By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
In sharp contrast to the closeness of the last mayoral election, this time Sullivan’s Island made a pretty clear choice. Councilmember Patrick O’Neil garnered 64 percent of the vote, while his nearest competitor, councilmember Jerry Kaynard, achieved 32 percent. Island resident Keith Blandford received just under 4 percent. The official tally, ratified on Thursday, Jan. 8, was as follows:
•542 Patrick O’Neil
•270 Jerry Kaynard
•31 Keith Blandford
•1 write in (for Carl Hubbard)
Voter turnout was 51 percent, 844 votes were cast, higher than that of the general election in November. O’Neil will now step into the un-expired term of Mayor Mike Perkis, valid through May 2017, who passed away last year from pancreatic cancer. O’Neil will resign his current councilmember seat, which also expires in 2017. This means there will be four council seats up for grabs at the next general election on May 5, 2015, O’Neil’s unexpired term and the full terms of Jerry Kaynard, Hartley Cooper and Mary Jane Watson. The deadline to file is Feb. 18. Interested candidates can pick up their forms from City Hall.
“I’m really excited and ready to jump in,” Mayor elect O’Neil said at the Election Commission meeting where the results were ratified. “A 2-1 margin is really gratifying. It’s not something you often see in politics. I feel my support came from nearly all segments of the community.”
For an election that was largely focused on how to reunite the community following numerous large and largely divisive issues, the election outcome hopefully points toward a more harmonious path in Sullivan’s future.
“Looking around at the support on election night, I was gratified to see a fair number of people who had been significantly mad at me in the past over a decision I have made,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil feels his mandate from the citizens is to work on bridging the gulf between residents and Town Council, largely by improving the level of trust between the two.
O’Neil will continue to work alongside his opponent in the race, Kaynard, at least until May, when Kaynard’s seat is up for re-election.
“I congratulated him on a really energetic campaign,” O’Neil said. “He has a great devotion to Sullivan’s Island.” O’Neil’s goals for his mayorship include:
• Getting the new Town Hall built.
• Seeing through the work that has been started on improving the town’s sewage system.
• Working with the Town and the citizens to arrive at a “reasonable, sensible and doable” management plan for the accreeted land, “to be a good steward of the property.”
Reflecting on his defeat, Kaynard is focusing on the positives.
“I learned a lot during the campaign,” he said. “It is educational and I learned that many of our residents are concerned about quality of life issues. That includes giving more attention to the parks and our playground areas.
“As acting mayor the last three months, I learned that there’s a vast difference between being on council and being mayor. A mayor has to be a coordinator and know a little about all the issues. As a councilmember I can focus more on being an advocate for those issues that are important to the community.”
He has not made a decision yet as to whether he will run for reelection when his council seat term expires on May 5.
“At the appropriate time I’ll make the decision as to whether I will be a candidate for re-election,” he said. “But we still have a lot to do now that the election is over.”