Roads, jobs, safety top priorities for Horry council District 6 race


Public safety, economic growth and roads are overwhelmingly the three issues that the six candidates running for Horry County Council District 6 say are the most important in the county.

A special election is set for Tuesday to elect a new councilman to replace Bob Grabowski, who committed suicide in March.

Six candidates – Chris Stephens, Cary Rowell, Kirk Hanna, Blaine Garren, Cam Crawford and Ric Coates – will vie for the term, which expires in 2016. A runoff election, if necessary, is slated for June 30. State law requires counties to allow a write-in general election, which is Aug. 4, before a candidate can take office.

Rowell, 57, a financial services professional, said the primary role of good government is to provide a safe environment.

“We are doing a pretty good job with our outstanding police, fire and rescue, but there is still work to do,” Rowell said. “We must clean up the remaining crime pockets of gangs and drugs in our district and work harder to solve the root source of crime so that we can prevent it; poverty; the failure of the family unit and education.”

Rowell said government also needs to create an atmosphere and infrastructure that encourages and supports economic growth and diversity.

“We cannot survive as a one-trick-pony; as solely a vacation destination,” Rowell said. “We must continue to improve our economic development efforts to attract large employers who will provide skilled, higher paying jobs.”

Garren, 48, a retired Myrtle Beach firefighter who is currently a real estate broker, said considering Horry County’s population grew 37 percent from 2000 to 2010, he also agrees transportation, public safety and economic development are the top three issues.

“Strong public safety infrastructure protects Horry County’s citizens and its visitors … [it’s] key to quality of life,” Garren said. “A small, business-friendly environment in Horry County – providing an inviting, supportive and workforce-ready environment for small businesses – is important. Transportation remains a critical area of concern in Horry County. Not only is solid transportation infrastructure necessary for its citizens, good roads bring tourism dollars to our community.”

Crawford, 38, is a small business owner and said the new councilman needs to deal with infrastructure, crime and unemployment.

“In terms of infrastructure, projects like the Southern Evacuation Lifeline are critical to enhancing safety and quality of life,” Crawford said. “With almost 80,000 people living on the South Strand, the area needs its own evacuation route in order to prevent highways [S.C.] 544 and [U.S.] 501 from becoming overwhelmed in the event of a hurricane. Studies have demonstrated that S.E.L.L. could reduce the county's evacuation time by as much as seven hours.”

Crawford said District 6 has experienced “a great deal of difficulty with crime.” He said he wants to work to meet the national average of 2.4 officers per 1,000 people and re-establish a police substation in Socastee. He also would like to see added jobs.

“Given our steady increase in population, it's reasonable to assume that tourism alone cannot absorb the expanding labor pool,” Crawford said, noting the current unemployment rate in Horry County is 7.7 percent. “I believe in the long run, with worthy investment in infrastructure along with the continued utilization of the EDC, we could foreseeably lower the rate to hopefully a figure hovering around 5 percent; that would be a goal I would work toward.”

Coates, 52, is a partner at Axelrod Realty Property Management. He said crime is the largest issue that District 6 and Horry County faces.

“We continue to experience exponential growth in Horry County and must increase the number of patrol officers,” Coates said. “We cannot service the needs of 30,000 to 50,000 new citizens with the same staffing levels and expect adequate coverage or response time.”

Coates said he is pleased to hear the widening of Forestbrook Road is part of the planned 2016 sales tax referendum to fund roads.

“Without question that is needed,” Coates said. “One of my priorities is Palmetto Pointe Boulevard. This road needs to be finished and opened up to Highway 544 so that residents have two points of ingress and egress in the event of fire or other emergency.”

He said the proposed I-73, which would link Myrtle Beach to Michigan, would help the area with jobs.

“In order for the area to have more diverse employment opportunities we need I-73, in order to make the area more attractive to non-tourism related industries,” Coates said.

Stephens, 36, is the owner and operator of Precise Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning. Stephens said public safety tops the list for him.

“I hear daily of good, qualified, competent officers, firemen and dispatchers leaving for better pay, better benefits,” Stephens said. “We have to do better. Our citizens shouldn’t have to be penalized by not having the best quality services and personnel simply because pay and benefits lag behind.”

Stephens said it is “absolutely crucial” to get the Palmetto Pointe Boulevard extension project to a priority level, and said there is “room for improvement” when it comes to securing jobs in the area.

