Folly drama

Folly Beach mayor-elect Tim Goodwin hopes to improve the city's communication with residents. He received a congratulatory phone call asking when the swearing-in would be during an interview Wednesday afternoon on Center Street.

FOLLY BEACH -- As Mayor Carl Beckmann moved boxes out of his office Wednesday afternoon, Mayor-elect Tim Goodwin stopped less than a block away, choosing to talk in front of a taco restaurant rather than keep walking toward City Hall.

"I don't want to aggravate him," Goodwin said of his former rival. "I want to stay out of his way."

Goodwin spoke softly less than a day after Folly voters spoke loudly, decisively tossing out Beckmann after a single term.

City Councilman Goodwin won 56 percent of the vote, while Beckmann received only 16 percent. Folly Councilman Eddie Ellis finished with the second most votes, about 27 percent. The results are expected to be certified today.

Several people said Beckmann's dramatic loss didn't stem from what he did as much as how he did it. They say politics is not just about making good decisions; it's about making -- and keeping -- friends.

"I think that in some ways, Carl was an effective manager, but personality issues clearly clouded the atmosphere," Folly resident Robert New said. "The animosity and conflicts on council clearly hurt him in this campaign."

Susan Breslin, who is in a runoff with Laura Beck for Folly's third City Council seat, agreed. She said at one point, Beckmann decided not to give parking stickers to renters, unless they bothered to drop by his office.

Beckmann acknowledged a misunderstanding concerning parking in the city, "but we corrected that." Still, Breslin questioned his leadership approach.

"He acted as a sovereign, a king or a pope or something like that," she said, "and Folly Beach is not the kind of place where you can put on airs."

Beckmann said he was surprised by Tuesday's results but acknowledged, "It could be that people didn't agree with my management style and the way I do things. But as far as I'm concerned, I think I did a good job. As far as my staff is concerned, I think they think I did a good job."

Beckmann was swept into office four years ago riding a wave of anti-development sentiment. But the economic downturn largely solved that problem, and there wasn't a burning issue here that replaced it in this election.

Goodwin said he doesn't differ much from Beckmann as far as Folly's major issues, which include litter, tourist traffic, dogs on the beach and expanding City Hall.

But Goodwin said council members and residents felt like Beckmann didn't provide them with enough information to make decisions.

Goodwin said his top priority will be improving the city's Web site and other electronic communication.

"There was a strong sense by a lot of people, including council members, that they weren't in the loop as to what the mayor was doing," New said.

Goodwin agreed, noting that he didn't learn about the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission's plans for a new park near the Folly Beach Fishing Pier until he read it on the front page of The Post and Courier. "Nobody said anything to the council folks," he said.

Beckmann said he doesn't see how the city could be more transparent, adding, "Council sees everything I see, though they'll tell you that they don't. I'll tell you that they do."

He also said he could not trust council members to keep information in confidence. "If you tell them, it ain't going to stay a secret," he said.

Breslin said people are furious about the planned park because they didn't get a chance to have any input. "They're so angry they can't sort out whether they're angry about the process or angry about the outcome," she said. Goodwin said he wants to learn more about the commission's plans -- and what Folly residents want -- regarding the park site.

About 889 voters cast ballots Tuesday, a respectable turnout of more than 40 percent, but well below the 1,250 ballots that election officials initially said were cast. A computer error led to the wrong total count but did not affect the unofficial results, Folly Election Commission Chair Bob Clair said.

New said Folly voters are "a different breed" who tend to get more involved in their city government.

"We expect hands-on government where everybody gets a say. Everybody is involved, and I'm not sure there was enough of that in the last couple of years," he said. "It's a funky crowd over here."

Beckmann said he has tried to keep Folly's flavor and strike a balance between the town's business interests and its residents, but he often could rub some people the wrong way. He admitted he has told a few residents that if they are so upset with Center Street traffic they should move to Kiawah.

"I said it tongue in cheek, but I told them that," he said.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.