Beaufort City Council will be different after the Nov. 4 elections -- just how different will be up to voters.
Two seats are open, but only one incumbent, Donnie Beer, is seeking reelection. Councilman Mike Sutton is sticking to a pledge he made while running in 2010 to exit after two terms.
Former Port Royal and Ridgeland town administrator Phil Cromer, businessman Stephen Murray and former mayor Bill Rauch are also seeking one of the two seats, to be determined in the at-large, nonpartisan election.
City Council has a mayor and four council members, each elected to four-year terms. Council members receive an annual stipend of $4,800, the mayor, $6,000.
Beer, 73, of Pigeon Point, was a notary and wedding planner, but has largely retired to focus on her volunteer work. She has served on City Council since 1990, is a disaster-assistance volunteer with the Red Cross and volunteers with Healing Heroes of the Lowcountry, among other local organizations.
Beer wants to continue work on projects already in progress, including street improvements, the Civic Master Plan and the effort to fill the Beaufort Commerce Park.
"I don't make promises, because even though you might mean that promise with all your heart, you're just one of five people on council," she said. "I won't make promises, because I don't want to break one. But I will always do the absolute best I can for everyone."
Cromer, 64, recently moved from Columbia to the Spanish Point neighborhood with his wife, Amelie. He spent the past 23 years as a risk-management consultant for the Municipal Association of South Carolina. He previously worked for the Lowcountry Council of Governments and served as the Ridgeland town administrator and Port Royal town manager.
In talking with voters, his focus has narrowed to a few areas -- fiscal responsibility, infrastructure improvements and a more business-friendly environment.
"I will do my best to be a good steward of the tax dollars and listen to (the people)," he said. "I think that's what's most important, that we listen to what the people think is important and not what we think is important to them."
Murray, 33, lives in Pigeon Point, is president of Kazoobie Kazoos and owns New South Shirts. He sits on the city's Redevelopment Commission and recently completed a term as chairman of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's board of trustees.
He said that during the campaign, he's heard from many who want to get long-discussed projects completed. There also is a longing for better management of city expenses and more open government, Murray said.
"All of (my experiences) have given me firsthand knowledge of the challenges for our city," he said. "So from day one, if I take office, I will already be up to speed on the issues and ready to hit the ground running."
Rauch, 63, is a ghostwriter who moved back into the city just in time to run for office. He was elected to City Council in 1993 and to the mayor's post for the first of three terms in 1999. He resigned in 2008 after insider-trading allegations against him, which he has said were resolved with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
He has pledged to cut taxes and spending. Rauch has also said he wants to sell the Beaufort Commerce Park and cut back on planning projects unless there are funding streams that do not cost taxpayers.
"Let's make sure we talk about the issues, because the issues are very, very clear," he said. "...It's also very, very clear that there is a clear choice between those who want to hit the reset button and those who are alright with the status quo."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.