Beaufort News

Candidates determined for two town council seats

Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka will run unopposed this November, and four candidates will vie for two open Town Council seats. The filing period for offices ended at noon Friday.

Karen Lavery, who is active in the Bluffton Rotary Club, and Bluffton BBQ owner Ted Huffman will challenge incumbents Fred Hamilton and Allyne Mitchell, who seek reelection Nov. 8.

Lavery is a past president of the club and a former treasurer of the Historical Preservation Society. She won the 2010 Rotarian of the Year and also is chairwoman of the Bluffton Village Festival, which is organized by the Rotary.

Working the register Friday at Huffman's restaurant in the Promenade, where she occasionally helps out, Lavery said she decided to run after considering it since the 2008 elections.

"Why not give back to the community that has given so much to me?" said Lavery, who has lived in Bluffton since 1993.

She said residents have told her they don't believe they have a voice in local government, although she declined to discuss specific issues before doing "more homework."

Huffman said his restaurant is a "little hub that gives us a pulse on what's going on." He serves on the town's accommodations tax advisory committee and is a past president of the Greater Bluffton Republican Club.

He said he "doesn't have any gripes" with the town's elected officials but wants to help Bluffton move in the right direction.

Incumbent Hamilton said he has more to accomplish on the Town Council. He said his role in bringing water and sewer lines to the neighborhoods around Buck Island and Simmonsville roads brought services to an area long ignored. He also pointed to his leadership in an affordable-housing project to build six cottages in old town.

"Seven years ago when I first ran, I ran because I'm a native of Bluffton, was born and raised here, have a vested interest and a passion to serve," he said. "Today, I still have that same passion."

Mitchell, a freshman council member who also is a Bluffton native, said she and fellow council members have avoided an increase to the town's millage rate by approving a lean budget during troubled economic times.

Her platform this year will mimic her first run -- she plans to focus on bringing jobs to Bluffton.

"I'm running so I can continue ... to bring in some medical and technology jobs that we have been working on," she said.

Mitchell and Hamilton said restoring the May River, where pollution has closed a 4-mile stretch to shellfish harvesting, remains a top priority and a work in progress.

The Greater Bluffton Republican Club has scheduled a town hall forum for the candidates at 7 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Mill Creek clubhouse, according to club president Margie Fox. The candidates will present their platforms and take questions from the audience, Fox said.

Fox said Sulka, Lavery and Huffman are confirmed. Hamilton said he is unable to attend because he will be representing Campbell Chapel AME Church at a conference in Charleston. Mitchell said she had not received an invitation and that she had a vacation scheduled the week of Sept. 18.

Bluffton elections are nonpartisan, and candidates run at-large. All offices are four-year terms.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

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