5 running for Ward 3 on Hilton Head Town Council are a diverse group

Crafting slogans such as "Deep Roots. Fresh Ideas" and "Experienced Engineer, Planner, Councilman," the candidates for Hilton Head Island Town Council's Ward 3 seat are touting their experience in hopes of winning a Feb. 15 special election.

  • Steve Baer, 67, is a two-term Beaufort County Councilman representing Hilton Head and an engineer with a background in economics.
  • Lee Edwards, 43, grew up on Hilton Head as a preservationist and landscaper and has become the face of a new advocacy group for young professionals.
  • Ryan McAvoy, 31, works in a family-business handling resort operations and is a political novice.
  • David Warren, 55, marketed Hilton Head over the past three decades.
  • Peter Zych, 71, is a former money manager.All five are vying for the Ward 3 seat vacated by the new mayor, Drew Laughlin. The term expires in December 2012.
  • BAER

    Baer says he is an engineer through-and-through. Analytical. Pragmatic. Calculating. Tech-savvy. These, he said, are his strengths.

    "I have a quantitative, engineering-economic background. I'm fair, evaluating all sides and seeking compromises," he said. "On all topics, I feel strongly that by becoming more detailed and scientific in our analysis and formulation of positions, we will be able to do more for our community."

    Two weeks after running unopposed for a second, four-year term on county council, Baer announced his plans to run for the Ward 3 vacancy. He said he loves Hilton Head and believes he can serve it just as well on the Town Council.

    "Any one of these candidates can rattle off what they want to do, but getting $10 worth of projects in a $5 basket is where the art is, and I feel I'm good at that," he said.


    Edwards runs The Greenery, a Hilton Head-based landscaping company his father started in 1972. He serves on the Beaufort County Open Land Trust and is past president of the Point Comfort Property Owners Association. He also is a member of the Coastal Conservation League, Historic Beaufort Foundation and the board of Hilton Head Preparatory School.

    Earlier this year, he organized HHI 25, an advocacy group for islanders between the ages of 21 and 45.

    "I know firsthand how to work with planners and developers" to achieve common goals, he said. "I understand budget issues, how to cut costs and still maintain quality. All of which provides me with a level of in-depth knowledge for supporting the sustainability of the island -- environmentally, economically and socially."


    McAvoy is a newcomer to politics who says he has a finger on the island's pulse, working "on the front-line" through his family's business, Hilton Head Guest Services.

    The 31-year-old said his youth and lack of political experience shouldn't concern voters -- he reminds them Charles Fraser was 25 years old when he began developing Sea Pines with his brother, Joe.

    "Tourism accounts for two-thirds of our economic output. ... For the past 16 years, working in the resort industry has given me an opportunity to speak to the people who live here, retire here and visit here," McAvoy said. "That qualifies me more than anyone else in the field."


    Warren moved to the island 30 years ago as an enthusiastic 20-something in a new advertising venture. He later spent 12 years as director of sales for Sea Pines Co. He continues to work as a marketing consultant and volunteer for several civic organizations.

    Warren served two terms as chairman of the town's Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee, from 2000 to 2006. He also held positions with the Hilton Head Humane Association, the Spanish Wells Club, the Lowcountry Golf Course Owners' Association, the Hilton Head Vacation and Visitors Bureau, and Programs for Exceptional People.

    Warren said he believes he represents the changing face of Hilton Head as someone who has worked, raised a son and helped parents who retired on the island.

    "I know the needs of the generations on the island. ... I understand our town government," he said. "I understand resort operations, the real estate business and the challenges we face to renew the island economy. This is a marketing time for the town. We need to extend and polish our brand so new businesses come here."


    Zych was a soldier in the 101st Airborne in the 1950s and 1960s and is a retired money manager. He twice before ran unsuccessfully for the seat, losing close races in 1999 to Jim Carlin and in 2003 to Drew Laughlin.

    Despite the losses, he remains determined to represent Ward 3, limit the role of town government and preserve the island's natural beauty.

    Zych's involvement in the community has been extensive: A former grand knight of the Knights of Columbus at Holy Family Church; treasurer of the Pregnancy Center and Clinic of the Lowcountry; coordinator for Operation Hope, which raises money for the mentally challenged; a tutor at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry; and basketball coach for Special Olympics, to name a few.

    Zych said he has great deal of experience working with all types of people.

    "Working in New York and internationally required good diplomatic skills while on the job," he said. "Managing trading operations required analytical skills. These skills are readily transferable to a council position, where one's influence is determined by good analysis and communication skills."