Beaufort News

Newly elected Port Royal town councilman Jerry Ashmore: 'Time to start working'

Soon-to-be-elected Port Royal Town Council member Jerry Ashmore, right, talks to Port Royal residents while campaigning near the polling place at the Port Royal Town Hall the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2015, in Port Royal.
Soon-to-be-elected Port Royal Town Council member Jerry Ashmore, right, talks to Port Royal residents while campaigning near the polling place at the Port Royal Town Hall the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2015, in Port Royal. dearley@islandpacket.com
Long before the September filing deadline for Port Royal Town Council candidates, Jerry Ashmore sat with his wife and children in their home off Ribaut Road to talk about how public office would affect the family.

I said 'Girls, honey, this is what I want to do,'" said Ashmore, a father of five. "...We didn't want to disrupt our family. We talked about a lot of things, and we were all supportive."

Ashmore, who had served in the area in various capacities before deciding to run for public office, became the newcomer on Port Royal Town Council with his successful election bid Tuesday. Official results will be certified Thursday.

The 49-year-old is the town's first elected official in some time from somewhere other than south of Ribaut Road, in Port Royal's Old Village.

He serves on board at Technical College of the Lowcountry and Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence. He was a past member of the town's Redevelopment Commission, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's board of directors and the city of Beaufort's Design Review Board.

In preparation for a possible council run, he spoke with town manager Van Willis and council members about what the job entailed. He talked with mentors, his dad and his boss at The Greenery, where Ashmore is the director of workforce development.

Ashmore interpreted the positive responses as a green light.

He enlisted the help of Ethan Kindwall, who does marketing for a local screenprinting company, and learned to use social media.

The campaign included the usual door-to-door stops, church visits and events. On weekends, Ashmore walked the town and introduced himself to strangers.

He shared the view of other candidates about the need to develop the Port of Port Royal property and to monitor that development closely.

He also touted his business experience and pointed to the agricultural certificate program he helped start at Technical College of the Lowcountry as something he hopes can serve as an economic driver in the area.

As Ashmore waited for results to be posted on the glass doors of Town Hall on Tuesday night, he learned some unrelated news: His alma mater, Clemson, had debuted at No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff Ranking. Coupled with his Carolina Panthers' winning in overtime in Monday Night Football to remain undefeated, the ensuing election news and celebratory oyster roast with family and supporters, Ashmore was enjoying a pretty good week.

"First, I want to thank all the residents of Port Royal for coming out and voting in this election and supporting me," a weary Ashmore said Tuesday night. "Second off, it's time to start working and continuing to build the future of Port Royal."

Port Royal turnout higher than normal

Port Royal's voter turnout was uncharacteristically high Tuesday, spurred by competition in both the mayoral and town council races.

Of Port Royal's 4,244 registered voters, 12.4 percent participated in Tuesday's election. The town's elections typically draw about 10 percent turnout, Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration director Marie Smalls said.

The high turnout was especially notable since it came in a year without a big-ticket office -- such as governor or president -- on the ballot, Smalls said.

She said Port Royal experienced issues with people who live outside the town limits who were not eligible to vote being turned away at the polls. That was also an issue in Bluffton's municipal election.

"People don't always know where the boundaries are," Smalls said. "All they know is they consider themselves a Port Royal resident."

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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