Johnson not seeking re-election, donating campaign funds to nonprofits

{child_byline}By Joy Bonala

jbonala@berkeleyind.com

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Summerville Mayor Wiley Johnson has announced he will not seek re-election. He confirmed the news to the Journal Scene on Monday.

Johnson held back from revealing his decision until Friday afternoon, when he told supporters gathered for a barbecue at his home that he will not seek another term.

“I feel like I could have won, but if the people of Summerville don’t see a need to restructure things politically, there’s just not much point in running,” he said.

According to Johnson, revealing his decision at this time is part of an “overall strategy” that will call attention to the ordinances that have restricted the responsibilities of the mayor since Johnson took office in 2016.

One of the greatest challenges the next mayor will face will be “what this council has done to the mayor’s office,” he said.

Shortly after Johnson took office, the town council passed an ordinance keeping the mayor as chief executive officer and stating that the officer holder shall not give direction to the town administrator or department heads. The ordinance included a provision that any two council members are allowed to add an item to the council agenda and gave council members the authority to inspect the town’s books.

The ordinance also set the mayor’s salary at $15,000 as of January 2018.

Before the law took effect, Johnson gave two-thirds of his salary back to the town, totaling $60,000 to the general fund. He said he did it to honor his campaign promise of accepting a lower salary so the town could also fund an administrator.

Again, Johnson will be giving money to the town — this time local nonprofits benefiting. Johnson said he plans to donate the $1,700 in his campaign fund to local 501c3 organizations.

“I felt like this was something I wanted to do out of service to the community,” he said. “I’m not a professional politician.”

So far, three candidates have announced they are running for mayor. They include Bill Hearn, Ricky Waring and Fleming Moore. Filing for office officially opens at noon on Aug. 7 at noon and closes at noon on Sept. 6.

Johnson said because the Town of Summerville has grown and is no longer a small town, the mayor’s job requires a full-time, not part-time effort. It’s a realization he said “hasn’t quite sunk in with the council members yet.”

“It’s going to be a challenge going forward for any mayor to be able to make any kind of positive changes for the town,” Johnson said. “I think the mayor more than anyone else is expected to provide leadership, but if the council restricts the mayor’s actions — restricts the mayor’s ability to gather information and do research — it’s going to make that job very, very difficult.”

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“It’s going to be a challenge going forward for any mayor to be able to make any kind of positive changes for the town.”

-Wiley Johnson, Summerville mayor

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