a finance degree from USCA, and therefore I understand budgets and financial statements. I am currently a realtor helping people make North Augusta their home. I am proudly married to Kristen Buck, a kindergarten teacher. Together we have three wonderful children. I believe the unique aspect I bring is my passion for this community. Having been born and raised (in North Augusta) and a realtor, I get the opportunity to sell North Augusta and share with my clients what makes this community special. I work hard for my clients and listen to their needs. If elected to council I will listen to North Augusta citizens and work hard to meet the needs of our community.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

I believe growth in North Augusta has been a good thing. Our city is growing in every direction. It is important moving forward that we manage growth wisely. I don’t believe the citizens of North Augusta want to wait in traffic 45 minutes during rush hours, so as a city we need be smart where we are placing growth and allowing development at the same time, respecting business owners who want to invest in our community.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

I think the biggest challenge facing North Augusta is the completion of the riverfront development and making sure it is a success. COVID-19 has not helped, but as we move towards a vaccine the economy will open up again, and I believe the opportunity in the riverfront development will get completed and be a success for our community.

Pat Carpenter 



Pat Carpenter

Pat Carpenter




1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I have lived in North Augusta all of my 70 years. I am married to Kenneth Carpenter, who owns Carpenter Tire and Auto in downtown North Augusta. We have two children and five grandchildren.

I attend First Baptist Church of North Augusta. I have been a member all of my life. I have coached for NAPRT for 40 years, which is another big part of my life. I am presently a member of North Augusta City Council. I love I have been given the opportunity to volunteer in our great city of North Augusta over all of these years.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

I am so excited how our city has grown over the last 15 years. I look forward to completion of Riverfront. Exit 5 has already grown so much. By having more businesses, we will need more housing for people, more parks for people, more family eating places and to expand our Greeneway.

To me Exit 1 is at a standstill, but I do see this opening up, especially since I-20 is expanding. I think we will need another hotel and restaurants so people traveling, coming off I-20, can stop and visit our great city. I feel we need a person within our city that can promote growth in our city, keeping in constant contact with restaurants, businesses that might be interested in coming to North Augusta.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

I think completion of Riverfront, completion of Fire Station 1, and completion of Public Safety building. These are three big projects.

With our city growing, we are going to have to put safety first for our citizens. Also as our city grows, people are getting older, living longer, we will need some senior living areas and provide recreation for them.

Also I would like to see a Miracle League field built. We have a big need for physically and mentally challenged citizens. This is very near and dear to my heart, to provide something for every citizen in North Augusta.

Elizabeth Jones 



Elizabeth Jones mug

Elizabeth Jones




1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I am a lifelong North Augustan. I am the former director for mental health, developmental disabilities and addictive diseases for a 14-county area in the state of Georgia, managed annual budgets of over $5 million and had oversight of 14 counties, which spanned a diverse population. I am currently a health and wellness provider for older adults and people with disabilities for a 14-county area. In addition to my work career, I have engaged in community building capacities, provided tutoring programs for youth and volunteered and served on boards for arts programs. I am currently president of Augusta Rotary South, board member for Georgia Gerontology Society and Advocacy and legislative chair for the CSRA Area Agency on Aging. I have served in leadership positions across the CSRA and will bring my wide range of career and life experiences and expertise to City Council.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

An updated Comprehensive Plan should drive future growth and development for all sections of North Augusta. Citizen involvement in updating the plan is essential. For all development – from the riverfront to both Exits 1 and 5, some blighted areas – we should assess the following: How much land do we have to commit to housing, retail and parking? Do we have the capacity and infrastructure in place to provide essential services such as schools, utilities and recreational facilities, which will come from expanded growth? Do we have traffic infrastructure in place? And most importantly, will developers follow through on their plans without creating a tax liability for the citizens of North Augusta?

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

The biggest opportunities for North Augusta are to expand on its beautiful natural resources along the riverfront, utilize the potential of the stadium, create a vibe and ambience that connects our riverfront to downtown North Augusta and attract businesses, especially small businesses, to areas that have been abandoned. We have an opportunity to expand our concert offerings at the new amphitheater. Our biggest challenges will be how we manage growth and development and paying down our debt associated with the riverfront development without creating a huge tax burden for citizens. How do we get a return on our investments?

Dave Leverett 



NACandidates684.JPG dave leverett

Dave Leverett


1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I am a 45-year resident of North Augusta. I received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1976 from N.C. State. My professional career was spent at Savannah River Site working primarily in technical assignments both as a problem-solver and a manager. I retired early, almost 14 years ago. We have four children who grew up in N.A. and three of our grandchildren are growing up now in Edgefield County. I can uniquely call myself the citizen’s voice among the candidates. I have been before, and involved with, the city council frequently in the past four years presenting and defending the citizen viewpoint. I can speak for citizens because I have spoken as a citizen. I tend to be thorough and am not deterred by the difficulty or complexity of a problem.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

North Augusta’s rapid growth should be leveraged into accomplishing things on the “dream” sheet, as in things residents have long desired. We have to become confident promoters of our own vision, rather than subject to the next developer’s proposal. Development in the area to this point seems to me to have been driven by outside interests. It’s time to get in front of developers and investors and pursue the things that build the community we actually want. Demographics can promote the I-20 corridor through N.A. as an expanding midpoint between Aiken and Augusta, as well as a convenient collection point for surrounding rural and small towns. Exit 1 and 5 should be approached the same way.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

Focus at the Riverfront must be broadened, in my opinion. Prevalent thought was that the riverfront development would sustain itself and bring expanded opportunity to the downtown area. That paradigm needs to be very deliberately evaluated and reversed, or at least significantly altered. One approach would be to create an indoor/outdoor market feel downtown, to create a broader and sustainable appeal, thereby contributing to the success of the riverfront. Both of these are very significant challenges in the immediate future for North Augusta.

