Hilton Head council elections: Ferguson to run again; Heitzke faces challengers

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Hilton Head council elections: Ferguson to run again; Heitzke faces challengers

By TOM BARTON
tbarton@islandpacket.com
Published Saturday, June 30, 2012   |  1057 Words  |  

His health temporarily sidelined him. He has been chided for public outbursts, and he has pleaded guilty to domestic violence.

Still, Hilton Head Island's longest-serving Town Council member and lone minority, Bill Ferguson, is running for another four-year term, and so far no one is challenging him.

Filing begins July 31 for candidates seeking Town Council seats in the Nov. 6 general election. Voters will elect council members representing Wards 1, 3 and 6 in the nonpartisan elections.

Here's a look at those who say they'll run.

WARD 1

Ferguson, 64, brushed off criticism of his erratic behavior in 2011. Medications got mixed up, he said, affecting his health and behavior.

He said he's better now. His medication is under control, he has mellowed and he's keeping up with his health.

The native islander was scolded last year by colleagues and residents for accosting a fellow council member before a meeting, calling him a bigot, and disrupting proceedings before storming out.

Ferguson later apologized and said his behavior stemmed from health problems. He was temporarily relieved of his committee duties after doctors told him to reduce stress, and he was later hospitalized in Charleston for undisclosed reasons. He resumed his council responsibilities two weeks later, after being released from the VA Hospital.

The Vietnam veteran has said he's taking medication for several illnesses, including diabetes and exposure to Agent Orange during his military service.

"I feel up to the job. My health is good right now," Ferguson said by phone Friday.

He said an incident involving his wife that landed him in a courtroom was overblown and in the past.

Ferguson pleaded guilty in December to misdemeanor criminal domestic violence and agreed to complete anger-management counseling.

"That was part of a plea bargain to take the blame for it and get it off my wife, live with it, and move on," he said. "That's in the past."

Ferguson's wife was also charged with misdemeanor criminal domestic violence. A judge dismissed the charge.

"In today's law, the definition of criminal domestic violence isn't limited to striking someone ... it's a broad definition," Ferguson said. "And in my case, it was very minor, and I never lifted a hand to my wife."

He says anger-management counseling has helped.

Ferguson said he wants another term to build upon progress made in Ward 1 through his leadership on council, namely recent projects expanding sewer service in the area.

He plans to continue that push if re-elected, as well as lobby council to become more aggressive about paving dirt roads.

Bottom line, Ferguson says: "There's still a lot of work that needs to be done in Ward 1 that I'd like to finish."

Residents of the native-island, Ward 1 community reached by phone Friday declined to comment about Ferguson seeking re-election and were not aware of any challengers.

Ferguson, however, said he was surprised to learn some people in the native-island community endorsed other candidates when he ran for mayor in 2010.

Ferguson received about 5 percent of the vote among seven candidates.

WARD 3

Nearly a year and half after avoiding a runoff in a five-way special election, Town Council newcomer Lee Edwards could be back on the ballot.

Attempts Friday to reach Edwards, 44, president and CEO of The Greenery, were unsuccessful. The Ward 3 representative is expected to seek re-election, but has not announced whether he will.

No one else has declared intentions to run for the seat.

WARD 6

The race has already begun for Mayor Pro Tem Ken Heitzke's Ward 6 seat.

Former town Parks & Recreation Commission chairman John McCann announced his candidacy in November, a year before the election. Former mayoral candidate Jim Collett soon followed.

Heitzke, 83, has not said whether he will seek re-election. Attempts to reach him Friday were unsuccessful. He has represented Ward 6 on Town Council since 1997.

McCann, 71, said he announced early to take his time getting his name out to voters and listen to their concerns.

He supports construction of a new village center, wants to encourage more transparency and participation in town decisions, and believes town staff is spread too thin.

"There's too much going on and we need to better prioritize," said McCann, a Port Royal Plantation resident.

He also worries about increased spending by the town for new amenities, such as a sailing-and-rowing center and new waterfront park.

"I think we need to slow down and be careful about the decisions we make and not ... let growth and development take away from the values residents cherish," McCann said. "Tourism is important, but it's the residents that make Hilton Head what it is. We need to put them first, and we haven't been."

Collett, 65, got 16.6 percent of the vote and finished third in the race for mayor in the November 2010 general election.

He leads a task force pushing for improved wireless service on the island and chaired the town's Board of Zoning Appeals for five years.

"This is simply an extension of my commitment to the future of this place," Collett said. "There's a lot that still needs to be done on this island in terms of economic development, including continuing to improve telecommunications service. Hilton Head is a great place to live, work and raise a family -- not just vacation. We need to do a better job promoting that and encouraging people to move here."

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

Related content:

Hilton Head councilman pleads guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence: Dec. 2, 2011

Candidates declare early in Hilton Head's Ward 6 2012 council election: Nov. 7, 2011

John McCann campaign website


Jim Collett campaign website