Straight Talk: Marketing Beaufort more efficiently

By Mayor Billy Keyserling

One of the most important lessons I learned while working in DC, through my training as a mediator and serving the public, is that we must separate the WHO from the WHAT.
When we focus on the What, we are more likely to get to the root of the problem, enhance communication, and learn from each other and move forward in directions with which most will agree.
It would be very easy, in reading the following essay, to get focused on who did or did not do something, rather than the systemic issue I am writing about. So please bear with me and stick to the ideas and not the organizations, as I am not pointing fingers, laying blame of suggesting that I have all of the answers.
At the same time this is about an important and necessary conversation that affects taxpayer dollars and the general health of our special hometown.

Is it good stewardship for Beaufort City Council to invest limited city dollars thinly among two Chambers of Commerce and three visitors’ guides, while splitting the remainder of (about $50,000) among other worthwhile organizations for whom there are never enough money to meet their objectives?
Is it good stewardship when City Council does not coordinate with County Council, which has its own process, to ensure there is no duplication while collectively investing about $500,000 a year in tourism marketing?
I think not!
While I have no magic answers, I think it is time to face this question to make sure we spend your tax dollars in the best possible manner. For Beaufort to remain a sustainable hometown we need a balance between those who live here, those who are actively retired and those who visit and one day may relocate or send others to visit. This is to say that marketing Beaufort is very important to all of us.
During my four previous years on City Council and the three that I have been mayor, members of council have not been happy with the status quo. While accepting and generally supporting recommendations from the city’s Tourism Development Advisory Committee (TDAC), every year we’ve asked them to bring back a more effective and better coordinated ways to do what we all want … providing the most effective marketing programs limited dollars can buy.
But year after year, TDAC comes back to council with the same requests from the same organizations, who want to do the same thing, while few have exhibited an ability to work together toward a more integrated marketing program. Between our DMO and City Council, I do not believe we have given this volunteer group the guidelines for ensuring this and they have not seemingly created their own.
My concern was compounded when the Chamber of Commerce, which is currently Designated Marketing Organization (DMO for the city and county) which gets TDAC funding as well as a supplement from the state, had an identity crisis, first spinning off an independent Visitors and Convention Bureau and within months taking it back under its wings with a still divided Chamber Board of Directors whose members, seemingly, in disagreement about how to market Beaufort with limited dollars.
And this concern was even further compounded when I heard the same concerns from County Council members though they seem more concerned about fiscal accountability than what I believe what I believe have been inefficient investments.
We can do better.
That is why I proposed assembling a group of experienced stakeholders to recommend a more efficient strategy to stretch the thin dollars, get rid of duplication and integrate fragmented marketing efforts. The group will exist for no more than several months and will make recommendations to Council which has the ultimate responsibility for decisions. Members will include those with professional marketing experience, members of TDAC, small and large businesses and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street among others. I hope a representative from County Council who represents a district north of the Broad River should be included as they have their separate but similar funding process.
The goal is not to exclude, but to widen the circle seeking answers heretofore not provided.
The optimal result is for the chamber (DMO) to regain public confidence, assume a stronger and more collaborative role in leading efforts to market our wonderful community and to let council get on with our other business with the confidence that taxpayer dollars are being invested effectively.
No doubt, this is a very complicated issue because we must comply with an out-of-date state law that governs the expenditures and the distribution process, a growing number of organizations promoting Beaufort and an unintended disconnect between the county and city allocating funds to the same organizations with little if any coordination.
If not now, when do we try to get a handle on the issue?

