Native islander, attorney to run for Hilton Head ward 1 seat

tbarton@islandpacket.comAugust 14, 2012 

Native islander Charles Houston hopes to bridge a divide in island politics between Hilton Head Island's gated communities and less-affluent black voters.

Houston, 71, a Hilton Head attorney and son of the late Rev. Charles Houston -- an island pastor and civic leader -- filed Tuesday to run in the Nov. 6 general election representing Ward 1 on Town Council.

He faces incumbent council member Bill Ferguson, 64, and fellow native islander Marc Grant, 42, owner of Grant's Mini Mart on Hilton Head.

For decades the area stood in "dire contrast to the upscale affluence and opulence of the tourists and retirement communities" on Hilton Head, Houston said Tuesday. That bred native islander mistrust and antagonism toward town government, Houston said. Native islanders felt the gated communities had marginalized their interests, especially when it came to zoning and land-use issues and access to central water and sewer, he said.

Though many of those issues have been resolved, work remains to be done and new leadership is needed to help Ward 1 "transcend and progress" from "being separate and antagonistic towards the larger island community," Houston said.

He believes his work as a lawyer gives him the ability to be an effective advocate and negotiator for Ward 1 "so the greatest good for the island is accomplished."

"It's that ability to give-and-take, advocate and communicate that's needed to maintain an aura of cooperation necessary to move proposal and legislation forward," Houston said.

He was quick to add he was not criticizing Ferguson's performance on Council.

"My running is in no way reactionary to his terms in office," Houston said. Ferguson is the longest serving member on the council.

"I have this desire to serve my community and I have been an advocate for people all my life."

If elected, Houston said he will:

  • Work with the local chamber of commerce to attract more tourists to Ward 1, providing economic support for area businesses

  • Support efforts to extend recreational offerings to the area under plans for a Chaplin Linear Park and proposed water park off Squire Pope Road

  • Implement a beautification program for the north-end and intensify efforts to pave dirt roads, bury power lines and install water and sewer service

  • "I'm for anything that will enhance the lifestyle and cosmetic appearance of Ward 1 to make it more homogenous with the island as a whole," he said. "I want to eliminate any stark contrast visitors may feel when they leave a resort" and go to Ward 1.

    Filing closes at noon today.

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