Debbie Harwell has a number of reasons she wants to run for Horry County Council, and close to the top of the list is bringing a woman into the governing group.
The Myrtle Beach businesswoman points out that all 11 council members representing the residents of Horry County are men, and not one woman leads a county committee.
She’s ready to see that change.
“I think that we hold the household together,” Harwell said.
She added more than half of the voter base is female and every woman should have representation on county government.
Harwell was formerly one part of the “Steve, Debbie and Dave Show,” on WRNN radio based in Myrtle Beach for 10 years. Today, she operates a public relations firm that updates the public on government projects like new roads, such as the proposed Interstate 73.
She’s now vying for former chairman Tom Rice’s old seat, but more than a year ago the two were aiming for the same one. Harwell was a candidate for representative of the 7th Congressional District, but withdrew from the race last January after her husband, David, became ill.
Now, Harwell believes her experience with transportation makes her a viable asset to Horry County, an area that has a number of road projects residents are ready to see completed. These include the widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard, the completion of International Drive and access to a major interstate.
“I see exactly what we have to do. I know the different terminology. I know the next step, and how we would go about doing that,” Harwell said.
Steve Gosnell, director of Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation, said Harwell’s company helped coordinate public hearings, press releases and information gathering for the Carolina Bays Parkway extension, the Aynor Overpass and the backgate work.
Gosnell said the work was a small part of the projects, but a necessary part.
“She’s been involved with a variety of transportation projects ... which would make her knowledgeable on those projects,” he said.
And there is another transportation project Harwell believes is vital for Horry County, and that is a southern evacuation route.
Harwell said the new storm surge maps paint a potentially devastating picture of what could happen if a hurricane strikes the Grand Strand, and she’s frightened for those in the south end of Horry County.
“That storm surge map destroys everything over at the waterway and beyond,” Harwell said.
Horry County Emergency Management changed its hurricane evacuation zones last summer by moving them further inland as a response to the storm surge maps.
Harwell wants a southern evacuation route in a place where it’s the least impactful to people, places or things.
Paul Raad, with Civil Engineering Consulting Services in Columbia, has worked with Harwell on projects in Horry County, like being a sub to them on the southern evacuation lifeline.
Raad said Harwell does a lot with community outreach and keeping the public informed on projects.
“She’s very good at it. She does a lot for the county and helps out with the projects,” Raad said.
When not focusing on giving women representation in county government and working on the area’s transportation needs, Harwell also wants to make sure county employees are taken care of.
And she believes she’s the best for the job because she’s new to the political scene and can bring a fresh set of eyes and perspective to the County Council leadership role.
With most of the other candidates and current council members having past experience, Harwell said they’ve already shown everyone what they can do.
“I think that everybody else has warmed the seats,” she said.