110917 Pawleys Island: Voters give mayor-elect mandate to stay the course
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Jimmy Braswell, in checked shirt, accepts congratulations on election night.

Pawleys Island: Voters give mayor-elect mandate to stay the course

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

In business there are three choices, Jimmy Braswell said. “Correct decisions, wrong decisions and indecision. Indecision will kill you.”

Voters in the town of Pawleys Island ignored the third option and gave Braswell an overwhelming majority in his campaign for mayor. He won 60-21 over Doug Hooks to become the fifth mayor in the town’s 32-year history.

“To me it basically says the folks who voted want to keep things on the same path Bill Otis had them on,” Braswell said. “I feel fortunate I got the support I did.”

The 81 votes cast, including 11 absentee ballots, represented 59 percent of the 138 registered voters. It was the first time the island’s voters have gone to the polls since 2005 and the first contested election since 2003. Mayor Bill Otis announced in January that he would step down after 20 years in office. Council Member Mike Adams is also retiring from the council seat he has held for 18 years.

Guerry Green will fill the vacant seat alongside the incumbent council members Ashley Carter, Rocky Holliday and Sarah Zimmerman. Leda McIntyre Hall, who has been a regular attendee at council meetings for the last two years, failed to win a seat on council. Green and Zimmerman each had 66 votes. Carter had 63, Holliday 61 and Hall 24.

There were also about two dozen people who arrived at the polling place in Pawleys Island Community Church but learned that they are not voters in the town, which only includes the island itself. “Some people were new. Other people saw the ‘Vote Here’ sign,” said Rita Smith, the poll manager. “Most people understood.”

The mayor and new council will be sworn in Monday. The town is soliciting bids from contractors to build a new Town Hall. It is completing a three-year project to move electric and cable TV lines underground and has engineers working on plans for a project to pump 725,000 cubic yards of offshore sand onto 2.7 miles of beach. “We’re the ones who have got to move all that stuff forward,” Braswell said.

The council voted last month to hold a nonbinding referendum on the beach project, estimated to cost $11.8 million. Some residents have argued the town needs to revise the beach nourishment project to include more sand and account for the cost of maintaining the beach in the future.

The town has faced tough decisions in the past, but the council made them with the goal of “keeping Pawleys Pawleys,” Braswell said. That’s the model held up during the campaign.

He and his family began vacationing on Pawleys Island 30 years ago, staying in Mullet Hall on the creek at the island’s north end. He and his wife Ann bought a house on Myrtle Avenue in 2001 and moved to the island three years ago after he retired from a career in the textile and furniture industries. Braswell said the island reminds him of the place where he spent summers while growing up in Lumberton, N.C. His grandmother had a cottage in the Ocean Drive section of Myrtle Beach that was built in 1917.

Braswell served two years on the town Planning Commission. Off the island, he is a volunteer docent at Hobcaw Barony.

The shift in operations from the mayor to the town administrator over the last three years will make the transition easier, Braswell said. Administrator Ryan Fabbri “is fabulous at what he does,” he added.

“I’m a firm believer in plan and be ready when you can,” Braswell said. “When something happens that you were surprised by, make your best decision and move forward.”

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