Mayor Jake Evans presided over his first Atlantic Beach Town Council meeting Monday night, getting business wrapped up quickly, and receiving congratulations and support from most of the assembled crowd.
“They’re ready to climb the mountain with us,” said Evans at the end of the one-hour meeting, which was short for a town accustomed to long nights of bickering.
Evans, along with Mayor Pro Tem Charlene Taylor and Councilwoman Josephine Isom, told residents there had been a lot of struggle, but that they had to stick together to move forward.
It took Evans two years to finally take his place as mayor last week. He was first elected mayor in November 2011, but then-Mayor Retha Pierce and Councilwoman Windy Price worked for a special election, held in May 2012, which Evans also won overwhelmingly. That decision was appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court.
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Price and another Councilwoman, Carolyn Cole, were not present at the meeting.
Evans was able to achieve his first goal on Monday of filling the position of town attorney. The council voted unanimously to hire Leah Moody for the post, which has been vacant since early may.
The council also voted together to approve two other hires. William Booker was named town manager, a position he has held previously, taking over from Linda Cheatham, who has served in the interim since Christmas Eve.
Also, V.J. McConnell was hired to finish town audits from 2007, 2008 and 2009. Atlantic Beach has been without an auditor since 2011, and Cheatham said the situation “has reached critical stage.” The state started last year withholding money from the town because it hadn’t submitted audits for years.
The business portion of the meeting ended within 30 minutes, but it took another half hour for 10 people to make public comments.
Pierce took the podium to say she wanted to make sure everything that was done was legal, but added, “I do pledge my intent to work with you in a constructive manner.”
Former Horry County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland also took the podium, saying she still cares about the Black Pearl, as Atlantic Beach is known, and that the area has more potential than others in the county. She warned Moody, however, that there was a lot of work ahead.
“I hope you’re a praying lady, and I want you to gird your loins,” Gilland told the new town attorney.
Aside from a few questions, the majority of public comments were congratulations to the mayor and present council, and pledges to stand together for a brighter future.
“I just want to congratulate you publically,” Joe Montgomery told the council. “Now that we have a stable government, hopefully, we won’t be the laughing stock of the Grand Strand and South Carolina.”