Former Horry County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland and past council member Mark Lazarus both confirmed Wednesday they will seek the seat that soon will be vacated by current council chairman Tom Rice.
Now that Rice has been elected as the 7th Congressional District’s first representative, the question turns to how long it will take to fill that vacancy.
“The special election timeframe to vote for a new council chairman will depend on when Tom Rice tenders his resignation,” said Lisa Bourcier, county spokeswoman, via email.
Bourcier added there was no announcement from Rice as of Wednesday.
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Once Rice resigns, filing would open at noon on the third Friday after Rice’s seat becomes vacant, Bourcier said. It would stay open for 10 days.
The primary election would be the 11th Tuesday – roughly three months – after Rice’s resignation date, according to Bourcier. The general election would be the 18th Tuesday, or more than four months, following the resignation.
Rice was elected as County Council chairman in 2010. The person elected will fill a term that expires in 2014, said Sandy Martin, director of Horry County Voter Registration.
District 1 Councilman Harold Worley expects it to be a while before a new council chairman is elected. In the interim, the Horry County Council’s vice chairman will oversee all county meetings, he added.
“We’re going to continue to do business. I think our council will do just fine,” Worley said.
District 11 Councilman Al Allen is the current vice chair, but that will change after the first of the year, Worley said. At that point, a new vice chairman will be named from the council’s other 10 members.
Worley, who was the council’s vice chairman in 2011, said at this point he has no aspirations to seek Rice’s seat. He plans to support Lazarus in his campaign.
“If Mark decides not to run ... conditions could change,” Worley said.
Lazarus, who served on County Council from 2001 to 2006, said he’s thought about the position throughout Rice’s campaign for Congress, when it looked likely Rice would win and his seat would open up.
“I’ve got the time to do it and the energy and really feel that I can bring some leadership to the council and have some smooth transition,” he said.
Lazarus wants to go and visit with each of the County Council members to see what their concerns are for their districts.
He’s also looking ahead to what he’d like to focus on if elected. One of Lazarus’ biggest concerns, he said, is the local tax structure.
“To me, it’s too high,” he said.
Gilland, who stepped down as chairwoman in 2010, said Wednesday her decision to run for council chairman is one she’s been thinking about for a while.
“Retirement is nice, but I need to do something to make a difference. And I can do county government. And I can do it well,” Gilland said.
If she is returned to the head of county government, Gilland won’t have to look far to address one of her biggest concerns - the state of county employees.
“From everything I keep hearing, morale is really low,” she said. “If we don’t have happy, satisfied employees for a variety of reasons, than we don’t have good government.”
Gilland said she hopes Rice’s resignation comes soon, so the process can begin and a new chairman is in place in time for the County Council’s spring budget cycle.
To prepare for her campaign, Gilland won’t have to look far.
“I’m going to dust off my old signs and stick them back out,” she said.