From where do the dollars flow?
Few would expect a city of only 12,000 people, most of whom are moderate to low income, almost half of whom are renters, to have available dollars for large scale marketing. Most of the city’s direct “tourism investments” come in the form of keeping Beaufort beautiful, safe and inviting.
State law requires provides limited ATAX dollars, some of which go directly — at the city’s and county’s direction — to the DMO while others are handed out by the TDAC, but these funds must be invested to market Beaufort to prospects that live outside of a 50 mile radius of the city.
If each hotel and restaurant contacted each of its past guests and those on their prospect lists and incented a return visit, we would likely meet the state requirement, which is to put more heads in beds, fill more seats in restaurants and generate even more ATAX and hospitality dollars each year so there would be more to invest in the same way the next year.
While this approach would clearly meet state requirements, reward those who raise the marketing dollars through taxes added to their fares and likely generate more visitors to Beaufort than the previous year, is that all we want from our investment? While we of course we want to fill beds and have successful restaurants, we need to package and offer more of the assets of our community to get those people here.
In addition to the state dollars directed to the DMO, the city is granted modest dollars to spread out among a large number of small organizations to supplement what the chamber does. When these groups line up before the city’s TDAC, they generally ask for about two times the available amount. Furthermore, there is no requirement that the groups awarded dollars complement each others efforts and/or coordinate with the chamber’s seasonal campaigns.
The result is we partially fund three visitors’ guides; organizations focus on their own programs without regard for helping others and a fragmented approach to investing public dollars is not as effective as it could be.
Is that what marketing Beaufort should be all about? I think not.
My personal view is that most who visit us, among them the many who return to live here, come to Beaufort because we are who we are: an historically beautiful waterfront community, with a wide assortment of outdoor sports, a rich history and unique complement of cultural activities and the special and diversity of a real hometown, that is fortunate to host marine corps graduations and a renowned ocean side state park.
The alignment of the question as to who is in charge of marketing for the chamber and the fragmentation of public investments leads me to believe it is time for a change.
We must get a better handle on marketing so we invest in initiatives that ensure taxpayers, and especially businesses that are taxed at a higher rate than we would like, get more.
If not now, when? Let’s get to work!

Read More →

City Council approves Vaden building annex

By Tess Malijenovsky
Board members of the Alzheimer’s Family Services of Greater Beaufort came to the Tuesday night City Council meeting dressed in purple for their cause. An official proclamation was made to honor November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The board members gave each council member a purple bracelet so that they too can show their support.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, the sixth leading cause of death among American adults, and the fifth leading cause of death for adults aged 65 years and older.”
Son-in-law to Dan Vaden, who passed from Alzheimer’s, and family were also present at the meeting to ask that the City Council annex the former O.C. Welsh building to Beaufort’s commercial district. The commercial area is one of the largest in the county and will boost residential employment. The motioned was passed, meaning that the new Vaden of Beaufort location will soon be able to join the bustling commercial zone of Robert Smalls Parkway.
Later a select number of ATAX grants recommended from Tourism Development were passed, including $10,000 to the Black Chamber of Commerce for out of market advertising, $6,000 to USCB, and $7,000 to the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Congress.
Also, a young exchange student named Masu Chiriboga from Riobamba, Ecuador, came with her uncle from town to present gifts to Mayor Keyserling, the flag of Ecuador and a wooden figurine. Masu is attending Beaufort High School during her stay in Beaufort.

Read More →

Weekend crime reports

THE HAUNTED FLOATER: A woman volunteers to dress up in costume and frighten a crowd of followers as she guides them on a Ghost Tour downtown last Sunday, October 23. There’s something about frightening an innocent crowd with haunting tales that makes the volunteer’s work so worthy. On this particular Sunday evening, however, the ghost story was on her when she couldn’t find her car. The vehicle was later found behind Bricks locked up and without the key after mysteriously moving without any eyewitnesses. Whether the perpetrator was a haunted spirit or someone who couldn’t resist an unlocked car with the keys inside, we may never know.

CHICKEN AMMUNITION: ‘Tis the season for hooligan folly — one house and car successfully egged by mischief makers on Wilmington Street last weekend.

LEWD LARRY: Lewd Larry, we all know him, a relative of Chuggin’ Suzy. He was spotted last Saturday, October 22, around 1:25 a.m. relieving himself outside of Panini’s on Bay Street in eyeshot of a police officer. That Larry, he takes his liberties where he can.

FRIGHTENED FISHERS: Saturday October 22, a man and woman spending an afternoon fishing on the old train trestle behind Beaufort Plaza were robbed at gunpoint by four young males. Two of the criminals pulled out pistols and not only stole all the cash and jewelry the fishing pair had — an estimated value of $545 — but threw both of their cell phones into the water.

