JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - To better understand Ginny Deerin, one of six candidates for Charleston city mayor, she said you can start at James Island County Park's Edisto Hall.
In December of 1996, it was there Deerin founded Charleston after-school program, "Wings for Kids," teaching students how to behave well, make good decisions and build healthy relationships.
The South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations awarded WINGS its highest honor for "excellence" in the nonprofit sector. The program was also featured in Scholastic magazine, as one of three "outstanding centers" worth emulating for best practices.
"The beauty of WINGS is we have been very innovative and we figured out how do you bring learning into things kids love to do," Deerin said.
Deerin, who started work on Mayor Riley's first campaign forty years ago, also managed his last in 2011. She attributes much of what she's learned to working closely with leaders in government and education, and figuring out things work, but says she maintains a "fresh look," having never held office in either agency.
"For our new leader, it's very important to have a good understanding of where we've been and how we've gotten there in order to really inform our vision for where do we want to go now."
Deerin's vision as Charleston mayor includes a "big and bold," approach to transportation issues, specifically traffic, an issue she defined as "the biggest issue on people's mind."
The plan, entitled "Accelerate Charleston," includes building new roads and highways, creating more bike lanes and sidewalks, as well as a ferry system to ease congestion.
"I'm a big believer, we cannot solve the traffic problems by tinkering around the edges," she said.
"Ideas are great, plans are great, but what we need is progress."
Her platform also includes a focus in education, the Charleston Port, economic development, and a plan called "Focus West Ashley."
Concerning education, Deerin described herself as someone wiling to put boots to the ground, standing in support of universal pre-K, increasing parent participation in schools, while adding meaningful after-school enrichment programs.
"The most important thing that I can do as mayor will be to fill a leadership void in communities where (parents) voices needs to be heard."
Deerin also spoke of balance in adding new development projects to the city, and said future projects should be deliberate, thoughtful, also ensuring related needs – like infrastructure – are met.
The WINGS founder spoke of being the type of mayor ready to look out for residents' interests first, then developers.
"We can do both," she said.
"We just need a mayor who is very strong and very independent and I believe I'm that person."