Meet the Mayor
R. Keith Summey
October 1994 - Present
Mayor R. Keith Summey has become widely known as a consensus builder among local leaders. He was elected as the 3rd Mayor of North Charleston in October of 1994 to fill an unexpired term of office and has been reelected in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011. During his tenure he has led North Charleston to achieve a new sense of pride never seen in his City. Becoming the retail sales leader in the State, improving municipal services and defining a vision for the City have hallmarked his tenure. Upgrading the quality of life of the citizens of North Charleston continues to be the top goal of Mayor Summey.
Under Mayor Summey’s leadership, North Charleston continues to drive the State’s economy as the epicenter of business development, offering a business friendly community, rich with incentives to allow companies to compete on a global scale. He has promoted a young, highly skilled workforce and has attracted diverse industries, such as aerospace, automotive, aviation, bioscience, defense, renewable energy, financial services, and information technology.
Highlighting the successes of Mayor Summey’s vision, North Charleston continues to receive validation on a national level. North Charleston was recently awarded the National League of Cities Award for Municipal Excellence, Home Depot Foundation’s Award of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development, was recognized by Businessweek as one of America’s Most Fun, Affordable Cities, Cottage Living Magazine as being home to one of the nation’s Top 10 Neighborhoods, by Men’s Journal for one of the nation’s Top 30 ‘Coolest Neighborhoods,’ by Green Builder Magazine as being home to one of the nation’s Top Green Developments, by KaBOOM! as a Playful City USA community, and This Old House Magazine named North Charleston’s Park Circle as one of its 2012 Best Old-House Neighborhoods.
First working in community service, Mayor Summey was selected to serve on the Charleston County Election Commission eventually becoming its Chairman. Both political parties gave him glowing remarks for his fairness in handling the elections.
In 1986, Mayor Summey continued his community service by winning election to the North Charleston City Council and then elected to Charleston County Council in 1988. He served as Chairman of Charleston County Council for three years and during his term, led the expansion of County Library System and oversaw the way solid waste was handled by the County. A new Tri-County Economic Development Authority was formed under the desire of Chairman Summey and the Chairmen of County Council in Dorchester and Berkeley Counties. The successes of the Authority have been many since the mid-1990's.
With the Mayor's roots in his local community, he offered himself for election to the Office of Mayor of North Charleston in 1994. Growing up in Cottageville, South Carolina and eventually Atlanta, Georgia gave Mayor Summey his perspective of community. His family moved to North Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1960's where he graduated from Chicora High School and Baptist College.
Mayor Summey received recognition from Charleston Southern University with the reception of an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service on Saturday, December 16, 2006 during the University's fall graduation ceremony.
Mayor Summey was born in Cottageville, South Carolina in 1947. He graduated from Chicora High School and the Baptist College at Charleston, now Charleston Southern University. He and his wife, Deborah, have two children, Elliott and Annie with son-in-law Reggie and daughter-in-law Allison, and four grandchildren.