“That is the most populated area in District 6, with multi-unit dwellings and across from those, single-unit housing,” Stephens said. “With over 3,000 people living in that area, it is crucial from a safety standpoint to extend that road.

“We have seen so many companies come in after being offered concessions and such to set up shop, only to default on their promises. What efforts are we making to recruit business that complements the areas of study our local colleges and universities are offering? What actions are being taken when promises are kept and guarantees aren’t met?”

Hanna agreed with his fellow candidates on the crime and roads issues, but said over-regulation and taxation need to be addressed in Horry County.

“[With] lack of good paying jobs comes crime and drugs,” Hanna said. “If we could reduce regulation and taxation, we could attract more businesses to Horry County, Socastee and Forestbrook. With more good paying jobs in our area, more people will be working and crime will be reduced.

“[Along] with the increased business in the area and increased employment, we need to address the increased traffic by building more and better roads.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.

If You Go

What | Horry County Council District 6 Special Election

When | from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where | The following precincts are eligible to vote for Horry County Council District 6:

Enterprise (split district)

Lake Park

Sea Winds (split district)

Socastee #1 (split district)

Socastee #2

Socastee #3

The Candidates

Name | Ric Coates

Age | 52

Party | Republican

Address | Butkus Drive Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Occupation | Partner – Property Manager in Charge – Axelrod Realty Property Management; previously Vice President of Sales and Director of Revenue Management Brittain Resort Management

Family | Wife Lori, step-daughter Maddie, sons CJ and Aiden

Civic and political experience | Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Board of Directors; Garden Creek Homeowners Association Board of Directors & Board President; Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, served as President and Treasurer; Topsail Island Jaycees Board of Directors, served as President & Management Development Vice President

Education | Declined to provide

Military experience | United States Marine Corps – E4 Corporal

Contact information | Website – RicCoates.com, email: riccoates@yahoo.com, cell 843-503-0712, office 843-248-0000.

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer to Q 1 | 30-plus years in business management and operations including business planning, budgeting and cost control, decision making and problem solving and customer satisfaction working for local companies Brittain Resort Management and Sands Resorts as well as throughout the Southeast working for the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company/Marriott International, Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and Independent Hotel Ownership Groups in single property operations, multi property operations and Corporate Office Senior Management.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | Public Safety. In order to provide the safety and security that our citizens need and deserve, we need more officers on the street. We also need fully manned firehouses in Horry County. The staffing levels are such that at times engines are being dispatched with two firefighters on board. We are losing personnel to other jurisdictions in and out of the county and have to become more competitive in our compensation, benefits and have a retention plan in order to keep our people.

Name | Cam Crawford

Age | 38

Party | Republican

Address | PO Box 31234, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Occupation | Small Business Ownner/Coastal Carolina University - Department of Academic Outreach

Family | Wife, Heather Ammons Crawford

Civic and political experience | Former Assistant to Congressman Henry Brown; President of Grand Strand Young Republicans; Former Vice President of South Strand Republican Club; Socastee/St James Kiwanis

Education | BS Physical Education - Coastal Carolina University; BA Political Science & History - Coastal Carolina University; Master of Business Administration - Webster University

Military experience | N/A

Contact information | None provided

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer to Q 1 | As a former assistant to Congressman Brown I learned first hand about the unique needs of our area. I learned to be an advocate for our community, and if allowed to serve I will continue my advocacy for critical infrastructure needs in District 6. Building from that experience I’ve worked diligently to build rapport with both the public and leaders at the local and state level. Bearing that in mind, I believe I could effectively help unite the county and state on various issues, such as the local government fund. Additionally, as a small business owner I’ve obtained a great deal of experience generating budgets and making them work.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | Public safety. Government’s primary duty is to protect its citizens. Currently, the national average per 1000 people is 2.4 police officers. In Horry County the average is 1.15 officers. As our population continues to increase county government will need to close this gap in order to provide the necessary coverage to its citizens.

Name | Blaine Garren

Age | 48

Party | Republican

Address | 5727 Downybrook Road, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Occupation | Retired Firefighter (City of MB) and Real Estate Broker/Owner

Family | Wife (married 26 years) and daughter (8 months old)

Civic and political experience | Eight years Horry County Airport Advisory Committee (Five years as chairman); seven years Horry County General Aviation Sub Committee; currently serve on Horry County Accommodation Tax Committee; current Reserve Deputy Horry County Sheriff’s Office (Over 20 years).

