One for the History Books

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2012 was a milestone year for the Town of James Island, which saw its two-decade long battle for the right to self-determination come to welcome end, with the most recent, fourth incorporation of the Town free of City appeals

James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey reflects on Town’s banner year with aspirations for a bigger 2013

By Charlie Morrison

Community Editor

This was a banner year for the Town of James Island and all who’ve over decades, dedicated themselves to its cause. In 2012, the Town became official when it re-incorporated for the fourth time, to the tune of 85 percent of eligible voters approving of the move. What was noticeably absent from the process this time was the inevitable appeal to the Town’s incorporation brought by the City of Charleston. Having over the past three incorporations, made strides towards hammering out the loopholes in the State’s incorporation rules and regulations through working with their respective leaders in Columbia, the 2012 incorporation of the Town was bulletproof … or at least enough so that the cost of fighting it exceeded the perceived benefit of he fight for the City of Charleston. Following a May presentation of the Town’s official municipal charter by Secretary of State Mark Hammond to recently re-elected Mayor Bill Woolsey, followed by a clean, successful election a month later, it became apparent that 2012 will go down as the year the Town of James Island got it right.

Backed by a Council made up of three fresh faces along with veteran public servant Leonard Blank, Woolsey feels the Town is perfectly positioned to return to form in 2013. Tops amongst the issues Woolsey, Council, and Town staffers will have to address, is rounding out the full-time staff. Currently, the Town is recruiting a building inspector, someone to work in the Town’s planning department, and a coordinator of the body’s Public Works program. The position of code enforcement officer will be filled by Jim Palmer who held that title with the Town until it was dissolved for the third time. After working in the County’s code enforcement division for a spat, Palmer will be returning to Town Hall.

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Perhaps a bigger issues than rounding out the Town staff is addressing the issue of annexation, contiguity, and municipal boundaries going forward. The promise of legislation addressing the State’s incorporation and annexation laws still looms large, according to Mayor Woolsey.

 

“My goal is to get properties back,” says Woolsey. “It’s going to take a change in the legislation, a change in the law of South Carolina to do that. It’s certainly our goal. I don’t know how it’s going to work out but we are pursuing legislation.

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We would definitely like to have an election sometime in the next year. We want the law to be changed so that we can join with the other James Islanders despite the fact that the City of Charleston has jurisdiction over marsh or land separating us.

“My ideal scenario is that we have one election sometime in the next year for the other 6,000 people the other third of the people that we don’t have and if the majority says they want in, it all comes in. That’s my goal.”

And while the core of the Mayor’s efforts are aimed at returning the Town to its former status as a service provider, there is one core difference in his approach this time around. Whereas, in the previous Town, the municipality attempted to contract out more and more work to the County, alleviating some of the demand placed on the then fully functional Town. This time around, the focus is to slowly extricate the Town from the County, little by little reassuming some of the responsibilities and roles it once fulfilled.

For the coming year, Mayor Woolsey and the Town have a focus. First, the Town must get back on its feet, filling out the employee roster and getting back to the business of governing. Secondly, the Town aspires to grow in 2013, something Woolsey is not afraid to put a number on.

“I would hope a year from now we’re 30 percent bigger in terms of the population, but in terms of staffing and things, we operated with basically nine people before. So that’s my goal, is to basically bring the Town back to where it was, in terms of the size,” says Woolsey.

 

The next meeting of James Island Town Council will be this Thursday, December 20, at Town Hall. Town Hall is located at 1238-B Camp Road. You can reach the Town by phone at 795-4141, or through their website, http://www.townofjamesisland.sc

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© 2012 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.

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