Horry County Council incumbent Harold Worley will square off against Democratic challenger and political newcomer Roberta Kuntz on Nov. 4.
Worley, a Little River Republican, has served as District 1 representative since 2003 and announced his re-election bid in February along with four other incumbent council members. Kuntz, a North Myrtle Beach resident, decided to challenge the businessman in hopes that Horry County will recognize the need for diversity on the currently all-male council.
“We need diversity and creativity on the board, and ideas that's not just from the business perspective,” Kuntz said. “And we don't have any voice on the board for labor.”
Coast RTA, the regional transit authority in Horry County, has been on council’s radar much of this year because of budget and administrative issues. Both candidates agree that, though the organization has some problems, council should give Coast’s board time to rebuild.
“They have to continue to meet and hash out the budget issues, and work on hiring their new director,” Kuntz said. “I would try and listen to the board more closely though – I think council got a little too involved for a bit.”
Worley also supports Coast RTA and said he wants to give the organization another chance at success.
“We just need to allow those folks a little room to correct those wrongs over there,” Worley said. “Not a lot of wiggle room, but enough to correct the things that have gone wrong in the past few years.”
Worley suggests monthly, quarterly and annual operations reviews of Coast, and thinks county council should stay in an oversight position while giving Coast room to repair.
“I’m not in favor of abandoning them – that’s a necessary service that we have to provide,” Worley said.
Both candidates think the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which works to attract industry and expand existing businesses, is key to job creation and growth. But Kuntz says economic development is too broad of a term. She said the council should narrow down the definition and promote the rights of laborers already here.
“We’ve worked outside of the county too much,” Kuntz said. “We’ve reached out oversees to bring in low-paying jobs instead of promoting and helping the people already here.”
She’s campaigning to expand the rights of workers in the county, including improving access to healthcare and benefits. Treating base workers fairly, Kuntz said, supports the rest of economic development.
“Now you can build on what you have,” she said.
Worley wants to see the Myrtle Beach EDC move into the Horry County government headquarters in Conway to help save manpower and money.
After Brad Lofton’s sudden resignation as president in July, the county has been in talks with the EDC about combining offices, which would eliminate the position of an assistant industry recruiter and let the organization interact more with and rely on county staff.
The councilman said this move would save administrative and overhead costs. Worley said he supports funding the EDC with county money as long as the corporation brings in high-paying jobs.
“If we’re going to fund taxpayers’ jobs, they better not be bringing in low-paying jobs,” Worley said.
Worley owns several properties and buildings along the Grand Strand that he leases to businesses, including restaurants, retail shops, amusement parks and pavilion space. He said he “doesn’t operate the businesses – just works as the landlord.”
The councilman has been politically active in the area for about 25 years, first serving on the North Myrtle Beach City Council and later serving two terms as an S.C. House District 104 representative. The councilman cites his political experience and business sense as reason enough for re-election; he considers his ability to make tough decisions to be icing on the cake.
“You have to do the right thing, and sometimes you have to take a hit for it,” Worley said.
Kuntz has been active in the North Strand Democrats organization – serving as president – and says she has plenty of experience as a laborer, given her electrical engineering degree. She’s pushing for a monorail across the Grand Strand, which would cut down traffic on U.S. 501 during the busy summer tourism season.
“Everybody would profit,” Kuntz said of the proposal.
Both candidates ran unopposed in their respective primaries.