Local Election HQ: Get to know IOP Mayoral candidates

Your Local Election HQ

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – News 2 is your Local Election Headquarters. We are just days away from Isle of Palms voters choosing who will lead the island over the next four years. There are three candidates running for the position. The three will likely face several challenges if voted to replace outgoing Mayor Jimmy Carroll.

Two current City Council members, Ryan Buckhannon, Phillip Pounds and newcomer Joshua Hooser, are vying to become the next Mayor of the Isle of Palms. Some of the challenges the candidates are likely to face if elected include beach parking, continued growth while managing the quality of life for residents, appointing a Fire Chief, and more. Each candidate believes they have the plan to successfully lead the city.

We asked each candidate the same questions to learn their plans if elected Mayor.

Question 1: Some of the major issues facing the Isle of Palms over the past year have been beach parking, battles with the South Carolina Department of Transportation, lawsuits, Tidal Wave Water Sports, the Isle of Palms Marina, hiring a Fire Chief and more. How do you plan to address these issues facing the city moving forward?

Candidate Josh Hooser: “Well we need to get out of the courtroom and we need to put our thinking caps on and we need to act like grown-ups. The issues at the Marina are completely avoidable, the issues with the state are completely avoidable if we just stop treating this like everything had to be a battle in court. I think we would have a lot easier solutions to the problems because a lot of these problems are really easy to fix, it’s just going to take new talent in the city really to fix it. That’s why I am running. Well, the city owns five acres where we are right now, we can build a parking garage here. It would be very simple and I’ve talked to other residents, a lot of long-term residents who want it. We could support the island businesses that are right here on front beach and we could provide the amenities that people want. What a lot of people don’t understand is that up and down the island there aren’t restrooms, there are not amenities. They are here so if we build that parking garage here, I think it would be a really good solution to satisfy everybody in the region.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: ” With beach parking, I was the only member, the only member running for Mayor right now, the only member running for council as well that was part of the 2015 beach parking plan. I helped implement it, I helped push it through that was accepted by SCDOT. So we’re going to fight to maintain that 2015 parking plan, I have no intention of changing it. I’ve fought for it ever since. When you talk about infrastructure and roads, it’s basically we don’t need more parking we need better parking management and we need to look towards technology to make that happen. In the Marina we have a new lease with the restaurant, we’re excited about the restaurant lease coming on board and the restaurant will hopefully be opened by the end of the year and up and running and be a place where everybody can go to and this council worked well in getting that up and moving. And with Tidal Wave, I feel bad that they are on their way out, you know I made a motion to try and work with them but it failed 5-4. I think anytime we can have a public-private cooperation between businesses and government and still have a revenue stream down there and I think it would’ve worked out great and have a business there part-time and a public dock part-time but the rest of council didn’t feel that was appropriate.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “Some of the things we’ve talked about needing to your point, the issues on the island have been the same for quite some time and part of what we need going forward and what I’ll bring to the table is the leadership around solving some of these issues. You know whether we’re building relationships on or off the island, making sure we have good communication with our residents, as well as other partners on and off the island – I think that’s going to be key to solving some of these issues going forward. Our issue is not so much parking, I think we provide about 1,700 spots on the island. The issue is really about ingress and egress on and off the island and we need to work with our partners – whether it’s county or Mount Pleasant or state to help reverse the lanes on the connector as an example. Change how people pay to get into the county lot, pay after instead of before. So I think there are some pretty simple things we can do to make sure traffic can flow better, I feel like parking we’ve got plenty of parking on the island. We just need to focus on making sure we have safety and that we can make people move faster on and off the island.”

Question 2: What do you think are the most important issues facing Isle of Palms voters at the ballot box next Thursday?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “Well I think people want change and I don’t understand how we’ve gotten to the place that we have in terms of our reputation here. Isle of Palms used to have a very good reputation in our region and that’s plummeted and so I am running to save that and to turn that around and to get us back to where we were which is an easy-going, laid back beach town that everybody smiles when they think of.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “A lot of it has to be residential quality of life and I have a record that I’ve proven it and you know I went through and at some point members on council wanted to put large parking lots between the dunes you know on Ocean Boulevard and I was the only member that fought against it at that time. You know, when it comes down to quality of life, it has to deal with parking and traffic management, has to deal with infrastructure. I helped push the drainage infrastructure along. I started work as the Chairman of the Public Works early on, started on phase one – worked through phase two and now we’re on to phase three. And we’re seeing the results of that.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “Again our issues have been the same for a long time. Parking, traffic, drainage, sewer. Again to me, I’ve tried to paint it as really a leadership issue. Someone that can strategically take the city to the next level if you will and again to me that means a lot of communication and that means a lot of partnering with people to bring products and services to the residents of our island.

Question 3: Balancing tourism growth and residential quality of life continue to be issues facing the city. What’s your plan to balance the two in the future?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “I want to do a comprehensive study on the growth and region growth, that’s going to take cooperation with the other cities. But, there’s a lot of information that we don’t have. For example, we don’t know really how many houses here are short-term rentals versus owner-occupied versus part-time homes, a lot of people have second homes here. We have not done a very good job of researching and getting the information so first we need to gather the information with the study on the growth and then we need to figure out what to do with that information. I have a feeling that it’s going to say that our amenities are outdated, our infrastructure is outdated and our island has grown to the point where we need to really come up with unique solutions because I think the one thing that we can all agree on is that the growth is not going to stop so we need to figure out how to leverage the growth moving forward.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “With the growth of the tri-county area, really just the Lowcountry, that’s where we’re being inundated from. So it’s really reaching out to other communities, creating a bridge between us and other leaders throughout the state, the county and other local municipalities. Try to develop plans to you know get people on and off the island, to work with our real estate companies to make sure balance of short-term rental homes and rental homes as compared to full-time residents are maintained.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “I think one of the first things that is up in 2022 is a review of our parking plan and I think for our residents they would like to keep that parking plan because it protects the residential streets. You know even though we’re a destination site, it is still a residential community and we would like to keep parking to the Front Beach area as well as on Palm Boulevard and keep it out of the residential areas where kids are playing and those streets are very narrow and you can’t public safety personnel down there if we allow parking in those areas.”

