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The Thrive Beaufort Blog

Stories of people and their businesses thriving in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Mayor Larry Toomer: Preserving the Land for the Next Generation

by | Jun 11, 2024

Meet one of our newest board members the Mayor of Bluffton, Larry Toomer. Larry shares the BCEDC’s belief in the strength of small business, environmental stewardship, and scaling developments to each community’s expectations.

At the close of my recent interview with Bluffton Mayor Larry Toomer, I asked him to select one special place in Bluffton that he would rather be, he quickly answered:

“On a boat, any boat, on the river when the sun comes up! I just love to watch the sun rise from behind the steering wheel, that is where I am truly at peace.”

Not surprising. The Toomer family has lived and worked on the water for over 100 years, beginning with Larry Toomer’s grandfather Simpson Toomer, who opened the Hilton Head Packing Company in 1913. Larry’s father and uncles kept the family business alive by opening other seafood factories along Skull Creek on Hilton Head and Buckingham Landing. Today, Larry, his wife Tina and five children are continuing the seafood business tradition with their company the Bluffton Oyster Company, a restaurant and catering business.

Larry Toomer might be the new Bluffton mayor as of January, but he still works every day on the water in the family business.

“I’ve fished my whole life and worked on the river. I ran a 70-foot shrimp boat when I was just 20 years old and bought my first big boat when I was 22. I love owning my own business, and I love my Lowcountry home. Many of the people that I went to school with are still here. Many of the families here worked for my grandfather, my father, and uncles. We grew up together and worked together, we respected each other, and we still do,” said Toomer.

For most of his 66 years, Toomer has been deeply involved in protecting and preserving the precious Lowcountry environment.

He shared, “I could see that Bluffton was changing, and I saw people making decisions that I didn’t agree with. I felt the need to try to protect what has been so good to me and my family because I want nothing more than for my kids and grandkids, and future generations to have that same God given gift. As a concerned citizen for years, I have been very vocal because the environment can’t speak for itself.”

Toomer’s concerns led him to seek public office. He was elected to Bluffton Town Council in 2012, served as mayor pro tempore for four years and was elected mayor in November 2023 with 75% of the vote. His decision to run for mayor was not an easy one for him. Following in former Mayor Lisa Sulka’s footsteps seemed daunting and according to Toomer, he says he doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat to get things accomplished.

“I just always want to be close enough to the wheel so that if we get off course, I could straighten it up. It’s like running a boat or driving a car. I don’t have to sit behind the wheel, I just want to be able to reach it before it goes spinning in circles, runs aground, gets shipwrecked or crashes into something,” he chuckled.

As mayor, Toomer has several major priorities. Protecting and preserving the environment is first, building more parks and assets for the residents, not allowing large developments to just take over. In addition, as Bluffton keeps growing, he is concerned that the exploding population is contributing to the degradation of the water quality, particularly in the May River. He also feels strongly that there must be a sanitary sewer system throughout Bluffton and the surrounding areas. By the end of 2026, it is anticipated that every house in Bluffton will be on sewer. He also plans to work with the state and county to improve and make the roads in and out of the town more efficient and safer.

Toomer believes economic development and local business are critical for the future health of the town.

“It’s essential to bring in more jobs to the area and not just jobs, it’s services that our residents need and deserve. I’m a huge advocate for small business. I know what it takes to make a small business work,” he said. “I believe that the difference with small business is that owners are involved with the community than perhaps corporate-owned entities might be that come in, hire people to work and then whatever success that business has, most of the benefits go to a headquarters somewhere else. Local businesses generate a lot more revenue to support the town than just residential taxes, which is great. We have about 150 people who work for the town. We don’t want our taxpayers to have to foot the entire bill for our governmental services.”

In his short time as mayor, Toomer has enjoyed building his relationships with the other mayors from Beaufort, Port Royal and Hilton Head.

He said, “We are all basically new and getting our feet wet. There will always be that competition for county and state funding. We all have similar challenges, roads, the bridges, workforce development, and growth. I feel good about the leadership of the other municipalities, and I feel in the future it’s going to really pay big dividends with us having a mutual respect for the other. We are in constant communication about what is best for our individual towns and the region a whole. I believe that in the future, we will stand united!”


Mayor Larry Toomer shares the latest economic development updates for the Town of Bluffton, South Carolina as part of the CONVERGE 2024 Lowcountry Economic Development Summit.