Councilman announces candidacy

Gary Santos

MOUNT PLEASANT — Standing upon waterfront property he helped obtain for public benefit, Councilman Gary Santos announced Monday what most already had assumed — that he intends to be this town's next elected mayor.

Santos, a 13-year council member, was the first officially to throw his hat into the ring after Harry Hallman resigned Wednesday because of Alzheimer's disease. The Inchcape Shipping Services port manager gave a short speech in the vestibule of Memorial Waterfront Park's visitor center surrounded by his wife Karen, children Christopher, 20, and Taylor, 15, and supporters he's won through building the town's recreation programs.

"My announcement is a bittersweet one, which must be made in a timely manner, as I truly believe that our residents may take comfort in a candidate who has worked with and supported Mayor Hallman in many of his endeavors," Santos said.

One of those endeavors was the Waterfront Park under construction at the foot of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on land Santos asked the Department of Transportation to donate to the town. The park, Park West recreation facilities and road improvements to Hungryneck Boulevard and U.S. Highway 17 will leave indelible imprints on the fabric of Mount Pleasant, he said.

Bonds on some of those projects will be paid off in the next three years, taking some of the strain off the town's already stretched budget.

"Our administrator and staff have been excellent at continuing to operate the town without having to raise taxes. I clearly see us continuing to do that," he said.

John C. Crotts, College of Charleston professor and director of its Hospitality and Tourism Management department, was one of about 21 people who came to support Santos. Crotts said Santos helped his children secure scholarships as a member of the Mount Pleasant Scholarship Foundation, a program started under former Mayor Johnnie Dodds.

"I have for many years been out in community helping better our citizens and the kids," Santos said. "We have a choice in life: Put revenues and resources toward our children or we can hire more police and build more jails."

Hallman's seat is up for election in November. Mayor Pro Tem Kruger Smith will act as mayor until the general election. Councilmen Billy Swails and Joe Bustos also are expected to run.