New Beaufort County Councilmen York Glover and Mike Covert were sworn into their new positions Tuesday, replacing former board members Bill McBride and Cynthia Bensch.
While the ceremony marked an injection of new blood into the council, the board is losing two members with more than four decades of experience between them.
McBride — who retired and did not run for re-election last November — was the longest tenured County Council member in the board’s history and accounts for the lion’s share of that lost experience, having served 40 years on the board.
Following in the footsteps of a legend
Glover, who will replace McBride as the representative for District 7, acknowledged Tuesday that he has a pair of giant shoes to fill.
Councilman (Bill) McBride is a legend.
Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert
“I’ve probably never been this nervous in my life,” he said after taking his oath of office. “... I’m definitely going to be calling on (McBride) to try to tap into all of his knowledge and wisdom.”
Covert, too, was complementary of McBride on Tuesday.
“Councilman McBride is a legend,” he said. “He is truly the epitome of (a council member who is) here for the people; it’s an honor to be on the same dais that he served on.”
Covert also had kind words for Bensch, whom he beat in last year’s Republican primary election.
“She served the community, which is a fantastic thing,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for her for that.”
But Bensch, who was elected in 2012, occasionally bumped heads with members of the council and county staff. Covert said he plans “to bring an attitude change within council.”
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Both new councilmen said Tuesday that jobs and economic development will be a top priority.
Glover said he is glad that during his term he will have some power “to make sure that we can take advantage” of a potential “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for new jobs at the planned Jasper Ocean Terminal.
Planning is critical; you can’t leave things up to chance and just hope it all works out like you want it to.
Beaufort County Councilman York Glover
“I see the port as being the BMW of the Lowcountry,” he said, referring to car manufacturing facilities that have provided thousands of jobs in other parts of South Carolina.
While the 1,500-acre port isn’t expected to be operational until 2025, the current council will have a major role to play in planning for how to best leverage the port to create economic opportunities in the county, he said.
“Planning is critical; you can’t leave things up to chance and just hope it all works out like you want it to,” he said.
Another project that could have a massive impact on the local economy is the proposed redevelopment of the Hilton Head National Golf Club, which could be transformed into a 300-acre residential, commercial and tourism center.
“That’s a huge project, and I look forward to learning more about it and hearing the public’s perspective,” Covert said. “I do have concerns about it, but I want to be able to see what’s in the weeds to be able to develop more informed positions and communicate those positions back to the folks of Beaufort County.”
Both new council members said they are big supporters of term limits.
Unlike his predecessor, Glover said he doesn’t plan on “having a lifetime membership on council.”
“I’m short-term,” he said. “I don’t know if that means four years or eight years, but I’m getting started right now.”
He will have to learn on the job, saying, “I’m sure there will be some duties and responsibilities I’ve never even thought about yet.”
Covert said that, while he doesn’t disagree with former council members’ decisions to spend many years on the board, he “believe(s) strongly in term limits.”
“We need to get the job done, serve our terms, and move forward with some fresh life” on the council, he said.
Despite the new makeup of the board, council leadership remains the same in the new year.
County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville and Vice Chairman Jerry Stewart will retain their positions when the new board meets for its first full meeting Jan. 9.
Councilmen Brian Flewelling and Gerald Dawson, who ran unopposed in last year’s election, also were sworn in for new terms Tuesday.