It’s often said that Realtors should act as the “mayor” of their neighborhoods or towns by becoming experts in everything local, acting as a leader and building long-lasting relationships.
Living out that philosophy to the max, independent brokerage owner Jimmy Carroll just became the actual mayor of his hometown, the Isle of Palms in South Carolina.
Further establishing his deep roots with the small beachfront community, Carroll — who says he has been perceived as the town’s informal mayor for some time now — won the recent election with a resounding 59 percent majority.
While he spoke with Inman, he was standing outside a bank talking on the phone, stopping to greet friends and receive hugs of congratulations.
A mayor in the making
Carroll believes his experience as a Realtor and being an Isle of Palms native positioned him to become mayor.
“I can talk to the trash man or the state governor with equal ease. I know everybody,” he said.
He didn’t change his dressed-down real estate profile one iota when campaigning as mayor.
“My reputation is as a real, laid back-looking person. I wear jeans; I’m casual because I’m selling the casual lifestyle,” he added.
Carroll decided to run for mayor when he learned the current incumbent didn’t have any competition. Carroll had served two four-year terms in town council positions. Years on local real estate associations boards, including being past-president of the Charleston Trident Association Board of Directors, didn’t hurt either.
“I have communication skills; that’s what I’m good at,” Carroll said. “I can tell a story.”
As mayor, he wants to reduce the spending that’s been going on in his town and better prepare it for storms. Carroll recalls Hurricane Hugo in 1989 when he lost his office, his house and everything he owned.
Speaking to an upcoming $13 million local rebuild of the beach, he said: “I am a realist; it’s not if but when. We had two hurricane scares this year and lost a lot of beach.”
The beautiful beachfront community gets deluged with tourists every summer, and as mayor, Carroll’s priority is to protect the residents of the Isle of Palms.
Separating town politics and real estate
Carroll, a top Charleston producer in high-end beach property, has been working in real estate since college in 1978. As his mayoral campaigning reached its peak, his girlfriend and office manager, Carol Powers, and son or “protege,” Winslow, held the fort.
But the broker is looking forward to getting back into the real estate business in the coming weeks. Fortunately, the mayoralty is not a full-time job. The Isle of Palms’ population is just 4,220 when the tourists aren’t in town.
Despite the time lost to campaigning, Carroll says he will do 20 transactions this year, a sales volume of $20 million. His biggest sale was $5.45 million.
Upon starting the new role on January 1, Carroll intends to keep his Realtor and mayor gigs quite separate. “I would not mix politics with real estate,” he said.
Carroll has strict views about not using his mayoral title for his own gain in real estate. He says if he were showing someone a nice waterfront home, he wouldn’t mention the fact he was mayor. They might find the information on his bio on the website, but he wouldn’t volunteer it.
“I think it could be very dangerous,” he said. “I don’t want anybody accusing me of using my position to benefit my business.”
Carroll, in his early 60s, plans to transfer his real estate brokerage to his son when he comes to retire.
Carroll and his mother, Kathy, started the family business in 1981.
Carroll’s plan is to serve one term as a mayor, then buy an RV, put a couple of motor bikes on the back and head across the country.