If you want to understand what happened in the James Island election this week, you just have to look at the last man standing.

Councilman Leonard Blank is the only incumbent who survived Tuesday's voting, a bloodbath in which even Queen Mary was dethroned -- ending a contentious reign.

So how is it that Blank survived the anti-incumbency mood sweeping the nation and, apparently, Lowcountry sea islands?

Well, it may be because he tried to stop the questionable decision to give Mayor Mary Clark's son $75,000 to run the town's website and develop a computer mapping system. It could be because he led the charge against a ludicrous plan for the minimalist town to seize McLeod Plantation.

Or maybe it was just because Blank and his partner in common sense, Councilman Joe Qualey (who didn't seek re-election because he's running for Charleston County Council), saw the importance of a timely, legal and balanced budget.

Nah.

Voters probably re-elected Blank because he's one of the few people who hasn't embarrassed James Island lately.

Local holiday

This election marks a real turning point for the upstart -- and possibly soon to be court-dissolved -- little town.

Mary Clark long has been the face of James Island, and even her detractors give her props for her work getting the town formed (and re-formed when the courts dissolved it the last time).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the polls, which were mysteriously moved in the weeks before the vote. The town tore up some guy's yard and never fixed it, despite council votes to make good on the damage; there was an attempt to oust the town election commission chairwoman; and sales tax "rebate" checks showed up in mailboxes on the eve of the vote.

At the center of all of this was Clark. Townsfolk say she was ruling Jim Isle like the dictator she often accused Joe Riley of being: She alone set the agenda, and a couple of council members, reportedly including Blank, had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to find out what was going on (even though you didn't need paperwork to know things were screwed up).

And then the mayor occasionally would just blow up at folks with problems who showed up at meetings unannounced. When people complained about her, she would derisively declare it another "Hate Mary Day."

Turns out, that was actually Tuesday.

A new day

All those people who came out to choose between the 10 council candidates obviously wanted a change. Hence former Councilman Bill Woolsey beating Clark by a 2-to-1 margin to become the new mayor.

Woolsey told The Post and Courier this week that the town should not exist only to hate Joe Riley, which is how it's been for a long time. The town began as an annexation shield; it doesn't even provide enough services to charge for property taxes. It's at the heart of an ongoing court battle.

Now Woolsey, along with Blank and three new council members, have a chance to change course and set different priorities for the town. That might mean dropping plans to bankroll a Civil War film or grab plantations, and instead spend that money fixing a few ditches.