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Keith Summey: from SC Ports Opponent to Paid Consultant

Political flip-flop concept illustration.

Keith Summey: from SC Ports Opponent to Paid Consultant

In a striking turn of events, Keith Summey, the former North Charleston mayor who was known for his public disagreements with the State Ports Authority, is now working for the maritime agency that he once strongly opposed. In an arrangement set to benefit all parties involved, Summey is now serving as a paid consultant to the Authority, earning $5,000 per month for his involvement in preparing the former WestRock paper mill to become part of the Port of Charleston’s North Charleston Terminal.

Recasting Old Adversaries

Keith Summey, who decided not to seek reelection last year after three decades serving as North Charleston mayor, has entered into a consulting agreement with the State Ports Authority (SPA) through his business, Summey Solutions LLC. This contract represents the first significant collaboration between Summey and the Authority since he ended his mayoral tenure.

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Just last month, the SPA declared that they would be investing $105 million in the 280-acre paper mill site located next to the port’s container terminal along the Cooper River. This significant investment will provide sufficient cargo capacity for at least the next two decades. Furthermore, the South Carolina Department of Transportation announced last week that it would be replacing the Don Holt Bridge to enable the largest and heaviest container ships accessing the East Coast to reach the expanded terminal.

Experience Put to Valuable Use

Barbara Melvin, the SPA’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement pointed out that this massive undertaking involves coordination and partnership from multiple entities including the city of North Charleston, key stakeholders, the S.C Department of Transportation and other key agencies. Involving Summey, owing to his vast experience and coordination skills specific to the city, will ensure these objectives are achieved smoothly, she said.

The SPA and Summey have not always maintained a cordial relationship. Summey vociferously opposed the maritime agency’s plan to erect a container terminal at North Charleston’s former Navy Base. Notably, this plan came after state legislators vetoed an intended endeavor to construct a large terminal on Daniel Island. After a series of disputes, both parties eventually reached a settlement in late 2021.

Moving Forward Together

Despite a difficult history, both Summey and the SPA have shown determination to work together to the benefit of the local community and the state. Summey indicated that in his new role as a consultant, he will aim to ensure minimum impact on traffic and public infrastructure while maximizing the economic potential of the port operations.

This collaboration stands as a testament to pragmatism and unity, demonstrating that former adversaries can reconcile their differences and work together towards achieving common goals. As the SPA’s expansion project gets underway, Summey’s experience and knowledge of North Charleston will indeed be invaluable.


Keith Summey: from SC Ports Opponent to Paid Consultant

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