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Ben Connell announces campaign for Kershaw County Chairman




May 17, 2024

 

Lugoff, S.C. - State Representative Ben Connell has announced his campaign for Kershaw County Council Chairman following the resignation announcement of Chairwoman Katie Guinn. Connell is a proven, steady leader for Kershaw County, given his prior success on County Council and experience in the State House. The Republican primary is anticipated to be held August 6, 2024.

 

"It has been an honor to serve Kershaw County at the State House and, given the recent end of legislative session, I have turned my attention to serving locally, where my family is, where my heart is, where I live, work, and worship. I was humbled by, and thoroughly enjoyed, serving on Kershaw County Council and am excited about the future of Kershaw County," said Connell.

 

Connell, a local attorney and small business owner, has deep roots in Kershaw County. He was born in Camden, where he attended public school before his family moved to Lugoff when he was in third grade. Connell graduated from Lugoff-Elgin High School where he was a four-time State Champion wrestler, National Champion heavyweight wrestler, an Academic All-American, member of three State Championship wrestling teams, an All-State football player, and Shrine Bowl starter for the State of South Carolina. He also became a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and received the Dave Schultz National Excellence Award.

 

In 2016, Connell was elected to serve Kershaw County Council District 3, where he showed continual devotion to constituent service and conservative principles. Connell led or partnered with his fellow council members to achieve several Kershaw County milestones. See a full summary below.

 

In 2022, Connell was elected to serve State House District 52, a new, Kershaw County-focused district created in the 2022 reapportionment. The Kershaw County majority in the district was eliminated for 2025 and beyond due to litigation.


Key Accomplishments in the State House

 

Connell’s service in the State House was focused on protecting taxpayers, increasing investments in roads and bridges, bettering education, helping veterans, and keeping South Carolina safe. He voted to cut taxes while also investing more than $1 billion in improving infrastructure, increasing land conservation, funding pay raises for law enforcement, and raising teacher pay.

 

Notably, as State Representative, Connell voted to reduce property taxes for veterans during overseas deployments, funding for paid military leave and funding three new veteran's nursing homes in South Carolina. He also voted to increase penalties on drug traffickers, end the revolving door for violent criminals, and to establish SLED’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit. Connell worked to bring back over $45,000,000 to Kershaw County while at the State House, including funds for the Wateree River boat ramp project, Historic Camden improvements, irrigation improvements for the state-owned Carolina Cup racetrack, sewer facility improvements for Kershaw County, ADA improvements at the Kershaw County Fine Arts Center, among many other utility and infrastructure projects.

 

Key Accomplishments on County Council

 

While serving on Kershaw County council, Connell led or partnered with his fellow council members to achieve several Kershaw County milestones. For example, they moved solid waste handling in-house, pivoting away from private contractors, and as a result, they cut recurring costs by at least $1 million per year. They reduced capital costs on a chemical lab project from a proposed bid of $1.436 million to a final bid price of $616,000 by reevaluating the project and moving away from federal bonds that did not have favorable terms. They implemented a vehicle fleet maintenance and repair program, which continues to save Kershaw County citizens at least $300,000 per year.

 

They improved the quality of life in Kershaw County by adding ball fields at the West Wateree Sports Complex and adding a new walking track and new lighting. They partnered with the charitable PLAY Foundation to provide a playground at the West Wateree Complex which was paid for by private donations. They also partnered with PLAY to provide one of the Midland's only Americans with Disabilities Act certified playgrounds located in Camden. Kershaw County also partnered with the City of Camden to build the County’s first ever splash pad in the area next to the Aquatic Center.

 

Connell helped lead the effort to secure a $275,000 state grant for the first-ever Kershaw County park in the Elgin area, located around a beautiful pond the county owns across from MUSC Health Elgin Urgent Care. In addition, he helped obtain over $400,000.00 of private donations in land, equipment, fencing, irrigation, and technology for a turn-key public dog park in Lugoff. He also worked to secure $200,000 for the Community Center being constructed in Elgin.  

 

Kershaw County obtained the Wateree River Veterans Park using funds restricted by state law to improve and attract tourism. The River Park has become very popular site for the Yak the River event, several outdoor movie nights, the Touch-A-Truck event, among many others. Additionally, that site just had the longest-running Christmas celebration in county history with the lighted Tinsel Trail throughout the holiday season.

 

Connell also focused on improving public safety by supporting law enforcement. Kershaw County took over and funded EMS, updated the fleet of vehicles, updated equipment, built three new EMS stations throughout the county, with plans to complete a fourth station at that time.

 

They fought crime by increasing the Sheriff's budget for vehicles, equipment, and staffing by a greater percentage than any other department in the county over the last four years. To keep up with the growing population and the increase in service calls, they transitioned from a professional volunteer fire service to a full-time professional fire service providing 24/7 coverage throughout the county at the lowest cost per capita for any full-time fire service in the county.

 

Kershaw County has had substantial activity in economic development recently, with multiple companies coming to or expanding locally. Partnering with the Kershaw County School District and the technical college system, the County Council co-located Central Carolina Technical College's campus, the Woolard Technology Center, the Kershaw County Economic Development office and the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, all at one site in Camden near I-20. This joint campus makes Kershaw County attractive in so many ways. They also provided a way for Kershaw County high school graduates to attend Central Carolina tuition-free if they maintained a satisfactory grade point average in high school.

 

Other accomplishments include cutting the overall tax rate by half a mill and upgrading public works facilities and equipment to improve county-maintained roads. As shown by his track record, Connell will listen and work tirelessly to make sure Kershaw County continues to be a great place to live, work, worship, and raise a family.

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