JAMES ISLAND -- He won't be sworn in until September, but the town's new mayor-elect vowed late Tuesday to begin working right away with the newly elected Town Council to solve budget issues and dirt road and ditch problems.
"The people of James Island were ready for a change," Bill Woolsey said as the vote count put him well ahead of four challengers, including incumbent Mayor Mary Clark. Woolsey said he hoped Clark would continue her work on the town's History and Preservation Committee, and that she would be available to counsel him as the incoming mayor.
But Clark, who helped found and incorporate the town three times, and who has been the only mayor of the last two incarnations of the town, indicated that's not in her plans.
"The people have spoken," Clark said, adding that she had worked very hard, for years, to give the people of the island a voice like the one it used Tuesday. She said that would be her only comment.
Woolsey, who served from 2002 to 2004 on Town Council, received 39.8 percent of Tuesday's vote to Clark's 19.8 percent. Candidates J. Warren Sloane received 18 percent; Jonathan Brown, 15.1 percent; and Brett Skibo Johnson 7.3 percent, according to unofficial returns. Only some provisional and fail-safe ballots remained to be counted, Charleston County election officials said.
The voters' apparent desire for change carried over to the Town Council races, where at least two of the three incumbents seeking re-election were replaced. Newcomers Robin Welch, with 18.5 percent; Carter McMillan, 11.2 percent; and Karen Wilder-Smalls, with 11.1 percent, finished atop the field of 10 candidates. Incumbent Councilman Leonard Blank had 10.8 percent -- enough to edge newcomer Denny McKeever's 10.2 percent, according to unofficial returns.
But Blank did not claim victory late Tuesday, saying he had seen some conflicting numbers and was waiting to see the final, official numbers. Incumbents Bill "Cubby" Wilder and Parris Williams were unseated.
Unofficially, 28 percent of the town's 13,132 voters cast ballots Tuesday. The campaign, especially that for mayor, had been intense, with four well-attended candidates' forums.
Brown congratulated Woolsey on his campaign. "He did a really good job appealing to people on a personal level, and I think he's going to do a great job as mayor," Brown said.
Sloane said after the vote count that he was "obviously disappointed" but pleased that Clark won't be back as mayor.
Johnson applauded the large voter turnout and wished Woolsey success. He applauded Clark. "She deserves a lot of respect," Johnson said. "She's done a lot for the town."
It is not necessary to earn a majority of the votes to win James Island elections. Town election laws require runoffs only in ties at the top.
Woolsey recalled that during the campaign he "knocked on 1,500 doors and spoke to 750 people." Though he said people told him mostly they were undecided about their vote, they overwhelmingly seemed to want a change in town leadership.
In the council race, unofficial returns gave Wilder 9.1 percent; Williams, 8.6 percent; David Engelman 9.2 percent; Darren Troy Mullinax, 6.1 percent; and James Balliet, 5.1 percent.
Voters also approved both binding referendum questions on the ballot. One question sought voter approval for expanding the size of council from four to six members. Voters approved that change roughly 62 percent to 38 percent. The other question asked approval to extend the terms of the mayor elected this year to four years (from two); and the terms of two council members elected Tuesday to four years, establishing a means of "staggering" future council elections. That measure was approved 54 percent to 45 percent.
Bill Woolsey 1,435
Mary Clark 713
J. Warren Sloane 647
Jonathan Brown 543
Brett Skibo Johnson 264
(Four open seats)
Robin Welch 2,278
Carter McMillan 1,380
Karen Wilder-Smalls 1,360
Leonard Blank (i) 1,326
Denny McKeever 1,248
David Engelman 1,130
Bill Cubby Wilder (i) 1,114
Parris Williams (i) 1,060
Darren Troy Mullinax 750
James Balliet 625
Question 1: Increase the number of members of Town Council from four to six:
In favor: 2,150
Question 2: Extend future term of office of mayor and council members and stagger the election of two council members:
In favor: 1,860
Total registered voters: 13,132
Total ballots cast: 3,618
SOURCE: Unofficial results, James Island Municipal Election, Charleston County Board of Elections