The Bluffton Town Council will retain its current makeup following Tuesday’s municipal election.
Incumbent Councilmen Fred Hamilton and Larry Toomer were the top two vote-winners in a three-candidate race, defeating challenger and former council member Ted Huffman, according to unofficial results reported Tuesday night by the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
There were two seats on the five-member council up for grabs in the election.
With just over 94 percent of ballots counted as of about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Toomer led the way with 905 votes. Hamilton was second with 772 votes. Huffman had 446 votes.
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Of the town’s nearly 15,000 registered voters, about 1,200 cast ballots in the election, according to board of elections data.
Toomer — who owns Bluffton Oyster Co. and was first elected to the council in 2012 — thanked his supporters Tuesday night, saying, “I’m just very grateful to everyone who voted and believed in me.”
Hamilton, who has owned several local businesses since retiring from the U.S. Army, was first elected to the council in 2005. After leaving public office for two years, he was elected again in 2012.
After the unofficial results were released Tuesday night, Hamilton said it was “a humbling experience” to be re-elected.
“It is rewarding to know the voters recognized the hard work in the campaign and the work I’ve done (as a member of the council) for the last four years,” he said.
Huffman, owner of Bluffton BBQ, was elected in 2012 and served one term on the board before losing his seat after the 2015 election.
“If there’s one thing I know how to be, it’s a good loser,” he said Tuesday night. “I think we ran a good race.”
Both Hamilton and Toomer said they were pleased to serve another term with the current group of council members.
“I feel like the accomplishments we’ve made in the past two years are something to be very proud of personally,” Toomer said.
Hamilton said he plans to spend the coming term working to “grow smart” in relation to new development in Bluffton. Improving housing affordability will also be a major priority, he said.
Toomer said he plans to focus much of his effort on ways to improve the water quality in the May River and finding solutions to parking issues in the town’s historic district.
While Huffman said “there’s not a whole lot of sour grapes here,” he did take issue with the town’s recent parking projects.
Town leaders “still have a lackluster, piecemeal attitude (toward adding parking to the Old Town area), and I’ll continue to be critical of that,” he said.
Huffman also took issue with voter turnout.
“The lack of participation — with the off-year elections — is sad, but I guess it works for (the current council members),” Huffman said. “They are real comfortable with the clique they have going.”
The council is up made of the Mayor Lisa Sulka and four at-large council members. Officials serve overlapping four year terms and town elections are held every two years. Sulka, along with Councilmen Harry Lutz and Dan Wood were not up for re-election this year.
The official election results will be certified Thursday morning by the Bluffton Municipal Election Commission.
Yemassee election results:
These results were updated on Nov. 9 after a recount.
Colin Moore, a current council member, won the mayoral race with 104 votes, a close run against two other current council members, Daniel Anderson III with 96 votes and Peggy Bing-O’Banner with 95 votes. Bing-O’Banner will stay on as a Yemassee Town Council member.
Michelle Hagan and Charles “Chuck” Simmons won the two open council seats with 151 votes and 130 votes, respectively. The pair were in the race against incumbent council member Jordan “JJ” Jinks with 78 votes, current mayor Jerry Cook with 75 votes and Jerry Thompson with 42 votes.
A special election will be held in the coming weeks to fill the council seat Moore will be vacating.