COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Kirkman Finlay III was born in Columbia, and attended high school in Connecticut and the University of Virginia before returning to the Midlands. Finlay's father was former Columbia Mayor Kirkman Finlay, Jr., for whom Finlay Park was named.
Finlay has served on the Columbia City Council since he unseated Hamilton Osborne in 2006. He also owns Pawley's Front Porch in Five Points and Doc's Barbeque on Shop Road, and farms about 6,000 acres near Heathwood Hall High School.
Finlay has also served on the boards of the Palmetto Health Foundation, Central Carolina Community Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, and the Boy Scouts of AmericA)
Below are some questions WIS sent to all candidates for Mayor of Columbia. We'll add the responses to the questions below as we receive them. Be sure to check back soon!
Name: Kirkman Finlay III
Education: Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Groton School, University of Virginia
Profession: Farmer, Restaurant Owner/Manager, District 4 City Council Member
Marital status/children: I am married to Kathleen Ravenel Finlay and we have three daughters:
Kay, age 9; Mary Fleming (May May), age 6; and Hattie, age 5.
Political experience: Served the citizens of District 4 on Columbia City Council since 2006
Hobbies: Spending time with my family, farming, reading, hunting, spending time outdoors.
Favorite food: A Pawleys Front Porch Burger
Pets: 2 dogs – Trustee and Emma, 2 cats, many horses, cows, and chickens.
QUESTIONS (word limit per answer: 300 words)
Q: Why are you running for mayor?
A) I believe that Columbia can emerge from these tough economic times and be the vibrant community we all envision. A mayor has to make tough decisions that will best serve the long-term interest of the city and not any individual or group. I believe I am the person who will make those decisions and lead Columbia to prosperity.
Q: What is the most important issue facing Columbia right now? How do you intend to address it?
A) Controlling the cost of government. We must bring the expenses below revenues, which will create a surplus and repair the city's financial footing.
Q: What mistake in your life do you hope others, especially young people, will learn from?
A) I suffered a very bad car accident when I was 18. I broke both of my feet and was confined to a wheelchair for two months. The life lesson for me was that you to be willing to overcome adversity.
Q: In 2009, the City of Columbia made millions of dollars in cuts to both the police and fire departments. If elected, would you work to restore those jobs or are the departments fully equipped to keep the city safe as they are staffed currently?
A) No jobs were lost. Overtime was cut and officers were added to the police department. Funding for the fire department will increase next year.
Q: (Viewer submitted) Earlier this month, there were several reports that the City of Columbia and Richland County Unified Fire Service contract might be in jeopardy. However, an independent study conducted by the University of South Carolina titled, "The impact of improved public protection classification ratings on homeowners' insurance rates in Richland County," has shown that taxpayers save upwards of $5.5 million annually due to lower homeowner's insurance rates each and every year as a result of having the city and county fire service combined. Do you support that the city and county work to continue this public safety agreement?
A) I believe that the unified fire service contract is crucial to this area and fully support its renewal.
Q: What is your detailed plan to make Columbia a safer place to live? Give specifics. Where can we improve? Where are we already strong in public safety?
A) One of the places we are strongest is the consolidated fire contract. This contract needs to be expanded to include EMS. We also need to explore the option of combining the city police and sheriff's office. This would create a 1000 man force, increase efficiency, and offer more specialization in certain areas, and help control costs.
Q: (Viewer submitted) Over the past several years, the city has lost jobs due to several companies moving to its neighboring communities. What is your plan to retain the existing employment opportunities and expand upon them?
A) We need to focus on Main Street and Small Business. For too long, the city has made doing business in Columbia extremely difficult. I will work to remove the red tape and streamline the process for new businesses to move to Columbia. We must address business license fees and taxes to become a more business friendly environment for businesses of all sizes.
Q: What will you do to balance preservation with progress in Columbia's historic business district and neighborhoods?
A) It has become very expensive for a new business to move into a historic building and setup a store front while maintaining the historic façades. The City should offer small façade loans and grants to businesses that move into our historic districts. That way Columbia will be business friendly while protecting its historic nature.
Q: What commitment are you willing to make to the people of Columbia on reviewing and balancing the finances of the city under your watch?
A) As Mayor, I will not vote on a budget that will make the City operate with a deficit. I am the only candidate that has taken action to sound the alarm on city council's over spending and will continue to do so until the city's budget is back in order. I am willing to make the tough decisions and tell the citizens the truth about their tax dollars and how they are spent.
Q: Columbia's arts groups are desperate for additional city funding. Would you support increasing the hospitality tax to help these groups?
A) The hospitality tax is set by the state. Citizens have no ability to impact the tax. I do support using the hospitality tax to make the arts more cooperative.
Q: How do you plan to keep the CMTRA funded and solvent in the coming years? Does it include increasing ridership among young professionals?
A) We must find a dedicated funding source for Columbia's public transportation. I have been willing to move .5 cent from hospitality tax to support public transportation.
Q: Your potential successor served more than 20 years as mayor. Should there be term limits for the position? Why or why not?
A) No. I believe the people should have the right to choose.
Q: Do you support a plan to give Columbia a strong mayor government? Should the mayor have more power and what good would it do for the city?
A) I think the citizens should be educated about the pros and cons to each form of government and then decide with a vote. I believe I can be a strong mayor in the current form and lead this city to prosperity.
Q: What is your plan to reduce crime and increase confidence in the City of Columbia Police Department?
A) To make Columbia safer, we need move more police officers from behind the desk and on to the streets. Earlier, I led city council to reduce the amount of overtime we spend on police officers and add more new officers at regular rates. By doing this, we added more boots on the streets without increasing costs. It managerial decisions like that which will make Columbia safer and more efficient.
Q: (Viewer submitted) How would you change the city's culture of spending and prioritize projects? How would you change this spending culture on all levels of city government?
A) We must establish a well constructed budget that is followed.
Q: Do you support investing more money into the revitalization of the north main street corridor? Why or why not?
A) At this time, the city cannot afford to invest in large revitalization projects. I voted against both the North Main and Innovista TIFS. The city must focus on smaller projects that we can afford and complete.
Q: What's the best thing about living in Columbia?
A) It's wonderful river systems.
Q: What's one thing that voters may not know about you?
A) I am an Eagle Scout.