Al Allen has served on Horry County Council for six years, and filling in for former chairman Tom Rice occasionally gave him a taste of what it was like sitting in the big chair.
Allen was vice chairman of County Council throughout 2012, and that meant having to take charge when Rice couldn’t attend meetings.
Now that Rice has vacated the seat to serve in the U.S. Congress as representative of the 7th Congressional District, Allen is ready to take over his seat permanently.
“My philosophy is ... to make it easier for council to flow,” Allen said.
The candidate feels the other 10 members he serves with represent one of the best County Councils in a long time. If elected, he hopes be a role model to residents and encourage those on council.
“It needs to be a chairman who will work with the council and set that good example,” he said.
Allen does pride himself on stepping up and taking a lead on hot topics, even those that are controversial.
One issue he took criticism on is the building of the Aynor Overpass, a project included in the one cent capital projects sales tax. Allen and his wife, Shanda, are Aynor residents and he represents the town.
The issue has come up over the course of the campaign, with residents at a candidate forum held in Carolina Forest asking why that overpass wasn’t build closer to a heavily-traveled area like Carolina Forest Boulevard.
“That decision was made before I ever came on council. Set in stone. There’s nothing anybody could do about it,” Allen said.
Before the 2006 vote on the one cent sales tax, the Aynor Overpass was one of 15 projects chosen by the sales tax commission. The thinking was the referendum wouldn’t pass if the road work wasn’t widespread.
Bo Ives, president of the Carolina Forest Civic Association, said as it was explained to him, the council had to vote up or down on what the committee recommended.
“There was no second guessing,” he said.
Ives thinks the Aynor Overpass, which opened in August 2012, could see more use once tourists start returning to Horry County.
Still, he thinks any digs at Allen over the bridge are unfortunate, since he helped the project come in almost $30 million under the original budget of $46 million. That extra money could then be filtered to other endeavors, like the overpass being built at the Farrow Parkway/U.S. 17 Bypass intersection at the backgate.
“It’s a very fine road system and it serves a wonderful purpose,” Allen said.
He also believes the county’s senior staff does a wonderful job, and he’d like to be a good cheerleader for them if elected as chairman.
Allen also wants to improve working relationships with code enforcement and planning and zoning, to help simplify the procedures and make the process easier for residents.
As for whether this is a stepping stone for something more, Allen said the only next step he’s interested in is serving this partial term and then a full one.
Otherwise, he has no ambitions right now to aim higher.
“I love Horry County. It’s my home,” Allen said.