Horry County resident Tewana Alston, a former recipient of aid from the Waccamaw Economic Opportunity Council, was elected Tuesday night as the agency's 15th board member in an election that drew 30 voters to the Canal Street Recreation Center.
Alston received 22 of the votes cast in the election. Jerrie Vibbert, a second candidate, got the remaining eight votes.
If Alston is seated, the board will have fulfilled all of the directives issued as part of a board audit by the state Office of Economic Opportunity more than a year ago.
The election to fill the Area Two seat for Horry County, which includes Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and a wide area around each, was held once before since the audit, but board members refused to seat Ruby Rodgers, who was chosen in that earlier vote.
Rodgers was a former board member who was among those who resigned her seat at the request of state legislators in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties in the turmoil that followed the audit. Board members who remained questioned the state's authority to conduct the audit and demand corrections to problems it found.
They spent more than $79,000 on lawyers in the seven months after the audit, much of which was in an attempt to avoid complying with state directives.
Among the problems found in the audit were board member interference with the day-to-day operations of the agency and former board elections that were conducted improperly. The state insisted, for instance, that an election for former board member Abdullah Mustafa be held again.
Mustafa won that election, but other board members refused to seat him the same night they rejected Rodgers' return to the board.
Rodgers did not run in Tuesday evening's election.
The agency board's 15 members are to include five who are nominated by public bodies, five who are nominated by private groups and five who were elected by the poor, the term given to elections such as those at Canal Street Recreation Center.
The state OEO is to return to the agency May 2-5 to conduct a follow-up audit. The agency is hoping that the state will remove a "high risk" status placed on it after the last audit.
That status likely is one reason the agency has been unsuccessful in getting a loan to pay for the construction of the Choppee Head Start Center in Georgetown County.
The board approved construction and work was started without the money to complete the more than $800,000 job.
The construction was stopped after federal oversight officials realized what was happening.
Alston, a licensed insurance agent, said she wants to give other board members an insider's view of the agency's programs. She said she is familiar with what the agency does and that she received utility payment assistance from the agency about two years ago.
She said she is also eager to learn about the agency from the inside, but has not given herself a deadline to do so.
Board chairman Zacharius Grate welcomed Alston to the board after the vote, even though her election must still be accepted by the full board before she can take her seat.
"We look forward to you being a part of us," Grate said.
James Pasley, the agency's newly-hired executive director, urged those at the election also to attend board meetings.
"We are only as strong as the community's support," he said.
He emphasized that the meetings are open to the public.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.