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Ard taps Myrtle Beach's Branham

A Grand Strand businessman and former chamber of commerce board chairman will become Lt. Gov. Ken Ard's chief of staff.

Brant Branham, who has headed Ard's transition team, will become chief of staff after today's inauguration ceremony, Branham said last week. Branham will work closely with the state Senate, over which the lieutenant governor presides.

The lieutenant governor also oversees the Office on Aging, which is particularly important for Horry County with its high number of older people and retirees, Branham said.

Branham served two consecutive terms as chairman of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, stepping down last year. He will continue to serve on the board while working as chief of staff, and his term will end in June, said Brad Dean, chamber president and chief executive.

"It's certainly helpful to have local business leaders actively involved in state government in any role in state government, elected or otherwise," Dean said.

Dean said Branham likely won't have a Grand Strand-centric agenda, since thelieutenant governor serves the entire state, but he is familiar with local issues and will continue to be an advocate for the Strand.

Branham's selection was announced last month to the state Advisory Council on Aging, part of the Office on Aging, said Mary Henry, a member of the council and a Horry County resident.

Ard, a Florence County resident, defeated four opponents in the Republican primary and Democrat Ashley Cooper in the general election.

Branham is a real estate appraiser with E.F. Hucks & Associates Inc., which has offices in Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island. He is the son of state Rep. Lester P. Branham Jr., a Democrat who represents Florence County. Branham said he plans to continue to live along the Grand Strand, although he may reside in Columbia during the week.