CONWAY — Horry County Budget Director Westley Sawyer started with the county 38 1/2 years ago as a temporary worker who was only supposed to stay for 18 months.
“I got the better deal, I think,” said the Conway native who served his final work day Thursday. “It’s been a joy to serve the people in the county and the people I’ve worked with. A lot of the times we just don’t realize that these public jobs are a public service. It’s not wages, necessarily, although they are better than when I came.”
It’s that humor that Sawyer will be remembered for, and his vast knowledge of the county’s finances.
Six months out of the year, Sawyer has been front and center working with the County Administrator’s budget and then with the County Council budget. From tax increases to juggling numbers when state mandates would change projections, Sawyer has been the go-to man for the county in some rather tense times.
But he handled it with humor.
Not that tax increases are funny, but he’d be the one to ease tension in budget meetings and even had a fun wager for a Coca-Cola if former Councilman-turned-County Chairman Mark Lazarus was right about revenue projections. Sawyer lost the bet and rightfully bought Lazarus a soda.
“Well, I owe Westley a Coca-Cola back because I tell you what, he has done a fantastic job,” Lazarus said. “He has really given his heart and soul to this county and the job he has done.”
Former Chairwoman Liz Gilland worked for years with Sawyer and asked him for one favor.
“I used to tell him, ‘Do me one favor. Don’t leave until I’m gone,’” she said. “He had a depth and a breadth of knowledge of county finances that was pretty much unmatched. He was the most fun person because he is hysterically southern.”
Gilland said she and Sawyer attended high school at the same time and professionally sat in on many budget talks.
“He is southern to the core,” Gilland said. “When things were particularly tense, as they can often get during budget time when you’re bickering over how much money there is and how much can be spent..., invariably, just as things got really tense..., Westley would be the one who would come out with some comment or quip that was so outrageously funny that everyone would break out into laughter.”
She said trust was a character quality that Sawyer did not take lightly, though the two were comfortable enough to joke about his height.
“I could always count on Westley to know where every dollar was,” Gilland said. “When you work with hundreds of millions of dollars, it is amazing how much knowledge Westley had in that short little body of his.”
Gilland said not everyone had seen eye to eye with Sawyer, but they respected his knowledge, which is evident in his long career.
“He truly came to stay,” she said. “He stayed longer than most ever do. To be as involved with the council for so long and still keep his job, it’s pretty amazing... and to last as long as he did and go out and still be friends is a testament, not only to his ability as a finance person, but his personality as well.”
For now, it’s fishing pole in hand for Sawyer, who said he will certainly keep his co-workers near and dear to his heart.
“I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve been with the county,” he said. “I’m going to miss the people a lot.”
Starting Monday, parking stations to accept credit cards only
Horry County parking pay stations along Shore Drive and Garden City Beach will only accept credit cards for payment beginning Monday.
The pay stations are operational for the season through the end of October. They will become operational again in the spring, according to a press release issued by the county.
The parking pay stations are located at 115 South Waccamaw Drive in Garden City Beach and at the following public beach accesses along Shore Drive: Public Beach Access No.18, Ocean Annie’s; Public Beach Access No.19, Sands Ocean Club; Public Beach Access No.20, Cottage Beach Court; Public Beach Access No.21, Maison Drive.
Charges for the parking pay stations will remain the same at $1.25 per hour or $6 for a 12-hour period.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.