Compiled by Tess Malijenovsky. Crime Report items are chosen from the files of the Beaufort Police Department. Please contact the police with any insider information on these cases.

Read More →

Beaufort moves toward buried utility lines

Working to improve Beaufort’s safety and appearance, more power and low-voltage lines will be buried underground rather than strung from poles following action Tuesday by Beaufort City Council.
The Council gave the first of two required approvals to an ordinance that basically requires that, as electrical power lines are relocated and/or moved underground, the low-voltage communications and cable TV lines move with the power lines. The goal: Reduce the number of poles and overhead lines crisscrossing the city.
“As part of our continuing effort to improve the appearance of our city and to improve the overall safety for our residents and visitors, this ordinance is an important step for the future of Beaufort,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
Removing the overhead lines can improve safety by eliminating poles and by reducing the likelihood that falling tree branches will disrupt power, phone, cable or Internet services, Keyserling said.
“Beyond that, it makes the City look a lot cleaner without the clutter of overhead lines crisscrossing our streets and intersections,” he added. “One of our next steps is to look at ways to pay for this, whether it’s re-routing the lines or putting them all underground.”
Meanwhile, SCE&G continues to elevate its heavy duty transmission lines on taller poles to reduce their impact on Beaufort’s historic trees. The distribution lines, which carry electricity to homes and businesses off the transmission lines, eventually will be buried whenever possible.
In a related matter Tuesday, the City Council voted against a request from Hargray Communications for a state-issued certificate of franchise. City leaders said they preferred to work directly with Hargray in hopes of getting them onboard with other Beaufort utility providers to move cables underground in the public rights of way.
Beaufort officials are working with SCE&G to relocate overhead power lines underground. As that is being done, low-voltage lines that typically carry cable TV and phone signals also should be buried, City Manager Scott Dadson said.
“This is the right thing to do for the city of Beaufort, now and looking into the future,” Dadson said. “Every few years we have complaints about how trees are trimmed to make way for overhead lines. Every few months we hear about electricity going out or phone service being lost because a tree branch fell on the lines during a thunderstorm. This solves those problems while also making our historic city a lot prettier.”
For 22 years Beaufort has enjoyed its status as a “Tree City USA,” a recognition of its tree preservation and planting efforts.
Over the past year, the city of Beaufort Tree Board volunteers have been working with SCE&G and low-voltage cable providers on ways to bury or relocate lines. They came up with 10 pilot projects across the city. Most are roughly two-block residential areas that have extensive tree coverage or canopies.
“The object is to bury the lines, find alternate routes or take other actions to help create a tree friendly city and a power distribution and communication system that is efficient for all concerned. That stops the pruning of the trees. You also have cable lines, and those lines would remain overhead if all we did was move the power lines, so a partial fix isn’t really a fix at all,” said Eliza Hill, the City Planning Department’s landscape architect.
“We went ahead and looked at the big picture and will soon be presenting a plan to move the lines below ground, including cable, phone and other lines,” she said.
A key part of the Tree Board’s proposal will be recommendations on how to fund the change to underground lines. That cost may require a partnership and commitment by and between customers, utilities and the city, Dadson said. The payoff would be in fewer lines downed by weather and tree limbs, less tree-trimming by utility companies and a more scenic city.
Removing overhead lines ties in with the long-range goal of creating “complete streets” in Beaufort. That idea is core to Beaufort’s planning for its fourth century, and is essential to the historic city’s economic growth, Keyserling said.
“When the overhead lines are removed, it opens up so much space on the sidewalks and rights of way, plus it allows for a natural tree canopy,” the mayor said.