OTHER PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE
- Charleston County Aviation Authority, Board Member
- Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, Past-Chairman
- Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments CHATS Policy Committee, Member
- CARTA, Board Member
- Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Liaison
- Charleston Area Convention and Visitor Bureau, Board of Governors, Member
- Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Board Member
- Greater Charleston Promise Neighborhood, Board Member
- Youth Endowment for the Arts, Founding Board Member
- Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities Mitigation Oversight Committee, Member
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, SC Advisory Committee, Member
- Past First Baptist Church of North Charleston, Board Member
- 1993 and 1994 Chairman/CEO, Trident’s BEST Committee
- 1992, 1993, and 1994 Elected Chairman of Charleston County Council
- 1990 Chairman, County Council Public Safety Health Committee
- 1988 Elected to Charleston County Council
- Former Member of North Charleston Weed and Seed Program Steering Committee
- Former Member & Chairman of Charleston County Election Commission
- Former Member of North Charleston City Council
- Former North Charleston High School Booster Club, Treasurer
- Former Cameron Terrace-Oak Park Civic Club, President
- Former North Charleston Jaycees, President
- Former North Charleston Exchange Club, Member
- Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Charleston Southern University
- US Green Building Council – Outstanding Leadership in the Public Sector
- Barrett Larrimore Leadership Award for Outstanding Tourism Leadership in Local Government
- Ancient Free and Accepted Masons Honorary Member
- Supreme Council Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Certificate of Outstanding Service
- 1994 Charleston Southern University Alumni of the Year
- 1996 Historic Charleston Foundation Robert N.S. and Patti Foos Whitelaw Founders Award
- 2004 John Ancrum SPCA Humanitarian of the Year
- 2006 Adjunct General of the State of South Carolina Palmetto Patriot Award
- 2010 Greater Macedonia AME Church Black History Month Humanitarian Award
- 2011 Breaking the Silence, Liza’s Lifeline Person of the Year
- 2011 American Institute of Architects Government Affairs Award
Emphasizing North Charleston’s regional centrality and pro-business government, Mayor Summey has long realized that the City is ideal for commerce. Successfully garnering industries and maintaining the title of state retail sales leader since 1993 have been vital to his economic strategy to remain competitive throughout the Untied States. Also, the City’s close vicinity to the Charleston Air Force Base and SPAWAR has allowed Mayor Summey to promote his support for the military and their contributions to the private sector of the economy.
In 2009, the largest economic announcement in the history of the State of South Carolina occurred when Boeing announced its second final assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner program would be built in North Charleston. In addition to serving as a location for final assembly of 787 Dreamliners, the facility also will have the capability to support the testing and delivery of the airplanes. This announcement represented a $750 million investment and a work force of at least 3,800 over the next seven years.
Also during the fall of 2009, Clemson University’s Restoration Institute (CURI) landed a $45 million grant from the United States Department of Energy for the Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Test Facility to be constructed on the former Navy Base in North Charleston. This grant will be matched in the amount of $53 million, bringing the project total to $98 million. The site is to be located in Building 69, an existing 82,264 square foot building, as part of the CURI campus, and will be modified to meet test requirements. Modifications will create 113 construction jobs. 21 full time jobs are estimated at the facility, another 150 jobs from the manufacturing cluster located around the facility, and 568 indirect jobs for a total of 852 jobs. However, it is estimated by the State of South Carolina’s Department of Commerce that the State could gain 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs related to this project over the next 20 years.
It is anticipated that the facility will serve as the catalyst for a wind industry cluster to form on the former Navy Base due to the unique industry/research environment at a brown-field site near existing port, rail infrastructure, and supporting industries.
Major retail hubs have solidified North Charleston as the State’s retail sales leader with gross sales annually exceeding $6 billion. Northwoods Mall, Centre Pointe with the Tanger Outlets, and stores in sizes from big box to mom and pop shops offer our citizens and visitors exceptional shopping.
North Charleston’s Police and Fire services are among the best in the State. In March 2007 the North Charleston Police Department was awarded National Accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Receiving national accreditation ensures that our citizens are receiving the best public safety service from a professional agency. Mayor Summey has strives to provide professional public safety services while working in partnership with the citizens of North Charleston to identify, prevent and solve the problems of crime, social disorder, and neighborhood decay, thereby improving the quality of life in the community.
To better protect the well-being of North Charleston’s citizens, Mayor Summey instituted 10 companies of firemen, 3 companies of aerial apparatus, 1 service rescue unit, and 3 quick response service vehicles from 11 locations. Being equipped with the latest fire fighting equipment and apparatus allows the department to handle anything from grass fire to high-rise building fires. The performance of the fire department has been nationally recognized.
Navy Base Revitalization
Mayor Summey is invigorating the southern end of the City after years of neglect onset by the closure of the Charleston Naval Base. The redevelopment of the former naval base (wholly within the boundaries of North Charleston) is transforming a former military installation into a mixed use, sustainable development. Job creation and land use are key focuses.
