The race for the District 5 Horry County Council seat in the Republican Primary pits three newcomers against one another.
Current District 5 Councilman Howard Barnard threw his hat in the ring for the council chairman's position, leaving his council seat open for next year. Bill McKown, Paul Price and Dick Withington have spent the last four months campaigning in the compact and densely populated district that includes Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach and part of Murrells Inlet.
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Withington has been an unsuccessful candidate for several state and other offices in the last 10 years, including a recent run as a Democrat for the U.S. 1st Congressional District seat left open by retiring Rep. Henry Brown. Withington did not file for the seat, saying his campaign was exploratory and when he hit a financial barrier, he decided to end it. He filed a few weeks later as a Republican running for the council seat, calling the open seat a better fit for his desire to serve and the Republican party a better fit for his ideals.
Price, a retired state trooper, first came onto the political scene on the south end when he became involved in the debate over the motorcycle rallies. Price said Wednesday that he is not a one-issue candidate and that his involvement revolved around concern that all visitors to the area, regardless of their mode of transportation, respect the citizens and the laws.
McKown brings his experience in local government to his candidacy, having served as a Surfside Beach town councilman and as chairman of the county's Airport Advisory Committee. McKown has run for several state offices unsuccessfully in the last few years and faced criticism from opponents over his residency in his 2008 run for the S.C. Senate District 28 seat, which covers the northern portion of the county. His residency was approved in North Myrtle Beach, where he said he moved to oversee a development he had partnered in. McKown moved back to his current permanent residence in Surfside Beach in 2009.
McKown also drew criticism over an interpretation of an unclear S.C. law and potential taxes on an airplane owned by an LLC that he purchased a share of. McKown said appropriate taxes on the airplane, which is registered in Delaware, have been paid by the LLC this year and in all previous years. The state law does not require property tax to be charged on planes registered in other states.
The Sun News asked the candidates to answer a few questions about issues facing the county.
Question | With expectations for county budgets in the next few years being dire, what plans do you have to either increase revenue or decrease spending?
McKown | Government cannot increase taxes during a recession - folks are already hurting, and they don't need the county to add to their misery. I will do my very best never to vote for a tax increase. We will have no choice but to decrease spending and live within our means.
Price | During the next several years, county departments will be required to work more effective and efficiently with manpower and equipment so a tax increase will be unnecessary.
Withington | I don't agree that our outlook is dire. We expect a small surplus this year, and have proposed a balanced budget through June 30, 2011. By then our economy here will be good. I will push to have a greater share of tax dollars generated here returned to us.
Q. | What plans do you have for job creation in the county and what can the council do to make that happen?
McKown | I will use 30 years of business development experience to create an environment to attract businesses to relocate here. We are an ideal location for businesses related to marine biology, aviation, medical services and light industry. The county must partner with Horry-Georgetown Tech and Coastal to foster education in these areas.
Price | Economic development and the creation of jobs are essential for Horry County. County Council must work with the private sector and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that Horry County is properly marketed to potential businesses and industries. I will lead that effort.
Withington | Our economy and quality of life here will continue to attract new residents. This will promote a strong service economy. Council needs to work with the state so that we will have adequate and safe roads with attractive signs replacing what we have now.
Q. | What issues specific to District 5 do you plan to work on or advocate for if elected?
McKown | While maintaining our wonderful quality of life, our priorities must include jobs/economic growth, completing the roads (widening 707, Holmestown/Glenns Bay Overpass, widening Glenns Bay Road). Solve the problems created by too many crossovers and dangerous frontage roads. We must press ahead with the Southern Evacuation Life Line.
Price | I will continue to work on the SELL as a priority. District 5 is a wonderful area of Horry County to visit and live, but continued growth from residents and tourists create problems with traffic congestion and storm water. I will work to ensure a high quality of life for all those in my district.
Withington | Thanks to the four major road projects already under way, District 5 is in good shape, but I do want local input on sidewalks and signage. I want better road and curb marking for safer night driving. I will push for impact fees on any future development.