About the Town
The Town of James Island was founded in 1992. Located in the South Carolina Lowcountry, it has approximately 11,500 citizens. Town Hall is located at 1238-B Camp Road.
James Island is bounded by the Charleston Harbor, Wappoo Cut, the Stono River, and the Folly River.
While many residents of the Island are citizens of the Town, many live in areas that were annexed into the City of Charleston, some live in areas that are unincorporated, and a few live in areas annexed to the City of Folly Beach. Here is a link to the official map.
The white area in the black border is the Town of James Island. The yellow areas are in the City of Charleston. The blue areas are unincorporated.
The map below shows the Town of James Island in yellow, the City of Charleston in gray, and Unincorporated Charleston County in white.
The citizens of James Island voted to form the Town in December of 1992. The vote was close, 2,187 in favor and 2,157 against. The first Mayor was Joan Sooy, elected in 1993. The members of Council were John Bryant, Anna Johnson, Ron McMahan, and Robert Welch. In 1995, Johns Mizzel was elected, and Sooy, Bryant, Johnson and McMahan were reelected.
The City of Charleston challenged the formation of the Town, arguing in court that Town was divided by marshland under City jurisdiction. The Town lost at Circuit Court, appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, and lost there as well. The Town was closed down in January, 1997.
The James Island Alliance for Self-Government was formed by July of 1997 and began to work for a second incorporation. The State of South Carolina changed its incorporation laws allowing cities and towns to be incorporated across salt marsh that had been annexed by another city in the spring of 2000. Senator Glenn McConnell led the effort in Columbia to make the needed changes.
The voters of James Island reformed the Town in May of 2002, with 69 percent voting in favor of incorporation. Mary Clark was elected Mayor. Joe Qualey, Cubby Wilder, Parris Williams, and Bill Woolsey were elected to Town Council.
The City of Charleston again challenged the formation of the Town, this time arguing that the state’s incorporation law was special legislation, contrary to the South Carolina Constitution. The City of Charleston prevailed in Circuit Court in February of 2003, and the Town appealed. In the election held in 2004, the Mayor and all members of Town Council were reelected. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional in July 2004 and the Town Hall closed its doors a second time in January 2005.
The James Island Alliance for Self-Government had already begun preparation for a third incorporation in August. The State of South Carolina again changed its incorporation laws in February 2005. Senator Glenn McConnell again led the effort.
The people of James Island voted to form the Town for a third time in June 2006. Mary Clark was again elected Mayor. The City of Charleston again challenged the formation of the Town, claiming the new legislation was also unconstitutional. In 2008, Mayor Clark, and all members of council, Leonard Blank, Joe Qualey, Cubby Wilder, and Parris Williams, were unchallenged and no election was held.
In November 2008, the Circuit Court sided with the Townof James Island. The City of Charleston appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court. In 2010, the Town held elections. Leonard Blank was reelected to Town Council. Bill Woolsey was elected Mayor. Robin Welch, Carter McMillan, and Karen Wilder-Smalls were elected to Town Council.
On June 20, 2011 the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the Town was improperly formed. While the South Carolina Incorporation law was ruled constitutional, approximately 20 percent of the town was determined to be not contiguous. Riverland Terrace, Woodland Shores, Laurel Park, and Dogwood Park were all determined to be cut off by private properties annexed by the City of Charleston.
The people of the James Island began the difficult process of reincorporation. Free James Island was formed in June.
On April 24, 2012, 85 percent of the voters in the area to be incorporated voted to support the Town. A new municipal charter was presented by the South Carolina Secretary of State on May 17, 2012. A municipal election was held on July 31, 2012. Bill Woolsey was reelected as Mayor. Leonard Blank was returned to Town Council. Sam Kernodle, Mary Beth Berry, and Darren “Troy” Mullinax were elected to Town Council.
Town Hall was opened again on August 3, 2012. This time, for good.