Friday, November 24, 2006

Local election hitting a sour note

In elementary school I participated in the school band. I can remember my parents making me practice “Mary Had a Little Lamb” over and over again. I also recall our Christmas concert, an ill-fated evening for one of the band members. We were well into the concert when Mr. Regney, our band director, could be heard whispering to young Bryan in the front row, “Play Bryan, play.”

Finally, we began to hear a squeak from Bryan. The squeak, however, was not from his violin strings, but instead the sound of his music stand being raised to hide his reddening face. Bryan had stage fright and tears running down his cheeks. He was mortified and worked diligently to maneuver that music stand in front of his face to spare himself some pain.

That was 20-something years ago and I remember that story often (it helps that we have it on videotape).

Ironically, local politics always makes me think about Bryan; he is now the public information officer for the town I grew up in. He is the mayor’s right-hand man and spends much of his time these days in the spotlight. And that is exactly where he belongs. In fact, all of our elected officials and their staff should be in the spotlight.

Now, what does Bryan have to do with Bluffton? For me Bryan is a symbol – he is the reason I try to be well informed, a responsibility that we should all share.

As Bluffton prepares for our local election on Dec. 5, I find myself wondering: Just who are the three candidates for Bluffton Town Council?

Other than some short bios on the candidates in the local papers, I haven’t seen these candidates out and about sharing their story or their desire to hold public office. Shouldn’t they be trying to gain our vote and educate us?

Willis Latham seems to have hit a minor bump in the road with questions regarding the reasons for his separation from the Bluffton Police Department after 10 years.
Willis, I beg you, send out a press release, stick a flier in my mailbox. Tell me something that will help me make my decision.

Thomas Heyward, where do you hang your hat? He tried a run once before, in 1998, but withdrew his name when it was realized that he wasn’t living in the Pine House in historic Bluffton. Second time is a charm?

Adding to my concern, I think a candidate should always ask themselves, “Have I ever failed to pay taxes when I was supposed to?” before deciding to run for office. If the answer is “no,” perhaps another career path should be considered. Mr. Heyward, how do you respond to someone who asks you this question?

From what I have seen, Charlie Wetmore has done the best job of educating the people. He has a Web site— - and although limited on content, you can get a sense for what Wetmore considers the important issues.

However, Wetmore has also blanketed the perimeter of my neighborhood (his neighborhood, too) with campaign signs, which I will admit has rubbed me the wrong way. (This becomes another issue and maybe fodder for another “what’s the deal with these POAs” column.)

If a winner was determined based on total campaign signs, Wetmore would win in a landslide. While a campaign sign offers name recognition it does not provide the cold, hard facts.

Bottom line? I long for good old-fashioned debates, public forums and grassroots, door-todoor campaigns. The “old days” allowed you to look a candidate in the eye, shake his hand and perhaps feel at ease.

There’s good news: The Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters is hosting a candidates’ debate at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bluffton High School.

Be diligent, Bluffton. Educate yourself. Get involved. And I challenge you — put North vs. South, illegal immigration, traffic patterns on U.S. 278 and Tom Kat’s wedding discussions on the shelf. Instead, spend the next 12 days learning about the candidates and asking questions.

Attend Wednesday’s debate.

Let’s make sure our elected officials and candidates are never caught hiding their faces again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Puttin' on the Hits ...

“I’m all outta love
I’m so lost without you
I know you were right –
believin’ for so long
I’m all outta love …”

As I drove into work this morning I flipped the dial on the radio and was quickly transported back to the 1980s by singing these lyrics. There is nothing like a little Air Supply first thing in the morning to brighten your day. Seriously, singing Air Supply at the top of my lungs, brightens my day.

For thirty years I lived less than sixty miles from New York City and Philadelphia. You would think that with all of that art, culture, and theater at my finger tips I would be a culturally aware person. Sadly, I am not. No, I never visited Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall or saw a Philharmonic performance. (I have however, been to every sports stadium and arena in the tri-state area.)

I only ventured to see a Broadway show three times in my adult years and I am embarrassed to say that two of the shows were renditions of two of my favorite movies – Grease and Footloose. Pretty lame, I know.

On the music scene I was vaguely more in tune with what my options were. After all, in my twenties I lived and worked just miles from two of Jersey’s favorite sons. I met Bruce Springsteen on a number of occasions and of course saw him play a sold out Giants Stadium in 2003. To top that, Jon Bon Jovi was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremonies when I received my master’s degree and I am the proud owner a photograph of me and him together – me in my cap and gown and he with his big hair (it was still big then) blowing in his face.

