The Town of Sullivan’s Island will hold its municipal elections on Tuesday, May 7. Five candidates are vying for three seats on Town Council, which will carry them through 2023. Interested to know where the candidates stand on popular issues, The Island Eye invited them to answer the following three questions. We will run three more questions in our April 12 issue. Candidate’s answers are reprinted here as submitted, in alphabetical order by last name.
- What prompted your decision to run for Sullivan’s Island Town Council and what do you believe qualifies you to serve in public office?
I decided to run because I believe Council needs to begin pro-actively managing our town rather than reactively addressing problems in whack-amole fashion. If we don’t plan for the future, I fear it is only a matter of time before we lose the beauty, character and livability of this special place. My goal is to put in place foresight, discipline and programs that will set our island up to preserve itself for the next generation. While it is ultimately up to the people reading this to decide, I believe my background in finance, love for this island and willingness to work for it make me a qualified candidate.
I am grateful to run for re-election. My four years of service have provided the opportunity to learn the needs of our community and develop solutions to our problems. A lot has been accomplished, and essential multi-year projects are now in progress. I wish to serve another term to fulfill my responsibility to complete these vital projects that have been set in motion during my term.
Among them are the Waste Water Treatment System upgrades, Fire Station rehabilitation and the stormwater drainage projects to address repeated flooding of our streets and homes. These projects are well underway due to a great deal of effort, study and planning by myself and my Town Council colleagues. My strong desire is to ensure their successful completion in the coming term. Other projects are completed that support my qualification to run for office. I spearheaded our current parking plan. It is up and running effectively and fairly for both our residents and the public, without the complicated details and problems that our neighboring towns have incurred. I planned and proposed the new Palmetto alee on the causeway that provides a beautiful and growing entrance for our Island. I would like to contribute more.
After serving on council the last four years I am proud of my role in our accomplishments: negotiating a compromise for the accreted land, passing a storm water management ordinance, upgrading the sewer/ water treatment plant; creating a plastics ordinance; and sponsoring family-friendly Island events.
But, there is more to do. Going forward, we need to develop a resiliency plan to address increasing flooding across the island, complete the water/ sewer retrofit, continue working on accreted land management and ensuring that funding for family-friendly events stays front and center. These are important issues for all islanders and I have decided to run again for town council because I want to do my part to make sure we finish what we’ve started.
I believe my greatest asset to town council is my quiet way of getting things done and my commitment to compromise and inclusivity. Wherever possible, I focus on finding common ground on contentious issues that can divide a small town. For example, I negotiated the accredited land compromise that ended years of back and forth on the transition zone. I also work hard to understand what matters to islanders — and try to bridge the gap between old and new that makes Sullivan’s the unique place that it is.
I am running for a second term on Town Council as a bridge builder who believes everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard. As a third generation Island resident whose childhood feet covered every square inch of the Island I have a great sense of responsibility to this unique place. As those childhood feet aged my desire to embrace every aspect of the island has grown. I have always said Sullivan’s Island speaks to me.
My qualifications as a Council member run deep with pure intentions. Prior to my service on Town Council I served on the Board of Zoning Appeals. I take my bridge building seriously as a state certified mediator with an excellent reputation for bringing people together. As a former Chair of the South Carolina Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and an attorney who practices exclusively in the construction industry I am well versed in all aspects of building, infrastructure and contract negotiation, all with an environmentalist’s mindset. The Island’s voice has grown more clear. The Island and its residents need someone like myself who is a good steward with a sense of place and understanding of the value of community and environment.
I have served as President of the Sullivan’s Island Park Foundation for over ten years. During that time, I raised over $100,000.00 for our public spaces and have worked closely with the Town Council in allocating those funds. I have seen what goes on behind the curtain first hand. I have a deep admiration for Sullivan’s. Island, a sincere respect for my neighbors and a willingness to listen to all voices. To that end, I want to serve on Town Council with transparency and decisiveness. On council I will work to improve the fiscal strength and governance of Sullivan’s Island as I have done as a committed volunteer for other community organizations in education, healthcare and the arts.
- If elected to Sullivan’s Island Town Council, you may have to make difficult decisions that impact your friends, neighbors, opponents and yourself. In such situations, would you base your decision on:
- a) What you think the majority of island voters want?
- b) What you think is right for the island?
- c) What you think your supporters want?
I believe in most cases that what is right for the island is going to be what the majority of its residents want. That said, there will always be one-off issues that impact a small number of folks and the town needs to be fair and responsive in its approach to managing those.
My guiding principle has always been that the Island is best served when decisions are focused on maintaining a quiet, family-oriented community. The character of the Island is built on many small, important things. Having served on the Design Review Board and Town Council
I know the difficulty of having to say “no” to a property owner to protect the town ordinances that serve to maintain the Island’s unique character. I have continued to attend DRB meetings to keep current on new homes and the preservation of our historic homes that create the visual character that we all value. The sense of place they create deserves a special review. Issues can also divide a citizenry. The accreted land is such an issue. I have recently made tough decisions on the Transition Zone plan. I stood by my principle that a conservation management approach is what is best for the land and Island residents.
Change and progress are unavoidable but they are not mutually exclusive. With thought and care the character of our island can be maintained. In summary, Sullivan’s Island is a community and not a commodity. The best decisions will take this view.
When making a decision, I believe that my role is to listen to island residents (many of whom are my supporters and some who are not) and try to focus on what the majority of Island voters would want—you are our constituents and we are here to serve all island residents. However, I try not to loose sight of what is best for the island—I don’t believe these are mutually exclusive. In many cases, this means we need to be laser-focused on how we stretch our limited town budget and make hard decisions about what we want, we need and what we can afford.
