Meet Bluffton’s new leaders

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DAN WOOD, HARRY LUTZ TALK 2016 PRIORITIES, FOOTBALL AND DISNEY FANATICISM

Change is once again coming to Bluffton town leadership. For the third straight election, challengers have unseated incumbents. Longtime Blufftonian Dan Wood and relative newcomer Harry Lutz won the Nov. 17 three-way runoff, beating councilman and restaurateur Ted Hoffman. Monthly reached out to the new leaders for their take on what’s next for Bluffton, where they’ll focus their energies and the family that helped boost them to the win.

Why is now the time that you decided to get involved with town governing?

WOOD: I had intended to run for office years ago, but the demands of my job as an operations manager for Palmetto Electric Cooperative just did not allow for it. My record of public service both from the civic and community side is clearly established.  I’m a long-term Rotarian, past Rotary president, founder of the Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival, and past planning commissioner for the town. Currently I serve on the town’s Accommodations Tax Committee, and as a board member for the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society.   

LUTZ: I want to have a voice in the future of Bluffton. I have been on Bluffton's Planning Commission for the past three-plus years, and I know Bluffton is no longer a secret. With national recognition comes increased population and growth. We need to have a short-term and long-term plan for controlled growth while maintaining economic development and quality of life.    

Dan Wood2

Dan Wood (left) and Harry Lutz.

What is your top priority/issue you plan on championing as a voice on Town Council?

WOOD: Affordable and workforce housing is a committee I hope to serve on.

Since our town has been discovered, we are experiencing phenomenal growth.  A benefit and consequence of growth is higher construction and housing costs, which require larger portions of one’s income for housing needs including rentals.  The Beaufort County school system is currently grappling with this very issue.  They hope to eliminate teacher turnover by making housing costs more affordable.

LUTZ: My top priorities are to control growth and maintain the quality of life that drew all of us here to relocate in Bluffton. I also want to promote sewer versus septic tank usage to reduce and or eliminate the pollution of our local waters. Moderate-priced housing is also a subject that can’t be overlooked.

With the continued growth of the area and the ever-increasing rumors of large retailers coming to the area, how does Bluffton keep its small-town appeal while managing that growth?

WOOD: Certain sections of the town may be appropriate for large retailers. Thus far, most of these retailers have built near Bluffton in unincorporated areas controlled by Beaufort and Jasper counties. 

We need to remember that the area referenced regarding our small-town appeal is the Old Town historic district that comprises just 4 percent of our town’s 54 square miles. To help preserve and protect the historic character and charm, this area has the most restrictive zoning standards. 

We should also begin a public discussion to determine if franchise stores in the historic district will add or take away from this small-town charm.  Since this area is the heart of Bluffton and our main tourist attraction, we need to get it right.

LUTZ: Keeping Bluffton's small-town charm will be an ongoing issue as we continue to grow. We can be pro-active and solicit those types of business we want and direct them to areas we want the growth and have the infrastructure in place to support them. We can also expand and promote our local artists and musicians with a cultural center or district. Melding the old with the new will be a challenge.

Tell us a little bit about your family and your interests outside of politics. Do you have a dog in the fight of the ever-popular college football fandom debate (USC, Clemson, Ohio State, other)?

WOOD: Debbie and I have four adult children and four grandchildren.  Three of the kids grew up in greater Bluffton.  They all enjoy coming home and appreciate the town as much as we do.  We ride our golf cart to church, take the grandkids to DuBois Park, and enjoy boating on the May River.  We love our walks through the historic district and frequenting all of the local restaurants and artists. 

And yes, I love SEC football.  The Gamecocks are my favorite team — tough year — but I also pull for both Clemson and Georgia when they are not playing the Gamecocks. Since Debbie is a graduate of Georgia it gets a little loud in our house when the Gamecocks and Bulldogs play each other.

LUTZ: I relocated to Bluffton six years ago from Wall, New Jersey, with my wife of 47 years, Kathleen. We have four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. We are both very active in the community and are involved with or support Special Olympics, Bluffton Self Help, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club and Hampton Hall Charitable Fund. I enjoy fishing, gardening and travel. I am also a Disney fanatic, having been 37 times to Disney World and twice to Disneyland. We have a family trip planned to Disney for November 2016.

How do you fit in to the current Town Council mix? Do you see yourself as a listener or more of a rabble-rouser to start your term?

WOOD: I consider the mayor and other council members our friends.  We each will work collectively for what is best for the citizens of Bluffton.  The best way to learn the needs of the people is by listening to them. I’m also determined to make every effort to connect with each area of our growing town. Many young families are moving here and we need to be cognizant of their needs and create a foundation of opportunity for their future.  It is all about maintaining our cherished quality of life.

LUTZ: Being a current member of the Planning Commission, I already have a good working relationship with the existing council members. Town staff have also conducted several planning sessions to help educate the new council members on the issues at hand with more to follow. I want to have a seat at the table and make sure all the subjects at hand are understood completely before action is taken. I am not afraid to speak my mind, whether I am in agreement or disagreement with others. However, I also know there is no “I” in team and this will be a team effort.