George H. O'Kelley Jr. is our recommendation to fill the Beaufort City Council vacancy.
O'Kelley, a 69-year-old attorney who has lived in the area for 41 years, has a level of experience that sets him apart in the three-person race in Tuesday's election to fill the unexpired term of the late Gary Fordham.
O'Kelley has served two terms on City Council, from 1979 to 1982 and from 2004 to 2008. He served briefly as acting mayor after Bill Rauch resigned in July 2008.
He was on the right side of a contentious annexation issue during his second term, voting against a move by others to bring in large tracts north of the city with intense development plans attached. We trust this indicates a willingness to stand against the tide to protect Beaufort's sensitive environment and quality of life.
Also, we trust that O'Kelley learned from his 2004 public reprimand by the state Supreme Court for the way he issued warnings for parking violations as an associate municipal judge. That was the most severe sanction available to the state because O'Kelley had resigned the position after City Council asked him to do so. However, voters returned O'Kelley to City Council in the 2004 election, an indication that the matter should be considered resolved appropriately.
O'Kelley states a desire to promote planning, environmental protection, improved downtown parking and an invigorated tax base through infill development and a thriving tourism industry.
We urge voters to read profiles of the three candidates that are to be published in Sunday's Beaufort Gazette as a way to make an informed personal decision. The winner of the special election will serve a term that ends in 2012.
We also urge voters to participate by going to the polls Tuesday. All registered voters in the municipality are eligible to vote in the nonpartisan election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but pay attention because some polling locations have been changed for this election only.