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Horry Council chairman race taking shape

The candidates for Horry County Council chairman are starting to be chiseled out as the filing period approaches next week.

District 6 Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski will announce his candidacy for chairman at 10 a.m. Friday at a news conference at the county Government & Justice building in Conway, he said Wednesday. He will join District 5 Councilman Howard Barnard, who announced his bid for the seat in January. Former County Councilman Mark Lazarus announced Tuesday that he was withdrawing his candidacy to focus on business and family. Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland was not available for comment Wednesday, but has said in the past few weeks that she is still consideringwhether to run for re-election.

"The reason I've decided to run is the style of leadership I can provide would be much more suited to Horry County's needs at this time than the others who may be in the race," Grabowski said.

"I have an understanding of the economy and the struggles that we may be facing financially because of seeing those struggles firsthand running a small business that depends on the construction industry to a degree," he said.

Barnard said during his announcement that he would focus his leadership on economic recovery and noted his experience on all three council subcommittees, including infrastructure and regulation, administration, and public safety.

Grabowski serves as chairman of the Public Safety Committee and was vice chairman of the council last year. If he were to lose the chairman's race, Grabowski would maintain his seat because he is not up for re-election this year. Barnard's District 5 seat will be an open race this year, and if Barnard were to lose the chairman's race, he would lose his seat on the council. Several people have been eyeing the District 5 open seat including Brant Branham, the chairman of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board, and William McKown, chairman of the Horry County Airport Advisory Committee, but no one has made it official.

"The South Strand Republicans and others have asked me if I will run because there's nobody stepping up to the plate," McKown said. "If there's enough desire in the community, I will consider it."

Lazarus did not throw his support to any of the potential candidates in a news release issued Tuesday about him withdrawing from the race. He said he wished all of the candidates luck in their bids for the office. Lazarus also did not rule out a future run for council.

Councilman Paul Prince has said he is mulling whether to run for chairman, but has not announced his intentions. Former Grand Strand Water and Sewer board member and North Myrtle Beach City Councilman Rayford Vereen is also considering throwing his hat in the race. Vereen, who serves as chairman of the County Transportation Committee, said Wednesday that it will likely be another week before he decides whether or not to enter the race.

Filing for state and local elections begins at noon March 16 and closes at noon March 30.