January 2015

January 2015: A Word from the Mayors

Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka

Mayor David Bennett

As the Town of Hilton Head Island’s new mayor, I first want to humbly make clear that the task of implementing a fresh vision does not culminate in an election victory. Indeed, the greater task lies in the area of governance. I fully realize that to be truly successful in moving forward, not only should our Town Council be in harmony as it sets policy, but we also must have continued dedication by the hundreds of hard-working men and women who perform the often complex choreography of both administering and executing town functions.

Integrity, vision, quality
Growing up, I was raised by a single mom. She and my grandfather taught me to accept responsibility at an early age, to live with integrity and to work hard and complete as best I can every task I start. Those are also the same values I believe our modern Hilton Head Island was founded upon.

In the 1960s, our community was blessed by visionary entrepreneurs like Charles Fraser and Fred Hack, and then later in the 1980s, our newly incorporated town had the benefit of forward-thinking mayors like Ben Racusin and Martha Baumberger. It was Mayor Racusin who said, “We are not against development. We want quality, planned development.” And it was Mayor Baumberger who first saw the need for enhancing public access to our beaches with accommodations tax revenues and the importance of sanitary sewer in the town’s more rural sectors. I believe this same visionary spirit is alive and well in our community today.

Accountability, transparency, strategic thinking
In my election campaign, I noted several times that while town government is not a business, town government can be more “business-like.” I believe we must reflect a strategic, accountable and more transparent approach in managing our town affairs. I hope my tenure as mayor will be seen in that light, because I believe these are hallmarks of good leadership.

Over the course of the campaign and during these first several weeks of transition, I have become increasingly encouraged about our future as both a town and a remarkable destination. Of course there are challenges, but our incredible potential remains.

I believe the coming years promise to be a time to reassess who we are and what we are capable of being as one of America’s shining communities. I hope you agree that the status quo is no longer a viable option. We no longer have the luxury of doing things the same old way. Just as Charles Fraser, Fred Hack, Ben Racusin, Martha Baumberger along with those who worked by their side found the wisdom and courage to conquer the challenges of their time, so I am confident we to can rise to the challenges of our time. I have sensed a strong spirit of service in our community. That’s why I hope you will join me in accepting the challenge as we embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. I am confident that by pulling the rope together, we can do better and move Hilton Head Island forward for the enrichment of all. 

Mayor Lisa Sulka

We are right in the middle of the winter season, but business continues with our town. Last month, I attended a presentation by Pace Communications, in conjunction with our designated marketing organization and National Chamber of the Year, Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. Pace Communications publishes the monthly US Airways magazine. This latest issue will feature the Hilton Head lighthouse on the cover, but what is more exciting is on the inside. There is a 50 page spread of features on Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and the Lowcountry. Fifteen of those pages are about Bluffton, and among those are two pages featuring the Town of Bluffton and the Don Ryan Center for Innovation. As everyone knows, this is great publicity; and with a copy in every seatback, it is sure to be a powerful tool for publicity of our town.

Speaking of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, this center continues with successes. Just recently we announced the partnership between Clemson University and the center. We will be the pilot center for Clemson’s MBA-E degree. This is an online master’s in business degree in the field of innovation, and we are very fortunate to be the host center for this. For more information, stop by and see David Nelems or Ryan Reeves at the center. We are also in talks with TCL (Technical College of the Lowcountry) and SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). We will be beginning monthly sessions with SCAD students in Savannah, where we will serve as an aid to any of them who are interested in staying in the area to start a business. Both of these announcements will be talked about more in the days and months to come.

If you have never visited the center and are curious about what we are doing, we encourage you to call and set up a time to come over and take a tour. We also offer monthly educational seminars that are open to the public. These seminars are very helpful to any size business. For more information, you can also visit our website at ryan-innovation-center.com. You can see who our current innovators are, get more information on how you can help with the center, and stay up to date on any breaking news. From there you can also connect to our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

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