Horry County Councilman Marion Foxworth stepped down from the seat he held for more than a dozen years Tuesday to accept the position of the county’s register of deeds.
The 55-year-old Democrat asked the council to appoint him to the post and the vote was unanimous.
“Other than the birth of my children, I can't think of anything I hold closer to my heart than serving on county council,” he said. “I feel like I've trained for it my entire life, since I was 8 years old, when I first got interested in government and politics.”
In his new job, Foxworth will still be working in government. The register is responsible for overseeing the registration, recording, filing and indexing of county records. The position's salary ranges from a minimum of $65,957 up to $98,936. The job is one of three posts hired by council. The county administrator and clerk to council are the others.
The former register, Ballery Skipper, stepped down in March after 21 years in office.
Foxworth said his background in government and training in public administration make the job a good fit. When the longtime councilman read the job description, he said, “it was almost like it was written for me.”
Although Foxworth has worked as a campaign consultant for municipal elections and as a General Assembly staffer, he has never run for an office other than county council. He lost his first campaign in the mid-1990s, but won in 2002 and has since held the District 3 seat, which is anchored in Myrtle Beach, the place where Foxworth was born and still lives in his grandfather’s house.
Looking back over his years on council, Foxworth said he's proudest of the committee he chaired that developed a plan for council redistricting.
“The only redistricting plan to not be contested in the history of the county,” he said. “For 30 years, every time we did one it was contested. ... This one not only got unanimous approval three times by council, it got approval by DOJ [U.S. Department of Justice] in less that 45 days, which is unheard of. I was right proud of that.”
He also touts his opposition to nearly every tax increase and his efforts to bring a library, recreation center and road improvements to Carolina Forest.
Foxworth said he was able to stay in office so long because he united two voting groups, or his “double B coalition.”
“The bubbas and the brothers,” he said. “My ability to get elected was to be able to mold a coalition between black and the working class whites that, more often than not, are pitted against each other just for the benefit of the landed gentry that wants to keep both of them at bay.”
As for his frustrations as an elected official, he wishes he had been able to persuade council not to allow helicopter tour businesses to flourish in the county. Foxworth has long received complaints about the helicopters' noise.
“My biggest disappointment would have to be helicopters,” he said.
The pay and retirement benefits of the register’s position were factors in his decision.
Foxworth said he began thinking about a career change after the suicide of fellow councilman Bob Grabowski earlier this year. He said Grabowski's death prompted him to look at how to best care for his children, three of whom are still getting their education.
“I really had to start taking stock of where I was and my ability to provide for them,” he said. “This is a career move on my part.”
On Tuesday night, Foxworth's peers on council voiced support for his decision.
“You have been a great member of this council and brought a lot to this county,” said County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. “We greatly appreciate that and look forward to your future in the ROD office and wish you and your family the best of everything.”
Foxworth’s children, who attended Tuesday night's meeting, also seemed pleased with the now former councilman's choice. But they know what elected office has meant to their father and their family.
“It’s bittersweet,” said his 25-year-old son Dargan. “I grew up in politics. His first campaign, we were out at 2 a.m. putting up yard signs.”
Foxworth's resignation triggers the need for a special election. Sandy Martin, who oversees the Voter Registration and Elections Office, said primaries would likely be held Nov. 3, with runoffs (if necessary) on Nov. 17 and a general election on Dec. 22.