From 7 candidates to 2: Laughlin, Crews to face off in Nov. 16 runoff

The race to determine Hilton Head Island's next mayor is down to a sitting Town Council member, Drew Laughlin, and a local architect, Tom Crews, who were winnowed from a pack of seven candidates Tuesday.

Laughlin, an attorney and Ward 3 councilman, will face architect and town Planning Commissioner Tom Crews on Nov. 16 in a runoff to replace Tom Peeples, who did not seek re-election after 15 years.

Tuesday's voting also ensured a new face will replace a familiar one on Town Council, as John Safay, the current Ward 4 representative, was eliminated from the race for mayor. His council seat was captured by Kim Likins.

Laughlin collected about 32 percent of the mayoral vote and Crews had about 25 percent, according to unofficial results.

Jim Collett, former chairman of the town Board of Zoning and Appeals, collected 16 percent. Safay collected 13 percent. Ward 1 Councilman Bill Ferguson received 5 percent. Ed McCullough, former host of a WHHI public-access television show and co-founder of Swipe4Charities, received 6 percent. Dave Myers, part owner of Kigre Inc., collected 3 percent.

To be elected, a candidate needed a majority -- not merely a plurality -- of votes. Since no one received more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters -- Crews and Laughlin -- head to a runoff.

The race brought to the forefront concerns over economic decline on Hilton Head Island, including land-use regulations and zoning ordinances many candidates said restrict commercial development. Concerns also surfaced about the health of the island's tourism industry and property values.

Laughlin said he plans to continue his campaign of supporting business on the island, including rewriting the town's Land Management Ordinance to allow revitalization of older properties more quickly, at less expense and without unnecessary restrictions.

"We need to revisit our attitude about economic growth and place a higher degree of importance on that," he said, "and talk about experience and leadership. We need effective, proven leaders who can build consensus on policies that will promote a vibrant, resilient economy. I feel I can do that."

Crews said the next mayor needs to look at the big picture and implement a new vision for the island's economic success, which requires new leadership. He said it's a task he's well-suited to as an architect with 20 years of experience working with town government.

"Voters will have a choice of somebody who has been on the council a long time and somebody who has worked with town government and the community for a long time, but is somewhat of an outsider to provide new leadership," Crews said. "They have a choice between an attorney and an architect ... I work in the arena the town needs leadership direction from."


  • Ward 4 voters elected Palmetto Dunes resident and publisher Likins to replace Safay on Town Council. Safay's term expires in December.
  • Likins won 57 percent of the vote to defeat Mary Amonitti, a home-care company marketing representative.

    "I'm confident I can work together with the council to meet the challenges that come our way. I appreciate all the support and encouragement I've received, and I look forward, eagerly, to serving the community, especially the constituents of Ward 4," Likins said. "I've worked hard to do things for the community through nonprofits and feel I can do that same thing through town government."

    Safay said he was disappointed by the mayoral results but has no regrets about seeking the seat. He said he will not endorse a candidate in the runoff.

    "I thought we were doing a lot better, but the folks have made their decisions," he said. "It's been a very satisfying experience for both me and my wife. It's been an exciting campaign, and I enjoyed being part of it. I have no regrets. I'll let the next group of leaders deal with the issues that confront Hilton Head Island."

  • Sea Pines and Seabrook residents narrowly re-elected two-term incumbent George Williams Jr. to his Ward 5 seat over the challenge of lawyer Charles Raley. Williams collected about 52 percent of the vote.
  • "I'm grateful to the voters of Ward 5 that seem to appreciate my approach to balancing the interest of Ward 5, as well as the town at large," Williams said.

  • Ward 2 voters for second time chose Town Council incumbent Bill Harkins over Terry Conway. Harkins was re-elected with 63 percent of the vote.
  • The two candidates faced off for a second time in slightly more than a year for the same position, which represents most of Hilton Head Plantation. Harkins won a 2009 special election to replace Bill Mottel, who resigned for health reasons. The six-person field in the 2009 race included Conway.

    "I'm very grateful for all the people that listened to the issues and supported me," Harkins said. "I wish my opponent well. I look forward to working with the new council and whomever our new mayor is in moving the town forward."