It was to a cheering crowd Tuesday evening that Brenda Bethune entered her party at Bummz Beach Cafe, awaiting the results that eventually revealed she will be the first female mayor of Myrtle Beach, ousting incumbent John Rhodes from his seat after 12 years.
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.
“It’s just astounding the numbers that came in tonight and it’s groundbreaking and I just truly thank everybody who’s supported me, not only two weeks ago but those who came out today and voted for me and people voted for change,” Bethune said. “And I don’t want anyone to feel that’s a bad thing. It’s a very positive thing.
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“I want the community involved, I truly care what people think and how they feel and what their ideas are. And I’m just ready to get to work. Tonight is fun, but it’s just a huge responsibility that I take very seriously and I’m ready to get started.”
On Nov. 7, Bethune and Rhodes faced Ed Carey, former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and C.D. Rozsa. Bethune and Rhodes had the two highest votes, but because neither candidate received over 50 percent of the vote plus one, a runoff election was required.
“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 was first 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.”
As for becoming the first female mayor in Myrtle Beach Bethune said, “It’s huge to know that that will be a huge responsibility in and of itself, but to me the importance of that is that I hope I can be an example to little girls, to women, to teenagers, to believe in themselves and if they ever feel they want to get involved in something then they just need to go after it and believe in themselves and work hard and don’t give up.”
Key issues surrounding the campaigns included public safety — after a high-profile shooting on Ocean Boulevard that injured several people — and the future of the Superblock properties.
There are proposed plans to tear down the Superblock properties to potentially make way for a new children’s museum and library. What should replace the Superblock properties has been a hot-button topic.
Bethune is in favor of adding police officers, but because of the potential backlog at the police academy, she supports bringing in hospitality officers in order to increase police presence in neighborhoods. She also wants to work to bring a police academy to Myrtle Beach.
For the Superblock properties, Bethune wants to close Main Street to vehicles to create space for restaurants and apartments. She wants to make the downtown area the “heartbeat” of Myrtle Beach.
“If anybody wants to know what Brenda’s going to be like and how she will honor her support, look at the team that she put together,” said Brown Bethune, Brenda Bethune’s husband. “Look at how she brought the community together. This is a woman that knows how to bring a vision to reality. We’ve heard everything through the campaign series. She doesn’t have any political experience and sometimes that’s the thing that you don’t need. So I think she will be a great mayor.”
Moving forward, Bethune hopes to start building relationships with city staff and council members before her Jan. 9 swearing-in ceremony.
What’s next for Rhodes, who won elections in 2005, 2009 and again in 2013?
His eyes watered Tuesday evening 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.
On Nov. 7 two new city council members along with one incumbent were voted into office. Jackie Vereen, Greg Smith and incumbent Mike Lowder ran against Ann A. Dunham, Keith VanWinkle, incumbent Randal Wallace, Mike Hobeika, Matthew Hardee and Brooks Myers.