This is one of those questions well suited for a politician’s nonanswer or hedged answer. Since I cannot escape from the fact that an elected official is a politician I will say I believe Sullivan’s Island is a sum of its parts. That is to say Sullivan’s Island is its voters. It is the land. It is even my supporters (I don’t think they would look kindly on me if I were to exclude them from that which makes up the fabric of the Island).
That said the question posed asks that three possibilities be treated as mutually exclusive and so if or rather when I am faced with difficult decisions I will continue to base my decisions on what I think the majority of Island voters want. My sense of environmental responsibility does not diminish the fact that as an elected official I believe I am beholden to the will of the residents. While I have found that my sense of what is best for the Island falls neatly in line with its residents’ beliefs I am well aware the time may come when a more difficult decision must be made.
Making tough decisions is part of any elected official’s job. There is no place for personal agenda when making decisions that impact our residents and sometimes that means you have to do what is in the best interest of all constituents, not just the ones who support you. When faced with a decision, I would do what was in the best interest of the island and that decision would be based on listening to the residents, the law and my conscience.
- With respect to the Maritime Forest area, once the Transition Zone management plan is completed, what are your thoughts for management of the rest of this 190-acre Land Trust area that buffers the Sullivan’s Island ocean front?
I appreciate the opportunity to directly address this issue, which is at the forefront of many minds. I live on front beach. I am not pro-razing. I am not pro-neglect, our current de-facto strategy. I am for responsibly managing and maintaining all of our island’s assets. The National Park Service writes that “the ‘draw a line around it and leave it alone’ method does not protect wilderness— wilderness management is a necessary discipline.” Bulls Island, South Carolina’s only Class 1 Wilderness Area, has a full land management program, addressing invasive species (plant and animal), tourism, scheduled trimming in lieu of the natural wild fire process and more. In fact, every single national park in our country has a land management plan. It is unfortunate that the issue of the accreted land has become so polarizing. As is the case with nearly every legally documented conservation effort, the conservation easement on our accreted land came with some ambiguity. This grey area has allowed everyone to be “right” in their own beliefs as to what should happen. We need to come together, compromise, and pass a long term land management plan so that we can get back to the business of actually running our town.
It should first be mentioned that the Transition Zone plan, once implemented, will require close observation to evaluate the intended outcome. The rest of the 190-acre public Land Trust area will require a well-thoughtout, long-term conservation management plan. The Land is not best severed by simply leaving it alone; for example, the current program to combat invasive species will need to be continued.
The land can also benefit from a study of the best method to repair damage done by years of excessive Wax Myrtle pruning. Best practices with periodic review should be implemented. My degree in horticulture and 30-plus years of experience in Landscape Design and Management has been valuable in planning the Transition Zone and will be valuable in continued planning. This land, of course, is best developed by nature itself. The maritime vegetation provides a buffer against storms and lowers the cost of FEMA flood insurance for all island residents. A walk though a maritime forest should be an enchanted adventure, observing the natural changes in vegetation, with changes in topography, as one walks down to the seashore. A management plan as I have outlined here, benefits everyone.
As chair of the Land Use and Natural Resource committee (LUNR) for the last four years it has been my responsibility to oversee management of the Accreted Land, a complicated issue that the town has been tackling for the last 15 years. As background, the transition zone is 100 feet seaward from front beach property lines. In 2016 council addressed and adopted a transition zone management plan. The transition zone is intended to provide a firebreak, breezes, enhancement of public safety, a buffer from wildlife. The LUNR committee spent several meetings reviewing the original plan and considering input from engineers, horticulturists, residents, and staff before recommending a management plan to town council. After a series of revisions, town council approved a negotiated plan that mandated a series of cutting restrictions within the transition zone. The plan has been approved by the Low Country Land Trust— which has authority over the Accreted Land easement – and is now under review by DHEC.
How the remaining portions of the Accreted Land are managed depends largely on DHEC regulations concerning any manipulations seaward of the critical line and Low Country Land Trust approval. Within these restrictions, I believe that considering public input and financial resources should be the town’s top priority as we begin the next phase of developing a management plan. I would not support any plan that jeopardized our resiliency in the face of sea level rise and increasing storm surge. This protected land is a gift and worthy of careful deliberation.
When negotiating the management plan for the Transition Zone in 2016 I was a voice for compromise as I understood, and still understand, that as a member of Town Council compromise is key to building relationships. I pushed for compromise because I knew the accreted land was not the only challenge that faced Town Council. My push for compromise was based on the fact that a hardline stance can lead to devastating losses to the environment because such a proposition creates a win or lose situation.
My willingness to allow for greater manipulation of the Transition Zone than I believed appropriate was always predicated on my desire to protect the Island, its residents and their property by advocating for the most fiscally responsible and ecologically sound management plan for the remainder of the accreted land. That is to say I made it clear that I was willing to compromise on the Transition Zone with the understanding that I will vote for a near “hands off” approach to the remaining burgeoning maritime forest. I believe the only manipulation of the accreted land seaward of the Transition Zone that should be allowed is the removal of non-native, harmful, invasive species of flora.
Forest conservation requires upkeep and management or the accreted land’s sustainability is threatened. The Land Trust requires us to be “good stewards” of this land. The accreted land is a natural gift and in order to keep it, we must help it by maintaining it. Absent currently is a vision forward via the land management plan outside of the buffer zone, and if our current budget is accurate, the funding is not there to implement a plan of any kind.
The big challenge in regard to the Land Trust area for the next Council will be solving this funding problem and executing the land management plan. I will bring my experience and deliver more creative sources and solutions to overcome these challenges.