Sullivan’s Island voters to pick most of Town Council on Tuesday

Pat O’Neil

SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Voters here will go to the polls Tuesday to elect four Town Council members, one of whom will fill the two years remaining on the seat formerly held by Mayor Pat O’Neil.

Voters also will choose among five candidates, including two incumbents, seeking one of three four-year terms.

And while there are not many vacant or undeveloped lots left in this affluent barrier island, the issue of growth management remains a very hot topic, said O’Neil, who is not publicly backing any particular candidate.

“Everybody agrees that just the sheer numbers of people around here are having a real impact,” he said. “We’re not looking at it from some sort of exclusionary viewpoint. We don’t want to be a gated community, but there’s just a physical limit of how much congestion and how many cars we can manage to welcome on any given day.”

The other looming issue is whether Town Council has been transparent enough in its decisions — an issue spawned in part by a heated debate over the construction of a new elementary school, which opened its doors last year.

“We’re still smarting from the controversy about the school,” O’Neil said. “I really think we’re moving in the right direction, but there are people who are unhappy with that.”

Incumbents Gerald Kaynard and Mary Jane Watson are seeking new terms, while Councilwoman Hartley Cooper opted against running again. The three challengers include Mark Howard, Rita Langley and Bachmann Smith.

Candidates Sarah Church and David Spurgin are running for the two-year unexpired term created when O’Neil was elected mayor in January. The town’s previous mayor, Mike Perkis, died of pancreatic cancer last fall.

Two candidates, Jennifer Holland and Paul Boehm, declared their intention to run but later withdrew — a decision that means a May 19 runoff is less likely. Still, candidates must receive a certain number of the total votes cast to win outright on Tuesday.

The newly elected members will be sworn in during the Council’s June meeting.

Some of the other hot topics awaiting the new council members will include whether to adopt a paid parking system on the island, managing the island’s coyote population and setting policy for almost 100 acres of newly formed beach property.

O’Neil said he expects a “pretty good” turnout of the island’s are 1,637 voters. About 51 percent voted in January’s special mayoral election.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.