Welcome May, Graduation Month!

Welcome May, graduation month! And congratulations to all who are celebrating this achievement at all of our area’s fine schools. For each of you, this May of 2015 will be remembered as a month of new beginnings. As you look forward with buoyant expectations toward your future, the air is filled with pride and promise and you “en-VISION” the world of opportunity, which lies ahead.

Last December, as I stepped into my role as your Hilton Head Island mayor, I felt much of that same optimism. I wanted to refresh the course of our Town. Together with your Town Council, much has already been initiated to develop and pursue the excellent community we desire, and I will continue moving forward with the same commitment and mindset that “we can do better.”

I believe we can set a clear and definable vision — one that offers a possible future that’s worth striving to achieve — one where both environmental quality and sustainable economic prosperity live hand in hand. These last few months, I,together with the help of knowledgeable Islanders and the Town Council, have been reviewing and vetting a number of different processes, which could be employed to bring us together as a community to develop this unified vision. All of these processes use “best practices” for obtaining and synthesizing public input, and each have been successful in other locations.

Over these last months, I have learned that several items will be supremely important as we establish a Vision for our community. Most notably, broad-based public participation and support will be essential. As well, our foundational discussions will need to address:

  1. Our Values – or the core beliefs that will shape the vision and our day-to-day decisions and actions;
  2. Our Mission – which is the role the Town and indeed, each of us will play in creating our preferred future;
  3. Our Strategies – those methods we will use to achieve our vision.

When I consider the importance of a unified, community vision, one of the first words that comes to mind is sustainability. This is a critical buzz word today for discussions about the environment, but the environment, as crucial as it is, represents only part of what I am “enVISIONING”. To me, sustainability is about the legacy that we’re leaving behind to the next generation, and whether it will be a lasting one.

Since my election, I have heard the refrain that if we, as a Town, actively pursue economic development, then we risk throwing our legacy of environmental stewardship under the bus. I reject that notion. Environmental stewardship and economic balance and prosperity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, today’s ripened environmentalism has much to do with sustainability, a healthy economy, local sourcing and protection of natural habitats. It is all about using the things of nature as they are meant to be used and enjoyed without abusing or consuming them and leaving a deep and destructive footprint.

For example, there are so many new, green standards and advancements such as in buildings and parking lots that replace the older, less environmentally friendly structures that these innovations can actually be an improvement for the environment. Just ask yourself: when was asbestos banned? Forty years ago? Would anyone argue that it ought not be removed and replaced? What about sewage from leaky septic tanks that leak into our ground water?

There are scores of low environmental impact opportunities available. Arts, cultural and historic tourism offer excellent opportunities for us to investigate alongside our new Economic Development Corporation and its’ capable Executive Director, Don Kirkman. My conversations with Don lead me to conclude that he understands who we are as a community and fully realizes that a sustainable economy can be achieved without hurting our precious Island environment.

By way of example, a close friend of mine recently had a stroke, but Hilton Head doesn’t have a stroke unit. How much of an environmental impact would that addition be? How much of an economic one? These are the kinds of questions that must be asked, and issues that need to be addressed.

I sincerely believe that when citizens come together around a clearly defined and articulated vision, which best serves the whole community, those things which once seemed impossible may become reality.

Just as at a graduation, I am filled with feelings of optimism about our community. I envision a world of opportunity ahead. It’s a vision focusing on the best of what our Island represents combined with the necessary steps toward making it better.

But, we can only achieve it with your participation!

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