By Barney Blakeney
Retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent Joe Boykin has no political ambitions and never thought he’d be running for the Dist. 8 seat on Charleston County Council. But the Johns Island resident feels motivated by the need for more responsive constituent service. So he’s mounted a bipartisan campaign to give sea island residents another voice as development and gentrification transforms the area.
A Camden native and 23-year ATF veteran, Boykin’s family spent every summer at his grandmother’s Edisto Island summer home. She eventually moved to Edisto Island. Boykin says the aroma of pluff mud still makes him nostalgic. The 1987 University of South Carolina graduate in Criminal Justice moved to Edisto Island after being hired as a Charleston County Police officer in 1988. He worked as an officer patrolling the sea island district four years before joining the ATF.
Boykin left Charleston and worked for the ATF in Charlotte, N.C. eight years before returning to Charleston in 2000 and moving to Johns Island. He’s more than familiar with the community that’s long been his adopted home. His five siblings also have moved to the Charleston area – two to Mount Pleasant and three others to the sea islands of Johns and Edisto islands.
Although a Republican, Boykin says his desire to serve on Charleston County Council transcends political affiliation.
It’s about issues and putting people above party, he says. “We’ve got all kinds of problems – overdevelopment, lack of infrastructure, flooding. And despite that some 6,400 new homes are slated for construction, there is a desperate need for more affordable housing,’ he said. As a supporter of the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, Boykin said he’s aware that Black land loss is changing the culture on the sea islands.
Eighty-two percent of Johns Island is in the unincorporated area of the county. A conservationist who wants to protect green spaces, Boykin says the county needs an ordinance to control growth. And he thinks developers should pay their fair share. As a supporter of extending I-526, Boykin says he is acutely aware of the sea islands’ inadequate infrastructure needs. But he also is acutely aware of the need for better mass transportation.
“We need a strong voice on county council,” Boykin declares. “As a member of county council, it would be my job to listen to my constituents and represent their will.” He thinks of himself as representative of that strong voice, but the voice actually belongs to the people of the sea islands, he said. So he’s built a coalition of supporters who include Democrats and Republicans, including stalwart Democrat and Johns Island native Abe Jenkins who has volunteered to chair Boykins’ campaign. Boykin unabashedly admits he wants the Black vote. He considers his campaign one that unifies people.
Boykin says as with law enforcement Charleston County Council demands a 24/7 commitment. He’s willing to meet its full time requirement. “Constituents want someone who will serve them. I’ve gotten an outpouring of bipartisan support and I’m willing to make the return on that investment,” he says.