Mt. Pleasant field shaping up


MOUNT PLEASANT — Two possible contenders for mayor have surfaced, and a third said Thursday that he is keeping his options open.

Town Councilman Gary Santos has a news conference planned for Monday at Memorial Waterfront Park. Santos reportedly will announce his plans to run for mayor, but he would neither confirm nor deny whether he will seek the office.

Harry M. Hallman Jr. resigned as mayor Wednesday because of his Alzheimer's disease. Mayor Pro Tem Kruger Smith will be acting mayor until the November general election. Smith said he will not campaign for mayor and he plans to retire from council after serving 24 years.

A source said Councilman Billy Swails also will enter the mayor's race. "I'm not denying it at this time but I'm not confirming it because I think we need time for a transition period," Swails said. "It's way too early for anybody to be deciding to run for mayor."

Councilman Joe Bustos did not rule out a run for mayor. "I'm just waiting to see what's what," Bustos said. "I'm just keeping my options open and my powder dry."

Hallman was nearing the end of his second term as mayor when he announced last June that he had been diagnosed with symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. At that time, he said he intended to finish his term.

On Tuesday, he told Town Council that he would retire because he felt it was in the best interest of the town. Smith became acting mayor without a need for a special election to fill Hallman's unexpired term because there are less than 180 days until the general election in November.

The mayor's job is a part-time position that pays about $15,000 annually.

Santos is a port manager with Inchcape Shipping Services who has served on council since 1996. He is chairman of the Council Recreation Committee, and a member of the Bids & Purchases, Personnel, and Planning & Development committees.

Swails, a State Farm insurance agent, served on council from 1976-84. In 2006, he was elected to fill the two-year unexpired term of Joe McKeown, who was elected to County Council. Swails said he plans to run for a four-year term in November. He is chairman of the Finance and Water Supply committees, and a member of the Planning & Development and Recreation committees.

Bustos, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and local businessman, was elected to council in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. He is chairman of the Bids & Purchases Committee and a member of the Annexation, Economic Development and Personnel committees. He serves on the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority board.