By Katy Calloway, The Island Eye News Editor
Jimmy Carroll’s run for mayor began back in January, months before he officially filed with the City, and one could argue he’s been campaigning most of his life, professing “I know everybody here, know every aspect. I live and breathe IOP.”
Carroll’s been on IOP since 1959, when his father was stationed with the Navy in Charleston. He attended elementary school on Sullivan’s Island, Moultrie High School and College of Charleston, where he earned a degree in Political Science. With every intention of attending law school, he took a summer job at the real estate office where his mother worked. In 1981 the mother son team started Carroll Realty at what is now Station 22.
“We didn’t sell property on IOP as much as we sold the lifestyle,” remarks Carroll, and it’s the lifestyle that he treasures and wants to protect. “It’s a beautiful place for kids to grow up,” states Carroll, referring to his own childhood and that of his three sons, which he raised on the island.
Carroll’s introduction to local politics was a seat on IOP’s now defunct Beach Patrol and Control Board. He held a seat on the ATAX committee from 2010-2011, which brought to his attention the significance of the growing IOP tourism industry. “IOP is fortunate to have tourists,” says Carroll. “We get a lot of money from tourism. Because of tourism we have the lowest millage rate east of the Cooper,” he continues, explaining that 80% of IOP income comes from non-residence owners.
“The beach is for everyone, tourists and residents alike,” explains Carroll, claiming that the beach traffic and influx of seasonal tourists never bothered him.
Carroll was elected to Council in 2011 and ran unopposed for his second term in 2016. In the middle of his term on Council he sold his real estate business and is now able to focus on local politics. He has been a sharp critic of the City’s fiscal management and is disappointed by the lack of preparation for what he believes is the inevitable, “Another Hurricane Hugo is what scares me.”
Mayoral incumbent Dick Cronin moved to IOP in 1998 after he retired from a long career in engineering.
His position as President of Combustion Engineering’s Power Plant Company took him all over the world, in fact 26 different countries where he developed facilities, including numerous projects in China. His experience with international diplomats may explain his calm demeanor and candid ease in confronting and managing varying viewpoints, a skill that has undoubtedly served him well as IOP’s Mayor.
Shortly after moving to IOP, then Mayor Carmen Bunch appointed Cronin to the Planning Commission, where he served a two-year appointment. In 2006 Cronin won a seat on City Council. When former Mayor Mike Sottile ran for the SC House of Representatives, Cronin won the election for the remainder of Sottile’s mayoral term. Cronin is currently in his ninth year as mayor, having served three and a half terms in office.
What he values most about IOP is the culture, “the friendly, laid back attitude of residents,” creates a warm environment, and Cronin would like to protect this for his constituents. Bothered by the disrespectful tourists that litter the island, he would like to see it protected for future generations.
Cronin is a forward thinker and doesn’t believe that preservation means stagnation. “It’s going to evolve,” Cronin explains, “It’s not going to be like it was in the 60s, 70s or 80s.”