Talk of the Town

LOCAL Life Magazine published an article in their January 2024 edition highlighting Mayor Alan Perry. Thank you LOCAL Life for this special feature.

Mayor Perry with wife at Lowcountry Celebration Park
LEADING WITH LOCAL ROOTS Hilton Head Island mayor Alan Perry is shown with his wife, Kathleen, at Lowcountry Celebration Park. Alan moved to Hilton Head with his family in 1972. He attended Sea Pines Academy from second grade until his high-school graduation. Ironically, he was voted "Most Likely to Be Mayor" by his senior class in 1984.

Hilton Head Island Mayor Alan Perry Share his Vision for 2024 and Beyond

For many residents of Hilton Head Island, life is already exceptional, but 2024 promises to make it even better. The Town is working on a host of improvements, from new parks to enhanced beach access, as well as addressing more complex issues such as workforce housing, wildlife and nature conservation and preservation of the unique Gullah-Geechee culture. Hilton Head Island Mayor Alan Perry (local since 1972) has a front-row seat to these changes. He offered insight into what the upcoming year holds.

[LOCAL Life] What do you love most about Hilton Head Island?
[Alan Perry] There are so many things to love about this island that I have called home for five decades. I would say if I had to pick one, it's the people. Their giving spirit, their friendly nature and the caring they show every day, not just for the people who live here but the tourists that come here. Call it "Southern Hospitality" if you want. I just call it being a Hilton Head Islander.

[LL] As mayor, what are your major goals and priorities for 2024?
[AP] I hope to continue to improve life for everyone on the island while also keeping the environmental beauty we love intact and thriving. That includes protecting the wildlife and natural areas we have throughout Hilton Head Island through improving parks and green space. But we cannot forget the need for more workforce housing on the island as well. Expanding those possibilities for people who want to live here and work here is a vital need for our community to continue our goal of responsible growth.

small living area with kitchen, table and couch
COMMUNITY COMMITMENT In response to the community's need for workforce housing, the Town of Hilton Head Island has implemented public policy incentives to encourage construction of quality, attractive workforce housing in the Town.

[LL] Are there any specific projects or initiatives that the Town will be focusing on in 2024?
[AP] Workforce housing will be vital to the future of our island. That will start with the Northpoint development, a $40 million project, a public-private partnership of 150-170 units to help the nurses, teachers and food-service industry workers all find affordable places to live near where they work. Combine that with the growing number of local businesses and corporations that are stepping up to help their own workers find housing, and we are tracking toward improved housing alternatives for all local workers. "Finding Home" is not just a slogan for Hilton Head Island; it's a plan, a commitment to preserve and expand the workforce housing options so we don't lose this valuable community, the people who help make this the No. 1 island in America.

Folly Field Boardwalk and Restroom building
NEW AND IMPROVED The Folly Field Beach Park boardwalk has been entirely replaced with premium IPE decking and marine-grade lumber.

[LL] What steps are being taken to improve the quality of life for residents in 2024?
[AP] The Town is focusing on improving the beaches which everyone, tourist and local alike, enjoy every day. Already there's been an overhaul of the Folly Field Beach Boardwalk, including brand new boards, railings and bathrooms. The Driessen Beach boardwalk also will look brand new by spring. The Town will be working on even more ways to make local beaches clean and accessible for all, both humans and the sea turtles that are a natural wonder for our area.

Connecting with the Gullah community is paramount, and the establishment of the Gullah-Geechee Historic Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation, the Board of Directors, and the recent appointment of Thomas Boxley as the executive director is a testament to our priority and dedication to preserving Gullah-Geechee culture, fostering economic opportunities and improving the quality of life in historic neighborhoods.

Thomas Boxley
LEGACY LEADER Thomas Boxley has been named the first executive director of the Gullah-Geechee Historic Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation. He will work with local Gullah-Geechee descendants, residents and the Town in the preservation and sustainable development of Hilton Head Island's historic neighborhoods.

