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

Clark, who was defeated in voting Aug. 3, chose not to attend either of this month's council meetings, one Tuesday night 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 Tuesday, has been sworn in but doesn't take office until Sept. 1.

Also absent Tuesday was Councilman Parris Williams, who was defeated in a re-election bid. Councilman 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 Councilman Joe Qualey, neither of whom will be on the new council, for the many years she devoted to founding and defending the town. Both men also 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.

Wilder, who recalled initial fundraising efforts needed to create the town, said none of it would have been possible without Clark. "Mary was a warrior," Wilder said, adding that before the recent election, differences between him and Clark caused her to distance herself from him.

"Mary got so bitter, she said, 'Do not support me.' But I did," he confided. "That's where my loyalties are, that's where my convictions are."

Wilder, who also lost his re-election bid, told of recruiting Clark to town-founding efforts after she had written a newspaper column supporting the idea, and of meeting Qualey at a public forum and getting him involved.

Wilder had some advice for incoming Mayor Woolsey, who has said he spoke with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley about issues the two mayors might cooperate on.

"Keep your eye on Mayor Riley. He might sneak up behind you and try some tactics," Wilder said of the Charleston mayor, whose lawsuits twice resulted in courts ruling that the town of James Island did not incorporate legally.

A third suit by Charleston is pending in the state Supreme Court.

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.

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560 or efennell@postandcourier.com.