The ballot debacle earlier this year has made the race to replace George Hearn as the representative for Conway a crowded one, with five petition candidates jostling for a chance to take the seat. Of the five, one stood out.
Former assistant solicitor Bert von Herrmann possesses the leadership ability, hard-working nature and experience needed to succeed as a legislator. He offered common sense suggestions on a range of issues, from ethics reform to infrastructure work to closing the sweepstakes parlor loophole that’s allowing gambling to retake its hold on the state. All of his ideas came with a healthy dose of reality that such changes will not be easy or quick or simple, particularly for a freshman House member, but will take hard work building relationships and coalitions needed to get the job done.
Von Herrmann’s stated commitment to constituent services was impressive, as he pointed out that his district covers not only eastern Conway but also Loris, an area that has felt left out and ignored in recent years. He pledged to change that, promising he would be visible and available more than just when he wants their votes.
“We’re not there for Nov. 6 and then we’ll pull out and see them in two years,” he said.
Von Herrmann’s main priority is the same as most of the would-be leaders we talked to this year: improving the state’s economy and getting residents back to work. His ideas for doing so -- getting the local railroad back up and running, improving infrastructure and courting businesses -- are largely common sense and practical, and largely fall in line with efforts already in the works. His other priority may be harder to pull off: restoring trust and respect for the law and lawmakers. In an age when many residents consider their elected leaders to be on the whole only slightly better than common criminals, we wish him the best of luck, but he has a hard road ahead. If he can succeed, we imagine it will be largely due to his own strong sense of ethics and integrity.
Finally, he also impressed us with his admission of his own limitations, a rare quality in many politicians. We believe he genuinely wants to do the best job he can possibly do, and perhaps partly because he’s intelligent and discerning, he’s aware that will mean asking advice from others in situations where he’s not as well-versed or familiar.
“I don’t need to be the smartest guy in the room,” he told us. “I just need the smartest guys sitting next to me.”
Of the other four, Kevin Hardee’s experience as an Horry County Council member could stand him in good stead and he has the know-how and relationships needed to succeed. But we simply didn’t see the same passion for the job from Hardee that von Herrmann expressed.
Neither Mike Connett nor Bill Wiegand showed the same grasp of local and state issues or the knowledge of the political process that von Herrmann has. We appreciate that both are running from a true desire to serve their community, but this seat simply does not seem the place for them to start.
We were unable to reach the remaining candidate, Blake Hewitt, for an interview, but we have not seen anything from him in candidate forums or on his website that would change our endorsement choice.