Private enterprise has filled a gap once occupied by the public sector with the creation of thousands of jobs on the former base. Companies such as CMMC and PeopleMatter, and ventures such as the Lowcountry Innovation Center are setting a trend of high paying, low impact jobs. In the Fall of 2009, the Clemson University Restoration Institute was awarded a $45 million matching grant from the EPA with a total of $98 million to be invested on the former naval base. The Restoration Institute will test the next generation of wind turbines and could attract 10,000 to 20,000 new jobs to the State over the next 20 years.
Transforming a heavy industrial area of the City into a sustainable, mixed use community is underway. The establishment of our Riverfront Park gave our citizens access to the Cooper River for the first time in nearly a century. Riverfront Park is open to the public year-round and has become a favorite destination for residents and visitors. Set on the banks of the beautiful Cooper River, the park is adjacent to the historic homes once occupied by the Charleston Naval Base officers, surrounded by graceful grand oak trees and peaceful river vistas. Bordered by Noisette Creek, the park boasts a magnificent contemporary Performance Pavilion and meadow.
Mayor Summey is providing the leadership for North Charleston to take the next steps toward an improved, vibrant and active community.
Mayor Summey has persistently emphasized the importance of “smart growth.” The conversion of several swathes of land into infill communities has proven to make the best use of the existing areas within the I-526 Corridor.
Oak Terrace Preserve, a 55-acre green housing development owned by the City and developed by private contractors, has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading sustainable housing developments, including receiving the Award of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development by The Home Depot Foundation. Mayor Summey has overseen the transformation of this once dilapidated neighborhood into a sustainable community with a new approach to healthy living in the heart of North Charleston.
Mayor Summey’s efforts are being reproduced through the emergence of private redevelopments, including I’On Group’s Mixon Avenue Project, Hunley Waters, The Navy Yard at Noisette, and GARCO Village.
Other efforts to rejuvenate the area have come to fruition. The Olde Village on Montague Avenue has seen an upsurge of new successful sidewalk shops and eateries with the completion of Phase I of the Montague Avenue’s streetscape master plan.
Mayor Summey realized that “smart growth” included conservation of the regions most cherished landmarks. With this in mind, he was the first figure in the region to push for and ascertain view sheds for facilities on the National Historic Registry, including the plantations of Drayton Hall and Middleton Place, to ensure they remained original to their period of significance.
The borders of North Charleston have continued to expand. The City has increased in size from 7 square miles in 1972 to over 75 square miles today. The City’s vibrant economy enables the expansion without a hindrance in public service, as provided by Public Works, Police, and Fire. With an increased population, more have come to enjoy the City’s facilities and amenities that are offered only to North Charleston residents. Mayor Summey ensures the responsibility of the expansion of the City’s boundaries through the Comprehensive Plan that is strictly followed. Mayor Summey has been an advocate for annexation reform in the State Legislature to bring the laws to reflect a more contemporary policy congruent with others throughout the United States.
Housing and Community Development
Affordable housing, through partnership with the North Charleston Housing Authority, has become readily available to our citizens since the beginning of Mayor Summey’s tenure. A goal is shared with the Housing Authority of giving low income families the opportunity to move from subsidized housing into home ownership.
The North Charleston Housing Authority operated North Park Village, the largest public housing complex in the State. Walls and barbed wire separated it from the community. The Housing Authority successfully secured a Hope VI award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This multi-million dollar award was leveraged many times over for the demolition of North Park Village and the creation of Horizon Village, a new non-traditional neighborhood made up of quality energy efficient housing. This project is a glowing example of how the City and the Housing Authority have worked together to provide quality housing and promote homeownership versus renting.
With the intent of benefiting low and moderate-income persons, the Community Development Block Grant Program has provided financial relief to many within the North Charleston community. In 2002, $2,417,383 was received for the program, the largest federal funding award since the City’s incorporation.
Children and Education
Mayor Summey has been a life long proponent of quality public education. He frequents the City’s schools as often as possible to remain informed of any needs they may have outside of the scope of the school districts. An extensive expansion of the City’s programs devoted to its youth has developed since the mid-1990s and was furthered through the creation of the Mayor’s Office on Education, Youth and Family. Through the coordination of this office, faith-based groups, non-profit organizations, schools, community associations, and the business community are synced to provide the most efficient and effective support for the City’s youth and families.
