Local News

LaNette Samuels-Cooper: Clarendon County Council Chair candidate


TMT: Please tell us a little about yourself.

LSC: I am a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, where I earned a BS in Business Administration and a minor in Economics. As a third-generation JCSU graduate, I am proud of my family’s legacy. I would like to extend my gratitude to The Manning Times for allowing me to share with the residents of Clarendon County why I am running for Chair of the County Council.

My family has a long history of serving this county. My parents founded Samuels Funeral Home in 1937. My mother, LaNell J. Samuels, was a dedicated teacher and served on the Clarendon County School Board for seventeen years. My brother, Hayes F. Samuels, Jr., served as Coroner for thirteen years, during which I worked as his Administrative Assistant. In that role, I created the first budget for the Coroner’s office and assisted in designing the current Coroner’s Office.

TMT: Why are you running for County Council Chair instead of a regular Council position?

LSC: I am running for County Council Chair instead of a regular Council position because I believe that the role of Chair offers a unique opportunity to lead and drive significant change for Clarendon County. As Chair, I can set the agenda and priorities, ensuring that we focus on the most pressing issues facing our community. My experience in public service, including my work with the Coroner’s office and my deep-rooted family history of service in this county, has prepared me to take on this leadership role.

I am committed to fostering economic development, lowering our high taxes, and enhancing public safety. By serving as County Council Chair, I can leverage my skills and experience to bring together diverse voices and build consensus around initiatives that will benefit all residents. My goal is to create a more prosperous and inclusive Clarendon County, and I believe that I can make the most impact as Chair.

TMT: What previous political experience do you have?

LSC: I have a substantial background in public service that has equipped me with the skills necessary for political leadership. I served as the Administrative Assistant to the Clarendon County Coroner’s Office during my brother Hayes F. Samuels, Jr.’s tenure as Coroner. In this role, I was responsible for developing the first budget for the Coroner’s office and assisting in the design of the current office. This experience gave me valuable insights into county operations and fiscal management.

Additionally, in 2018, I ran for the position of Coroner and won the election. Although I faced challenges that prevented me from serving in that capacity, the campaign provided me with significant experience in understanding the needs and concerns of our community, as well as in navigating the political landscape. These experiences have prepared me well for the responsibilities and challenges of serving as County Council Chair.

TMT: What would you say  is the job description and /or purpose of a council chair?

LSC: The role of a County Council Chair encompasses a variety of critical responsibilities and serves as a pivotal leadership position within the county government. As Council Chair, my primary duty is to lead the County Council, setting the agenda for meetings and ensuring that our operations are efficient and effective. This involves coordinating the efforts of council members, committees, and county departments to achieve our common goals. I play a key role in developing and shaping county policies by working closely with council members to draft, review, and approve legislation that addresses the needs and priorities of our community. Representing the council and the county in public forums, meetings, and events is another crucial aspect of the role, as it involves engaging with residents, businesses, and other stakeholders to gather input and foster community relations. Additionally, overseeing the county’s budget and financial matters is a significant responsibility, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently and that the county’s financial health is maintained. The Chair must also mediate conflicts and build consensus among council members, requiring strong interpersonal and negotiation skills. Strategic planning is another key function, involving the setting of long-term goals and the development of action plans to ensure that the county continues to grow and thrive. Overall, the purpose of the County Council Chair is to provide strong, effective leadership that enhances the quality of life for all residents, ensures good governance, and promotes the sustainable development of our county.

TMT: As Chair, you’ll be immediately placed in a leadership role. What qualities or traits do you believe makes an effective leader? How do you exemplify those traits?

LSC: As Chair, I believe an effective leader must have strong communication skills, decisiveness, integrity, adaptability, and empathy. These traits enable a leader to listen actively, make informed decisions, act with honesty, navigate challenges, and understand community needs. I exemplify these qualities through my experience in public service, my ability to develop and manage budgets, and my commitment to ethical conduct and community engagement. My dedication to listening and responding to the concerns of Clarendon County residents ensures that I will lead with both compassion and competence.

TMT: What people or organizations do you seek guidance and advice from?

LSC: As a candidate for County Council Chair, I seek guidance and advice from a wide range of people and organizations to ensure well-rounded and informed decision-making. I rely on input from community leaders, local business owners, and residents who are directly impacted by our policies. Additionally, I consult with former and current public officials who have extensive experience in local governance.

TMT: How have you been involved in the community?

LSC: As a candidate for County Council Chair, my involvement in the community has been extensive and deeply rooted in a commitment to public service. I regularly attend public meetings, such as County Council sessions, to stay informed about the issues affecting our community and to engage directly with residents. This consistent presence allows me to listen to concerns, gather feedback, and understand the priorities of our citizens.