Read More →

Friends of Crystal Lake group being formed

Upon completion of the new bridge and widening of Lady’s Island Drive the contractors presently using the former Butler Marine building on Lady’s Drive as a headquarters and laydown area will vacate the property and move to their next project.  At that point, the question of “what next” for the Crystal Lake property will arise.
The 25 acres of property surrounding the 6 acre lake was purchased for the county as part of the Rural and Critical Land Program and can only be used for a passive park (no athletic fields). Beaufort County has completed a preliminary engineering study of the area to determine what types of use the land can realistically support.  Various organizations have developed conceptual drawings of how the property might be developed.  The next step is a full engineering study to include defining the property which meets the criteria of protected “wetlands”.  Such a study is not cheap and County Council must authorize the expenditure of funds for this purpose.  Upon completion of the engineering study the County Development Review Team can approve plans for development of the park. How the actual development of the park is to be accomplished, in this tough economic time, is a question yet to be resolved.
Dick Stewart, who purchased the lake and graciously gave it to the county, recently held a meeting of individuals interested in the lake and encouraged the formation of a “Friends of Crystal Lake” organization to act as a centralized representative for the community. Frank Gibson, owner of Lowcountry Insurance Services and Peggy Allard, retired Navy Captain and former head of the U. S. Naval Hospital in Charleston have agreed to co-chair the organizational phase of the forming of a “Friends of Crystal Lake“. The objective is to have such an organization in being by March 2012 and be prepared to represent the community during the development phase of the park.

Read More →

Captured Moments: Husband-wife team operates photography studio

Escaping the cold winters of Southern Maryland, Susan and Eric Smith moved to Beaufort in April and opened a new photography studio in the downtown area. They had a home-based studio for over 25 years in Port Tobacco, Maryland, and were considered the name brand of professional studios there. With a big display in the only mall for three counties, everyone knew who they were.
After visiting the Shrimp Festival, and longing to live near the beach while they could still enjoy it, they sold their mailing list to their closest competitor, and relocated their studio, Captured Moments Photography, to 1402 King St.

Photographer Eric Smith poses Island News publishers Kim and Elizabeth Harding at the Captured Moments studio.

A portrait studio is more than just a guy with a camera. Captured Moments’ studio is everything a real portrait studio should be. They have two camera rooms. One is a large main room that can be used 360 degrees around, with roller systems of multiple backgrounds and muslins. The second room is an all white room for kids and special sets, like tea parties and babies. There is also an outdoor posing area with unique sets and props. Eric has actually painted quite a few of the background panels himself and has built props and studio furniture. There is an entire prop storage room full of themed sets they brought with them from Maryland, such as “Baby in a Bath,” “Christmas Cookies,” and “Angels.” In addition, they have a sales room, production room, and a reception room.
With digital photography being technical, the couple is quite computer savvy. Immediately following a session, the images are downloaded, backed up and networked with the computer in the sales room. The images are projected, and clients are able to view and choose their pictures in the exact sizes they may want, from an 8×10 all the way up to a 30×40 wall portrait. A special viewing software allows Susan to create multi-image collages and greeting cards right before your eyes, with whatever color background and keylines you choose.

The finished shot of the sisters.

After the images are chosen, Susan uses Photoshop to enhance every purchased image to correct any imperfections or blemishes and to strengthen the eyes, whiten teeth, smooth wrinkles and fix stray hairs.
Special effects can also be done, like swapping heads or painting out unwanted items like dog leashes or nose rings. Once everything is perfect, the order is uploaded to the lab over the internet, and magically appears a few days later.
Along with the physical things in the studio, the couple brings years of experience in lighting and posing high school seniors, families and babies. Eric and Susan really created the high school senior market for photographers in Maryland. Before 1997, everyone just went to the school photographer. They heard complaints that no one liked their pictures, but they had no choice but to go to the contract photographer. After attending a Marketing Boot Camp for senior photography, Eric and Susan soon started a push for unique personality-driven senior portraits, and have photographed more than 4,300 high school seniors from 1997-2010. Several high school yearbook advisors started accepting their pictures in the yearbook in addition to the official school photographer’s pictures because of their consistent quality and ease of delivering the pictures to the yearbook editors. Because of their impact on the bottom line, the contract school photography companies started sending their best photographers to Southern Maryland. Competition resulted in better photography all around.
In addition to high school seniors, a popular program Captured Moments offers is a plan to photograph a baby’s first year, called “Watch Me Grow.” A baby changes so much his first year, so Captured Moments has a program to photograph a baby at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and one year. There are different options for these sessions.
Clients can choose to enroll in the “Club Bebe” experience where they receive a custom-designed leather album at the end of the first year, with portraits from each session and any special quotes or sayings included on the pages.
Eric has photographed more than 400 weddings around the Washington, D.C., beltway, so he is very excited to be in a wedding destination area with beautiful beaches and venues.
Since they are new to the area, they are available for last minute weddings this fall. In the past, they were booked a year in advance.
In January of 2008, Eric discovered the joys of HDR photography, a style of artistic photography that results in photographs looking almost like illustrations or paintings. His work is displayed in art galleries in Virginia and Maryland, and locally at Atmosphere in the Bay Street Marketplace. His best images are captured at dawn with clouds and colorful skies. He has photographed many local sites and buildings, including Hunting Island State Park, the Beaufort Waterfront Park and bridge, and the Sheldon Church ruins. His work is available for viewing or purchase at his online art site, found on their website: capmom.com.
Finally, Eric is a sought-after instructor. He has spoken nationally at a Professional Photographers of America annual convention in Las Vegas, as well as given classes in Maryland and Virginia. He teaches basic, intermediate and advanced classes for photography and Photoshop Elements enhancing.

