Edwards announces Ward 3 town council bid

Lee Edwards, president and chief executive officer of a Hilton Head Island-based landscaping company, announced his bid Saturday for the Ward 3 town council seat vacated by mayor-elect Drew Laughlin.

Edwards, 43, joins Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer in the race. Baer announced his candidacy Thursday.

Edwards, whose parents founded The Greenery Inc., has lived on the island most of his life, he said. He is on the Board of Directors of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust and founded HHI25, an ad hoc organization of islanders under the age of 45 who advised the "Mayor's Task Force for the Island's Future."

Edwards said he decided to run for many of the same reasons that drew him to the task force: he wants to bring positive change to the island that will maintain its quality of life.

Edwards said he wants the island to be place where people want to live and where children want to come back after college.

"People come here to retire and that's great, but it needs to be more than just a retirement community," he said. "I want it to continue to be a wonderful place, and that doesn't happen by accident. It takes work, planning and diligence."

Edwards cited the need to attract businesses from all sectors and redevelop languishing properties from Coligny Plaza to Shelter Cove Mall.

In order to do that, the town's Land Management Ordinance should be revised, streamlined or completely rewritten, he said. He said he does not advocate lowering the standards outlined in the ordinance but said that many of the restrictions preserve "tired, beat-up old buildings" rather than allowing owners to fix them up.

Edwards said redevelopment could be accomplished in an environmentally sustainable way that preserves the island's natural assets while creating top-notch amenities such as dining and shopping. He said council should work with owners to restore blighted properties, and, in doing so, attract tourists, permanent residents and new businesses.

He said he supports many of the task force's recommendations including reducing the island's economic dependency on tourism in favor of supporting new businesses. He said keeping the Heritage golf tournament is a priority.

Edwards, who took over The Greenery in 2008, said his experience managing employees and working with planners, architects and developers would translate well on council.

A special election will be held March 8 to fill the remainder of Laughlin's council term, which expires in December 2012.

Ward 3 includes Spanish Wells, Wexford, Long Cove Club, Indigo Run, Point Comfort -- where Edwards lives with his wife and two young daughters -- and Shipyard Plantation.