GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – As voters head to the polls on Tuesday morning, two candidates are going head-to-head for the Greenville County Council District 17 seat.

The seat had its share of controversy. It has been in the spotlight the last couple of months, especially after the primary back in June.

“I’ve been working really hard, done a lot of the door knocking and fundraising and really hearing from the community and working hard for this day and got through a really tough primary,” said Joey Russo, Republican Candidate running for Greenville County Council District 17.  

Credit: Joey Russo’s campaign website

Russo defeated incumbent Joe Dill in June. Dill held the seat for decades.

“Really, that was a huge hurdle to get past, especially with going against an incumbent that had been in office for a few decades. So, I was really honored to come out of that with the win and I’d definitely be honored to receive the votes tomorrow for another win,” Russo said.

Following the Primary, Dill protested the results claiming there were voter irregularities.

“Going to the executive committee for the State Republican Party wasn’t something I thought would ever happen, but it did, and I think that the facts bore out in that hearing, and it showed by the unanimous vote that the State Executive Committee came in our favor that there was a fair primary and any day of the week I stand by that decision,” Russo said.  

Now, Russo, a former Greenville County deputy and operator of his family business, is battling for the seat against Democratic Candidate Sheryl Guarniero.

Credit: Sheryl Guarniero

“From an experience point of view, I have 18 years of experience. I’ve worked with and in all levels of government, from local all the way up to federal. I’ve also worked with many different private organizations, non-profits, universities,” Guarniero said. “So, I’m able to bring everyone to the table,” she said.

The environmental scientist, and small business owner from New Jersey, said she wants to focus on things like managing development and infrastructure.

“I grew up in New Jersey. I moved here three years ago, and I’m very familiar with what happens as cities grow, and how that impacts not only the environment itself, but the people who live there,” Guarniero said. “And making sure that Greenville, as it grows, it’s an absolute beautiful place. We could’ve lived anywhere else in the U.S., and we chose to come here for the beauty of that greenscape, much like the mountains behind me.”

“So, knowing that that can have a negative impact because if growth is left unchecked and unmanaged, it creates this vicious cycle where you’re constantly playing catch up, trying to make sure you have enough schools, hospitals, water, sewer, police, fire and your roadways are getting paved,” Guarniero said. “And that your infrastructure is keeping up with your development and that is something that I know very intimately through my work, but also through just where I grew up, in a space where greenspace was really hard to come by, and affordable housing was as well. So, that’s something that I see the need for here in Greenville and feel like my expertise is perfect.”

Russo said if he wins, he will focus on managing growth as well.

“Honestly, my biggest priority, obviously, is managing our growth responsibly, getting our infrastructure up to par. That’s a huge hurdle to get through. We have a major deficit with our roads right now and I think that anybody that drives around Greenville County knows that,” Russo said. “So, working on the roads and infrastructure, our planning development, and definitely getting our law-enforcement and our first responders the resources.”

While the two come from different paths, both feel they are ready to lead.

“I grew up in this community. I’m product of what Greenville County has to offer, and I think the greatest thing, the special part about our community, especially District 17, are the people and the families that have built the fabric of that community,” Russo said. “I’m a part of that. I love our community. I’m ready to step up and to take ownership of what’s happening.”

“As a younger guy who grew up in this community, I think that this is what we want to see. We want to see our next generation stepping up and getting involved. I want my children to grow up in Greenville that’s even better than the one that I had, and I think that we are ready to see that happen and I’m excited and humbled at the opportunity to play my part in that,” Russo said.