JAMES ISLAND -- An emotional evening of farewells and sentimental recollections by departing Town Council members did not include Mayor Mary Clark.

Clark, who was defeated in elections Aug. 3, chose not to attend either of this month's council meetings -- one tonight and the other Aug.10. The meetings would have been the last at which Clark, who helped found the town, could have held the gavel.

Clark said earlier that in light of the voters' preference for Bill Woolsey, she preferred to step away from the arena. Woolsey, who watched from the audience tonight, has been sworn in but doesn't take office until Sept. 1.

Also absent was Councilman Parris Williams. Councilman Bill "Cubby" Wilder presided over the meeting.

After postponing scheduled action on the town's budget until the newly elected mayor and council can review it, council members who were present each spoke about the years they devoted to the town.

Clark was praised by Wilder and Councilmen Joe Qualey, both of whom won't be on the new council, for the many years she devoted to founding and defending the town. But both men noted, and lamented, that their relationships with Clark had recently become strained.

"We all wish things had been a little different," said Qualey, who is leaving Town Council to run for Charleston County Council. Qualey choked with emotion as he thanked his wife, Heidi, and their sons, Kevin and Paul, for allowing him to serve the town for more than six years.

Qualey also had advice for Woolsey: "Govern with a steady hand, not with a heavy hand."

Also speaking was Councilman Leonard Blank, the lone current member of the council to be re-elected. He said he will miss departing council members but looks forward to being on the new council. "I hope I am not losing any friends," he added.

Read more in tomorrow's Post and Courier.