3 candidates vie for 2 Beaufort City Council seats

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3 candidates vie for 2 Beaufort City Council seats

By ERIN MOODY
emoody@beaufortgazette.com
Published Saturday, October 20, 2012   |  425 Words  |  

Economic growth and communication with residents top the lists of concerns for the three candidates running for two open Beaufort City Council seats.

Councilmen Mike McFee and George O'Kelley Jr. will compete with newcomer Pete Palmer for the nonpartisan seats in the Nov. 6 election. Billy Keyserling is running unopposed for a second term as mayor.

City Council's five members -- a mayor and four council members -- are all elected at-large.

McFee, 54, is a Realtor who is completing his first term on council. He also serves on the city's Redevelopment Commission and a variety of local boards. He wants to continue on council so he can work on projects he believes will diversify an economy reliant upon the military and tourism.

"The opportunities are so much more limited because we have such a weak base of economic diversity," he said.

A native Beaufortonian, McFee said an extensive knowledge of the community is important as projects such as the proposed day dock near Henry C. Chambers Waterfont Park are reconsidered.

O'Kelley, 70, is an attorney and has the most council experience of the candidates. He served on council in the 1970s, resigned to become a municipal judge, served another term in the 2000s, and in July 2011, he replaced Gary Fordham, who died in office. He also briefly served as interim mayor after the resignation of Bill Rauch.

He believes residents are more concerned with national issues, such as the economy and unemployment than local politics, and wants to continue serving so he can push forward with projects already under way. That includes attracting businesses to the Beaufort Commerce Park the city bought for $1.8 million last spring, and encouraging growth.

Palmer, 76, is a retired CIA spy and businessman who moved to Beaufort in 1999. He has served on the boards of the Wardle Family YMCA and the Historic Beaufort Foundation, of which he was chairman.

He wants to bring a new voice to council and a more critical look at finances, especially city-planning expenditures. He thinks it's time for a change in the council makeup.

"My prayer is that if I do get elected, in two years' time, a couple more positively intentioned souls will step up," he said.

Palmer also said he wants to encourage more discussion between city officials and the community and to make residents feel more comfortable about commenting on issues.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.