Question 4: What are some of the most important things you want to tackle as Mayor?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “I want to make the beach warm and welcoming to everybody especially in the region. Isle of Palms started off as a hunting and fishing island for the region, a lot of people don’t understand the history of the island – this is very much a regional island and now that we have three of the four largest cities in state in our region with North Charleston, City of Charleston and Mount Pleasant – we need to understand that this is one of the four beaches the region goes to. And so I’m hoping to have a voice for the people who just want this island to be laid back and not so much drama about every issue. The thing that I am hearing from a lot of voters is that they’re sad that our reputation has been drilled into the ground by the current administration. They just seem to want to, no matter what the issue is they want to go to courtroom against citizens, businesses, the cities, county, the state and people don’t want that anymore they want a change and they want that animosity to be over.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “Right away it’s traffic and parking you know like I said working with the other agencies whether it’s the state, the county, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island – trying to manage traffic. We should not have to have issues where it takes hours for our residents to get off of the island. We need to treat every weekend like a Carolina football game, we need to pull in other agencies, we need to work together in order to manage that growth.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “You know one of the things I want to do in January is, I joined council in January of 2020 and we had a couple meetings and we very quickly went to Zoom. We had no opportunity to find comradery, find success, put metrics in place – that’s one of the things I would really like to do in January with this new council because there will be at least four new council members coming in, in January. So I would like to spend a little bit of time at a retreat talking a little bit about what success looks like for us in the next year or two or four or longer term. So part of what I want to bring is strategy to the table and whether that’s tackling parking or drainage or traffic or whatever it is, is just to have strategy around it and to have good communication from a result of it.”

Question 5: How high of a priority is it for you to appoint a Fire Chief?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “Our public safety officials are my number one priority, I have been completely embarrassed by the way the city has handled the Fire Chief process, the process has been flawed. They actually just voted to change the law here about how that is going to be handled moving forward. I’m not sure how that’s going to work either. You need to ask the fire department what they want, I mean this is a very unique situation where we don’t have an EMS or a hospital on our island – the fire department are our first responders. When you have someone that’s leading the fire department who’s not trusted or a process that has been flawed, it hurts morale and we need to not let that happen.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “It’s very important and I think we should hopefully have one appointed before the end of the year. You know we should’ve appointed an interim one from the very beginning. We knew that Chief Graham was on her way out and we should’ve had that succession in there and had put somebody in place immediately internally to help with that transition.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “Absolute number one priority, that is a key position for us. You know we went through a search earlier this year, we’re initiating another nationwide search as we speak. You know we just need to find the right talent whether that’s inside or outside of the fire department. That’s probably one of the top two or three critical positions for us, we’re a staff of about 92 here in the city. That will be very high on the list for us whether that be in the latter part of this year or the first part of next year with the new council once it gets seated.”

Question 6: What do you bring to the table as a candidate for Mayor of the Isle of Palms?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “I’m excited to be a political outsider, I think people want change and they don’t want somebody who’s wrapped up in the establishment or good old boy politics – that’s what got us into this mess and so they’re excited to have a new voice, a younger voice. Somebody who can really come in and work rather than try to be a career politician.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “It’s just the experience, like I’ve said I’ve served on council for twenty-two years. I know the ins and outs of the workings of how the government works and how to get things done. You know, I have a proven record of effective change out here. Whether it’s recreation to public safety, whether it’s golf cart paths or golf cart parking in the beach access paths. I look to try to get something done and I’m able to make it happen.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “So I spent my first couple of years in any kind of give back service on the Planning Commission here on the Isle of Palms and that was really a good overview of strategic projects that were going on and whether it was drainage or sewer or roads or traffic or parking. So it was a really good entrée to get grounded in all of the money that was being spent on the island. You know and then two years on the Ways and Means Committee which is what builds budgets which is a pretty tough time period with COVID. You know so that’s really where a lot of the work is done building a budget for the city so you know between my financial background, the management roles that I had and that background lends itself very well to me to go to that next spot and that would be the mayor’s seat.”

Question 7: First objective as Mayor of Isle of Palms?

Candidate Joshua Hooser: “My first objective is to make public comments uninhibited. I spoke at the last meeting, Mayor Carroll tried to put a stoplight in front of me to shut me up and that’s not okay I mean the government needs to listen to their citizens and try to intimidate people when they are trying to speak to their city council is inappropriate and it’s Un-American so my first act as Mayor would be opening public comment back up.”

Candidate Ryan Buckhannon: “Is to meet with all of my department heads and figure out where are we going. How do we reconcile where we’ve been this last year, these last two years. Let’s meet with the department heads and figure out where we need to be.”

Candidate Phillip Pounds: “Day one in January again I want to have a retreat with this new council. A lot of these folks will be brand new to public service just like I was a couple years ago you know again I would like to kind of fix what I didn’t get to have when I joined with COVID when we went straight to Zoom with all of these meetings. Build some comradery, to build some relationships, to build some trust amongst our council members and really to put some metrics in place to define what success is going to look like after we get grounded and put some programs in place. And really start building those good relationships among a council team.

News 2 will bring you full coverage of Election Day on the Isle of Palms and all of the municipal elections next Tuesday both on-air and online.

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