Institutional knowledge appeared to have won out in Tuesday’s Hilton Head Island special election, with former island planner and developer David Ames beating out three other candidates for a seat on Town Council.
Ames, an unofficial adviser to Mayor David Bennett who once helped plan Hilton Head Plantation and develop Long Cove Club, won 64.6 percent of the vote for the Ward 3 seat Tuesday, according to unofficial results late Tuesday. The Board of Voter Registration and Elections of Beaufort County’s Board of Canvassers meets Thursday at 10 a.m. to certify the results.
Ames will replace Councilman Lee Edwards to represent the areas of Ashton Cove, Bay Pines, Brighton Bay, Broad Creek Landing, Broad Creek Marina, Cedar Woods, Old House Creek, Point Comfort, Spanish Wells, Timbercrest, Wexford and Yacht Cove.
Edwards, who was celebrated at his last Town Council meeting earlier that day, won his seat in a five-way race in 2011 and announced his resignation in February — 10 months short of the end of his term. The Greenery president and CEO said he decided to move to a home in Sea Pines, outside of his ward.
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In Tuesday’s race, Ames won 613 votes, restaurateur Brendan Reilley won 287 votes, businessman Palmer Simmons won 31 votes and four-time town council hopeful Ryan McAvoy won 17 votes.
In total, about 17.6 percent of the ward’s 5,400 voters took to the polls.
“I think it bodes well for the community that Brendan Reilley and Palmer Simmons and Ryan McAvoy offered to serve,” Ames said Tuesday night, while celebrating his win at Casey’s Sports Bar & Grille on the south end. “I think that having that kind of young energy interested in our community is positive.”
Ames is a board member of the nonprofit Hilton Head Institute and has previously been chairman of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, the Children’s Center, Hilton Head College Center, Hope Haven of the Lowcountry and the Mayor’s Task Force for the Island’s Future.
He also received the Alice Glenn Doughtie Good Citizenship Award in 2009 and the Marilyn Stein Bellet Award in 2011.
While he says Hilton Head is faced with many challenges and changes, he is most excited to put his planning background to use, especially considering the town embarked on a long-view visioning effort this year.
“I’ve concentrated for so long on what’s going to continue making this island a special place, relevant, competitive and something that continues to attract people who are community builders,” he said. “And so I think the visioning process is probably one of my highest priorities.”
He also hopes to help foster greater transparency and clarity for the public, which he says has suffered in part due to ongoing criticism of the town’s relationship with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and a lack of action to address it.
During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, Bennett and several council members expressed doubts that the town had followed its own protocols for procuring the chamber as its designated marketing organization. They echoed the accusations of vocal town and chamber critic Skip Hoagland, who has threatened to sue the town if it does not sever the $1.5 million contract and open it up for bidding.
While Ames declined to comment on the council’s response Tuesday, he said lack of or unclear communication with the public has worked against Hilton Head as a community.
“There’s been so much static around the chamber of commerce and its contract. We just need to clear that up,” Ames said. “It’s a distraction in this community, and I want to play a role in putting that behind us.”
- Hilton Head Town Councilman Edwards to step down, February 19, 2016