Special election needed to fill Baer seat on Beaufort County Council

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 25, 2013 

Steve Baer

Beaufort County could spend as much as $36,000 for a special election later this year to fill the County Council seat Steve Baer plans to vacate.

Baer, among the council's most fiscally conservative members, said that cost is a trifle compared to inefficiencies in setting the county's budget that lead him to resign his District 10 seat effective July 31.

"I would have loved to stay if we had had a system of budgets that produced consistent numbers week to week that we could work on as a team," he said. "I think we waste more money in one meeting than an election will cost."

Assuming Baer's plans to step down hold firm, the seat representing a portion of Hilton Head Island won't be filled until Dec. 3, according to Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections director Scott Marshall.

The election, which could include party primaries, party runoffs and a general election, will cost between $24,000 and $36,000, he said.

The filing period for the seat would open Aug. 16 and close 10 days later.

Baer offered more details Tuesday about his planned resignation, which he dropped unexpectedly during a council meeting Monday after he was in the minority of a 6-5 vote to approve the 2014 budget.

Throughout the two-month budget review, Baer lamented a lack of clarity and transparency in the presentation of budget information. For instance, two budget proposals with different line items were floating around at the same time, creating confusion, he said.

After several last-minute changes Monday afternoon before the vote, Baer said it was hard to know which items were included in the final budget and which weren't.

"We should have discussed each and every line and come up with a consensus so there were only minor changes (needed at the last minute) that everyone understood," he said. "Here, there were major changes right as we are walking into the room (for a final vote.)"

Baer dismisses the notion that he is letting people down by leaving his second four-year term with 18 months to go.

"Someone else competent will take my place," he said, adding that he's not yet aware of anyone interested in running.

"They will have a year head start on the process and hopefully run again as an incumbent. Secondly, I have worked seven days a week for six-and-a-half years, so I certainly don't feel I am letting folks down."

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