Revitalizing Hilton Head Island's economy continues to dominate the island's political debate. Here are the Town Council candidates we think are best prepared to help lead the town over the next four years.
Marc Grant will deliver re-energized representation on Town Council to residents of Ward 1, and voters should not miss this opportunity.
Grant, a native islander, knows the community and has specific ideas about how to move it forward. He is a former teacher and school administrator in Beaufort and Jasper counties and took over the family business, Grant's Mini Market, in 2008.
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He recognizes that focused, consensus-building leadership is required to address key issues. His top issues are improved public services; business investment and local hiring; and preserving the island's Gullah culture.
Grant, 41, also recognizes that Ward 1 should be a vital part of the island's economic and cultural future and should not be thought of as separate and apart.
He has reached out to the community for input on issues. Going to door to door as he campaigns, he's asked these two important questions: What do you want? How can Town Council better serve you?
Grant promises to hold regular meetings to keep his constituents informed and to hear from them. He also promises clear, consistent communication with people in Town Hall. We're confident he'll keep those promises.
He's already working to reduce crime and is practical about what can be expected from law enforcement and from the community. The shooting of 8-year-old Khalil Singleton might have been an isolated incident, Grant said, but it was a wake-up call on what could happen if people don't speak up.
"You hate to see people go to jail," Grant said, "but ... the bigger priority is making sure our children are safe."
Grant is committed to his community, willing to listen and not afraid to speak up. He recognizes the valuable contributions made by people who've moved to Hilton Head over the years. He appreciates all that Hilton Head has to offer.
He would serve Ward 1 well.
Lee Edwards has proved himself a committed, engaged and knowledgeable contributor on Hilton Head Island's Town Council. We ask voters to give him four more years to continue his work on behalf of the town.
Edwards, 45, came onto the council pledging a balanced approach to decision-making. His "innovation and preservation" approach is the right one for Hilton Head, and he's followed through on that pledge.
He's voted to set up a committee to set out the parameters for a nonprofit economic development board, a necessary step in getting the town in a position to be proactive on economic development rather than taking what comes. He's supported hiring a consultant to rework the town's 25-year-old land management ordinance to remove obstacles for businesses and residents.
He points to redevelopment plans for The Mall at Shelter Cove as evidence of what can be done.
Edwards recognizes that the town staff must shift away from its long-time focus on planning and do more to work with private property owners in the Coligny area to redevelop that key section of the island. His priorities are right there, too. The town, he said, must come up with a plan that foremost is in the best interests of the community, but will help promote the financial success of business owners there.
Edwards continues to push against the plan for flyovers connecting U.S. 278 to the newly extended Bluffton Parkway. He might not succeed in doing away with the flyovers, but he's right to worry about their impact on the scenic approach to Hilton Head and to do all he can to lessen that impact.
His measured approach, business experience and conservation ethic make him the best choice to represent Ward 3.
Jim Collett could have stepped away from town service after he finished third in a seven-man race for mayor in 2010.
Instead, he doubled-down on one of his campaign platforms -- improving wireless service on Hilton Head -- and led a committee in the nitty-gritty work that has brought positive results for island residents and visitors.
It's that commitment to community and that willingness to step up that makes him our choice to represent Ward 6 on Town Council.
Collett, 65, has a long list of volunteer activities. They include the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners Association, Rotary Club of Hilton Head, Volunteers in Medicine, the World Affairs Council and First Presbyterian Church. He also served five years as chairman of the town's Board of Zoning Appeals.
He can, as he says, hit the ground running if elected to Town Council.
Reinvigorating the island's economy tops his list of things to get done. He points out that Hilton Head does a great job of telling people why they should come visit for a week, but does very little to tell people why they should live here or locate their businesses here.
The community, he said, should place a high priority on attracting workers who can use technology to bring their jobs to the island, allowing the economy to grow while preserving the natural beauty and character of the island. His work to improve telecommunications on the island is critical to that effort.
He supports creating a new nonprofit organization supported by town staff and accountable to Town Council to attract new business and broaden the economy. He correctly notes that the town's land management ordinance was designed to control development, not promote redevelopment.
Collett's record shows he'll bring a strong work ethic and commitment to Hilton Head to Town Council.