110217 Pawleys Island: Polls open for first time in 12 years for 130 voters
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In 2003, Paige Oberlin casts her vote at Town Hall as poll manager Amelia McFaddin looks on.

Pawleys Island: Polls open for first time in 12 years for 130 voters

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Even in an election year, there is a better chance of seeing a bald eagle than a campaign sign on Pawleys Island. That changed this year with the decision of the island’s longest-serving mayor and one of its long-serving council members to retire.

Voters in the town, estimated at around 130, will go to the polls Tuesday for the first time since 2005. The town hasn’t had a contested election since 2003, when there were six candidates for four seats on Town Council. This year there are five, plus two candidates to replace Bill Otis as mayor.

“I think people understand this is a unique year. We actually do have choices,” said Rocky Holliday, who is running for a second term.

Ashley Carter, elected in 2015, and Sarah Zimmerman, elected in 1997, are also seeking new terms. Guerry Green and Leda McIntyre Hall are making their first run for council.

“Many people were not here in 2003. It’s a new experience for them,” said Jimmy Braswell. He and Doug Hooks are running for mayor.

Both have campaign signs, as does Hall, something long-time residents agree is a first for a town election.

But all the candidates are relying on personal contact with voters to get the word out. Hooks is among those going door to door. “It’s the effort I would want someone to put forth as a candidate,” he said.

Zimmerman is proof that the technique pays off. She ran four times before a lack of contested races allowed the town to invoke a state law to avoid holding elections. The law has changed and 2019 will require an election, contested or not, said Donna Mahn, Georgetown County’s director of Elections and Registration, which will conduct the town election.

“Just because I’ve been doing this for 20 years is no guarantee,” Zimmerman said.

Voting will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pawleys Island Community Church, the county’s polling place for the precinct that includes the island. Voters will need to bring photo ID, a requirement not in place in the last town election.

Only registered voters who live in the town – the area east of the center line of Pawleys Creek – are eligible to vote.

Candidates say they realize there is a larger constituency for the island: property owners, renters and day visitors from the surrounding area. Hall announced her campaign with a banner plane ad over Labor Day weekend. “I’ve had a lot of people say they saw it,” she said. But she is also knocking on doors.

“It’s better to have a personal conversation if you can,” Green said. He has also sent out letters, as have Carter and Hooks.

“I’m talking to anybody who’s willing to listen,” Braswell said.

Amid the flurry of campaign activity, Otis has stayed on the sidelines. At a retirement party on the island last week, he recalled the way the town was divided in the years before he was elected. “If we don’t stand together in the future, without personal agendas, to do what is best for this island, we will backslide,” he said. “On Tuesday, if you vote, please keep boring government on Pawleys Island.”

Although the town didn’t hold elections, it did have an Election Day barbecue for voters and property owners. That tradition will continue, Administrator Ryan Fabbri said. It will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Nature Park and continue until the results of the election are announced.

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