March 2017

A Note From Our Mayors

Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

A Note from David Bennett
Meet the Future

Every day, I meet the future, and likely, so do you. My 12-year-old son, Oliver, witnesses my life and work for the Town of Hilton Head Island. And last March, when he presented to Town Council the idea for Student Government Day, the concept was unanimously approved. Oliver proposed that Student Government Day be a day of excitement, learning, understanding, appreciation and inspiration for the student participants. For me and the other Councilors, it was all of that and more.

Town staff member Faidra Smith, a former teacher, seized upon the idea. And the town staff and Councilors met the future on those two days in February. We were the ones who were truly inspired. And oh, did we learn a few things!

We learned that our young Hilton Head Islanders are interactive and knowledgeable about local and global issues. As civil servants for a day, they campaigned for office and prepared to consider the issues of mandatory recycling and food vendor trucks. They discovered how each town department handles real life issues, how information is gathered, researched and communicated and finally, how decisions are made by elected officials. The students engaged the adults with challenging questions. They displayed understanding of how these issues may eventually impact broader matters of public policy. They realized that local matters are ultimately of importance to the world they are inheriting.

The students also engaged us, the adults, with challenging questions. We learned that this generation embraces values critical to our community. Participants were vocal in expressing their desires to sustain what is special about Hilton Head Island. Their direct questions to Town Councilors focused on the environment and on protecting the beauty and use of the beaches, promoting arts, heritage and culture for audiences and aspiring artists, and providing family-friendly opportunities to live, recreate and celebrate. Students expressed heartfelt compassion for their teachers in desiring that they be able to live nicely and affordably on Hilton Head Island. And they spoke of their concerns for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Poignantly, we learned that these fine students, who are growing up and being educated here, aspire to accomplish great things. They are incredibly optimistic about their futures. When asked, they confidently described plans for higher education, challenging career choices and fearless engagement with adulthood.

Oliver’s original presentation to Town Council was entitled “Consider and Decide.” And honestly, isn’t this what we all need to do daily? The Town Council’s priorities of Vision, Workforce Availability, Arts, Heritage, and Culture, Heirs’ Property, Regionalization and Infrastructure are all about our civic engagement, just as our children demonstrated. It’s worth it. It’s for our future.

The island that our students call home is impacting their lives. Our efforts as a town are aimed at sustaining the kind of unique community that will continue to influence future generations and someday draw them back. Let’s meet the future head-on, and encourage the next generation to do likewise. 

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A Note from Lisa Sulka
Trash Talk, Retirement and Streetscape

Let’s start with a little trash talk. If you are a Bluffton resident, we contract with Waste Management to provide you this service. If you ever have any issues with your trash or recycling pick up, there are three ways you can reach Waste Management’s customer service: 1) call them directly at (888) 964-9730, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 2) e-mail them at southatlantic-cs@wm.com. Please allow 48 hours for a reply; 3) chat online with Waste Management via wm.com. Call them if you need a new trash cart or recycling bin or if you have issues with service. If you need further assistance, please call the town’s Customer Service Center at (843) 706-4500.

The town also had a changing of the guard in its Finance Department. We said goodbye to Shirley Freeman, who spent a decade with the Town of Bluffton. Her 32-year career in municipal finance provided a trajectory of success for both Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. Shirley was dedicated to transparent, solid financial standings for her employers, and the award-filled wall in the Finance Department is proof of her dedication. Through her leadership, Standard and Poor’s has awarded the Town of Bluffton a AA+ rating, which is the second-highest rating possible for a municipality. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has also awarded the Town of Bluffton the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for eight years, the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for five years and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Reporting for five years.

Trisha Greathouse is the new finance director and she has worked for the town for a decade. We look forward to Trisha carrying on this legacy.

As you can see from the orange barrels and message boards on May River Road, we are working hard on the May River Road Streetscape Project. When finished, the road will be wider and will provide 30 additional on-street parking spaces from Pin Oak to Whispering Pine. There will be sidewalks and street lights on both sides of May River Road. In addition, the town is installing a storm sewer infrastructure and landscaping throughout the entire project.

This will give a beautiful entry to the Bluffton Historic District from May River Road as well as increase parking, promote the health of the May River, connect our neighborhoods and neighbors, and provide a safe place to walk and bike. Thank you for your patience during construction.

As always, if you have a comment, question or suggestion, please contact me at lsulka@townofbluffton.com.

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