“My main platform is the quality of life in district eight,” said Thomas Legare, his hands resting on a stack of agricultural reports and campaign literature. Rain rattled against the sides of his small office and outside, saturated farmland coughed the overabundance of water into gurgling streams. “See that?” he said, gesturing toward the sheet of water rushing down the office window. “We’re expecting two inches today. We’re seeing drainage problems everywhere. The problem was that, for several years we were in a drought, but now we need to deal with this.”
Thomas Legare understands Charleston County more than most. Maybe not the ever-changing politics, but the area itself and the residents who call it home. For years, people have asked him to run for County Council, and now that Councilman Curtis Inabinett is retiring, Thomas is campaigning to be the next representative for district 8, an area which includes most of Johns Island, part of James Island, Edisto, Ravenel, Hollywood and part of rural West Ashley.
“We have a great quality of life in the southern end of the county, and if we don’t maintain it, we’ll kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” Thomas said. “Mount Pleasant is the poster child of what we don’t want [in district eight]. We don’t want to be suburbia with a Wal-Mart, Lowes and Home Depot. We want to know the owners of the stores.”
By “quality of life,” Thomas doesn’t mean just fixing the county-wide drainage problem, he means to reach into several area issues which are often overlooked. For example, with the loss of the County’s trash incinerator, there is now an issue of what to do with the excess garbage. Thomas means to look for a more permanent solution through the expansion of the recycling program.
“Most of district eight and the County’s rural areas don’t have recycling,” Thomas pointed out. “What makes more sense? Running more recycling trucks or more garbage trucks?”
Transportation is another issue. Although Thomas voted against the half cent sales tax increase for transportation, he’s noticed the amazing increase in ridership on CARTA buses over the past five years and hopes to encourage an increase in routes to the County’s more rural areas. “There are other, better ways to move people than driving cars to and from work,” said Thomas.
Other transportation issues, such as the need for safer roads in district 8, has led Thomas to work with the Coastal Conservation League to develop “A New Way to Work”, a series of traffic solutions which encourage less congestion and the redevelopment of commercial centers into places where people want to shop, walk, and enjoy themselves. This plan rejects the completion of I-526 and promotes the networking of streets and an increase in traffic law enforcement.
“Would you buy a 40 year old refrigerator?” asked Thomas. “Why use older technology and go with a plan that would hurt small towns? There’s no need to extend 526 to Johns Island. In my opinion, 526 is already completed.”
As for industry, Thomas is happy that Charleston County has acquired both Boeing and the Clemson wind turbine project, but he feels that there is another industry in the area just waiting to be tapped.
“In 10 years, we could take agriculture to a $50 million industry,” said Legare. “Charleston County is poised to do that.” He pointed out that for every $1 that a municipality receives in property taxes, $1.25 goes to servicing those properties. But for every $1 received for agricultural land, only $.25 is needed for its maintenance.
In order to encourage this trend, Thomas has participated in the development of a Vocational-Agricultural program at St. Johns High School, serving on the schools Steering Committee, and runs his farm partially as an educational center. “I’m not a naturalist, I’m a conservationist,” said Thomas. “You can’t farm without a love for nature.”
Among Thomas’ many affiliations, he serves as co-chair of the Concerned Citizens of the Sea Islands with Bill Saunders, is a member of the Johns Island Council, is a founding member of the Johns Island Rural Transportation Alliance, has served for the past two years as president of the Lowcountry Cattle Association, is the current president of the South Carolina Sod Producers Association, serves as Chair for the Chamber of Commerce Sea Islands area of business, is the Vice President of the St. Johns Water Company and is a member of the SC Nursery Association, the Lowcountry Antique Tractor Club and Lowcountry Locals First.