Former school board trustee Vernon Stephens has announced his candidacy for the District 39 state Senate seat in the June 2020 Democratic primary.
The seat is currently held by Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, who recently announced his retirement.
“In the wake of Sen. John Wesley Matthews Jr. not seeking re-election, I feel an obligation to continue some of the fine work that Sen. Matthews has started and to build upon some of those remarkable things that he has already instituted as a great statesman,” Stephens said.
“I believe my 17 years of school boards trustee experience, being a member and officer of the former Orangeburg County School Board that was created by legislation in 1997, and most recently, a member and chairman of the dissolved board of trustees of Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 has taught me the importance of a collaborative working relationship with all facets of government,” he said.
“Over the past three decades, I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with Sen. Matthews on a multiplicity of issues in our senatorial district. Seeing the genuine concern for all constituents in his district, I often than not ask myself how would Sen. Matthews handle situations that involve my governance? Over the course of time, I have truly considered the senator as my mentor,” he said.
Stephens said the following are a few areas of concern in the district and the state upon which he would like to improve:
• Education with a concentration on academics: “I believe that all students should be afforded a world-class education in order that they may attain the necessary skills to be successful after high school. Their education experience should also equip them with the ability to be able to compete on a global stage for jobs that will assure them a comfortable livelihood now and into the future. For that to transpire, we must equip our schools with competent, well-paid teachers and administrators. Appropriate education funding from all sources -- national, state and local -- must be a priority.”
• “Economic development for all communities both urban and rural with a concentration on quality paying jobs from both the private and public sectors, as well as those businesses identified as being ‘community friendly.’”
• “Infrastructure upgrades with a focus on improving and developing sewer capacity and providing good quality water to communities to assure the health, safety and well-being of all its residents.”
• Higher education: “Sustained funding at viable levels must continue so that we may keep our institutions as integral parts of our communities, state and nation. Senate District 39 serves as location for some of the finest institutions in this state and nation. South Carolina State University, Claflin University, Voorhees College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and Denmark Technical College will forever play vital roles in our growing economy, and we can never downplay the impact these institutions have had and will have on the future of our communities, state and nation.”
• “Health care for all citizens must be convenient and affordable, with concentration on community health centers and hospital satellites in rural communities throughout this state, assisting in the delivery of good health care services.”
• “Crime in and around our communities and state continues to degrade our society. We must focus on innovative means by which we can curtail such. The ‘one size fits all’ for keeping our communities safe and crime-free is not effective. Continuing to build more prisons is not the answer. Remembering the words of one of my college professors, ‘We can legislate laws, but we can’t legislate morality.’”
Stephens said that he believes his experience and his 42 years of community activism have provided him with skills that will aid his performance as an effective state senator.
“My 28 years of manufacturing experience as quality technician, manufacturing supervisor and manufacturing manager have provided me with a keen understanding of what skills employers are looking for in their employees, and what employees seek from their employer.”
The lifelong Bowman resident is a graduate of St. George High School in St. George and South Carolina State College (now University) in Orangeburg.
Stephens currently serves as a member of the Trustee Ministry, Antioch Baptist Church, Bowman; chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Legislative District #66, a member of the Lower Savannah Council of Government Board of Directors; a member of the Orangeburg Regional Economic and Education CDC Board of Directors; and vice president of the NAACP’s Bowman branch.
He is married to the former Hilda Johnson of St. George. They are the parents of five adult sons, Daimon F., Vernon G., Edmond T., Spencer L. and John K.; and grandparents to 13 grandchildren.
“I am humble that God has afforded me this opportunity to seek this position, and with that being said, I humbly ask for your vote and support during this electoral campaign,” Stephens said.