[LL] Are there any new policies or regulations that may be implemented in the near future? If so, how they will impact the community?
[AP] There will be decisions made in 2024 about the William Hilton Parkway Gateway Corridor project, a decision that will shape the future of our island. We recognize the importance of balancing traffic improvements onto and off our island, including accommodating a large commuting workforce and visitor base, with the preservation and sustenance of our Gullah-Geechee people and neighborhoods and with the natural beauty that defines Hilton Head Island. It is a hot topic in the county and region, and we are taking this seriously. This decision will have impacts for several decades. Answers to a few remaining questions will provide the information needed to make a decision that is right for the community with confidence. This includes making sure of the right corridor alignment, understanding details on physical impacts and mitigation opportunities, demanding the right design solutions for the parkway and intersections and confirming the needs and performance benefits of alternatives. Any decision made will not be an emotional one but based on the information gathered by all parties involved.

[LL] Are there any environmental sustainability initiatives or green projects planned for 2024?
[AP] In the past year, the Town has made significant strategic investments to acquire land to manage growth in sensitive areas and to preserve the island's natural environment, spending close to $20 million on "legacy parcels" like the equestrian barn and paddocks on Jonesville Road, Wild Wing Café and land along William Hilton Parkway on the edge of Broad Creek. Hilton Head Island is committed to providing memorable and high-quality park and recreational spaces for our residents and visitors. We recently constructed six pickleball courts, have installed a significantly expanded pathway and art trail along Broad Creek and completed the Folly Field Beach Park boardwalk, bathroom renovation and access improvements. We will further expand our parks and open spaces to offer enhanced facilities for soccer, baseball, roller hockey, football, tennis and yes, and most definitely, pickleball, contributing to the renaissance of our public realm on Hilton Head Island. We are well underway to advance our newest parks — Patterson Park and Taylor Family Park in our historic neighborhoods, and we will re-imagine Islanders Beach Park, Chaplin Park, Crossings Park and will expand and complete Shelter Cove Park.

[LL] What role does technology and innovation play in the Town's plans?
[AP] The Town's goal is to stay up to date on the needs of its citizens when it comes to technology. That includes exploring improvements on the internet and wireless capabilities throughout the island.

Enhancements are already being seen in the way technology affects the daily commute. While it started late in 2023, the adaptive traffic signals project along William Hilton Parkway is designed to move traffic smoothly through the 25 traffic signals at 25 Town-owned intersections. The system will learn and acclimate itself to live traffic and begin to make real-time adjustments to the system to reduce delays and make traffic flow freely for the hundreds of thousands of drivers who pass through each day.

[LL] Are there any exciting events or milestones that residents can look forward to in the coming year?
[AP] The Hilton Head Island Jam singer/songwriter music festival we held for the first time last year was such a hit that BMI wants to bring it back in 2024. We are working with them on a plan to do just that. From all the side venues that allowed local and nationally known artists to show off their skills at the big concert at Lowcountry Celebration Park, the company believes this could become an annual event.

[LL] What are your personal hopes and aspirations for the town in the year ahead, and what message would you like to convey to the community?
[AP] I believe we are on the right track as a community. The focus of myself, Town Council and Town staff is not just on what can be done to continue to bring tourists to Hilton Head Island but about residents who live here full time. We want to make sure the growing number of families, especially those with children, have the facilities and opportunities they have wanted to call Hilton Head Island "home" for a long time.

This past year I saw large groups of residents from across the island, thousands of people, come together at the 360/40 Celebration and most recently at the Christmas-tree lighting at Celebration Park. The camaraderie, the smiles on their faces and the happiness shown in those days could be felt far beyond Lowcountry Celebration Park, across the island as a whole.

If people are patient, they will quickly understand that the hours of work everyone with the Town is putting in is paying dividends this year and beyond and proving again why this has been the No.1 island for years. LL

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