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Elections: Island voters will go to the polls
By Charles Swenson
Voters on Pawleys Island will go to the polls in November for the first time in 12 years, faced with a choice of two candidates for mayor and five for the four seats on Town Council.
Doug Hooks filed last week as the second candidate to replace Bill Otis, who is not running again after 20 years in office. He will face Jimmy Braswell, a member of the town Planning Commission, who filed on the opening day of the two-week filing period that closed Tuesday.
Lida Hall filed last week to run for Town Council. She and Guerry Green are first-time candidates. They will face incumbents Ashley Carter, Rocky Holliday and Sarah Zimmerman. Council Member Mike Adams, the mayor pro tem, decided this month not to seek another term.
Hooks, who lives on Myrtle Avenue, was an Air Force pilot who then flew for Delta for 20 years. He also served in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a planner for the Army. He retired in May. “I find myself with a lot of free time on my hands,” Hooks said.
His family is from Conway, so he’s known about Pawleys Island all his life. It was his wife Sandra who drove their decision to retire to the island after her first visit a few years ago. “She fell in love with it,” Hooks said.
He admires what Otis has done for the island and said “somebody needs to take the baton from the mayor and run with it.” The town is completing a project to move electric and cable television lines underground. It is planning a beach nourishment project and construction of a new Town Hall. Those are all worthwhile projects, Hooks said.
Although the town spent $1.3 million more than it took in during 2016, that was due to a one-time payment for the utility project and costs incurred after Hurricane Matthew. Hooks is confident the town’s finances are sound. He wouldn’t rule out a property tax, “depending on what the tax is for,” he said.
Like Hooks, Hall is making her first run for political office. She taught public administration and nonprofit management at Indiana University for 20 years. She teaches an online class in health administration part-time for George Washington University. She first came to Pawleys Island as a vacationer 40 years ago. She lives on Atlantic Avenue.
Hall attends most Town Council meetings. “I just got really interested,” she said. “The issues Town Council gets interested in are true public issues.” She would like to see more people attend council meetings and thinks the town should hold more “town hall” sessions with residents and property owners. “Beach nourishment and building Town Hall might get people’s attention,” Hall said.
She thinks Town Council works well and believes she could contribute. “I’m good at building consensus,” Hall said.
State law doesn’t require municipalities to hold elections if there are no contested races. Pawleys Island invoked that rule after the 2005 election. The last contested election was in 2003 when there were six candidates for council. Otis was unopposed. Of 139 voters, 84 showed up. There are currently 138 active voters on the town’s rolls, according to the Georgetown County Office of Voter Registration and Elections. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 7 election is Oct. 7.
Elections: County Council member faces challenge
Bill Hills is getting an early start on his campaign for Georgetown County Council and the 2020 census. The Murrells Inlet resident said this week he plans to challenge fellow Republican John Thomas for the District 1 seat in the June 2018 primary.
“I think John is a fine man,” Hills said. But Thomas lives in North Litchfield. “Our interests in Murrells Inlet would be better represented” by a resident council member, he said.
Thomas ran unopposed in 2014 to fill the seat held by Jerry Oakley, a Litchfield Country Club resident who was a partner in the former Capt. Dick’s Marina. Oakley succeeded his partner, Tom Swatzel, who was the last inlet resident to serve on council.
After the 2010 census, the District 1 lines were changed to shift Wachesaw Plantation into District 6 while keeping Litchfield Country Club, where Oakley lived, in District 1. Hills said he is looking toward the next round of redistricting to place all of Murrells Inlet in District 1. “We want to see more of Murrells Inlet in Murrells Inlet’s district,” he said.
Thomas said he had hoped to run unopposed in 2018, but is now gearing up for a campaign. Swatzel, who has a political consulting firm, is working for him. “I think I’ve done a lot of good for people in Murrells Inlet,” Thomas said.
To Hills, there is a difference between responding to issues and the awareness that comes from living in the community. He cited litter as an example. Even people who don’t know him personally would probably recognize him as the guy who picks up litter on Highway 17, he said. He proposed County Council form a citizens committee to look at the problem from its source, which he said is trash that blows out of uncovered trucks and trailers. “Why is that not policed?” he asked.
He was told to form a group, but he said without the endorsement of the council there was no guarantee it would buy into a solution. And Hills said it is an issue that needs to be addressed in a community where tourism and quality of life are important.
A McClellanville native, Hills moved to Murrells Inlet in 2001. He spent 35 years with International Paper in timber management and lived for 15 years in Andrews. His connections around Georgetown County will help on council, he said. He currently serves on the County Transportation Committee. He was a member of the committee appointed by County Council to come up with the projects for the capital projects sales tax passed by voters in 2014. That included dredging of channels in Murrells Inlet. “That was a hard sell,” Hills said.
His wife Whitney is the past president of the Murrells Inlet 2020 board, on which she served two terms. Hills said his role was serving chowder at the revitalization group’s events and helping with the Spring Tide cleanup.
Hills considered a run for council in 2014 and even shadowed Oakely for six months. But he said he had just retired and quickly learned that “on Waccamaw Neck, that’s a full time job.” Three years into retirement, he’s now ready to take the job. “I will go to council with a passion to represent the community, not out of obligation,” Hills said. He will do the same for voters in Litchfield, even though he hopes to get them into District 6 one day. “I’m not going to write them off,” Hills said.
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