West Columbia City Council District 3 Candidate Q&A: Casey Jordan Hallman (incumbent)

ColaDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate for West Columbia City Council District 3. The position is held by Casey Jordan Hallman, who is facing off against challenger Tim Corey. The election takes place Nov. 5.

Below are Hallman’s responses. View a completed questionnaire from Corey here.

Can you share your age, family and professional background history?

Age: 34

Family: I was nurtured by a loving family community here in the Cayce-West Columbia area. Both of my parents, Ann Wells Jordan and Freddie Jordan, grew up on the Avenues in Cayce and attended Brookland-Cayce High School. They went on to raise me on Oakland Avenue just a few blocks from both of the homes they grew up in. My parents still remain on the Avenues because they love their neighbors and community. Upon graduating from Brookland-Cayce High School in 1997, I attended Columbia College where I obtained a degree in elementary education. Shortly after graduation I married Davis Hallman, a lifelong resident of West Columbia as well. Davis’ parents, Saradean Kennerly Hallman and Randy Hallman, went to high school with my parents so our families became one very easily. Family and community are very important to me. Davis graduated from The Citadel and has a strong sense of fraternity and community as well. When we married 12 years ago we made our home on the Avenues in West Columbia. I started teaching in Lexington Two and Davis worked locally also. Later, we moved to Davis’ grandparent’s home on the family pond. Here we have come to raise our daughter, Marydavis, who recently turned 5. Marydavis attends school in Lexington Two and will one day become a Bearcat, too. I have a tremendous sense of pride that our child is being raised in the same family-oriented community that Davis and I were raised in.

Professional: I have been a teacher in Lexington Two for 13 years and look forward to continuing to help mold our future.

What are your opinions regarding growth in the city? Are there specific areas or sectors you’d like to see protected or developed?

Growth in the City of West Columbia needs to be logical, steady and responsible. We do wish to welcome commercial development while respecting residential areas. We are looking for the best in West Columbia. I am very proud of the work that we have made in West Columbia in terms of beautification. Over the past two years, there has been extensive work along the Riverwalk, in Triangle City, along Jarvis Klapman Boulevard, and down 12th Street. Much of this work has been done with grant funding that our Director of Economic development under Council’s guidance has been able to obtain.

I wish to help preserve the area along State Street that is in the National Registry of Historic Places. The city is in a position to move forward fairly soon with a development along State Street that will enhance the Riverwalk that was recently dedicated to the late mayor, Wyman M.”Mac” Rish, and provide dining, shopping, and green space.

I am also very proud of the improvements that have been made in Triangle City. The addition of the fountain that was dedicated to the former Mayor Pro-tem Jack Harmon is beautiful and the business facade improvements have enhanced the area. Many small businesses have opened in West Columbia over the past two years and we have also been working with several future business owners who wish to open in West Columbia in the coming months. They see the potential in this area and are excited about moving forward.

We are also very excited about the improvements that are going to be made to Carraway Community Park in the Mill Village which were some of the last wishes of council member Abby Bray before his passing earlier this year. Abby wanted to see a place where children could play and beautiful shrubbery that would enhance the neighborhood. Riverbanks Zoo will be assisting the City with these improvements. There was a huge transformation at Fowler Community Park recently which included plantings from a grant, as well as, a donation from a local, small business.

I would like for the City to look for an area to open a dog park. If you have ever spent time along the Riverwalk you can see that we love our animals in West Columbia, so I would like for us to continue to look at a green space that is pet friendly.

How well do you think the council members communicate with each other and with the public?

All of the current city council members I feel communicate wonderfully together. I have come to know all of them on a professional and personal level and feel that I work well with all of them as well as the mayor, Joe Owens. Each council member truly has the best interest of the citizens at heart. The vast majority of us are lifelong residents of this area and have grown up with our neighbors. We take pride in our local schools and neighborhoods. Even though I have been elected to serve District 3, I have met and assisted citizens of the entire city. As council members, we do what is best for the entire city and its citizens. This is why cooperation among us is essential.

