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Patrick Mahlen O’Neil

Patrick Mahlen O'Neil

Patrick Mahlen O’Neil

Despite what you might assume from my name, I was born on the bayou, in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where I grew up in a very good family and community, cut grass for pocket change, earned my Eagle Scout badge, learned to play the clarinet badly and the piano even worse, and graduated in the final class to finish at our small-town boys’ Catholic high school, whose football benches I warmed consistently unless we were either hopelessly behind or irreversibly ahead.

I received my BS in Economics from LSU after a succession of prior majors that didn’t work out. Neither did that one: by the time my accumulated credit hours threatened to eject me into the cold, cruel world, I discovered I was primarily interested in psychology. Fortunately, I was able to slip into the doctoral program at the University of Georgia, where I earned my PhD in clinical psychology. I came here when accepted into the MUSC psychology internship program, which had been started by my former UGA professor, Dr. John Roitzsch, who until his death last year was a fellow Islander, as is his wife Pam.

After grad school, I ultimately joined the faculty at MUSC, and through many strokes of good luck involving present and past Islanders who are now valued friends, I wound up as Director of the MUSC Weight Management Center, and ultimately a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Surgery.

My professional life has provided me with many wonderful opportunities, such as:

  1. Providing information about weight and health to the Lowcountry via my Sunday “Weighing the Choices” column in the Post & Courier for nine years.
  2. Statewide work on the SC Board of Examiners in Psychology and the SC Academy of Professional Psychologists, and national service on the Committee on Military Nutrition Research of the Institute of Medicine.
  3. 25 years’ participation in the primary North American professional obesity group, the Obesity Society, for which I recently completed my term as President.

But the chance to serve my neighbors has been my most cherished opportunity. Since buying my first home on the Island in 1985, I have been vitally interested in how we preserve the things that drew us here in the first place, while integrating our Island quality of life with modern times. I was appointed to the Island’s Planning Commission in 1993, and served as member and/or Chair until 2001, when I was first elected to Town Council. My neighbors have blessed me with their trust in two subsequent elections.

While no Councilmember accomplishes anything alone, I believe my leadership has been important to a number of significant Island projects:

  1. Protecting the Island feel of our built environment, through the comprehensive revision to our zoning ordinance, a multiyear effort that included a great amount of citizen input.
  2. Preserving the numerous historic structures that mark the Island’s character, through our first historic preservation ordinance and National Register designation of four historic districts.
  3. Conserving the Island’s magnificent natural resources, including the longstanding, ongoing process of crafting a management plan for the land trust-protected Town-owned accreted land, the protection this past year of two marsh-side Town parcels through similar deed restrictions, and the current creation of a nature path at Station 16 to permit access to the great diversity of habitat in our protected land.

I have also been very active in the successful effort to keep the elementary school on the Island, while working with Council colleagues and school architects to achieve a design that we will all be proud to have here.

Why am I running for reelection? There is still work to do!

At the top of my list:

  1. Complete the management plan and nature trails for the protected land.
  2. Expand conservation protections for the many small Town parcels of land that provide all residents with visual/physical access to the marsh.
  3. Accomplish the design and construction of a new Town Hall of which we can all be proud.
  4. Enhance the sense of Island community in spite of our inevitable differences on specific issues.

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