Myrtle Beach council race offers mixed results for incumbents

One Myrtle Beach City Council incumbent and two newcomers were elected Tuesday, according to preliminary results.

Gregg Smith, Jackie Vereen and incumbent Mike Lowder pulled off the win after battling incumbent Randal Wallace, Ann A. Dunham, Matthew Hardee, Mike Hobeika, Brooks Myers and Keith VanWinkle also battled for the three open seats.

Throughout their campaigns, candidates worked through key issues including public safety and the Superblock properties.

Lowder wants to add to the newly proposed public safety plan that calls for 70 new officers over the course of seven years. He hopes to increase the number from 10 new officers each year to 20 per year.

He formerly served in the United States Marine Corps and worked in the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Horry County Sheriff’s Office. He’s served on City Council since 2009.

Smith is a realtor with Century 21 Broadhurst. He believes that the city would reduce crime by addressing the drug epidemic.

“We need to treat them and help them lead a better life,” Smith said during a debate hosted by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Addressing another hot topic from the election season, Smith did say that a children’s museum and library would help the area, but they should not be placed along the Superblock.

Vereen, a general manger for a small hotel, wants to focus on gang activity and add more officers into the police department. She believes that by offering competitive pay and benefits, the city’s police department can hold onto more experienced officers.

As for small businesses, Vereen believes that it is too difficult to open one in Myrtle Beach. She thinks that by getting government out of the way, people will be more interested in bringing their business to the area.

For incumbent Wallace, who has served on council for 14 years, the loss comes as a shock.

“I had a sense in the closing days that two of the folks were surging,” Wallace said. “I had an uneasy feeling.”

Now, Wallace plans on focusing on the real estate and is interested in writing a book. For his last few months in office, he wants to focus on creating a home owner initiative project that will encourage people to become homeowners in blighted communities rather than making properties rentals. He also wants to create incentives for mid-career police officers where they will receive pay increases.

Wallace did say that he is not currently planning on running for re-election in the next few years, but that it is something “I certainly would never rule out.”

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic