After serving 12 years as Myrtle Beach’s mayor, John Rhodes’ time has come to an end after Brenda Bethune swept the vote, ousting the current mayor during Tuesday night’s runoff election.
At the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center, a few dozen people gathered, quietly holding conversations and watching the polling numbers trickle in. A somber look settled in on Rhodes’ face as the numbers from each polling site sounded a victory for Bethune, as he and his wife, Terri, sat in the front row.
Bethune had 67 percent of the votes with 3,570 ballots in her favor, compared to Rhodes’ 1,725 votes (33 percent) after all of the ballots were canvassed on Wednesday.
Bethune won every precinct, with big victories at Dunes 1 — Bethune winning 557-436 — and Jetport 2 — 788-241.
Rhodes fought back tears as he spoke to reporters after the final polling numbers sealed his defeat.
“I’ve not had this kind of butt-whooping since my grandmother had a switch,” Rhodes said. “The voters have spoken. I respect their vote. We’ve run a good race.”
Rhodes has served the last 12 years as mayor, first getting elected to Myrtle Beach’s highest council seat in 2005.
“I’ve had 12 years to represent the city,” he said, swallowing back an onslaught of emotions. “It’s been an honor and a privilege.
“We’re going to continue to grow, and we’re going to continue to be the best beach resort in America,” he said.
He named Savannah’s Playground as a top accomplishment during his time in office. The “enabling park” playground, designed to meet the needs of disabled children, was a project he championed during his time in office. It opened last year.
“We built the boardwalk. We built Market Common. We built the sports facility. We created the TDF fund, which gave our citizens … the greatest tax reduction in the history of this state,” he said.
Running on the platform of sports tourism during his previous campaigns, Rhodes is the executive director of the Beach Ball Classic, a tournament that brings basketball teams from across the country to the Grand Strand.
He also was part of the City Council that voted the 100,000 square-foot indoor sports facility that cost roughly $12.4 million, which allows the city to host more tournaments.
In 2010, the city spent roughly $6 million to construct the 1.2-mile boardwalk that originally stretched from First Avenue North to 14th Avenue North. The boardwalk is now in the works to be extended to 21st Avenue North with the construction of a new hotel and open space at the site of The Breakers.
Rhodes also noted achievements in growing tourism.
“I feel like we’ve left the city in great shape. Financially, it’s in the best shape it’s ever been,” he said.
“The biggest problem you have today is voter fatigue and throughout this whole nation we saw this happen with people just wanting to make a change,” Rhodes said. “If you’re going to make a change you must have a plan in place.”
When asked about his plans for the future, Rhodes eyes watered as he spoke of spending more time with his wife, Terri, and their grandkids. He looked to her as tears filled the brims of his eyelids.
“I love you and I’m proud of you,” Terri Rhodes said, embracing her husband.