By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
The Town of Seabrook Island will hold elections on Nov. 7 with polling to take place in the comfort of Seabrook’s Lake House from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. “Odd” year elections tend to have lower turnouts but there are some advantages to the scheduling; it avoids conflating national/ statewide issues with local concerns, shifting the focus to local matters, and can serve as an endorsement of the direction chosen by elected officials. The timing makes the voices of the electorate ring louder, too, and candidates can’t help but hear… assuming you vote.
Seabrook island has had plenty of things to cope with in the last couple years; logistics of a new gatehouse, storm damage, forever host of Disaster Awareness Day, and navigating the quagmire of regulations required to renovate Seabrook Island Road, to name just a few. Despite it all, “The liquidity of this town is very good. That’s how they are able to fund the road project without creating new revenues like everyone else,” said independent auditor Erik Glaser [Glaser and Co.] during a presentation to the town Aug. 29. “The Town has been taking in more than they spend – nothing complicated about it. We are going to build from revenues, as we have been planning for all along. We didn’t have to dip into reserves, [because] we planned for it.”
Seabrook residents will be voting for mayor, selecting four council members from a field of five candidates, and choosing one utility commissioner from a field of two.
Mayor Ron Ciancio is running unopposed for his second term at the helm, but he still wants your vote. He told The Island Connection in an email; “I have had the good fortune to serve our community in a number of capacities:
1. SIPOA Board of Directors, its Executive Committee and chair of its Legal Committee
2. A member of Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy Board of Directors and as its president
3. A member of Sea Island Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, and for two years as its president.
4. I have served for four years on the Seabrook Island Town Council and have served the last two years as mayor.
“Since the end of December 2011 the Town’s net assets have increased by almost thirty-six percent,” Ciancio continued.
“During the same time period, we have increased our reserve for emergency preparedness by nearly $700,000. [We also] passed an ordinance authorizing Council to issue $4,500,000 in bonds or tax associated with debris removal. The Town’s only outstanding debt was incurred to finance the Utility Commission’s infrastructure improvements and to refinance Utility Commission debt. [It] is not a general obligation of the Town, [and] is payable solely from the revenue of the Utility Commission. Next year we will complete our renovation of the Seabrook Island road drainage system, and will also undertake painting of the interior and exterior of town hall and complete several interior improvements.
“My principal task for the next two years will be to facilitate the transition of our newly hired Town Administrator, Joseph Cronin. Joe will replace Randy Pierce who is retiring after nearly twenty years of service with the Town. I will continue to make emergency preparedness and our capability to respond to emergencies priorities for our staff and council. I believe it is important that we continue our effort to promote cooperation and communication among our community’s governing entities, the Town, POA and Club. I will continue communication with the officials of the Town Kiawah on matters of common interest, particularly our mutual efforts to prepare for and respond to emergency situations affecting our communities. I will continue our outreach to county and state officials. Finally, I would very much like to expand the Town’s use of the many talented individuals in our community and to use our best efforts to be responsive to the concerns of our residents. Thank you very much for the opportunity to serve our community.”
Incumbent mayor pro tem John Gregg is running for re-election. Gregg told The Island Conection, “I am a retired intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets) lawyer. My wife Katie and I have been full time residents of Seabrook since 2006. I was elected to Town Council in 2013 and re-elected in 2015. Since 2015, I have served as Mayor Pro Tem. In my capacity as a member of Town Council, I serve as the Town’s Public Safety Official and liaison to the Club’s Long Range Planning Committee. As Public Safety Official, I work with the Town’s Disaster Recovery Council and chair the Town’s Public Safety Committee.”
Gregg says he’s running because he’s found tenure on Town Council to be fulfilling and challenging. “Through my service on the Town’s Public Safety Committee and with the Town’s Disaster Recovery Council, I appreciate the good that can be done through emergency response planning, practice, and post event review,” he said. “I hope to be able to continue my contribution to those efforts. “I see the following priorities for the Town:
1. Assist SIPOA with pursuit of governmental grant funding for improvements to SIPOA’s storm water drainage infrastructure
2. Continue efforts with Berkeley Electric Cooperative to improve communication with residents concerning pre-emptive power cut-off and post event power restoration
3. Seek to preserve the Town’s interests in respect of potential development of land adjacent to but outside the Town with review and improvement of existing ordinances and exploration of annexation
4. Continue to advocate with County and State agencies for improvement of roads on Johns Island.”
John B. Wells is an incumbent council member running for his second term. He said “My wife Mary and I have been residents of Seabrook Island since 1995. I have served on the Town in several capacities:
1. Seabrook Island Planning Commission including as its Chairman for 2014/2015
2. The Seabrook Island Club Maintenance Committee
3. Program and Maintenance Manager for SIPOA from 1998 to 2013. Wells said he would use a second term to:
1. Streamline construction and modifications to multi-family dwellings by the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association and the Town of Seabrook Island
2. Insure that the town of Seabrook Island provides adequate staﬀ and funding for the oversight and enforcement of Town ordinances with emphasis on Emergency Planning
3. Maintain a zero millage tax rate for the Town of Seabrook Island
4. Implement storm drainage solutions in additional areas with the Seabrook Island Parkway as the first priority
5. Maintain of buﬀer zones between adjoining SIC and SIPOA properties
6. Maintain property values with aging facilities
Wells graduated from Clemson University in 1962 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Prior to moving to Seabrook Island in1995, he worked as a Navy Senior Commander for 33 years.
Skip Crane is the final incumbent, and is also requesting his second term as a member of council. He told The Island Connection, “I have been a full time resident on Seabrook Island since 1995, settling here shortly after retiring from 30 years with IBM. I worked locally for the next 13 years as a Program Manager and Subject Matter Expert with the South Carolina Research Authority.
