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 Local redistricting efforts bring few surprises 

BEAUFORT – The ink has hardly dried on Beaufort County’s redistricting maps, and already candidates are lining up for elections. 

Dataw resident Marilyn Harris was the first earlier this month to formally announce her plans to run for the County Council District 2 seat, currently held by Paul Sommerville. Sommerville, a Republican who has held the seat since 2007 has not said whether he plans to seek re-election in November. 

Redistricting created a potential race for District 4, where incumbent Alice Howard could face a challenge if Brian Flewelling chooses to run against her. Flewelling currently represents District 5 which because of population change, was realigned, moving him into Howard’s District 4. Howard has said she plans to run for re-election. Both are Republicans. 

The local redistricting effort, which made district line changes primarily south of the Broad River, includes the 11-member school board. Seven seats – including District 2 and District 4 north of the Broad – will be up for re-election on the school board as well. 

The state House and Senate redistricting plans have not yet been finalized but incumbent House District 124 Shannon Erickson has already drawn a Democratic opponent, Barbara Nash, who ran against her two years ago. 

Sen. Tom Davis, who has represented District 46 since 2009, is trying to decide where to call home since redistricting changed his district to south of the Broad. 

But lawsuits may be filed to challenge the Legislature’s work. North Carolina has already delayed its’ spring primaries in anticipation of court challenges. 

And Ken Fulp, who doesn’t have to think about re-districting since he represents all of Beaufort County, has said he’s not going to run again for Probate Judge. Fulp has held the position since 2012.

Good luck to county officials seeking new solutions to old issues

BEAUFORT – To start with, Beaufort does have “homeless shelters.”

Beaufort County Council members made headlines last week when the subject came up as they were asked to consider an ordinance to allow law enforcement officials to arrest individuals temporarily living on county property.

The ordinance comes as a recommendation from county staff frustrated in their efforts to assist an individual who had been “camping” on a picnic table right outside the County Council chambers since Thanksgiving.

It’s an effort by the officials to deal with those who “fall through the cracks” in terms of public services available to individuals facing issues such as homelessness or mental health problems.

Apparently, attorneys have told the officials the ordinance would make it easier to connect the troubled individuals with existing services. That’s the objective.

And it’s certainly a worthy objective, one that the community services agencies – private and government – have been trying to tackle in this community for years.

Beaufort City Council two years ago resorted to an ordinance giving police the authority to turn

homeless individuals away from the downtown Waterfront Park, regardless of mental health.

But while Beaufort doesn’t have government-supported facilities like the Savannah-Chatham Authority for the Homeless or One80Place in Charleston, there are individual efforts to help those without shelter.

There’s the Circle of Home Ministries facility on Boundary Street, which opened its doors in 2016 to homeless veterans.

There’s the Low Country Hope House which offers housing for 16 men and women dealing with addiction issues.

There’s Family Promise, which works with families with children, to provide housing and advertises they’ve helped more than 900 people since opening in 2008.

HELP of Beaufort and churches throughout the area have been known to help homeless with an overnight stay, or two, in local motels.

Admittedly it’s a patchwork network which could be improved. But a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to come up with solutions.

If Council members are committed to coming up with a plan to help homeless with mental health issues, here’s to ’em. They’ve had a full-time position in the county budget for the past year for a homelessness program coordinator but they’ve been unable to successfully fill the position.

They’ll realize it’s going to take dollars maybe even … dare we say … a tax increase? It’s called putting your money where your mouth is.

Concerns for those less fortunate are strong during the December holiday season when the marketing world wants us all to be happy, well-fed and well-housed, … jolly. Maybe these concerns will carry through into the new year and Beaufort County will, indeed, be a better place for all, not just those who can afford million-dollar homes.

Maybe the man sleeping on the picnic table outside the County Council chambers will be a “wake-up” call, as one councilman noted.

We’ll see around May or June, when it’s budget time.

Camellia photos by Lolita Huckaby

Hooray for the camellias while they’re still here

LADY’S ISLAND – A sure sign of winter, for those who take the time to slow down and “smell the flowers,” is the burst of color seen on local greenery – camellias, or the Queen of Southern winter flowers.

Spring may have its azaleas, but this time of the year, when things are a little bleak and on the cold side, the flowering heritage camellias that can still be spotted around town and in older gardens are a blessing.

In years past, the attraction of camellia growing was so strong, annual camellia shows were a much-anticipated event, drawing flower lovers from throughout the state and region to “ooh” and “ahh” over the beautiful blooms.

Those shows have largely gone by the wayside, but the camellias still can be found. Their presence in public parks is especially welcome and a tribute to enthusiasts like Stan Waskiewicz, Jim Neighbors and Lewis Wright, now gone, but their beautiful plants can be seen.

It’s ironic, therefore, that one of the newest residential developments in the area, on Miller Drive East, Lady’s Island, bears the name of the lovely collection of bushes that once covered the landscape.

Camellia Banks, future site of 50 new homes, still has a few scraggly bushes along the property lines as the earth movers do their job. Neighbors, who objected loudly two years ago when the Beaufort City Council annexed the property, had voiced concern about not just all the construction but the loss of another wooded tract that once had been a single-family home with its major camellia collection.

Some of the bushes were relocated and hopefully will make it another season when the blooms may return.

What’s that old advertising criticism – why do they name streets and neighborhoods for the things they’ve taken away?

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.

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