Thomas Cleary withdraws from Hilton Head mayoral election, 3 candidates remain in race

Thomas Cleary for HHI Mayor Facebook page

Hilton Head mayoral candidate Tom Cleary has withdrawn from the mayoral race, 36 days before the election.

In an email to the Island Packet, Cleary wrote his exit comes due to concerns he could dedicate sufficient time to his mayoral duties if elected while still working a full-time job.

“Ethically and professionally, I feel that the mayoral position would require more than 100% effort and I would want to be completely focused on the task of being the mayor,” Cleary wrote.

Cleary still works as a consultant for the Department of Defense, he told the Island Packet Monday. He said as he dug deeper into the issues on Hilton Head and the expectations of being mayor, he realized he would need to devote more time than he can currently to the office.

As he nears the end of his career with the DoD, Cleary said he would consider running for office on the island again in the future.

The 27-year Army veteran moved to Hilton Head Island in 2020, according to his campaign website. His priorities included establishing a Hilton Head Island police force and encouraging private entities to address the island’s workforce housing needs.

Cleary had entered the race just two days before the filing deadline.

Cleary’s withdrawal leaves three candidates on the ballot. Former Beaufort County School Board member JoAnn Orischak, a first-time mayoral candidate; Alan Perry, who received 20% of the vote in 2018; and Michael Santomauro, who earned under 2% of the vote in 2018.

Outgoing Mayor John McCann has yet to endorse a candidate in the current race. McCann is not seeking reelection.

The general election will be held Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 5.