Peeples endorses Laughlin as his successor as mayor of Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island Town Councilman and mayoral candidate Drew Laughlin received a key endorsement today from the man he hopes to replace in Tuesday’s election.

Mayor Tom Peeples threw his support behind Laughlin during a press conference at Compass Rose Park.

Peeples, who is stepping down at the end of his term after 15 years in office, said he was confident Laughlin would be best choice of the seven candidates.

“There are lots of good people running for office. ... But after looking at the candidates, we have a man here who has the experience we need,” Peeples said. “Drew is an independent voice for what’s best for Hilton Head Island.”Peeples called Laughlin a consensus builder.

“We’ve gone through this period of everyone pretty much getting along and things going well. Now, we’re in a rough patch in the economy. It’s made everyone refocus and rethink what we’ve been doing,” Peeples said. “Drew’s the type of leader who is not going to take the easiest example and run with it. He’s going to delve into it. He understands the different constituencies on this island because he’s been here so long and he’s worked with them.”

Laughlin said he was humbled by the endorsement.

“Tom has truly been a great asset to our community and brought us to a critical juncture in the island’s history,” he said. “I look forward to bringing the island to the next phase.”

Laughlin, a lawyer who has served seven years on Town Council, is competing against six other candidates: Town Councilman John Safay, Town Councilman Bill Ferguson, Dave Myers, Jim Collett, Ed McCullough and Tom Crews.

He said he hopes to carry forward with the motto Peeples used when he was first elected mayor: “One island; one town.”

“Tom has done a wonderful job from the beginning of reconciling the interests of the entire island and developing a consensus, and that’s what I hope to do, if elected mayor,” Laughlin said. “We are at a crossroads again. We are no longer a developing community; we are a mature community. And the challenge we have going forward is having policies, codes and procedures in place that will help our business community and maintain a vibrant and resilient economy going forward. I think it’s going to take teamwork, and that’s what I bring to the table.”

Laughlin said he would work to create a “renaissance,” using the report from the Mayor’s Task Force for the Island’s Future as a template for “the community involvement we need going forward to be a refuge from the commonplace.”

Crews also attended the press conference. He said he was not surprised by Peeples’ announcement.

“The community has an option to choose a continuation of what the council has been doing versus different leadership from people who have been involved in the community and town issues,” said Crews, an architect who serves on the town Planning Commission. “I hope the voters will continue to look at the candidates and the information we have out there and make an informed decision.”

For more on the mayor’s race and other elections, go to islandpacket.com/election.

A mayor’s candidate forum is scheduled today for 4 p.m. at the Plantation House in Hilton Head Plantation.