North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey won his bid for re-election handily on Tuesday, pulling in about 78 percent of the votes and winning every precinct but one against his lone challenger, the Rev. Chris Collins. He says he ought to have slept soundly Tuesday evening, but he was restless, possibly from a late-night cup of coffee that he drank at Denny's while awaiting the results.
Wednesday morning, the mayor of 17 years welcomed reporters in his office wearing a yellow Polo T-shirt. He and his wife were planning for a Myrtle Beach vacation starting Thursday, but he said he would be back to work on Monday. "Gotta keep things rolling," he said.
Summey, mayor of North Charleston since 1994, called the race "a gentlemanly election" and said he had gotten a congratulatory voice mail from Collins at his office first thing in the morning. Asked whether he took anything away from his opponent's critiques on the campaign trail, Summey said, "The things that he said we should do, we do."
The police department is already engaged with the community, he says, including through NAACP-sponsored police forums. And when it comes to Collins' critique that the police department is writing a lot of tickets, Summey indicated that the department was guilty as charged.
"Do we have an aggressive police department? Yes we do, but we think it's a toned-down aggression," Summey said. He credited zero-tolerance enforcement in high-crime neighborhoods for lowering the city's crime rates in recent years.
As for Collins' campaign promise to build a homeless shelter, Summey said the city already had bought land off of North Rhett Avenue over four years ago for that purpose. But the building, which is planned to house a combination short-term emergency shelter and long-term rehabilitation program, has yet to materialize during tight budget years while the number of homeless people in the county has steadily climbed (from 366 in 2009 to 449 in 2011, according to conservative counts).
Looking forward, Summey said he hopes to develop an aeronautics business cluster around the Boeing Dreamliner plant.
He also said he has received word from a potential casino boat owner who had purchased a vessel and was in the process of securing money to renovate it. If that plan reaches fruition, Summey said the boat could dock in the Navy Yard and become a major revenue source for the city, helping to fund as many as 12 new or updated community centers over the course of five years.
And when it comes to the fight with the State of South Carolina over development-choking rail lines in the Navy Yard that culminated in the mayor's gauntlet-throwing lawsuit against the state earlier this year, Summey said he is still the best person for the job:
"The state knows they've got to deal with me for the next four years."