By Kristin Hackler
Joseph Qualey is a man determined to do what’s right. Whether it’s fighting to protect the conserved acres of Dill Plantation on James Island or cutting cumbersome studies down to simple solutions, Qualey has spent most of his working career as a practicing lawyer in downtown Charleston, dealing with tangled political knots and breaking them down to a single, straight line. It’s this attitude that has helped him serve on the James Island Council for the past seven years, and now, with County Councilman Paul Thurmond stepping down as representative for District 9, Qualey has announced that he will be running for Thurmond’s seat in the November County Council elections.
District 9 covers parts of James Island, West Ashley, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island, and Qualey admits that there are a lot of projects and issues in each area that he’ll need to study in-depth, but he’s determined to bring a clear mind and cost cutting solutions to the Council.
“I would like for all budgeting and expenditures to be completely transparent,” said Qualey. “I have some ideas that I’ve implemented in the Town [of James Island] which could be implemented in the County: inexpensive, non-permanent solutions that if they work, great, but it not, we don’t lose much.”
For example, Qualey called for someone to man the traffic light at the corner of Camp and Folly Roads during congested traffic hours, extending the light in certain directions when needed at a cost of only $18 per hour. “It created a much better driving experience,” said Qualey, stating that the same solution could be used at several of District 9’s more congested intersections, including Savannah Highway & St. Andrews Boulevard, Maybank Highway & River Road, and Main Road & Highway 17.
With traffic being such an issue throughout District 9, Qualey has an ideal background: not only did he serve as a Councilman for James Island through all three of its incorporations, he also served on the Town’s Planning and Zoning Committee, as well as the Charleston County Transportation Committee.
In terms of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands’ pressing issues of the extension of I-526 and the Johns Island Greenway, Qualey stated that the Town of James Island and the City of Folly Beach both opposed the extension of I-526. “While I haven’t been asked to study it, I remain skeptical of the utility of it,” said Qualey, pointing out that one of the main reasons for building the extension is for evacuation, but the only place it would evacuate to would be I-26, which is already a parking lot in evacuation situations.
“Evacuation isn’t always about highways, it’s also about decision making and behavior,” said Qualey.
As for the Johns Island Greenway, Qualey has traveled both River and Bohicket Roads extensively and feels that both are dangerous, but as he hasn’t seen any of the plans that are on the table, he hasn’t adopted one as a solution. “Something needs to be done to enhance the safety between Freshfields and the Maybank/River intersection,” said Qualey, “I just don’t know what.” If elected, however, he stated that he will become fully educated on all of the alternatives.
“I brought a committed, passionate position to James Island,” said Qualey, “and that’s what I will bring to the County. I think that’s what the people want and that’s what they deserve.”
Joe Qualey received his undergraduate from Georgetown University in 1980 and his Law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1983. He is presently a member of the Charleston County Bar, the South Carolina Bar and the American Bar of Appeals. He lives on James Island with his wife, Heidi, and sons Kevin (15) and Paul (11).