September 6, 2013

Several join local races for office as filing ends

Election filings for several area municipal races closed Friday, revealing challenges for mayors in two contests, and for council seats in three ahead of November voting.

Election filings for several area municipal races closed Friday, revealing challenges for mayors in two contests, and for council seats in three ahead of November voting.

In Aynor, where only incumbents – Mayor Keb Johnson and councilmen John Gardener and Tony Godsey Sr. – filed by the Friday deadline, changes are not likely, according to town clerk Margaret Duvall.

Duvall said write-ins have until Sept. 13 to sign up. If there are no write-ins, the town won’t have an election in November.

In Conway, four people have filed for three council seats. Incumbents Irby Koon, Jean Timbes and William Goldfinch all filed along with Randal Alford.

The only mayoral challenges following the filing were in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, where council seats also are being challenged.

North Myrtle Beach

Three-term Mayor Marilyn Hatley has two challengers in Lou Palm and Gary Stevens.

Palm, 62, is seeking his first elected office. He is the Palmetto, S.C. region preparedness coordinator for the American Red Cross and said he would resign that position if elected.

Palm said he wants to focus on residents, not tourists, making sure citizens have a louder voice and to ensure current ordinances are enforced.

Stevens, a lifelong resident of North Myrtle Beach, said he feels the current council does not give a voice to the public.

“You cannot underestimate how they try to keep out the public,” he said. “Right now they got two candidates that will be running unopposed. They were unopposed the last time and the time before. This is not democracy.”

Hatley said the citizens are involved and they do have a voice.

“I’d say that anyone who says the citizens aren’t involved and don’t have a voice is just not familiar with the city government of North Myrtle Beach,” she said.

She said she wants to stay on as mayor because the city is in the middle of big projects like the sports park and the dredging of Cherry Grove.

“There’s a lot to know about this project,” Hatley said of the dredging. “We don’t have time to play catch up and a new mayor is going to have to play catch up to be able to move this project forward.”

The sports park is slated to open next year and Hatley said she wants to be there to make sure everything is running as planned.

Stevens said money spent in the town hasn’t been put to good use and is opposed to the construction of the sports park. He said the money would’ve been better spent by building a senior citizens center.

He also said he doesn’t think the hospitality and accommodations taxes should be collected.

Two councilmen are running unopposed in North Myrtle Beach where three council seats in addition to the mayor’s term are expiring.

Councilman Terry White of the Ocean Drive Ward and at-large councilman Robert Cavanaugh are facing no challengers.

Four people are running for the Windy Hill Ward council seat, currently held by Councilman Greg Duckworth, who is not seeking reelection.

Nikki Fontana, Tom Powell, Steve Schulin and Brian Scott are all running.

Powell said he’s running because he loves North Myrtle Beach and wants a role in developing it’s growth.

Powell has lived in the North Myrtle Beach area for about 10 years and said he’s volunteered on boards within the city and in the Barefoot area but now wants to contribute more.

Schulin said he loves the area and wanted to make sure someone on the ballot represented his morals.

He said problems in the country aren’t going to be solved simply by creating jobs and doesn’t want to see God be taken “out of the public square.”

Scott, who has previously run for City Council and Horry County Council, wants to see a greener North Myrtle Beach.

“I want to save our trees from being cut down by land developers,” he said.

He’s not against growth, he just doesn’t want new lots to be clear-cut before building.

He also wants to see restaurants and condominiums require recycling.

Fontana could not be reached for comment Friday.

Myrtle Beach

In Myrtle Beach five people are running for three council seats, including incumbents Wayne Gray, Mike Lowder and Randal Wallace. Former Myrtle Beach mayoral candidate Keith Van Winkle and Community Appearance Board member Jackie Vereen also filed.

John Rhodes is running for his third term as mayor of Myrtle Beach and will be challenged by William “Bill” Howard, Robert Palmer and Jerry Fout.

