J.I. Mayor Bill Woolsey leads the James Island Intergovernmental Council
  • Provided by the Town of James Island
  • J.I. Mayor Bill Woolsey leads the James Island Intergovernmental Council

On Feb. 28, lawmakers representing the Town of James Island, City of Charleston, Charleston County, and legislative districts across the Charleston area gathered at James Island Town Hall for the first meeting of the new James Island Intergovernmental Council, but as recently as a year ago, the leaders gathered at the town’s strip mall headquarters wouldn’t even have found themselves in the same room together.

“It’s a milestone,” proudly noted Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey, who served two terms on James Island Town Council after its initial creation in 2002. The group’s inaugural meeting, which included James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, State Sens. Chip Campsen and Paul Thurmond, County Councilmembers Joe Qualey and Anna Johnson, Charleston City Councilman William Dudley Gregory, James Island Town Council and Public Service District officials as well as county and town law enforcement officials, was the first meeting to gather so many of James Island’s elected officials in one place. After protracted legal wranglings between the City of Charleston and James Island ended last summer, Qualey says the fact that the meeting even occurred is a sign that both sides have moved past “historical friction” between the two in an effort to “collaborate to solve and address issues, which had never been done before.”

The structure of the group was modeled after a local legislative delegation meeting, says former town councilman and current James Island PSD Commissioner Carter McMillan, “After sitting in those meetings, I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this?'” In a press release, Mayor Woolsey says the group plans to meet twice a year, with a second meeting slated to take place in September. “No matter where you live or to whom you belong, we’re all affected by the same stuff,” says Qualey. A longtime critic of increased development that the City of Charleston has brought to James Island, Qualey says he’s looking forward to “the opportunity to sit across the table and talk candidly” with other local lawmakers.

Though issues around the town’s legal back-and-forth with the city and the completion of I-526 have dominated major local news in recent years, Qualey and McMillan hope the group can also address simple issues like trash collection and litter removal that get easily fouled up as residents get the runaround when dealing with the handful of county, town, and city agencies with jurisdiction on James Island.

“Did we solve all the problems of James Island? No. But it’s a good start,” McMillan concluded.

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