Port Royal residents headed to the polls Tuesday with three options to fill two open seats on Town Council for the next four years. The polls closed at 7 p.m. and results will be published here when they are available.
The two incumbents and one write-in candidate faced off during a candidates forum Monday night at Port Royal Elementary School before an audience of more than 60.
There was Vernon DeLoach, 84, the plain-spoken, upfront conservative; Mary Beth Gray Heyward, 58 the hometown girl who says she wants to build a stable community; and Lundy Baker, 52, the entreprenuer who aims to give a fresh perspective.
DeLoach is a retired construction representative for the U.S. Navy and has served on council for more than 14 years. Heyward is director of clinical services at Lowcountry Medical Group, and has served on council about 23 years. Baker is manager of Park Beaufort and co-owner of The Lollipop Shop in Beaufort. This write-in candidacy is his first attempt at public office.
Newcomer Lee Helena Jr. withdrew his candidacy last week.
Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director Blakely Williams moderated the forum, with questions ranging from how to get the Port of Port Royal sold and developed, to the ongoing branding effort, to the recent controversy over the design of a proposed Parker's gas station and convenience store.
The questions about Parker's riled up Heyward, who said she and DeLoach had been advised not to talk about it for legal reasons. "I understand Mr. Parker's desire for the proposed location because of the visibility it has, but that's why it's so important we get the design and scale right," she said.
DeLoach's concerns are that eight pumps are too many and the traffic pattern on Ribaut Road will be dangerous, although he wants something to happen on that corner of Paris Avenue and Ribaut.
"Surely there's going to be a death there in the next few years, and is that Parker's station worth that? I don't think so," he said.
Baker repeatedly expressed his confidence that following the town's master plans and making things clear-cut for businesses such as Parker's will help bolster the town's economy.
"Those small businesses can help the community grow and do more," Baker said. "But the businesses have to be what the constituents want."
Heyward said the branding effort is one way the town will define what businesses it needs and wants.
"We don't want to willy nilly 'OK, you can open a business,'" she said. "It's very important to us what is built and where it is built."
DeLoach said sound planning can help pull Port Royal up economically and move forward. He's open to ideas for developing the north side of Ribaut, which has been a challenge, he said.
Resident input and interaction will be key to solving those issues, and council members need to listen, Baker said.
"It's going to take a group, a community, to understand what we need to do next," he said.
The National Weather Service is predicting a high near 67 degrees on Election Day. There is a slight chance of showers.
Port Royal elections typically have low voter turnout. No election was held in 2011 because three candidates ran for three seats. In 2009, however, DeLoach and Heyward won with 183 and 151 votes, respectively, out of 561 votes cast. The previous two elections saw 355 and 293 votes.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.