By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
As the November 2021 Isle of Palms elections approached, candidate Phillip Pounds’ platform emphasized leadership, communication and transparency. But when Pounds is sworn in as the city’s new mayor Jan. 4, he said one of his most important jobs will be to help leave some of the chaos of the past two years behind.
Since Pounds, a former banking executive who arrived on the island permanently in 2015, was elected to the IOP Council in 2019, the city government has been embroiled in an array of controversies, most of them caused and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council has been challenged with issues including parking, traffic, masking and social distancing mandates, the restriping of the IOP Connector bridge and the ongoing legal battle with Tidal Wave Water Sports over its lease at the Marina. The subject of unleashed dogs on the beach and elsewhere has had its supporters and detractors as well, and there’s even been a bit of public sparring between Council members. Pounds wants these problems to be solved during his four-year term as mayor. “I’d like to create some calmness with a strategic approach to what we’re doing,” he commented. Pounds said he would start by holding a two-day retreat for the Council, which includes four new members, on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. He pointed out that he would emphasize teambuilding and “determining what success looks like.” “I want to build some camaraderie on the Council and make it an enjoyable experience,” Pounds said. “I would like it to be fun. It takes work, but it doesn’t just happen. We have to work on developing relationships, which takes a lot of effort. You have to be willing to do it.” Besides building rapport among Council members, including political newcomers Jan Anderson, Katie Miars, John Bogosian and Blair Hahn, Pounds hopes to mend fences with government officials in Mount Pleasant and the state Department of Transportation. Those relationships took a hit during the pandemic when the Council temporarily closed the island to day-trippers from surrounding towns and when the DOT restriped the bridge without input from the Isle of Palms and in the process eliminated the 10-foot-wide emergency lane. “We’ll invest some time developing relationships with Mount Pleasant and the DOT. I don’t know if that’s job No. 1, but it’s high on the list,” Pounds said, adding that the Department of Transportation has promised to conduct a study on the Connector bridge that he hopes will lead to the emergency lane being resurrected. He said he is confident that, working with Mount Pleasant and the DOT, the Isle of Palms can alleviate some of its traffic issues. He noted that whether parking is a problem “depends on your view.” “We have 1,700 parking spaces,” he said. “We need to focus on traffic control, getting people on and off the island.” Pounds cited other issues the Council must address during the next four years: the city’s sewer system, public safety – including hiring a permanent fire chief – and drainage and stormwater.
He said the city has managed its finances well, “and we’ll continue that.” Concerning the major issues he campaigned on, Pounds hopes to enhance the Council’s transparency and communication efforts by making it easier to obtain information on the city’s website, meeting with local business owners once a month and establishing dedicated times a couple of days a week to discuss issues with local residents. He added that he would like to reduce the number of times the Council goes into executive session. Pounds went on to say that the Council’s committee structure could be more efficient both for the Council and the city staff. “We spend too much time prepping for our committee meetings,” he remarked. Pounds also said he would favor a referendum to let the citizens of the Isle of Palms decide whether to reduce the size of the Council from nine to seven members.
The Council voted March 23 by a 5-4 margin to let the voters decide, but, at a June 22 meeting, Mayor Jimmy Carroll changed sides and the plan was squelched. Pounds voted for the ordinance that would have established the referendum.
“I’d like to explore a smaller Council,” he said. “We’re way out of line from what others are doing. I’d like to reduce the Council to seven, which would be more efficient.”