Ward 4 candidates vie to be the newcomer

At least one new face will appear on Hilton Head Island Town Council by the end of the year.

Mary Amonitti, a home-care company marketing representative, is running against local publisher and fellow Palmetto Dunes resident Kim Likins in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan election for Ward 4.

The current officeholder, John Safay, is among a field of seven candidates vying to replace Mayor Tom Peeples, who is not seeking reelection. Safay's council term expires in December. He said he will not endorse a candidate for his seat, which represents an eastern section of the island.

Both candidates have a record of volunteer service on the island and see themselves as consensus builders able to work well with other council members.

Both also have experience running a business. Likins is the owner of Island Friends LLC, a children's book publishing company.

Amonitti has been a manager in sales and marketing, real estate, health care and human resources. She currently is a marketing representative for New Generations Home Care Inc.

"I've pulled people together to get things done," Amonitti said.

She said she worked with Hilton Head No. 1 Public Service District, the town and the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to provide public sewer service to families that had relied upon septic tanks. She also worked with Realtors and the Lowcountry Community Development Corp., to create classes on home ownership, and is vice chairwoman of the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs.

She said the island's economy has been headed down a "slippery slope" for years, and it's time for new leadership.

The town needs to rewrite the land management ordinance to spur redevelopment and seek businesses from diverse fields, beyond tourism and real estate, Amonitti said.

She said she also would work to install "state-of-the-art technology" so businesses interested in locating to Hilton Head don't "fear losing a deal by having their cell phones shut down" or because they cannot access the Internet. "And I think it should be at no cost."

The town also should hire a full-time staff person dedicated to economic development, she said.

Likins said she, too, has experience building consensus on various nonprofit and community boards.

"I've come to understand the art of negotiation," she said.

Like Amonitti, she said the election is about new ideas, new energy and people willing to get things done. For example, she said she helped raise 65 percent of the money needed to open the Sandbox Children's Museum in 2005. She served as the museum's first executive director and won an Excellence in Community Service award from the Daughters of the American Revolution for her efforts.

If elected, Likins said she would pursue creating a nonprofit economic development corporation to attract businesses to the island and to encourage local companies to expand or redevelop.

She also favors rewriting the land management ordinance.

"We need to start with a blank sheet of paper and make sure that it's written in a positive fashion and not restrictive or prohibitive," Likins said.

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