MOUNT PLEASANT — Mayor Harry Hallman announced Tuesday that he has symptoms associated with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and that he does not know how long he can continue to perform his duties as mayor.
"I can only ask for your understanding as I adjust to the consequences that will surely progress over time," Hallman said. "I will trust my family and close friends to tell me when it is time to step aside and say goodbye."
Hallman delivered news of his condition in a pre-recorded video message. "I didn't know whether I could get through it or not," he said.
Hallman spoke briefly after the video presentation, and received a standing ovation from more than 100 people who filled Council Chambers, including several local legislators and family members.
Hallman, who was elected mayor in 2000, received a framed letter from Republican presidential candidate John McCain. "Your early endorsement was crucial to my success in the Lowcountry. Thank you for your support and friendship. Godspeed, my friend," McCain said.
Councilman Billy Swails was overcome with emotion as he tried to read a prepared statement, so Mayor Pro-Tem Kruger Smith read it for him. It cited Hallman's years of service as a legislator, and his invaluable assistance in securing state and federal funds for the town. "Some of us are still calling you 'Pork Barrel Harry.' You are a man of vision and intelligence. You have our sincere appreciation and affection," Smith said.
Hallman noted that both President Ronald Reagan and former Gov. Carroll Campbell were stricken with Alzheimer's. "We shake our heads in silent sympathy when we hear of a friend or relative who has received this diagnosis. No one is immune regardless of their station in life," he said.
"I am a very proud man who chooses to suffer tragedies within the comfort of my family and closest friends. But as your mayor, I feel that I have an obligation to let you know what my condition is. I can only ask for your understanding as I adjust to the consequences that will surely progress over time. I do not know, and my doctors do not know, how long I can continue to perform my duties as your mayor," he said.
Hallman, 73, said he would devote the rest of his time in office to raising money for the town's transportation network. "In order to focus my energy on this important mission, I will restrict some of my meetings and honorary obligations," he said.
"Do not feel sorry for me. Instead, celebrate the joys of this life with me, whenever possible. Every day has become more precious than the last, and you my friends, are a great source of pleasure and support for me."
Reach Prentiss Findlay at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5711.