January 14, 2014

Seven declare candidacy in Surfside Beach

Two incumbents and two former councilmen are among seven people vying for three seats in on the Surfside Beach Town Council.

Two incumbents and two former councilmen are among seven people vying for three seats in on the Surfside Beach Town Council.

Filing for the April 8 election opened on Monday and continues through Friday.

Incumbents Beth Kohlmann and Rod Smith have filed along with newcomers Sandra Elliot, Ralph Magliette and David Pellegrino. Former councilman Bob Childs, who lost a bid for reelection in 2012, also has filed. Former councilman Sammy Truett has an appointment to declare his candidacy with the Town Clerk Wednesday morning.

Childs could not be reached for comment at press time Tuesday.

Elliot said serving the people is in her blood, though she hasn’t held a political office before because she previously worked for the government. She chairs the town’s stormwater committee and is a member of the planning and zoning commission.

She said she feels decisions are being made before Town Council votes publically and wants to see more transparency in the town’s government and wants to make sure everyone has a voice.

A former tax accessor in New Jersey, Elliot said she knows people don’t like taxes. She doesn’t want to see the millage increased in town, but said she wants to take a closer look at the finances and is worried about the town operating with little cash reserved in case of an emergency.

“I’m looking forward, if I’m successful, to really get into the budget more than we did from sitting in the back [of the room] when they were nickle and diming looking for cuts,” she said. “We need to look and see if we can hold the millage to what it is.”

Smith and Kohlmann voted against a proposed tax increase in June 2013, but Smith, at the June meeting, said he intended to raise taxes for the 2014-2015 fiscal year if reelected in April.

Smith, who has been on Town Council since 2010, said in a press release that he is a “common sense fiscal conservative.”

He said a tax increase will be needed, no matter who is elected, due to “simple inflation and increased medical health care cost due to the Affordable Care Act.”

Town Council on Tuesday learned the town will see an approximately $40,000 increase in health insurance costs due to the Affordable Care Act, and that the town will be responsible for about $33,000 of that increase.

Kohlmann said raising taxes would be a last resort, but she wouldn’t make promises either way on any subject.

Kohlmann won the seat left vacant by Doug Samples in 2012 when he was voted mayor. She retired from the New York Police department and said public safety remains her top priority. Kohlmann volunteers with the South Strand Helping Hand and is on the board of directors for the Coastal Carolina Shield – an organization of retired law enforcement officers.

Pellegrino, owner of the Cold Stone Creamery at Broadway at the Beach and Market Common, said he has only called Surfside Beach his permanent home for a couple years and doesn’t know the budget well enough to have an opinion on raising taxes.

“I am a business owner, so I understand how to create and manage a budget,” he said. “You can raise taxes or cut spending. I have always been on the cut spending side. That’s always been my philosophy.”

Pellegrino said he has been living in Surfside Beach for a couple years and vacationed in the town for more than 10 years before that. He doesn’t see the need for major change in the town, but said he hopes to help Surfside Beach grow.

Magliette is an advocate for senior citizens in Surfside Beach and has been outspoken at town meetings about programs benefitting the welfare of that demographic.

He said he is running for Town Council because he wants to “make a positive difference in the town,” and wants to help make sure leaders put people first.

“Government needs to be compassionate and be able to help people,” he said.

Magliette said he’s not in favor of a tax increase. The former engineer from Rahway, N.J. said he wants to take a look at all of the information and would consider a tax increase as a last resort if data shows it’s the only solution for the town to continue providing services for the residents.

“I’m a data driven guy,” he said. “Show me the data.”

Truett, who also is chairman of the business committee in town, said he misses serving on Town Council. He previously held office for 10 years.

“It was fun being a part of trying to make Surfside Beach a better place to live,” he said. “We did a lot of things when I was on council – the new fire station, downtown redevelopment, stormwater [improvements], restoring all the ponds and sidewalks. We purchased a pier and started underground wiring. I think there’s more things we can do.”

Truett had not formed an opinion on the town’s millage rate.

“I’m not going to say I’m an advocate of raising or not raising taxes,” he said. “We’ll look through the budget with a fine-toothed comb. There are so many things we could do to raise money or qualify for grants. Raising taxes would be a last resort.”

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