Consensus building and collaborative management have characterized my entire professional career. I continue to use this same approach in my contributions to the community in various roles.” His involvement in the Seabrook community includes:
1. The SIPOA Environmental Committee in 2011
2. The Planning Committee in 2012 where he led the effort to structure the 5-year plan for the SIPOA opinion survey and implemented the first “focus group” approach for 2015 survey
3. The Safety and Security Committee from 2014 to 2016
4. The Adopt-A-Highway program
Crane says he ran for council in 2015 because he was looking for a better way to contribute to the community. “I was fortunate to win and was designated Town liaison for the community at large (SIPOA, Camp St. Christopher, and Bohicket Marina). I am also a member of the Town’s Public Safety Committee.
“The Seabrook Island community is a marvelous collection of talented individuals. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the community as a member of Town Council, and I hope the residents will once again put their trust in me to represent them,” he said.
John Reynolds is a first time candidate for council, but this is not his first experience making a difference on Seabrook. His degrees include a B.A., Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, and a M.Div., Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA.
“I have been a property owner on Seabrook since 1988. After moving here as a full-time resident in 2010, I became involved with Seabrook CERT, serving as Team Leader for the past five years,” Reynolds said. “That experience will be especially helpful as the Town works to deal with disasters such as hurricanes.”
Reynolds is certain his seven years’ experience in the Civil Rights Movement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has prepared him for the rigors of building common ground. “I was trained to work with people to make things happen. We faced difficult obstacles, but managed to achieve outcomes that made life better for people,” he said.
“I believe that one of the most important issues is protecting Seabrook’s natural beauty; its beaches, its green space, and its wildlife. The Green Conservancy on Seabrook has been doing excellent work in buying up property to prevent overdevelopment and to maintain the natural beauty of the island. We need to insure that the three entities on Seabrook (Town, SIPOA and Club) work to continue those efforts together. “Climate change is real, and the science speaks for itself,” Reynolds continued.
“Living on an island means we will be affected by rising seas more than those inland. Many communities have suffered because of over-development, and promoting the efforts of The Green Conservancy can help with that. Our zoning regulations have to take flooding into consideration. One of the immediate actions that may help with flooding is to clean the drains on the roadways more often to facilitate drainage.”
Jeralyn (Jeri) Finke rounds out the list of prospective council members, and is the second candidate running for the first time.
“My husband Fred and I bought our Seabrook Island lot in 2006, had a wonderful building experience, and moved into our home late in 2010,” she said. “After 30 years on Capitol Hill, where I worked in the personal offices of Members of the U.S. House, I’m grateful to call myself retired.”
Finke has, “always believed that we build solid communities when everyone is encouraged to participate through public service.” Her Seabrook experience includes:
1. Co-chairing SIPOA’s newcomers’ committee
2. Service the Environmental Committee
3. Tutoring, and volunteered with the SI Club
4. 2+ terms on the Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy board, currently as president
5. Chairing the annual Green Space Gala for many years – this coming March will be my seventh and last Gala
“Serving on Town Council seemed to be a good match with my experience on Capitol Hill where I specialized in parliamentary law and the budget/appropriations process, but I most enjoyed constituent services. As a former chief of staff for a Member of Congress, I bring those organizational and consensus-building skills to the Council in the hope of giving my neighbors an even louder, effective voice in Charleston County,” Finke told The Island Connection.
Voters will also have to pick between two candidates to fill one seat on the Seabrook Island Utility (SIU).
Incumbent Jim Bannwart is running for his second six-year term as utility commissioner. He is currently the chair of the commission and SIU’s representative to town council. He always regales SITC with a candid and succinct status report that is always transparent, including the good, as well as any bad news. Colonel Bannwart graduated from the Air Force Academy, and later earned a Masters in civil engineering. Bannwart spent his entire professional life working in the industry he’s running for.
He and Maryann have thoroughly enjoyed full time resident status for the past eleven years and the visits it elicits from their kids and grandchildren. Busy as SIU keeps him, Bannwart has contributed to Seabrook in other ways including:
1. The SIPOA Board of Directors
2. SIPOA committees
3. Consulting on island infrastructure
4. Chaired the General Operating and Maintenance Committee
Annie Smith-Jones is a long-term property owner, and moved to Seabrook full time last year. She rounds out the list of candidates seeking a seat on the SIU commission. Smith-Jones says she hasn’t been here long enough to volunteer, but her local activity includes:
1. Volunteering with Water Wellness, a program under Sea Islands Hunger Awareness Foundation providing free consulting services to the residents of Wadmalaw Island. “I test their drinking water to determine its quality and if a new well may be needed or a chemical filter system in order to make it drinkable.”
2. Smith-Jones also provides pro-bono environmental work through Pure Earth. Its mission is to clean up the world’s most polluted places. For example, in Dakar, Senegal, where 13 small children and babies died of lead poisoning due to car battery lead.
It is Smith-Jones professional experience that is germane to SIU. She is the President of Quality Environmental Solutions an environmental consulting firm located in Annapolis, MD. Her range of responsibilities includes overseeing the cleanup of more than 60 sites in six states working with State agencies such as SC-DHEC. QES provides a wide range of consulting services including assessment and remediation of underground and surface contamination, permitting work, the running of waste water treatment systems, site assessments for building development, etc.
“Water and waste disposal are two primary, but oftentimes forgotten resources that need careful attention to ensure they remain resources for generations to come. I believe I have the knowledge and skills needed to help continue with the delivery of these resources,” concluded Smith-Jones.
Voting only takes a few minutes and is an important way to participate in the Seabrook community. Choices like these make the short drive/ride to the Lake House more pleasure than duty.