MYRTLE BEACH — Fonzie Lewis has been quick to come out from behind a podium during debates and forums and get up and close and personal with those in attendance.
His reason for doing this is simple; he just wants to be close to the people.
And if elected as Horry County Council chairman, he wants to see to it that the people are closer to their local government.
“The people need to be more involved,” Lewis said.
Lewis, a previous candidate for the state House and Horry County Council, said ordinary citizens don’t realize what’s taking place and what’s happening in county government.
During the campaign, other candidates have pointed out that all Horry County Council and committee meetings are broadcast on local television and can be streamed on the county’s website, while meeting agendas are also readily available.
Scott Huffmon, professor of political science and director of the Social and Behavioral Research Lab at Winthrop University, said via email the county is likely doing everything it is legally required to do -- perhaps even more -- to meet the requirements of public transparency.
“However, while I am not familiar with the specifics of what Horry County does, if they’re like most counties, their actions are passive rather than active,” Huffmon said. “That is, they are available -- and that is the key part -- for people who know where to look for them.”
It’s not just more transparency that Lewis wants.
He’d like to see public input moved back to the beginning of the County Council meeting agenda. As it currently stands, public input on agenda items is held at the start of the meeting, while public comments on non-agenda items are held until the end.
Lewis said he’d also allow more time for public comments, instead of the three minutes currently allotted per speaker.
The area convenience store operator also wants to rotate where meetings are held, and take them out of Council Chambers at the government building from time to time.
Lewis’ desire to see more transparency in local government has meant making his own life more transparent as well.
During at least two public forums, Lewis has talked about his Oct. 2011 arrest on charges of operating illegal gambling machines, and how the case was ultimately dismissed.
According to information from the 15th District Solicitor’s website, the case against Lewis was closed and he was never prosecuted.
Lewis said he decided to talk about the issue after a fellow candidate said voters should Google their names and be as informed as possible before casting a ballot.
“I’m not bad. I’m just trying to step up and help the people of the county,” Lewis said.
Lewis considers himself semi-retired, and his wife is who operates their convenience store located between Conway and Aynor. Before, he worked for U.S. Foods and traveled to its various divisions all over the country.
“I got to see the area(s). I got to see what was taking place,” Lewis said.
One of his favorite places was Omaha, Neb. Lewis remembered seeing signs that stated all roads lead to Omaha.
If elected, he said he’d like to ultimately help the area become a year-round tourist destination, and see signs saying all roads lead to Myrtle Beach.
One way is to upgrade U.S. 501, the main artery into Myrtle Beach and a road that has been a source of headaches for drivers for years and one Lewis feels should have been upgraded years ago.
And then there’s getting not just politicians, but also the people involved in Horry County’s future. Because that’s what Lewis wants to be to those he hopes to serve, an ordinary person.
“I’m going to be an on-hands leader,” he said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_bdickerson.