John Safay

Name: John Safay

Age: 63

Years living in area: 18

Family: Judy, wife; John Nicholas, grown son living in Virginia.

Education: Brooklyn Technical H.S., New York; Northrop Institute of Technology, Los Angeles, Calif.; Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colo., bachelor of arts degree; Universite de Nice, France

Current occupation/employer: Grand Illusions, self-employed 36 years. Designer, importer and wholesale distributor of gift products

Previous employment: None listed

Military history: U.S. Air Force 1967-71. Served two tours of duty in Vietnam, 1969-71

Volunteer history: It has not been greatly publicized, but I have worked hard behind the scenes on Native Island community issues, particularly getting the Mitchelville project off the ground by first suggesting the town donate the Fish Haul Park. I was also instrumental in getting the Heritage to grant NIBCAA the opportunity to set up their successful Gullah food pavilion at the golf tournament.

Public elected offices: Hilton Head Island Town Ward 4 councilman, 2001-present

Any unsuccessful political campaigns: None

Other political and government experience: None

Endorsements received: Thomas Barnwell Jr.

S.C. Ethics Commission statement of economic interests: $9,780 of personal income from the Town of Hilton Head Island

Campaign money raised: $825 from individual contributions, $74.90 from in-kind contributions and $1,000 from the candidate, as of the candidate's last filing July 9

Top three campaign contributors over past six months (amount): $250 from Thomas Hagoort (Hilton Head); $100 from James Walsh (Hilton Head); $100 from William Bury (Hilton Head); $100 from Rob and Ruth Thomas (Hilton Head); $100 from Jeanne Christenson (Hilton Head); $100 from C. Edward and Geraldine Bernier (Alexandria, Va.)

1. Why should people vote for you?

During my time in office, I have personally initiated more programs and ordinances that any other member of the council. Among these are:

  • Creating the first joint service organization sponsored Veterans Day Ceremony now held in Shelter Cove Park.
  • *Creating special zoning overlay districts to curb the growth of overly large rental units (mini-hotels) being built in beach-orientated residential areas.

  • Single-handedly initiating and persuading the mayor, Town Council and various opponents to pass the island smoking ban, which is now widely accepted.
  • Initiating and working with town staff to develop the island-wide recycling program which will soon have significant impact on our residents.
  • If elected I will continue to serve with the same degree of initiative and energy.
  • 2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them?

    Retaining the Heritage golf tournament. Even as a non-golfer, I believe this is a community-defining event, and its loss would be demoralizing to the island, as well as a major economic disaster which would have a ripple effect for years. As mayor, I would be developing a "plan B" now in case a sponsor is not secured by the end of this year. On this, I do not agree with the Packet; this event is too important to lose.

    Port Royal erosion and Sea Pines/Harbour Town dredging. I am combining these issues due to their similarity. These issues may have an enormous impact on the town, although they will never receive the public attention of the airport. Difficult decisions will need to be made on many levels regarding how to deal with engineering questions, how to pay for what will become staggering costs, and exactly who is to pay for what may arguably benefit only a small number of property owners.

    Airport runway extension. This has become the "hot-button" issue, although I believe its importance has become overblown by the expansion advocates. I have consistently been in favor of a commercially viable airport and have already voted to remove trees from the runway as a necessary safety measure. That along with the use of new technology in runway materials and a limited extension of the runway will create a facility more than adequate for commercial aviation and most private aircraft. It would be fiscally irresponsible and a crass disregard to the well-being of neighboring communities to extend the runway beyond the current footprint of the airport solely for the sake of ultra-large private jets.

    3. What other issues do you see as important?

    These are not "issues" but if given the opportunity, I would like to pursue a number of ideas to draw favorable attention to Hilton Head Island:

  • Marsh Tacky Horse Race. I have had preliminary conversations with Michael Marks of Honey Horn, who has managed the last two races. This event drew 3,500 people with very little publicity and a last-minute location change. Imagine this event, unique to our area, expanded into a two-day race partnered by the museum and NIBCA and promoted by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. This could easily become a major off-season regional event.
  • Farmers market. It has not been publicized yet, but I have also been working with Honey Horn to develop a major farmers market that will become a permanent fixture on the island. Perhaps not as a tourist draw, but certainly something that will enhance the pleasure of living here.
  • Professional tennis. Two years ago, Mayor Tom Peeples, Stan Smith and I discussed the possibility of bringing the Seniors Tennis Tour to Hilton Head as an annual event. At our request, Stan did some preliminary investigating but it was agreed that the economic conditions made finding a sponsor unlikely. I think either this, or a series of major exhibition matches as held here in the 1970s and 80s, should be re-explored within the next few years.
  • World Affairs Council. Locally there are over 700 members, myself included, in this national organization. Every year, prominent lecturers including ambassadors, State Department officials, educators, authors, etc., come to Hilton Head, without publicity, as guest lecturers. Imagine this membership as a "core group" that would pay $150 or more to attend a Tony Blair, Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell lecture at one of our large hotels. Publicity for such "intellectual" events would broaden the stature of Hilton Head beyond sports and environment. Not quite the Renaissance of the late 90s but close.
  • Of course, there are many more serious issues, such as increased promotional funding, commercial redevelopment, etc., which will be addressed by the next Town Council, but creating a little "spark" with these types of initiatives is important, also.

    4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?

    In August, we had a major Public Facilities meeting during which we discussed future plans for the redevelopment of the Coligny Circle, parking and commercial areas. Not one business or property owner and very few from the general public attended. I was quoted in the paper as being frustrated and asked town staff to make an extra effort to contact everyone in the area about a follow-up meeting. It will be my intent to implement a system of the town more directly contacting the public on issues impacting their interests.

    I would also ask the Packet to consider re-designing their "Local Government" section. Currently a meeting to be held at a water department is given equal space as a major town proposal to restrict beach development. I would like to see a sidebar with "Key Issues of the Week" listed to attract greater attention to more significant meetings.

    Finally, we need to examine some of the town public meeting times. For example, why is Public Safety inconveniently held monthly on a Monday at 10 a.m.

    5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details.


    6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.

    I have never been delinquent on taxes, but did have an unfortunate incident involving a bankruptcy. In 1988-90, I was a partner in a corporation in Denver, Colo., which contracted with an advertising agency in a joint venture selling our products in magazines they advertised in. A dispute prompted the agency to take legal action, and a lawsuit dragged on for years. I did not feel at fault, but they refused to negotiate. Unfortunately, I had signed personally on the original contract, and both the corporation and I were forced into declaring bankruptcy to avoid further legal costs. Nothing personally beyond the agency lawsuit was affected. I later learned they were involved in a number of lawsuits and within a year the agency itself declared bankruptcy. It was an unfortunate episode which never happened before or since.

    7. Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?

    I have always had a passion for travel and have been to all 50 states and more than 50 countries, including back-country driving trips in Soviet eastern Europe during the height of the Cold War, trips deep into rural China, engaging in political discussions with people in the Middle East and extensive travel elsewhere in Europe and the Far East. Until recently, I owned a large sailboat and have made a number of sailing passages to the Bahamas and elsewhere. I am also an avid tennis player and am never without a book.