Now that I am twenty-thirteen (that’s 33 for the English majors), I got to thinking. It wouldn’t hurt to introduce a little culture into my life. Lucky for me, Doug Barry, CEO of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is one of my Leadership classmates, and he invited Joe and me to be his guests last weekend at the Orchestra’s “Big Band Bash.” The evening was a tribute to Frank Sinatra, which is how he sold me on the deal. Who doesn’t love Francis Albert, right?

The bash was held outdoors, under a tent at Honey Horn. You may recall that last Friday evening temperatures dipped into the low 40s, but the weather never fazed me or any of the four hundred other guests who came out for the event.

The Hilton Head Orchestra was amazing. I am definitely not a music expert (see Air Supply reference above) but I was entranced. I was sitting in the front row (thanks to my CEO contact – it really is all about who you know!) and was able to watch each musician and their process – the concentration on their faces, their furrowed brows, their toes tapping and even the trombone player’s use of the spit valve (amazing that he never hit his shoe).

Steve Lippia, a Connecticut native who started his career at four years old singing in his neighbor's, Mrs. Clemens, backyard had a startling voice – he sounded just like Frank. I have been to quite a few concerts in my day and I can honestly say that this is the first time I knew and loved every song that was sung. And of course, Steve finished his performance with “New York, New York” … and the crowd went wild. I guess even the natives enjoy a little reference to the Northeast now and again.

For more information about the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, please visit their website at

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is often spotted in her car singing eighties tunes. To sing along, contact her at

Monday, November 06, 2006

Giving Thanks

Darts to me.

Yes, I’ll admit it. I am one of those “meanies” who turned out the lights and avoided the trick or treaters. Not because I have an aversion to Halloween (I do have an aversion to people decorating their houses for Halloween complete with orange lights strung from every tree and eave, but that is another column all together), but because I have an over-protective dog who barks at (and scares) anyone who rings the bell. We like that our dog is protective, so rather than punish Darby on Halloween, we walk five houses down the street to my mom’s and we give out candy there.

Whew. I feel better getting that off my chest.

So, now that Halloween is in the bag, so to speak, we look toward Thanksgiving. I can’t believe it is a mere three weeks away. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is one of the few holidays where gifts are not exchanged and the purpose is truly getting together with the ones you love and I take it seriously. Every since I received my November issue Martha Stewart Living in early October, I have been plotting the perfect day. My menu is set and my strict preparation schedule is in place.

I love entertaining and nothing makes me happier than seeing our house overflowing with people – enjoying good food, good drink and good friends. This year however, I am sad to report that the current status of my Thanksgiving table is a mere four chairs. My sister and family are traveling back to New Jersey, friends have new houses and new kitchens that they plan to utilize this year – so it looks like it may just be four of us. Four people for Thanksgiving is unacceptable in my mind – I need noise, activity, excitement. No offense Mom and Bob, but I still feel the need for more.

My original plan was to hold an essay contest “What I Would Bring to Courtney’s House for Thanksgiving Dinner” for the readers and I’d pick the winning essay to come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. That idea lasted about three seconds. Thank you Joe for bringing me back to reality. (Although I must say I would still be interested in some response – it will, I am sure, make for great reading.)

Anyway, in an effort to bring some additional meaning to Thanksgiving this year, Joe and I decided to provide Thanksgiving dinner for a local family who would otherwise not be able to afford to put a feast on the table. Through Bluffton Self Help, Joe and I will receive the name and details about a Bluffton family in need. We will talk with the family before hand to find out their food favorites and determine what they need and then just prior to Turkey Day we will deliver to them a turkey and all the fixins to make their Thanksgiving Day one worth celebrating.

Looking for some hearts? Adopting a family for Thanksgiving will certainly earn you some points in my book. It is easy to do. Call Bluffton Self Help at 843.757.8000 and ask how you can help.

About Bluffton Self Help –
In 1987, a group of concerned Bluffton citizens under the leadership of Mrs. Ida Martin banded together and formed Bluffton Self Help, a non profit organization. Mrs. Martin and other residents discovered that many families and individuals in their community were struggling to meet their basic needs. Bluffton Self Help sought to respond to the needs of these families and individuals living in Bluffton. Since then, Bluffton Self Help has served countless individuals including adults and children, who otherwise may have continued to struggle to make ends meet.

The mission of Bluffton Self Help is to help those individuals in the greater Bluffton area, who are in need of short-term emergency assistance, by providing them with basic human needs (food, clothing, shelter, medicine) and encouraging them to be self-reliant.

For more details visit or stop in their offices at 1264 May River Road.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Submissions to the “What I Would Bring to Courtney’s House for Thanksgiving Dinner” Essay Contest can be sent to