Read More →

Pan Am reunion in Miami attended by Dataw author

By Lanier Laney
Rebecca Sprecher of Dataw probably never thought when she graduated from UNC and joined Pan Am as a stewardess  that she would end up spending one Christmas  on the shore of the Arabian Sea at a Karachi camel auction lit only by lantern light but that was exactly what happened when her usual flight to New Delhi got diverted due to fog.

Becky Sprecher today with her dog, Jimmy Dean.

Becky’s written a wonderful fictional book based on the amazing facts of her career with Pan Am when she was based out of Honolulu for five years in the 70’s that includes her heart-rending participation in the Fall of Saigon and Operation Babylift.  It’s just been published and it’s called “Flying: A Novel.”
Pan Am’s image of glamour, sophistication, and international presence led many to think of it as a symbol of America around the world.  Unfortunately it was this high profile that led to the airlines undoing culminating in the terrible bombing of the ‘Clipper of the Seas’ over Lockerbie Scotland by Libyan terrorists. “That was the day the heart of Pan Am died,”  say many veterans of the airline.
Becky just got back from a Miami event called “Pan Am’s Worldwide Family Reunion.” They gathered near Dinner Key, where the original Pan Am terminal was located and the flying boats took off and landed in the 1930s. Says Becky, “It was a kind of poetic justice to be landing in Miami for the Pan Am gathering the day that Libyan dictator Gadaffi finally met his end.  This has been a meaningful time for any Pan Am’er, not to mention the families of all the victims. We dedicated our book to them.”
Rebecca is a gourmet cook and her husband Gregg is a wine expert. “We served a beautiful six-course meal in First Class on Pan Am, and that taught me about good food.  Our main course recipes were adapted from Maxim’s in Paris.  I remember standing in the galley, teaspoon in hand, waiting for the hors d’oeuvre cart to come back so I could dig into the leftover Iranian caviar.  It came in lipstick red tins,” said Becky with a smile. By the way, she still can fit in her uniform for those of you wondering. “My diet rules are simple: eat everything, but in moderation; deprivation is for the birds. There are no limits on champagne, however.”
I asked Becky what were her “I will never forget” experiences during her years with Pan Am. “Obviously the fall of South Vietnam and evacuating the refugees and orphans would have to be the most important historical moment.  But I loved going up to the cockpit at sunrise as we were on descent into Papeete.  Our approach took us between the islands of Tahiti and Moorea, and we would dip our wings when we flew by the Club Med on Moorea to let them know we were arriving, and would be on the first ferry over.  It was breathtakingly beautiful”.
Becky’s book “Flying: A Novel” takes an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the airline world, its eccentric characters, glamorous stewardesses, and the tumultuous history of America of the time. Says Becky, “You can buy our book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Author House. It is available in hardback, paperback, Kindle and Nook formats.  We hope it will be in Beaufort bookstores soon. We felt the time was right for a serious book about the lives of these flight crews, and how close they were to history.”
While the book is complete fiction, the authors (Becky wrote it with fellow stewardess Paula Helfrich) believe that flight crews deserve a serious hard-hitting story about airline life.
“They are all heroes” says Becky, “It’s the flight attendants who will get you out of an aircraft if it goes down.  It’s the flight attendants who see our soldiers off to war and are the first ones to welcome them home again.  They volunteer for the evacuation from war zones and natural disasters at great personal risk.  They work long hours and they sacrifice missing their children’s birthdays and daily family life.  It’s vigilant flight attendants who really pay attention to what goes on in that airplane and protect us from passengers who do us harm.  And yes, sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice and give their lives.”
We are glad that a Beaufortonian finally gives them their due, in a story that is both riveting and fun. Job well done Becky!

