Jenny Isgett is our fourth and final candidate interview for the Columbia City Council seat being vacated by Belinda Gergel. I caught up with her at the Five Points Starbucks this past week.
You may note a certain resemblance between her signage and that of Dr. Gergel four years ago, right down to the exclamation point. That is fitting, because she sees herself as a natural heiress to the seat, noting that it “has been held by a woman for 30 years.” (Candy Waites, Anne Sinclair, then Belinda.)
Ms. Isgett is an attorney. A young one — she was in law school with my daughter — although still 10 years older than her youngest opponent, law student Daniel Coble. She says her work with a title insurance company has given her a lot of relevant experience with municipal issues, as she’s had to deal a lot with zoning and land use. She says she is only a thesis away from a master’s degree in criminal justice, which would also be useful in a council member. She also notes that she is part of her company’s budget process every year, which she says gives her something to set against the business experience Moe Baddourah touts.
Originally from Cottageville, SC, she’s been in Columbia for 17 years. She lives in Shandon, within a couple of blocks of Mr. Baddourah and Daniel’s parents.
She started knocking on doors in the district in late September. I asked, as I often do of candidates, what she was hearing from those residents she was meeting. Mainly, she said, about water and sewer, flooding and potholes.
For her part, she sees a need for improving the city’s infrastructure, which in part means “stop robbing that water and sewer fund.” She wants the city to “invest in Rocky Branch Creek” to improve flow and reduce flooding.
She also wants to promote the city “as an attractive place” to do business, as well as a good place to live. That means streamlining the permitting process, and, “if we can,” eliminating the business license fee.
To come up with needed funds, she suggests looking at annexing more areas into the city. When it comes to cutting spending, she sees no “magic bullet,” no big cuts that would free up a lot of money — although she believes there’s room for “trimming” in the budget.
She says she’s supportive of suggestions the Urban Land Institute has made for the city. She says the city has a lot of “great spots” — such as Main Street, the Vista, and USC, but she doesn’t see them as “connected” as they should be.
As for Innovista, “I’m sure it was a good idea, but practically speaking, I haven’t seen it take off yet.”
The issue of a penny sales tax for transportation is “really hard for me… I don’t want to say this or that when I don’t know all the issues.” She says “I’m one thousand percent for public transportation,” but has her doubts about the plan that has been put forth for it. She’s also concerned about what restaurateurs say, that the penny is “basically a dime when you go out to eat,” thanks to taxes already put on dining out in Columbia.
She suggests that she would approach many issues humbly, listening to all views because “Sometimes you don’t know the answer.”