James Island Mayor Mary Clark often says the town's survival is her primary goal.
"I promised to fight for the town and the people of James Island until I died or the town was safe," she said. "And you haven't seen my obituary yet."
First, she must win re-election to a fourth two-year term Aug. 3.
She and the four sitting Town Council members faced no opposition two years ago. But the past two years were tumultuous at times in town hall, and now four challengers are battling Clark for the mayor's office and 10 candidates are scrambling for the four council seats.
Despite all the competition this time around, she said she's still the best candidate to lead the town. "Since 1996 I have lived and breathed the town of James Island."
Clark is the only mayor that the second and third incarnations of the town have known. She helped form the town in 1993, and then helped form it again in 2002, after the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a city of Charleston lawsuit claiming the town's incorporation was not legal.
The second version of the town also was struck down by the court, after which Clark, in 2006, helped form it for the third time. Last year Clark
and the town's 22,000 residents were buoyed by a circuit court ruling that the town's third incorporation was done legally. Charleston appealed, and a pending Supreme Court ruling will decide whether the town is real or must once again fold.
As mayor, Clark has had a hand in numerous town issues.
"We have developed our own Planning and Zoning Department, business licenses, building permits and inspections, code enforcement, roads and drainage program, emergency and disaster preparedness, and have established our own court," she said.
She also has opposed extending the Mark Clark Expressway through James Island, and led efforts to file suit to halt a Harbor View Road widening project.
Clark supports historic preservation, and said the town is negotiating with school officials to establish a recreation program.
The town has never levied property taxes. It receives revenue from state aid to subdivisions, business license fees, building permits and the local-option sales tax. A portion of property taxes the county and the James Island Public Service District levy on residents of the town is given to the town, which has sent back to property owners refund checks totaling about $1 million each of the past two years. Clark said she would continue the refunds.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Post and Courier is profiling each of the five James Island mayoral candidates this week. Profiles of the 10 Town Council candidates will appear Thursday in some editions of Your Lowcountry.