With only seven ballots uncounted in Tuesday’s runoff for mayor of Hilton Head Island, Tom Crews conceded to victor Drew Laughlin on Wednesday in an extremely close race. Unofficial results give Laughlin 51 percent of the vote to Crews' 49 percent.
“I have already conceded to Drew. We are going to work together on some of the issues, particularly changing the tow’s Land Management Ordinance,” Crews said. “The LMO is out of synch with what needs to be going on.”
Both men ran similar campaigns calling for changes in the town's land-use regulations and zoning ordinances they say overly restrict commercial development. Laughlin and Crews say the LMO needs to be rewritten to be less complicated and burdensome for residents and businesses to make improvements to their properties.
Both also campaigned on pledges to make town government friendlier to business and to make economic development a top priority, on par with the town's commitment to environmental protection.
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Crews said he is disappointed, but not disheartened, by the close results.
“We knocked the blinders off of this town,” he said of the seven candidates who ran for mayor. “The best part of this whole campaign was it was issue-based and the community got very engaged in those issues and what we need to do about them.”
Crews, a town planning commissioner, said he plans to remain active in working with town government to shape the future of the island.
“I am not going to go away,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do in this town and I look forward to helping us move in that path. I like Drew and respect Drew and look forward to working with him as our new mayor.”
County election officials will certify election results at a canvass hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Beaufort County elections office, 15 John Galt Road in Beaufort. Voter turnout for the two-man race was surprisingly strong at 32 percent of registered voters.