Shayla Flores was eleven when she moved to Chapin, South Carolina. Nine years later, she ran for mayor. After a childhood of frequent moves as the daughter of two members of the Army, she thinks of Chapin as her “first home.”
Flores is working toward earning her bachelor’s in political science at the College of Charleston, where she took 18 credit hours last semester and will graduate from next May. But she doesn’t live in the Holy City. Flores said she drives a four hour round trip to Charleston and back two days out of the week to attend classes. From August through election day November 7th, she would spend her remaining time working on her campaign for town mayor.
If your workload seems insignificant after reading that, you’re not alone. However, despite a hard fought campaign, Flores and the incumbent, Skip Wilson, lost to David Knight. Knight curiously didn’t participate in a mayoral debate on November 2nd, nor did he accept offers to appear on a show held by the Lexington Ledger, according to editor and debate moderator Paul Kirby in his closing statements.
“Balancing [a campaign] with school if you’re still in college is a lot, but it’s so worth it,” Flores said about her experience. “You get to meet everyone and you get to help everyone, and you get to stand for something on a platform that matters. And that’s just worth every penny I threw into this.”
At just 20 years old, she is younger than most college seniors, not to mention most mayoral candidates–excluding Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation, of course. But that doesn’t mean she’s without experience. Since moving to Chapin, she’s been involved with the town’s chamber of commerce, school board and town council. She’s worked on senator Tim Scott’s campaign, interned for not one but two Representatives in D.C., and worked for Representative and former S.C. governor Mark Sanford.
It was her experience in D.C. talking with constituents as Representative Joe Wilson’s congressional aide that inspired her to run for mayor. “They felt that they couldn’t go to their elected representatives in Chapin, which was the hardest part about all of it for me because we’re such a tight knit community,” Flores said. “So I decided we need somebody who knows what they’re doing out there.”
Flores says loves her hometown. But she also acknowledges its faults. She sees infrastructure, a topic she studies often with her urban planning minor, as one of its biggest issues. During the election, she communicated her concerns on the topic and offered possible policy solutions, which would include incorporating some existing residential territory into the town for an increased tax base.
“Because of me, all of the debate that was going on was based around arguments that I’d made and issues that I’d brought up for the town,” Flores said. “And those are the issues still being discussed now. Even though I’m not going to be the one spearheading the movement, I got to stand up for my friends and my family and the people in my home, which was important to do.”
Flores’s campaign has garnered her wide recognition for a local election, earning her multiple job offers both in and out of Chapin. As of right now, Flores doesn’t know what her next step will be but she knows she wants to continue helping people, and she knows she’s grateful for her family and friends. “It’s hard to be so upset when you’re surrounded by so many people who just sacrificed so much of their life to help you with your crazy dream that you came up with... [Election night] was a wakeup call to how grateful I need to be.”