The Town of Hilton Head Island’s mayor waited until the last possible hour Wednesday to announce that he will not run for re-election.
David Bennett had not publicly said whether he planned to seek another term to lead Hilton Head until 11:27 a.m. Wednesday, just before the noon filing deadline, when he made his announcement through his newsletter.
“It has been an incredible honor and privilege to represent you as Mayor of the Town of Hilton Head Island these past four years,” he said in the newsletter.
“I will be forever grateful for the opportunity. After much careful consideration, prayerful reflection and deliberation, I do not intend to seek re-election.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
Bennett, elected in 2014, has been at odds with Town Manager Steve Riley since nearly the beginning. The feud between the leaders created a common split on Town Council, with John McCann, Bill Harkins, Tom Lennox and Marc Grant voting one way, and Bennett, David Ames and Kim Likins voting another.
When Hurricane Matthew devastated the island in 2016, Bennett was highly criticized for staying on vacation in Orlando for multiple days rather than immediately returning to the Lowcountry to lead emergency operations from the ground, as Bluffton, Beaufort and Savannah mayors had done.
During his time as mayor, Bennett pushed to create a clear “vision” for Hilton Head’s future, with projects including improving and preserving historic Mitchelville, expanding the airport runway and providing sewer access to many northern islanders.
He said his time as mayor has been challenging, particularly “balancing the needs and demands of the mayor’s office, our private business” and time with his family.
“My family, in particular, has sacrificed much in order for me to fulfill my commitment to Hilton Head Island,” he said in the newsletter. “Continuing to serve would not allow me to fulfill my highest responsibilities — being a good husband and father.”
Of Bennett’s eight predecessors, only Tom Peeples served more than one term in office —from 1995 to 2010.
Peeples was seeking another term this year, but pulled out of the race Monday.
Four other former mayors ran for re-election and lost, including Drew Laughlin, whom Bennett defeated in a run-off election.
Seven mayoral candidates were in the race as of the filing deadline on Wednesday at noon:
- Town Council member John McCann
- Native islander Rochelle Williams
- Holocaust revisionist Michael Santomauro
- Hilton Head resident and waiter Sandon Preston
- Real estate broker Barry Ginn
- Sales Manager at SunTrust Bank Alan Perry, who originally posted on Facebook that he was running for the Ward 2 council seat, then changed his mind to file for mayor.
- Town Council member Kim Likins, who currently represents Ward 4 and had not previously announced her intention to run.
The Island Packet will continue to post updates on today’s candidate filings.
The mayoral election will be held on Nov. 6.
Council seats for Ward 2, Ward 4 and Ward 5 are also up for grabs.
- Ward 2 is composed of portions of the north end of the island, including parts of Hilton Head Plantation. Bill Harkins is the ward’s current representative and has filed to run again. Tim Ridge filed late Wednesday to represent the ward.
- Ward 4 is composed of portions of the mid and south end of the island, including Indigo Run and Palmetto Dunes. Kim Likins currently represents the ward and filed to run for mayor. Lennel Stroud and Tamara Becker have filed to represent this ward.
- Ward 5 covers the south end of the island. Thomas Lennox currently represents the area and is running again. Richard Dextraze and Patsy Brison have also filed to represent the ward.