Not only do we work well as a local team, but we work well with our neighboring City of Cayce and the Town of Lexington. We have taken classes together, discussed struggles and are all working towards common goals for the citizens of Lexington County. This proves true with our state and national elected officials. There have been many times when we have needed the help and support of our elected officials to best serve the citizens of West Columbia. This is true in regards to the funding that was needed to help save a citizen’s home on Natchez Trail. The positive relationship that we had with other elected officials put us in a situation where we were able to reach out for help to aid one of our neighbors.

During the past two years, technology and getting information out to the public has been one of my main focuses. I started a newsletter for my district that is called “District 3 News” and is distributed several times per year by me. I walk behind the sanitation truck and tape the newsletters to the roll carts.  It’s a low cost, effective way to communicate the city’s good news to the citizens. On the newsletter they are also given a link where they can go to the city’s webpage and join my e-mail list. With this list I frequently send out notices of happenings within the city. For example, last week I sent a notice about a free Women’s Self-Defense Class that we are going to be offering at City Hall on Nov. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. The point of contact for this event is Officer India Taylor and she can be reached at 803-794-0721 ext. 830 for additional information or to sign up. Any female city employee, citizen, or any other interested party is welcome to attend. I have sent public hearing notices, information about prescription take back events, and other special activities via e-mail as well. As a teacher, I know that technology and the internet are not available in every home, but with the newsletter and the e-mail blasts I feel that I am making a very conscious effort to inform my constituents.

I was adamant about improving our technology and communication at City Hall when I came on council. I feel that like the parents in my classroom as well as citizens’ needs are best met when they are informed. Recently, the City hired a full time technology director that has been instrumental in improving many of our website functions by making it more user friendly. I have also worked with staff to roll out a Twitter account for the police department and City Hall giving us another means of social media for the public. Citizens can obtain all of my contact information at the city’s webpage www.westcolumbiasc.gov under the “Council Members” tab. Here they can obtain my e-mail address, challman@westcolumbiasc.gov, my phone number 803-413-1187, and sign up for my e-mail blasts. I am very quick to respond to all citizens and hear their thoughts and concerns. I would also encourage everyone to follow the Police Department on Twitter @WestColumbiaPD and City Hall @CityofWColumbia.

What policy changes, if any, would you make to improve communication with the public?

We are continuing to look at ways to meet the needs of the citizens at City Hall. We will continue to research social media and how we can inform the public. We will also continue to analyze our website and see what the citizens need. At the site, citizens can currently pay their water bill, find helpful information about different services we offer, locate important contact numbers, file a complaint with codes enforcement, see council meeting agendas and minutes and also find many other valuable resources. Technology is constantly changing so it’s our job to keep up with the demands of our society.

I also feel that our first line of communication comes from our employees. They are the ones that the public sees on an everyday basis. I have worked very hard to get to know many of our employees. I have visited the water plant, worked alongside sanitation and parks, and constantly try to be an outlet for the employees as well. We offer special trash pickups for the elderly and disabled who struggle with their roll carts and I have seen our employees interact with these citizens. Employees that feel appreciated show appreciation to others. I respect all of our staff and know that they too, want the best for the city. Many of our employees reside in the city limits and take great pride in making our city great. Together, we can all continue to progress in West Columbia.

What leadership skills do you possess that would better unite the city?

