Q&A with Isle of Palms Mayor candidates Cronin, Buckhannon
While there are only four candidates running for Isle of Palms City Council – and four seats available – there is a race for Isle of Palms Mayor.
Current mayor Dick Cronin is seeking re-election and mayor pro tem Ryan Buckhannon is also running for the office.
The Moultrie News asked Cronin and Buckhannon questions about their intent with the office, top priorities and leadership abilities.
Question: Why and how did you make your decision?
Dick Cronin: It has been an honor to serve the island as mayor for the past five years – much has been accomplished. In 2000, Mayor Carmen Bunch asked if I was interested in serving on the city’s planning commission. Ever since, I have devoted myself to make our community a wonderful place to live.
We have weathered the recession with our finances in good order without having to raise our property tax; we have the lowest mileage in Charleston County. We have been retiring our debt early and now have an improved bond rating. Our work on the critical issues of preserving our beach and welcoming our many visitors is an ongoing and active initiative.
I continue to champion legislation in Columbia, which would allow beach communities to fund our beach preservation needs by charging tourists. This legislation has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House next year. I have been successful in getting this year’s state budget to include $2 million for beach preservation; it has been $0 in the recent budgets.
Ryan Buckhannon: I have always taught my boys to “leave things better than you found it” and my decision to run one more time for the city council position two years ago was based on that theory. The irresponsible legislation and spending prompted me to stay the course and continue on council for common sense decisions and to keep our residents informed of council’s actions.
Residents throughout the island approached me to run for the position, so that I could continue to be a voice of common sense and fiscal responsibility in a leadership position.
Q: How would the city benefit under your leadership?
DC: I am proud that the city’s finances have never been better. I believe we can maintain a healthy and vibrant community, while prudently spending our resources to provide city services. While a small city, we have the reputation of doing things right; that takes leadership.
RB: John Quincy Adams once stated: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I feel that while on council, I have inspired people to get involved, do more and speak out – not only those in the community but also within the city, among our employees and the team that we have here.
I’ll use my experience as a small business owner to rein in spending and bring forth common sense legislation. We need to judge our leaders by their actions and the result of those actions, not merely by their words. I stand behind my actions and the votes that I have cast while on council.
Q: What should city council’s top priorities be moving forward?
DC: Balancing the needs of our residents with those of our many visitors has been and will continue to be an imperative for me as mayor and all members of city council. The safety of our residents and our visitors is of paramount importance.
The traffic congestion on the island this past season is unacceptable. Bumper-to-bumper on the Connector resulted in too many accidents and significant delays for all. We worked hard to convince the county that the outbound lanes through the Rifle Range light needed to be increased. Work will start shortly and be complete by next spring to double the through lanes from Rifle Range to Route 17.
Relative to parking in the residential areas, council has just authorized the development of a plan, which would require a parking pass to be purchased for anyone parking in the residential area. A limited number of passes would be sold annually for the season. As the rights of way are owned by and controlled by the South Carolina Department of Trasportation, the detailed plan must meet their approval. In addition, we are investigating whether all vehicles should be required to park at least four off the road surface; again this requires S.C. DOT approval.
RB: Traffic and parking will continue to be a top priority for the city. While visiting the City of Greenville last year, I was impressed with their parking management solutions, by directing visitors where to go through a system of directional signs and information.
I was able to bring these same ideas back to the city and ultimately move forward on a program with the help from Stantec, a professional design and consulting service specializing in planning, engineering and project management.
While directional signage alone will not solve the problems, we will need a multi-jurisdictional solution. We will need someone who will be willing to work with Charleston County, Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island to develop an operational management plan prior to the beach and tourist season.
While we have started to attack some of the city’s debt by paying off loans early, we need to operate the city’s budget like many people operate their household budget. This year we started just that. I had suggested years ago that we save in advance for large budget items or capital expenses instead of financing them and this is the first year that we have done just that.
Saving for future planned purchases will ultimately save the city money in the form of interest and finance charges. We need more out-of-box thinking and problem solving, and I believe that I am that person.
Q: What are your leadership philosophies? (hands on, hands off, etc.)
DC: As a trained engineer and having managed large companies all over the world, I couple my analytical discipline with the ability to listen intently, develop a plan and then be sure we execute. For example, having listened to our residents, keeping a grocery store on the island was an imperative for me. That’s what the Island Center property owner was told when they were looking at other options. When they finally came back with a plan for a grocery store, council and staff worked hard to make it happen.
The city is blessed with an outstanding staff of city employees, who execute providing the services the citizens of our island deserve. They are motivated to serve.
I am pleased to have been personally recognized in June by the Charleston Visitors Bureau with the Barrett Lawrimore Leadership for “Outstanding Leadership in Government.” I am particularly honored as Lt. Gov. Glen McConnell was the prior recipient. This past summer, I was elected president of the Association of South Carolina Mayors. With 130 mayors, we work to elevated the needs of South Carolina cities and towns within the state and to learn from each other.
Building solutions based on partnerships with the county and the state that benefit all residents of our city is an important aspect of my leadership. Much progress has been made, but much more can be accomplished.
RB: I think that in order to be a good leader, you need to be hands on. Not so much that you’re micro-managing but involved to a point where know how the city operates.
You’ll often find me at the fire department or police department talking and interacting with the city employees, getting a feel of what is going on and how things are operating as well as lending a hand when needed. I have ridden along with our police department, helped pull hose for the fire department during a call, and coached and refereed at the recreation department. It gives you a unique perspective on how the city functions and what needs to be done to make it operate better and more efficiently, instead of just sitting in council chambers making decisions without seeing it in action first hand.
I look forward to serving the community in a greater capacity. Having served on every council committee as the chair of the public safety, chair of recreation, chair of public works, vice-chair of personnel, vice-Chair of ways and means and three times as mayor pro tem, I have seen up close and personal how the city operates and will bring that experience along with valuable private sector experience, as a small business owner, to the table.
For continued election coverage, visit www.MoultrieNews.com/politics