Hilton Head’s first town manager dies at 77

Local News

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A Lowcountry community is mourning the loss of their first-ever town manager.

Former Hilton Head Island Town Manager Carey Smith died on Sunday, July 5. He was 77.

The South Carolina native served in local government for over 40 years. He served as city manager in three cities before coming to Hilton Head in 1983 when the Town was first incorporated.

Smith guided Hilton Head through its formative years, serving five years in total.

“Carey was there from the very beginning, helping to pull the Town together, getting it on the right foot and getting it organized. He did a fabulous job,” said Michael L.M. Jordan, who at the time co-chaired the committee leading the charge to incorporate Hilton Head. He served as the Town’s first attorney.

“He actually was shepherding them through the Town Council. What were going to be development codes? Who had vested rights?” Jordan continued. “There were a lot of people who had opinions. But Carey kept the Town moving forward and kept people willing to work with each other.

“We got through it. He was a contributor.”

Current Town Manager Steve Riley says Smith put many programs and policies in place that, with some modest changes, still remain.

After leaving Hilton Head, Smith served as the city manager in two Florida communities. He returned to South Carolina in 2002 to become the city manager for Rock Hill.

“That is when I got the opportunity to meet him and hear his stories of the early days of Hilton Head Island,” Riley said. “Carey and his wife Joan maintained many friendships on Hilton Head Island, including with our first Mayor, Ben Racusin and his wife Helen. They visited the Island many times over the years.”

Following his retirement in 2010, Smith served at times as an acting manager for communities searching for a new manager. Riley said he performed this role twice for Hardeeville.

Smith served as president of the South Carolina City and County Management Association in 1977 and received their Lifetime Achievement Award upon his retirement. He was active in the International City/County Managers Association and the National League of Cities and received numerous recommendations and awards.

Smith is survived by his wife Joan, two sons and four grandchildren.

A funeral service for Smith will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at The Wood Mortuary in Greer, South Carolina, and may be viewed via webcast at thewoodmortuary.com — where online condolences may also be made.

Burial will follow in Mountain View Cemetery, Greer, South Carolina. Memorials may be made to The Citadel Alumni Association, Salvation Army or charity of one’s choice.

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