Incumbents ousted in Sullivan’s elections

Heavy voter turnout is reported Tuesday on Sullivan’s Island for elections to fill four seats on the seven-member Town Council.

The Town Council will have a majority made up of newcomers voted into office Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

The new council members are Bachman Smith IV, Rita Langley, Mark Howard and Sarah Church. Incumbents Jerry Kaynard and Mary Jane Watson lost bids for re-election.

Smith, Langley and Howard were elected to four-year terms. Church won the unexpired two-year-term of Councilman Pat O’Neil who was victorious in a special election for mayor in January.

Voter turnout Tuesday was 42 percent and results will be certified Thursday, said Robie Scott, chairwoman of the island election commission.

In the race for four-year terms, Smith got 487 votes, Langley 402, Howard 357, Watson 287 and Kaynard 233. For the two-year seat, Church received 397 votes to Dave Spurgin’s 246, Scott said.

“I feel like a lot of the folks on the island were frustrated with a little bit of inertia, a little bit of gridlock,” Smith said.

The Council has seven members including the mayor.

Controversy surrounding the design of the new, much larger elementary school galvanized some folks as far as questions of Council accountability and transparency, he said.

“There was a feeling that there needed to be some fresh thinking, some fresh ideas,” Smith said.

Resident Barbara Spell said after she voted that the island needs a comprehensive financial plan to take the politics and emotion out of the decision-making process. “That’s what would unify Sullivan’s Island. We aren’t getting transparency from our council members,” she said.

Tom Proctor, another resident, said he was concerned the town might charge beach visitors for parking. “The beach is everybody’s,” he said.

Issues facing the new Council include how best to manage the island’s maritime forest.

Sullivan’s plans to construct a new Town Hall to replace the one that had to be abandoned because of a mold problem that was making staffers sick. For some time, the island has been working to manage its coyote problem. An overhaul of its aging sewer system is planned because of cracks in pipes that let in stormwater which in turn can strain the capacity of the wastewater processing plant. Parking for beachgoers remains an important issue as well as management of the relationship between the commercial district and nearby residents.

O’Neil was in the middle of a four-year Council term when he decided to run for mayor to fill out the rest of the term of the late Mike Perkis who died of pancreatic cancer in October. O’Neil, who defeated Kaynard to win the mayor’s race in January, will serve in the town’s top elected post until May of 2017.

Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.