In addition to attending meetings, I have actively participated in various local events and initiatives. I have worked closely with community organizations, supported local businesses, and volunteered for numerous civic projects. My role as Administrative Assistant in the Coroner’s Office involved direct interaction with many community members, further enhancing my understanding of their needs and concerns.

Moreover, my family’s long-standing tradition of service in Clarendon County, from founding Samuels Funeral Home to serving on the School Board and as Coroner, reflects our deep commitment to this community. These experiences have not only strengthened my connection to Clarendon County but have also equipped me with the insights and relationships necessary to effectively serve as your County Council Chair.

TMT: What is your greatest professional achievement?

LSC: My greatest professional achievement has been setting up and running the Coroner’s Office for Clarendon County. During my tenure as Administrative Assistant, I developed the first budget for the Coroner’s Office, ensuring efficient allocation of resources and financial stability. I also played a crucial role in the design and establishment of the current office, creating a functional and effective workspace that serves our community’s needs.

This accomplishment required meticulous planning, collaboration with various elected officials and a deep understanding of both operational and fiscal management. It demonstrated my ability to lead, innovate, and implement lasting improvements. This experience has prepared me well for the responsibilities of County Council Chair, where I aim to bring the same level of dedication and effectiveness to serve the residents of Clarendon County.

TMT: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in Clarendon County?

LSC: As a candidate for County Council Chair, I am dedicated to ensuring that residents are actively involved in the decision-making process in Clarendon County. I believe that the council should never make significant decisions without proper input from the community. For instance, the council should have held a meeting to discuss important issues and options with the residents. This level of transparency and inclusiveness is essential.

Secondly, I firmly believe that executive sessions should be limited to matters concerning employees. This ensures that the council’s actions are transparent and that residents are kept informed about critical decisions that affect the community.

Regarding tax increases, the council should have held a meeting with the citizens before implementing any changes. Clarendon County is one of the poorest counties in the state, and raising taxes without consulting the community shows a lack of consideration for how such decisions impact our residents. The council must remember that they work for the people and should always prioritize their well-being.

To address these issues, I plan to establish regular town hall meetings and enhance communication through various channels including the internet. By doing so, I aim to restore trust and ensure that the voices of Clarendon County residents are heard and respected in every decision we make.

TMT: The division between political parties in Clarendon County seems to be at an all time high. How would you promote or encourage unity and collaboration among our county’s elected officials?

LSC: As a candidate for County Council Chair, I recognize the importance of fostering unity and collaboration among our county’s elected officials, especially given the current high level of division between political parties in Clarendon County. It seems that Senator Kevin Johnson is the only one having issues getting along with folks, highlighting the need for effective leadership to bridge these gaps. To promote unity and collaboration, I plan to implement several strategies. First, I will organize regular bipartisan meetings with all elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, to discuss common goals and shared concerns, providing a platform for open dialogue and mutual respect. By identifying and prioritizing issues that affect all residents, such as economic development, education, and public safety, we can work together towards solutions that benefit the entire community, transcending partisan divides. Additionally, I will advocate for conflict resolution and teamwork training for all elected officials, equipping us with the skills needed to navigate disagreements constructively and work collaboratively. Furthermore, involving the community in our discussions and decision-making processes through regular town hall meetings will create a sense of shared purpose and accountability. Through these initiatives, I aim to create a more cohesive and cooperative political environment in Clarendon County, where elected officials can work together effectively for the betterment of our community.

TMT: What do you feel sets you apart from the other candidates?

LSC: What sets me apart from the other candidates is my unwavering commitment to making this service about the people, not the council. If elected, I will be diligent in my duties and work tirelessly to ensure that the voices of Clarendon County residents are heard and respected. One of my key initiatives will be to set up an office where citizens can come to discuss their concerns directly with me. This open-door policy will allow me to understand the issues that matter most to you and ensure they are placed on the council’s agenda.

My extensive experience in public service, from developing the first budget for the Coroner’s Office to actively participating in community events, has equipped me with the skills needed to effectively serve as County Council Chair. I believe in transparency, accessibility, and active engagement, and I am committed to fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment. My goal is to ensure that every decision we make reflects the true needs and desires of our community, emphasizing that this service is about improving the lives of the people of Clarendon County.

TMT: What neighborhood do you live in? Why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Clarendon County?

LSC: I live in the Manning area of Clarendon County. I chose to live here because of its strong sense of community, rich history, and the close-knit relationships among residents. Manning embodies the values and spirit of Clarendon County, making it the perfect place for my family and me to call home.

Some of my favorite places to spend time in Clarendon County include Lake Marion, where I enjoy the natural beauty. I also love visiting our local parks and participating in community events that bring residents together. The historic downtown area of Manning is another favorite, with its charming shops and restaurants that reflect the unique character of our county. These places not only provide enjoyment and relaxation but also deepen my connection to the community I am proud to serve.