Read More →

Excellence in photography

The Photography Club of Beaufort has announced the winners of the semi-annual Fall Competition, held Monday night, October 10,.  Judging the event were award-winning photographers Jonathan Dyer, photographer from the Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet, Gary Geboy, award-winning professional photographer, and Jonathan Goebel, assistant professor of art at USCB.       Prints were judged using the criteria of superb technical quality, composition and interest. During the competition, judges shared their expertise and offered constructive critiques to help the photographers improve their skills.

Lamar Nix (Seabrook): “Beach Path”

The six winning photos from each category include:
• Tom Valentino: “Egret”
• Barry Wright: “Woman in Full Venice Carnival Costume”
• Benny Jones: “Shrimpboat #1”
• Juergen Thiessen: “Fruit Display”
• Marge Pangione: “Curves”
• Lamar Nix: “Beach Path”
The Photography Club of Beaufort, now with over 80 members, meets at ArtWorks, 2127 Boundary St., at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month. For information and for full results of the fall competition, please visit www.photoclubbeaufort.com or call 846-9580.

Read More →

Arts Events

Beaufort High School drama presents play
Beaufort High Theater proudly presents Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” This play is a comedy/drama full of stories about life.  Each story brings the pages of Fulghum’s book alive. This play is great for all subjects because of the wonderful themes, foreshadowing and symbolism. Remember some of the rules in kindergarten? Be Nice.  Do not Hit people.  Play Fair.  Wash your hands before you eat.  Flush.  If you hurt someone say you are sorry.   These are just to name a few, and as we get older we tend to forget them. The evening shows are October 27, 28, 29 at 7 p.m. at The Arts Center at Beaufort High School. Tickets are $5.

Free organ concert at St. Helena Episcopal
Organist Christopher Young, Jacobs School of Music Professor at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Ind., will give a 45-minute recital at noon at the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort (Episcopal) Friday, November 4. The concert is free and open to the public.
Young was the winner of the 1988 National Young Artists Competition of the American Guild of Organists and serves as organist of First Presbyterian Church in Bloomington.
For more information on the fall concert series, contact Pat Gould at patgould@islc.net or 843-522-1712 or visit www.sthelenas1712.org.

Read More →

Fourth Annual Lowcountry Art Festival at Frogmore

Frogmore’s Lowcountry Store, located at 736 Sea Island Parkway in St. Helena Island, is hosting the 4th Annual Lowcountry Arts Festival at the Lowcountry Store from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 5.
Many of the Lowcountry’s finest artisans will be onsite with their art, photography, woodwork, sculptures, fine crafts, quilting, pottery, basket weaving, stained glass, jewelry, local foods and other fine arts. The 2010 festival featured 32 of the Lowcountry’s finest artisans and this year’s program will feature many returnees and some talented newcomers.
Past festivals have been exceptionally well attended.  It is a unique opportunity to meet and talk to the artists, craftsmen, growers and producers and view demonstrations as well as discuss and purchase unique works of art from the artisan personally.  Many artists are able to customize pieces and we have found that those attending get a first-hand look at the remarkable abilities of these artists from the Lowcountry and their interesting perspectives.
Local musicians will be performing and foods including gumbo, Frogmore Stew, pimento cheese and other Lowcountry favorites will be available.
All local artists and craftsmen are welcome to participate. Applications are available at the Lowcountry Store, via e-mail at info@lowcountrystore.com or by calling 843-838-4646.

Read More →