2 previous candidate try again in special Irmo town council election. What’s different?

A little more than three months after they last went to the polls in a municipal election, Irmo residents are being asked to vote again on Tuesday.

Last November, former town councilman Bill Danielson defeated incumbent mayor Barry Walker for the top job in the town of 11,000 northwest of Columbia.

That opened up a new seat on Irmo Town Council, since Danielson had to resign his seat to take up the post as mayor. So two candidates who ran and lost for town-wide at-large seats in 2023 are back again running in Tuesday’s special election for Danielson’s former seat.

Gabriel Penfield is a financial planner who came up just short in November, finishing just 25 votes behind Phyllis Coleman for an open seat. He’s trying his hand again in a two-person special election.

He will face George Frazier, who also filed to run last November, but whose campaign hit a snag when he was ruled ineligible before the vote by the Lexington County Election Commission. Frazier had moved into Lexington County from Richland County, which together split the town of Irmo down the middle. But Frazier had failed to update his voter registration to his new county before the 30-day deadline ahead of the November election.

Frazier did not respond to inquiries from The State.

County elections director Lenice Shoemaker confirmed to The State that Frazier is now up to date on his voter registration.

Gabriel Penfield
Gabriel Penfield

Gabriel Penfield

Age: 43

Occupation: Financial Planner/Entrepreneur

Education: College for Financial Planning

Prior political/civic experience: Carmel Commons HOA Board Member


Why do you want to serve on Irmo Town Council?

I seek to serve on the Irmo Town Council because, at 43, I have developed a deeper appreciation for public policy than I did at 33. I was encouraged to run by a former mayor. I have embraced public service, recognizing the impact of voter apathy and striving to bridge the civic engagement gap.

With over 20 years of experience in business, I bring strengths in effective communication, problem-solving, and organizational proficiency to the table.

Despite narrowly missing out on securing a council seat in the previous election, I am determined to continue serving my community. My family moved to SC in 1985 and I have been a resident of Irmo for the last 13 years. I share responsibility for multiple businesses, including the recently sold Tribal Coffee Co., along with Poore House Furnishings, Parking Lot King and Mavericks Cigars, though my primary business has been Financial Planning for the last 20+ years.

Looking ahead to the next election, I believe it’s crucial for our town to come together as a community. I have been in communication with local educators, including Superintendent Akil Ross, to address issues such as school rezoning, and entrepreneurship, we need to recognize the significance of education in attracting and retaining residents to Irmo.

Additionally, I have been actively involved in the Harbison Gardens community, aiming to address concerns related to crime and fostering a collaborative approach to overcoming challenges. I believe that Irmo needs leadership that continues to prioritize community engagement and works towards consensus rather than polarization. I am committed to creating a council that reaches out to all communities, ensuring every voice is heard and valued in shaping our shared future.

What’s the biggest issue facing Irmo, and how would you address it?

Irmo deserves the most citizen-focused leadership available. Our town’s leadership must prioritize citizens as much as business revenue. With countless options for residency, why should people choose Irmo? It’s imperative that we consistently provide compelling reasons for residents to love living here.

Tackling crime is essential for our community’s welfare. Implementing community policing initiatives and fostering trust and collaboration are effective ways to reduce crime through community engagement. Our local law enforcement is akin to our military, and they must have every resource available to ensure everyone feels secure.

Transitioning our council environment from contentious to collaborative is vital. Mature discussions and fostering genuine teamwork require no additional funding.

The condition of our roads demands significant attention. By leveraging private industry for efficient solutions and partnering with reputable companies, we can make timely, cost-effective improvements without straining our budget. Practical strategies optimize resources for the community’s benefit. I am committed to doing everything legally possible to repair and maintain our roads.

Our schools are on the brink of a major realignment, requiring extensive communication to ensure every student has the best possible experience during this transition. I am already fostering connections between local business leaders, educators, and parents.

You previously ran for town council. What do you plan to do differently in your campaign this year?

In the previous election, I ran as a mostly unknown among five candidates on the ballot. This time, however, I’m facing just one opponent. In spite of having many of my campaign signs stolen, I’ve doubled down by assembling a team of supporters who complement my efforts to connect with voters. Together, we’re reaching out to registered voters who haven’t participated in recent elections.

As I see it, Greenville is emerging as the new Charleston, being driven by leadership from the business sector. However, we risk continuing to fall behind if we fail to elect leaders who can effectively execute the tasks at hand.

My message remains consistent: Leadership holds utmost importance, and voters should opt for the candidate possessing significant experience collaborating with established municipal organizations, local businesses, and citizens. Moreover, they should select someone who effectively promotes entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, critical thinking, and problem solving.