Beaufort News

Three file for open Beaufort City Council seat

Three candidates for a vacant Beaufort City Council seat -- including a former acting mayor -- emerged Friday, as the filing period opened for those seeking to succeed Councilman Gary Fordham, who died last month.

George O'Kelley, Larry Holman and Ron Petit filed statements of candidacy with the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections to compete in the July 19 special election, executive director Scott Marshall said.

The filing deadline is at noon June 4.

None of the candidates who filed Friday are new to local elections.

O'Kelley, 69, is a Beaufort attorney and former city councilman who called public service a calling.

If elected, O'Kelley said among other things he would focus on downtown parking issues and making sure council embraces its decision-making role.

"It appears to me a lot of the stuff these days is being farmed out to committees," O'Kelley said. "Council makes up committees, appoints people and sends stuff to them. ... I think council people are hired to lead and, by golly, they ought to lead."

O'Kelley, a Vietnam veteran and retired member of the U.S. Marine Corps, was first elected to council in the late 1970s but resigned to become a municipal judge. He was elected to council again in 2004 and served as mayor pro tempore. He briefly was acting mayor after embattled Mayor Bill Rauch resigned in July 2008.

O'Kelley did not seek re-election in 2008.

Holman, 63, president of the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce, ran unsuccessfully for one of two at-large seats in the November 2010 election, won by incumbents Mike Sutton and Donnie Beer.

Attempts Friday to reach Holman for comment were unsuccessful. He told The Beaufort Gazette last year that he's always enjoyed working in the community and views city council as another opportunity to serve.

Ron Petit, 70, a retired member of the Air Force and federal civil service employee, is on Beaufort County's Planning Commission but has never held an elected position.

Petit ran unsuccessfully against O'Kelley and four others for two at-large city council seats in 2004.

If elected, Petit said he wants to look at issues in the city's historic district, address downtown parking concerns, find ways to boost Beaufort's shrinking population and learn more about Riverview Charter School's search for a permanent home, possibly within Beaufort's city limits.

"As far as I'm concerned, if you're fortunate enough to live in this community, you care about what's going on and you have the time and ability, I think you have a responsibility to give something back," Petit said. "My motivation is to help make Beaufort a good place to work and live."

Beaufort's council consists of five non-partisan members -- four council members who serve staggered, four-year terms, and a mayor, also elected every four years.

All members are elected at-large.

Council members receive an annual stipend -- $6,000 for the mayor and $4,800 for each council member.

Council typically meets three times a month, on Tuesdays.