SUMMERVILLE -- The change of guard took place right where tradition would want in this historic town, the door to Eva's Restaurant.
Mayor-elect Bill Collins walked into the six-decade-old Hutchinson Square institution Wednesday morning just as Mayor Berlin Myers walked out. Myers, the iconic leader of Summerville for nearly a half century, has a well-earned reputation for rising early and being prompt. He congratulated his successor and looked at his watch.
"You're going to be the mayor now," Myers said. "You've got to get in there earlier than 7:15."
That's how it started for Collins, 68, the day after he won more than half the votes in a three-way race to replace Myers, 94, who decided not to run again. Collins will be sworn in June 20.
He stepped to his table with people greeting, "Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor, how are you?" Collins sat with his wife, Margaret Collins, for a breakfast of two over-medium eggs, corned beef hash, grits, raisin toast and coffee -- a little bit of victory indulgence, more than he and Margaret usually would allow him.
From there the ebullient Collins began answering messages on a cell phone so overrun with them that as he worked his way down the list, new ones would show up from calls made the night before. Most were friends; he joked and laughed as easily as he turned serious when issues were brought up. The calls were relentless, and Collins is a gabber and a relentless kidder. This is a man who has fun working.
"Stop me," he told an interviewer, "or I'll keep up all this if you let me."
From there it was a meeting with Lachlan McIntosh, his campaign adviser, clearing up details like removing signs, completing payments for a voter poll he commissioned during the campaign and paying the Miler Country Club tab for his victory party the night before.
Next up were the rounds of media interviews before heading out to a Town Council meeting that night. Meanwhile, the phone kept ringing.
"This just ... never stops," Collins said waving his hand dismissively as he reached for it. "Yes, sir," he answered in a bass boom of a radio voice.
So far, the mayor job wasn't much different than the newspaper editor/publisher job Collins held for years at the Summerville Journal-Scene. He conceded that with a nod as he took notes on a reporter's notepad. And it did, as he said, fit him comfortably. He is in his element. It seems everyone in Summerville knows Collins; he jokes that almost everyone in Summerville has worked for him.
"It can be exhausting, but it's fun. Energizing. It beats sitting here worrying about my poor golf game," he teased. He and McIntosh turned to the next step -- putting together a working order of how to tackle priorities that Collins plans to start with one-on-one meetings with town department heads.
Collins turned up for the council meeting Wednesday night eagerly rubbing his hands together, walking with council members who had gathered in the break room behind their dais. He took a seat by himself in the audience but soon was shaking hands with residents who came over to congratulate him.
He had begun to work.
Earlier, in a radio interview with local talk show host Rocky D, Collins deflected a question about recent problems in the town surrounding the Confederate battle flag, a no-smoking ordinance, missing money. He treated the radio host to a rendition of "Danny Boy" that got the studio hands clapping.
"Mayor Bill from Summerville," Collins teased the host. "You know, it has a little ring to it."