By Barney Blakeney
The Lowcountry Black Leadership Coalition, a newly formed organization of individuals from the political, religious and activists communities have launched an effort to show support for North Charleston City Councilman Jerome Heyward criticized in recent daily news media articles for his votes on issues those reports say come alarmingly close to conflicts of interests. The organization contends Heyward is being targeted for having political influence and clout while earning a living as a professional consultant.
Elected to represent North Charleston City Council Dist. 5 last November, the Hollywood native won a contentious race over the incumbent to become the first African American to represent the majority Black city council district. Though Heyward’s roots are in the Yonges Island community of Hollywood his activist footprint is stamped across the Lowcountry.
A graduate of Baptist Hill High in Hollywood, the 59-year-old Heyward worked in law enforcement as a Charleston County police officer before turning his sights to entrepreneurship and politics. He is described as a self-motivated professional with a record of results as a corporate/consumer advocate. A former S.C. Human Rights Commissioner, Heyward is an Independent consultant working for clients in public relations and government relations and as a legislative liaison at all levels of local, state, and federal government.
Daily news media reports challenge Heyward’s votes on such high profile issues as the selection of Charleston County Council Chairman Elliot Summey, son of North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, to become executive director of the Charleston International Airport. Heyward sits on the county Aviation Authority board which made the selection.
In a scathing editorial columnist Steve Bailey wrote, “Elliott Summey officially became the $290,000-a-year chief executive of the Charleston County Aviation Authority last week. For those of you still trying to understand how this travesty happened, there’s the story of Jerome Heyward, consultant for hire,” Bailey wrote.
The Lowcountry Black Leadership Coalition following a protest at the newspaper’s headquarters last week challenges Bailey’s interpretation of the facts saying, “Mr. Bailey painted a picture revealing only half truths about Mr. Heyward … Mr. Heyward’s work on behalf of the community and his compensation is symbolic of the racist double standard negatively applied to Black businessmen. Mr. Bailey’s attack is yet another example of how the Post and Courier continues to be the pawn in an old order that seeks to maintain the status quo.”
In a written statement the coalition said, “Mr. Heyward was one of many who voted Charleston County Councilman Elliot Summey to be hired as executive director of the airport. However, no articles were written to scrutinize other high profile board members … Mr. Heyward’s vote was not done blindly as he has used his voice on the airport authority board to push for Black business development. Now as a city councilmember he is key to an independent police audit making its way through North Charleston. And he is pushing the City of North Charleston to reevaluate how it views affordable housing and economic development in the neglected Black communities of North Charleston?”
Coalition spokesman Kwadjo Campbell listed several projects Heyward has engaged as councilman which include: -Affordable Housing Taskforce for the City of North Charleston to develop a funding and development strategy to create affordable and workforce housing; -Independent Police Audit- North Charleston dragged its feet for 5 years (since Walter Scott) in conducting an audit; -Infrastructure Bond for Black Neighborhood sidewalks, streetlights, and parks to address decades of inequitable spending by the City of North Charleston where white majority neighborhoods received bonding for infrastructure projects; -Got Administration to reverse Mask policy because of impact on Black community; and -Working on creative ways to extend lifeline for Black businesses struggling such as a microloan program.