Mike McFee and George O'Kelley Jr. will retain their seats on Beaufort City Council for another four years, but not by large vote margins.
McFee received 39 percent of the vote Tuesday. O'Kelley won 32 percent, and newcomer Pete Palmer, 28 percent, according to unofficial returns. The three were competing for two open seats.
Winning the most votes, McFee said he intends to continue to be a productive member of council, including serving on multiple committees. But he said the voting results and feedback he received during the campaign show that better communication with residents is needed, and he promised to pay more attention to their concerns.
McFee, 54, is a Realtor and is completing his first term on council. He said he ran for a second term so he could continue work on projects already under way, such as diversifying the economy and the proposed form-based code being vetted by an advisory committee.
O'Kelley, 70, an attorney, has the most council experience of the candidates. He served in the 1970s, resigned to become a municipal judge, served another term in the 2000s and served briefly as interim mayor after the resignation of Bill Rauch. He left the council only to return again in July 2011, when he won a special election to replace friend Gary Fordham, who died in office.
"This is going to mean I can continue to try and do my best for the citizens of Beaufort and try to get a finalization for some of the projects that we're working on," O'Kelley said, naming the Beaufort Commerce Park, form-based code and the Boundary Street project as examples.
Palmer, 76, is a retired CIA spy and businessman who moved to Beaufort in 1999. He said his capturing 28 percent of the vote indicates a desire by many residents for change.
"A certain amount of this is a protest vote and people not feeling there's enough transparency, and I think they're trying to speak," he said. "If that's what the numbers are, then that tells me that at least a quarter of the populace thinks we can do better."
Mayor Billy Keyserling was unopposed in his re-election bid.