A Note From Our Mayors
Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
A Note from David Bennett
People Make a Community Special
Many visitors tell me, and of course I agree: Hilton Head Island is truly a blessed community. But, what visitors don’t know is that the blessings go much deeper than our magnificent beaches, recreation facilities and dining pleasures.
What they don’t know is how Hilton Head Island emerged from the bloodshed of the Civil War and its mandate for equality for all men, and then lingered peacefully for a century like a “Sleeping Beauty” beside a beautiful shoreline looking out to the Atlantic. Fortunately, the island’s “Prince Charming” turned out to be founding fathers, who were focused on setting new standards of excellence in resort real estate development, based on environmental stewardship. They donated land for open space, hospitals and churches, knowing that physical, emotional and spiritual welfare of the community’s future residents would be paramount to quality of life.
Thus, an early precedent was set—a precedent that was very unlike most other resort areas of the 1970s. As a result, the resurgent island attracted a special breed of entrepreneur and retiree—individuals and couples who were like-minded in their desire to establish a new hometown that, in many ways, would follow the biblical principle of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So it is that, today, Hilton Head Island is replete with people, organizations and businesses that continue to give back to their community.
I sincerely believe that Hilton Head Island’s greatest asset is its sheer volume of extraordinarily talented individual citizens who willingly volunteer their time, talent and treasure to help their community and their fellow man, whether it is mentoring an underprivileged child, volunteering at a local hospice, helping at the annual PGA Tour golf tournament or serving on a myriad of boards of civic organizations that try to manage the challenges of growth and economic diversity. As your mayor, I am continually impressed by people who love our community and show it through volunteerism.
Our town seeks to recognize some of these individuals with a quarterly “Mayor’s Honored Islander Award,” selecting residents who make a significant sacrifice of their time, talents and/or resources to better the community without compensation or significant public/media attention. The individuals are nominated by their peers and are judged on the basis of their service to others, professional excellence, civic and professional recognition and community activities. There is no age limit for eligibility.
So far in my tenure, I have been privileged to recognize nine such individuals: Kaye Black, Emily Starry, David Erdman, Dorothy Law, Everett Miles, Paul Lang, John Shkor, Luther Strayer, III and Loretta Warden. While I would love to tell you about all of these fine individuals as they each have served our community in extraordinary ways, space limitations for this article necessitate that I only highlight three at this time: Dr. Lu Strayer, Dot Law and Loretta Warden.
“Doctor Lu,” as he is affectionately known at Volunteers in Medicine, has arrived early at the clinic every Wednesday for the past 20 years to provide needed medical care to the uninsured and the working poor on Hilton Head. He is a physician and a Princeton graduate. He is also former team doctor for the U.S. National Rowing Team and has been a driving force behind our new Community Rowing and Sailing Center as well as donating thousands of hours of mentoring youth interested in rowing and sailing.
Dot Law has proven to be a powerful voice in the native island community. She has provided ongoing leadership in organizing property owners associations and actively participating in discussions on the town’s LMO rewrite and in the resolution of issues surrounding “open burning.” She has been a valuable advocate in bringing harmony and understanding among citizens of diverse backgrounds through the “Bridge the Gap” committee. She also actively works with young disadvantaged girls in our community.
Loretta Warden has been a behind the scenes force in many civic responsibility areas for the past two decades, both on a local and statewide level, where she has helped make ethics reform and transparency a state legislature priority. She is president of the Hilton Head League of Women Voters, where she helps build public awareness for various referendums and sponsors public candidate forums and voter registration drives. She was a member of the Town Planning Commission for seven years.
There is no doubt in my mind that the quality of life we enjoy on Hilton Head Island is the result in large part of the efforts of everyday people like these, who are passionate about responsibly sustaining and expanding the best aspects of our community.
We on Town Council are anxious to recognize more residents like these. If you know of someone who fits the profile, we encourage you to download a nomination form at the Town of Hilton Head Island website or stop by Town Hall and pick one up.
A Note from Lisa Sulka
Sustainability is at Bluffton’s core
One term that’s heard frequently in town government is sustainability. Sustainability is actually something Bluffton has been living and breathing well before it was a buzzword. Sustainability’s intent was captured in the creation of The Covenant for Bluffton (see below).
The Town of Bluffton connects the spokes of the sustainability wheel, which we consider the combination and interaction of our environment, economics, and cultural elements, through our Town Council’s vision, mission, and goals for our community. For instance several of the town’s goals for 2020 include a livable, sustainable Bluffton community that enhances quality of life; we celebrate the May River; and are a regional economic center with a diverse economy.
Our philosophy leads us to put sustainability into practice through numerous town initiatives. Examples of these initiatives include our May River Watershed Action Plan to protect and restore water quality in the May River and serve as a template for the protection of our other watersheds; the Neighborhood Assistance Program which provides assistance ranging from home repair to septic system maintenance to heirs’ property title assistance to affordable home assistance; Capital Improvement Program projects extending from sanitary sewer installation to park development to restoration of a public historic structure; our codes and ordinances guide development to balance the needs of our businesses, citizens and environment; our Don Ryan Center for Innovation is a technology incubator to diversify our economic base and opportunities; and the Bluffton Public Development Corporation recruits and negotiates with businesses to establish themselves in Bluffton and increase employment opportunities for our citizens. While this is surely not a comprehensive list of all that Bluffton does, we are mindful that sustainability is built into the Covenant for Bluffton, and each of us live this every day in our service to the town and its citizens.
The Covenant for Bluffton
As citizens of Bluffton, South Carolina, we hold the following to be true: 1) That social, cultural and economic diversity and inclusiveness are the essence of our community; 2) That we bear responsibility for the stewardship of nature’s blessings entrusted to us in Bluffton and along the May River; 3) That freedom and civic duty work hand-in-hand to create a culture of individuality and a sense of community; 4) That our natural, physical and cultural history are worthy of our protection as trustees in order for us to embrace our future.
Acknowledging these truths, we aspire to the following goals: 1) To build upon our historic foundation a future that celebrates diversity, nurtures neighborliness and ensures a future of opportunity for generations to come; 2) To enhance the natural beauty and the quality of the May River and its watershed; 3) To protect the architectural heritage of Old Town Bluffton; 4) To enhance the canopy of trees and natural landscape throughout Bluffton; 5) To engage the creative human spirit and the arts within Bluffton; 6)To protect and enhance the oyster, shrimping, and fishing opportunities of the May River; 7) To provide housing opportunities for all citizens that are decent, affordable, and Bluffton beautiful; 8) To nurture a respect for each citizen.