Chairman Weston Newton will step down from the Beaufort County Council on Dec. 3 to begin a two-year term in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Council Vice Chairman Paul Sommerville will become acting chairman once Newton resigns. Council will elect a new officers early next year once newly-elected members are sworn in.
Newton's departure has been expected since June, when he defeated fellow Councilman Jerry Stewart in the Republican primary for the House District 120 seat nomination. He ran unopposed for the redrawn, Bluffton-area seat Nov. 6.
State law bars officials from serving on a county council and in the state legislature simultaneously.
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Friday's announcement marks the end of an era for Newton, who has served on council for 13 years and has been its chairman for a decade.
"Anytime you invest 13 years of your life into something, then it's very much bittersweet," he said Friday. "I've met and had the occasion to work with some exceptional people. I feel like we have made a lot of progress and made a difference."
Newtonwill be sworn in to his House seat Dec. 3 or 4 and will begin his service in Columbia on Dec. 4. He expects to learn committee assignments and other duties in the GOP-contolled body once it reconvenes in January.
SPECIAL ELECTION NEEDED
The county's Board of Voter Registration and Elections already has set a timeline to elect Newton's replacement in District 9, which includes neighborhoods around Old Town Bluffton, Daufuskie Island and developments in the New Riverside area. Tabor Vaux, the son of Bluffton attorney Roberts Vaux, said last month that he intends to run for the seat, according to Bluffton Today. He didn't return a phone call Friday seeking comment.
Scott Marshall, executive director of the county's Board of Voter Registration and Elections, said candidates for the seat must file between Nov. 30 and Dec. 10. Party primaries will be Jan. 29. The general election is scheduled for March 19.
A NEW CHAIRMAN
When the new council convenes in early January, choosing a chairman and vice chairman will be among its first duties.
The chariman runs council meetings, sets the agenda, makes committee appointments and often is called on to attend ribbon cuttings and grand openings.
Sommerville is the only councilman to say publicly he is interested in being chairman, a position he reiterated Friday.
Sommerville said the board will miss Newton's institutional knowledge, experience and leadership.
"It's going to be challenging transition when he leaves," Sommerville said. "I am not suggesting we are going to falter or flounder, but he will be missed."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.