More than anything I have a strong commitment to my service to the city. I take great pride in my job as an educator and city council member. My career has been dedicated to children and their well-being and improvement. Two years ago I saw an opportunity to serve my community in another light. I have worked very hard to address all citizens who have concerns and suggestions. Together, we have improved many aspects of the city. As a council member I was asked to be one of the community members for the School Improvement Council at Brookland-Cayce High School. This has provided a way for the city to interact with our youth. We also have been able to help fund two school resource officers at the two elementary schools in the City with help from Lexington School District Two. This partnership has helped to protect our children and also has made our neighborhoods safer. Due to my leadership skills, I have been able to mentor students from Brookland-Cayce and Airport High Schools with the Teacher Cadet Program and have also been a coaching teacher for interns from Columbia College and The University of South Carolina. The City became involved with the Nehemiah Project two years ago and really embraced their work that they are doing in our neighborhoods. They are providing free GED tutoring and testing, free meals frequently at a local church, as well as after school tutoring programs for our youth. Everyone who works with the Nehemiah Project works as a volunteer. I have worked with this group to help attract volunteers, funds, and worked to help pack boxes for the needy and organize The Giving Table. This is an event that will be held again in December to feed those who are in need and also provide fellowship and remind everyone that no matter what, God loves you. This event last year was very special because one of the small businesses in my council district funded all of the food for the boxes so I was able to see that even our small businesses have a vested interest in our citizens. During the past two years I have spoken with Boy Scout troops about citizenship and how they can serve their community. I have arranged demonstrations for our children from the fire department about fire safety and I have also set up fire safety demonstrations for adults that include teaching them how to effectively use a fire extinguisher. I have also worked to set up mock trials for our youth to understand the courtroom and the function it has in our community. In addition, I have worked to make the city’s resources available to youth, community organizations and our citizens because we are public servants. The city has worked to set up free self-defense classes for women and provided a special event for children who are in need before school starts and at Christmas where with donations we provide lunch, entertainment, and back to school supplies or Christmas gifts. As a whole, the city is working to provide a better quality of life for all citizens. Together, our leadership skills are aiding our citizens.

What challenges do you feel the city will face in the coming years? What do you believe are West Columbia’s hurdles to overcoming these challenges, and how will you face those obstacles?

Growth will be a challenge for the city in the coming years. Growth, however, is good and we are already planning for it. We have a strategic plan for what needs to happen in the coming years so we are ready. Recently, the city conducted a Gateway Overlay District Redevelopment Plan, which really engaged the public. There were meetings at City Hall where the public could come and look at renderings to see what they would like for the city to look like in the future as far as roads, landscaping, building facades, etc. There was also a survey that the citizens could take online to give us their feedback. This information will be very valuable as we move forward with green space planning, bicycle lanes, parking concerns, and what we, as a community, want the city to look like down the road. The results of the Gateway Overlay District Redevelopment Plan can be found on the city’s webpage under the “Planning and Zoning” tab.

What do you want to see the city do to encourage economic development?

Economic development is an essential key to every city. More citizens mean more potential employees for local businesses as well as additional customers. When more business capital is added to the economy and with more capital people they are more likely to spend it at local businesses rather it be shopping, dining, repair services, etc. The City of West Columbia also wants to attract people to this area because of our schools which is why a partnership between the city and school district is essential. My goal is for people of all ages to find something that they love in West Columbia. The city has also worked very closely with the West Metro Chamber of Commerce to help make the city a viable tourist destination. We want the City of West Columbia to be a place where residents from other areas come to shop, dine, stay, and enjoy all that we have to offer.

If re-elected, what will be your No. 1 priority and how do you plan to accomplish it?

I have worked hard to promote partnerships within the city. I have worked to maintain a very positive partnership between the city and Lexington School District Two. I have also worked on the partnerships between our citizens and our local churches and places of worship. In addition, I have formed many valuable relationships with our local business leaders because they have a stake in the development of our community as well. The citizens are, however, one of the greatest parts of the partnership. One person alone won’t be able to solve all of our problems that we face as a community. It takes all of us as a collective whole to better our neighborhoods. If you have concerns, ideas, and suggestions in your neighborhood, call me and let’s discuss them. I want to help make you feel safe and happy in your home. I truly believe that with positive, effective partnerships we can make forward progress together.