It’s been quite a year of change for Horry County leadership. Or has it? What’s striking is how little things might have actually changed.
To quickly sum up the most notable moves among our top brass:
Sen. Dick Elliott, the county’s longest-serving legislator ever, retired after his term ended this year. He was replaced in November by new Sen. Greg Hembree, who had been the area’s solicitor. Hembree in turn was replaced by his deputy, Jimmy Richardson. Myrtle Beach Rep. Thad Viers resigned his seat in March, eventually to be replaced by Heather Ammons Crawford, who had been Myrtle Beach Rep. Alan Clemmons’ chief of staff. Long-time Horry County Board of Education Chairman Will Garland also decided to step down for a well-deserved retirement, to be replaced by school board member Joe DeFeo.
Conway Rep. George Hearn opted not to run for a third term and was replaced by former Horry County Councilman Kevin Hardee. The county has a new administrator, Chris Eldridge, poached from his former post just south in Georgetown. Surfside Beach Mayor Allen Deaton was ousted in April by Town Councilman Doug Samples. We’ve watched County Council Chairman Tom Rice succeed in his bid to become our new congressman. His replacement won’t be decided for a few more months, but the candidates who’ve announced so far are all current or previous council members. And certainly not least, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint resigned and his seat will be filled by current U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who had represented Horry County until this most recent election.
If you haven’t caught the pattern yet, let us help. Despite numerous changes in key posts throughout the county, most of those in the posts are familiar faces. The titles have changed, the names have not.
In fact, perhaps the only truly new notable face in our area’s top political leadership is Mike Ryhal, who won the race to represent Carolina Forest’s new state House district. True, we have seen newcomers in other offices, on councils and the school board. But those in the top spots leading our public bodies and in our legislative delegation are almost all old hands at local politics.
We’re not sure exactly what this means or even if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps we prefer the devils we know. Maybe we keep seeing the same people because they’re the best leaders we have. Perhaps there’s a finite number of people interested in leadership and so the same names keep popping up over and over again. Maybe it’s just easier to get elected or appointed if you already have name recognition and experience.
It’s just interesting to note, we think, that the more things change, the more it seems they stay the same.