Mayor Summey’s strides in education are not limited to grade schools, but have been seen through the breadth of higher education institutes that have flourished in North Charleston. Charleston Southern University and Trident Technical College have both remained cornerstone institutions throughout the Southeast, while establishments such as the Lowcountry Graduate Center, Strayer University, ECPI, Virginia College, Miller-Motte, and Webster University have expanded educational opportunities for our adult students.
In 2004, with the endeavor of providing extra-curricular activities for elementary and middle school aged children, Mayor Summey implemented a program to provide athletics to the younger children of the community. Maximum participation has been reached since the program’s inception.
In order to cut spending, while providing equivalent services for constituents, Mayor Summey has garnered partnerships with the school districts for joint-use of facilities. River Oak Middle School’s athletic fields and walking trails are used by the general public and the school to take full advantage of available resources.
Parks and Public Spaces
The improvement and increase in public parks and green spaces has been immense during Mayor Summey’s tenure and has added to the quality of life for the North Charleston residents. The Riverfront Park located on the banks of the Cooper River was constructed in 2003 and with upgrades, now features a playground for kids, a pavilion for events, an outdoor theater, a boardwalk and pier for fishing and plenty of open green space for activities. Adjacent to the Riverfront Park sits the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial dedicated in November 2007 to honor the civilian and military servicemen who served on the Navy Base before its closure.
The Golf Club at Wescott Plantation opened to the public in November 2001 and features a 27-hole course surrounded by homes. The success and attraction to the golf course was proven with the 15 year expansion of the surrounding homes being completed in merely 7 years. The Golf Club features many tournaments to benefit organizations throughout the Lowcountry, as well as national tours.
In addition to the City’s endeavors, Mayor Summey has partnered with community organizations to construct parks for the use by the neighborhoods. Hendrick Park, Whitehall Tot-Lot, and the Riverbluff Baptist Church practice fields are a few of many instances of cooperation.
Arts & Culture
The administration preceding Mayor Summey disbanded the City’s Cultural Arts Department. After taking office in 1994, Mayor Summey restored it to a full stand alone department. From its small beginnings of 2 employees, the Cultural Arts Department now has 13 employees and provides citizens with more events than ever. The Cultural Arts Departments hallmark event is the annual Arts Festival that features artists and performers from across the United States and attracts thousands of visitors to the City. Apart from the Festival, programs and events are offered on a daily basis for North Charleston citizens and North Charleston schools to enjoy, ranging from drama classes to crafts. The Department’s success is another indicator of Mayor Summey’s venture for increased quality of life in North Charleston.
The North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center opened its doors in April 2007 for the citizens and students of North Charleston to learn about fire safety and fire history in an exciting environment. This state-of-the-art facility is unlike any other in the United States.
Within the tourism industry, Mayor Summey has guided the City to an increased role in the region. From its establishment in August 1999, the Charleston Area Convention Center Complex has attracted millions of guests and visitors to the greater Charleston area and contributed significantly to the regional and local economy with a current economic impact exceeding $80 million per year. The Complex includes exhibition halls, ball rooms and meeting rooms, the Performing Arts Center, the North Charleston Coliseum and the Embassy Suites. The Coliseum and Convention Center Complex have spurred numerous hotels and led to the developing of the overwhelmingly thriving Centre Pointe, boasting retail centers and abundant eateries.
Mayor Summey advocates an active and vocal citizenry into their local government. A variety of avenues have been added over the years to streamline concerns that arise. He continues to fully support the Citizens Advisory Council and the Neighborhood Presidents in order to best address affairs of their interest. Also, in today’s fast paced, technology driven world an online citizen request service, accessible through the City’s website, was implemented in March 2006 to provide another avenue of contact with Mayor Summey and even direct contact with various city department heads.
Watch the annual State of the City address to learn more.