Gov. Henry McMaster paid a visit to Myrtle Beach on Monday, touring the new culinary institute, talking to business leaders and meeting with area mayors and Horry County officials.
Brian Symmes, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Monday he did not have details on the trip because it was political in nature. McMaster began fundraising in January for the 2018 gubernatorial election, according to campaign filings.
Brad Dean, the president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber extended an invitation to McMaster for a visit shortly after he took office. Dean hosted McMaster for much of the day Monday.
“In his new role, [McMaster] faces many challenges and tremendous opportunities, and we believe the Grand Strand can and will play a pivotal role in South Carolina’s future,” Dean said in a phone call Wednesday.
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The governor’s visit included discussions with mayors of the coastal towns along the Grand Strand and Horry County officials. Public officials told The Sun News that they spoke to the governor about securing funding for beach renourishment, resources for the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, hurricane evacuation protocols and building I-73, an interstate that would connect the Myrtle Beach area to I-95.
“It was our first chance to meet with him since he’s been governor, and we have issues with commitments from the state for beach renourishment and just wanted to make sure that those commitments remained,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said.
“I think it went extremely well. He was very receptive to everything,” Lazarus said.
Also up for discussion was a raise in the state’s gas tax, which McMaster has said publicly he does not support. After the Monday meetings, McMaster said elsewhere that he would veto a raise, and that a $1 billion bond to fix roads could be another option, according to The State newspaper.
“We have to do something,” North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said Tuesday. “If it’s adding one or two cents to the gas tax to maintain the roads … I don’t like any kind of tax but I certainly think that sometimes it may be necessary.”
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said that the potential gas tax is “a state call. They’re gonna have to do what they feel is necessary … that’s their job to take care of the roads and bridges.”
But, he said, “We have taken our own steps with [local funding] RIDE 1, 2 and 3 to improve our roads in this area, where the state had a very small input.”
McMaster’s full itinerary on Monday included:
- A tour of the Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s culinary institute;
- A meeting with hospitality industry members at HGTC, including representatives of the Brittain Resorts, Broadway at the Beach and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans;
- A meeting with other business leaders, including representatives of Burroughs & Chapin, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and Watermark Real Estate Group;
- A one-on-one meeting with Coastal Carolina University President Dave DeCenzo, at the chamber;
- And the roundtable with local government officials at the chamber.
McMaster assumed the governorship after former Gov. Nikki Haley became U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He has already opened a campaign account to prepare for the 2018 election and reported $153,250 in donations, all in the the same day, according to campaign finance filings with the S.C. Ethics Commission.
Calls to McMaster for Governor, the group listed on a website the governor has used for past campaigns, were not returned.