For the first time in many years, Hilton Head Island voters have choices to make in all Town Council seats up for election. Here are our recommendations:
Ward 2. In his relatively short time on Town Council, Bill Harkins has proved himself a quick study on town issues, becoming a contributing member of council in very short order. He exhibits a detailed grasp of the town's finances and specific steps to take today and tomorrow to keep Hilton Head on firm financial footing.
Anchoring it all is a recognition of what made Hilton Head successful in the first place: its beautiful natural environment and its quality of life. He wants to balance new business opportunities with maintaining what we have.
The process begins, he said, with asking, "What can we be in the future?" The transformation would not come all at once, but could start with a project in an area that has high visibility and a high probability of success. It could be an example for others to follow. Private investment dollars are out there, he says, and will come to smart projects.
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His analytical approach to the issues facing Hilton Head, his grasp of the underlying principles that set apart Hilton Head and his specific ideas about what can help build a better Hilton Head make him our choice for Ward 2.
Ward 4. Kim Likins' experience in corporate work, small business start-up and community service provides perspectives that touch many aspects of community life, making her a valuable addition to Town Council.
Likins strikes us as a pragmatist willing to take risks. She recognizes the importance of maintaining the island's natural beauty even as areas are revitalized.
She knows the town must shift its focus from limiting growth to increasing and improving its business base. But Likins also realizes the importance of targeting the town's redevelopment efforts and doing cost-benefit analyses. It's one thing to raise money to start a project; it's another to sustain it, she said.
Her accomplishments show she is a self-starter who knows how to bring a project to fruition. She wrote and published her own children's books, and she helped organize and open The Sandbox Children's Museum, also serving as its executive director. She now works as executive director of Main Street Youth Theatre.
Her work has brought her to Town Hall seeking permits and funding. She knows what it's like to deal with the town from the outside on nuts-and-bolts issues, a very valuable outlook for a Town Council member.
Ward 5. As the Sea Pines' representative on Town Council for the past nine years, George Williams has done a good job standing up for the interests of his constituents while keeping in mind the interests of the island as a whole. We recommend voters allow him to continue that work.
Williams first visited Hilton Head in 1963, so he brings a viewpoint to council that grows increasingly rare. He understands the principles that underpin the island's modern development, and he understands why many people from far-flung places have chosen to call Hilton Head home.
But he also knows that Hilton Head's economic vitality relies on making changes in how the town approaches development today, particularly redevelopment. This isn't an issue singular to this election, but the current economy has brought it into focus. Town Council has recognized for the past decade that revitalization was needed in some areas of the island. Williams has supported these efforts.
On the Hilton Head Island Airport issue, he supports expansion that reflects the needs of the community at large and takes into account the impacts on the surrounding community.
That's the kind of approach that makes him a valuable asset on the council.