Running for political office was not something I had on any bucket list growing up. But the influence my parents had on me and my siblings, to always help others and to pay it forward, was strong. So, part of my decision to run for Town Council in 2004 had to do with my upbringing—that, with a lot of peer pressure from my two close friends, Oscar Frazier and Bill Herbkersman. Note to self: Allow yourself to take on new challenges and not always stay comfortable on your current path.
Overall, it has been a rewarding 20 years of my life, and looking back, while there are issues we are dealing with, I am very proud of what I was able to be part of and will always cherish the time I had in local government.
Advice to any future leaders in our town: Don’t have an agenda—pure and simple. I said this a lot over my time as mayor, that anyone to succeed in any elected position should “love, live for, and believe in your town” (in this instance Bluffton). If you do, then you are serving others and trying to bring value and pride to everyone who lives here, and that will bring you so much joy and happiness in being part of an elected body.
Over the years, as a council woman and then mayor, I found my place and my passion, which was encouraging and mentoring young people, and working very hard to make a place that our younger population would yearn to return to at some point in their lives. To focus on that goal, I made a concerted effort to work on jobs, housing, recreation, educational opportunities and more.
Some of this has been accomplished by the recruitment to bring CareCore (now Evicore/Cigna) to our town, along with the development of Palmetto Bluff. These are the two largest employers in our town and offer a variety of jobs to our residents. More on this front is coming soon, and I am excited to play a role in that with our Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation and the Don Ryan Center for Innovation.
I have supported the town investing in parks, developing our historic district, events throughout the year, affordable/workforce housing, our May River/environmental initiatives and have been a vocal supporter of public and private schools.
During my tenure as mayor, this town has become transparent and easily accessible through online business licenses, live-streamed meetings, online finances, easily accessible strategic and comprehensive plans, and a public information effort that consistently provides information to our local media, our county, and our own social media. We have also made investments in our employees to ensure they are happy and healthy.
We have dealt with hurricanes, floods, deaths of young residents, COVID, and rapid growth. And through these challenges, we have achieved amazing accomplishments: providing water and sewer to all of Buck Island/Simmonsville Road and the historic district; rehabilitating several historic structures to ensure their stories will always be told; seeing medical services starting to invest here; developing the New Riverside area where the greatest amount of our growth lies; partnering with the county and other groups to get properties that lie in our watershed off of septic; earning a AAA bond rating (we are one of five towns in S.C. to have this rating); and creating strong partnerships with our neighboring municipalities, counties, non-profits and utility companies. And at the end of the day, we have made Bluffton a place where people want to move to, and our young population wants to stay or come back home.
We live in an amazing town that lies in the best area of the country; we have an incredible staff and talented, hardworking residents. For that I am grateful. The help and support so many of you have given me over the years will never be overlooked, and please know how appreciative I am. While I will no longer be mayor at the beginning of 2024, I promise I will not stop helping others, including doing what I can to help this, and future councils continue our progress. Bluffton is in amazing hands with our staff and a council and mayor who truly love this town.
Looking through my photos, I took a trip down memory lane and thought a few of these would put a smile on your face:
Jumped out of an airplane.
The Bachelor filmed one of its nights in Bluffton, and I was in one of the scenes.
Watched our PD chase buffalo across Pinecrest and U.S. 278.
Allowed Tom Tom the goat permanent residence in Historic Bluffton.
Welcomed dozens of presidential candidates to our town.
Rode with the Clydesdales in two Bluffton parades.
Celebrated with Lee Jean making top nine on American Idol.
Toured Boeing with Bluffton students.
Met a family who loved our town so much they named their son Bluffton.