Trina Mackie 



Trina Mackie

Trina Mackie




1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

A native of North Augusta, I attended Aiken County Public Schools. After graduation, I attended USC Aiken receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in political science. After graduating from USCA, I moved to Atlanta to attend the National Center for Paralegal Training. I lived and worked in Atlanta for 14 years as a litigation paralegal before returning to North Augusta in 2004. Currently, I am employed with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) of Augusta, Georgia, as a contracts business manager. I am single with no children. 

My passion to serve the needs of local citizens through policy making and contributing to an effective and efficient operation inspired me to major in political science.  I am prepared to serve all citizens effectively on the city council with my educational background, experience as a paralegal, office manager and contracts manager.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

All future development in North Augusta should be balanced throughout the city. Most importantly, all development must be done through transparency and with citizen input. North Augusta is beautiful and continual growth is necessary. As we continue to grow, we must maintain our quality of life as well as our cost of living. With this continual growth, we must find ways to attract amenities to keep our tax dollars in North Augusta.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

Over the next four years, the biggest challenges I see are 1. the financial health of Riverside Village; 2. completion of Public Safety and Fire Station 1; and 3. the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The ongoing challenge and opportunity is to ensure that residents from all areas of the city have a real voice in the city’s future decisions according to their interests and concerns.

Jenafer McCauley 



Jenafer.jpg

Jenafer McCauley




1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I moved to the CSRA in 2005 to attend Augusta State and moved to North Augusta in 2011. My husband and I own Fleet Feet, our 11-year-old retail store. We have three children, Ethan, Madison and Ryan. I am a member of the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce and Friends of the Greeneway. Running the daily operations of a small business for 11 years has helped me learn financials and have a vision for what’s to come in the future. I’m the creator of the Palmetto Peach Half Marathon, 10K and 5K. This event has given me insight into attracting tourism to North Augusta.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

Transparent communication on future growth will be important to our citizens. The rewrite of the development code is important here. We need to simplify the code, making it small-business friendly while maintaining high standards. Finally, I believe continuing the culture North Augusta is known for will be important in these development areas. A culture that signifies small-town charm, family friendliness, safety, is welcoming to all, and continues the work, play, live environment.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

Both the biggest challenge and opportunity is our growth. The good challenges from growth will be ensuring we are properly prepared. Do we have the right staffing needs, infrastructure, budgets/finances and organization? Are we meeting the needs of our citizens?

Opportunities with growth can be business developments, tourism and the environment we continue to create. I would love to see an addition of the Greeneway represented in our downtown. I believe our Greeneway can drive economic growth. On my best days, I can take my kids to Grace and North Augusta Elementary and visit the Greeneway and the grocery store while never driving more than three miles the entire day!

David McGhee



David McGhee

David McGhee


1. Biographical information: What unique aspect about yourself will help you as a city council member?

I grew up in Aiken and graduated from South Aiken High. I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school and became an aviation electronic technician. I returned to the area and started college at USC Aiken, then transferred to the University of Georgia, graduating in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in housing and economics. I have been married to Ruthie for 23 years and we have been living in North Augusta for the past 14. We have three children: Zachary, Nathan and Reagan. For 14 years, I have owned a construction company located in North Augusta. My background and experience in management, budgeting and contracts gives me a unique perspective to serve our community, not as a politician but as an active citizen and local business owner.

2. As North Augusta’s growth outpaces Aiken, how do you feel the city should address future growth and prepare for development along the riverfront and around Exits 1 and 5?

I believe the growth we are experiencing in North Augusta is a direct result of the years of progress the city has made in creating a family-friendly community. We have maintained steady economic growth with business development and recreational facilities. We have managed our growth on the riverfront and the newer planned developments along Exits 1 and 5. The completion of the Interstate 20 expansion will bring additional business to our area along the west end of Martintown Road. I am excited about all this progress. However, it is important that the growth is managed to maintain the quality of life North Augustans have come to expect.

3. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see coming for North Augusta in the next four years?

One of our upcoming challenges is that our city’s infrastructure needs to be able to handle upcoming growth. This is currently being addressed as multiple road projects are underway. I am committed to seeing the completion of many projects that I have been working on during my time on council. Fire Station 1 and Public Safety Headquarters projects are finally moving into construction phases. I am also committed to seeing that the developer completes the remaining parcels of Riverside Village, as well as preserving the Savannah River and continuing movement toward a downtown Greeneway Connector. I would also support a new arts center and senior facilities.