Hilton Head Island and Bluffton started as small towns and the “weak mayor” system seemed sufficient. Since then, however, both have experienced major growth and a “strong mayor” system might serve us better.
There are challenges and advantages with each system. Let’s focus on the council-manager system in place across the Lowcountry. The biggest advantage is the lack of partisanship, which should not be undervalued. The professional town manager can make decisions without the political calculation of elected officials. But this benefit often comes at the cost of dynamic leadership with the “mayor effectively reduced…to the role of cheerleader and external promoter of his city’s image and interests.” It is hard to tell who is in charge when an unelected manager has more power than the elected mayor.