The incumbents announced their candidacy in a shared press conference last week where Rhodes said the council’s ability to compromise, even when the members don’t agree, is a reason all four should be reelected to the seven-member council.

Lowder is running for his second term on City Council and Wallace is running for his fourth term. Gray is running for his fourth term since first being elected to council in 1997. He was not in office from 2001 to 2005.

All four pointed to the completion of the Myrtle Beach boardwalk and promenade and the redevelopment downtown as things they are proud the city accomplished .

“I want to be around if we expand the boardwalk and for the convention center expansion,” Wallace said.

Gray took pride in improvements made at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium and Ashley Booth Field.

“I want to be part of the long-term effort to continue to make Myrtle Beach a vibrant place to live, to work and to raise a family,” he said.

Rhodes said he aims to extend the boardwalk from its current 1.2 miles to 4.6 miles. . To reach the 4.6 miles that Rhodes is seeking, the boardwalk would extend two miles south to Springmaid Pier and another mile north, Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers and designer of the boardwalk told The Sun News in November.

The project is estimated to cost about $20 million.

Rhodes said he has yet to get a company to sign on.

Rhodes insisted his health won’t be an issue and he received clearance to run for re-election from the doctors who repaired a bleeding brain aneurysm in December.

“I’m good to go,” he said. “The doctors said there are no after effects. I’m one of the 1 percent that walks out without any side effects.”

Bill Howard, who owns several businesses in town including Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar and the Alabama Theater, said he’s good friends with Rhodes, but feels more qualified for the job of mayor.

“I want the growth to go in the positive direction, get more protection for the voters and more protection for the children,” he said.

Howard said he wants to see “neighborhoods on the south end cleaned up better,” and more activities for kids to participate in the city.

Palmer, who has lived in Myrtle Beach since 2005, also thinks he’s more qualified than Rhodes.

Hailing from Long Beach township in New Jersey where he was a commissioner, he said he has experience managing departments including the resort town’s finances.

He’d like to see the one-cent sales tax, which he said he did not support, used to provide more for the constituents rather than in advertising.

Palmer also thinks there should be changes to the city’s water and sewer billing policy.

“I’m not really happy with this stormwater charge,” he said. “I think our water and sewer bill should be cut way back.”

He also wants to see trash pick up twice a week in the summer.

Fout could not be reached for comment Friday.

Whoever becomes mayor of Myrtle Beach will be making more money than Rhodes did this year. City Council approved a higher salary last year to take effect after November’s election. The annual salary jumps from $20,000 to $50,000.

Van Winkle said he is running because the city needs to get a handle on crime in town.

“As citizens, we can do better,” he said. “People pay high taxes here in the city and they deserve to have a quality of life. They deserve to have a safe city.”

Violent crimes in Myrtle Beach increased slightly in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to statistics released in February.

Murders in the city increased from four in 2011 to five in 2012; rapes went from 35 to 42; robberies 163 to 195; burglaries increased from 600 to 661; and arson cases increased from two in 2011 to 13 in 2012.

Lowder, who worked for more than 20 years in law enforcement in Myrtle Beach and Horry County, said while he will never be satisfied until the city’s crime rate is zero, very little crime committed in Myrtle Beach is “home grown.”

“Our crime comes and visits us just like our vacationers come visit us,” he said.

Van Winkle, who serves as director of public relations and marketing for Capital Cab, is trying for the fourth time to serve in public office.

He lost a race for Horry County Council to Councilman Marion Foxworth in 2008. In 2009 he ran for Myrtle Beach mayor but dropped out of the race.

He again attempted to run for Horry County Council in 2010, but was kicked off the ballot because he was one of 16 Republican candidates in the county who failed to file a statement of economic interest by the required deadline.

The town of Atlantic Beach also is scheduled to have an election in November, but details were not available Friday. The town is requesting assistance from Horry County with its 2013 general election, according to an agenda for the administration committee which will meet next Friday.

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