Education | Conway High School, Horry Georgetown Technical College, National Fire Academy, SC Fire Academy

Military experience | None

Contact information | 997-4271

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer to Q 1 | I have a unique background as both a public safety civil servant of 25 years and as a small business owner. This combination positions me perfectly to tackle issues important to our district and the whole county.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | Simple….Public Safety and here’s why. I would strengthen our public safety first and foremost because increased services better meet the needs of every Horry County resident. It also helps maintain our brand as a safe, family friendly tourist destination.

Name | Kirk Hanna

Age | 36

Party | Republican

Address | 2507 Forestbrook Road, Ste. K

Occupation | Owner and Operator of Hanco of SC, Inc.

Family | Wife, Mandy; Three children, Lacey, 17, Peyton, 10, and Truston, 6.

Civic and political experience | Active in Forestbrook Baptist Church and CubScout Pack 891; Member of the South Strand Republican Club; President of PlanterCreek Hoa, The Diamond HOA and Pebble Landing HOA

Education | Attended Socastee High School, University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University

Military experience | None

Contact information | 2507 Forestbrook Rd Ste. K, Myrtle Beach, SC; 843-385-3677

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer to Q 1 | As a lifelong resident, District 6 has grown by leaps and bounds. My deep roots in Socastee allows me to be experienced in the past, present and future of the district. As a small business owner, I see how the hard working people struggle to succeed and fight the over regulation and redundant ordinances. I own & operate a growing firm that supervises and deals with people on a daily basis and have done so for 20 years. In setting policy as to safety, occupational hazards, and how to spend and save money sets me apart from the pack.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | I would first like to say the “more” funding would have to come from within the existing tax base. I would not vote in any way to raise the taxes on my constituents. I think the budget needs to me tightened and the pencils need to be sharpened to get rid of the wasteful spending in Conway. I would like to see our Public Safety officials taken care of, their starting salary is lower than any other around this area and we lose good employees daily. This hinders our fight on drug related problems and ultimately crime.

Name | William Cary Rowell (Cary)

Age | 57

Party | Republican

Address | 3078 Rockwater Circle, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Occupation | Financial Services Professional

Family | Married 32 years to Wanda Rowell. Grown children: son, Jon-Casey, daughter, Hannah.

Civic and political experience | Volunteered on various campaigns on and off for over 30 years. Traveled to Washington, DC, with National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, or NAIFA, for the past two years to advocate our positions on particular issues; Past President of Myrtle Beach Sunrise Rotary Club; Member of Grand Strand Toastmasters; President; coastal chapter of NAIFA; specialist at Grand Strand SCORE; past Advisory Board Member at Palmetto Partnership for Homelessness; member of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, Conway chamber, Mullins chamber; Coastal Carolina University Planned Giving Advisory Board; associate member of Myrtle Beach Republican Women; Member of Horry County Republican Club, South Strand Republican Club and Socastee Methodist Church

Education | AA: North Greenville College; BA: Carson Newman College; MBA: Winthrop University; LUTCF: American College

Military experience | None

Contact information | P.O. Box 30790, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588; wrowell@hotmail.com; 843-333-3825 cell

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer | My education, successful business career and consistent record of community service combine to make me the most prepared candidate to fight until the issues of District 6 are resolved. I have also mentored and counseled numerous business owners to help them start or expand their businesses and deal with critical problems. I have developed analytical problem solving and decision making skills needed to deal with all issues- especially with reducing waste, keeping taxes low and improving services. With our children grown and out of the house Wanda and I are “empty nesters” with the time to focus on the problems of our community.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | The citizens of District 6 and Horry County must have a safe environment to live and work if they are to flourish and prosper. Our No. 1 priority is to adequately, but not wastefully, fund police, fire and EMS.

Name | Chris Stephens

Age | 36

Party | Republican

Address | 101 Maddux Lane, Unit B, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588

Occupation | Owner/Operator Precise Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning

Civic and political experience | Former Dispatcher and Police Officer for Horry County 1997-2014

Education | Associates in Criminal Justice HGTC, Bachelors in Political Science CCU

Contact information | 283-3505, stephensfor6@gmail.com

Question 1 | Match your strengths or areas of expertise with the needs you feel District 6 is facing.

Answer to Q 1 | I have 20 years in county government from the inside out. I started with the Horry County Police explorer program at 16 years old, at 18 years old I started dispatching at E911 and at 21, I started policing with the Horry County Police Department. That experience gives me invaluable insight as to how our government works, or doesn’t work in some cases. My many years of law enforcement has taught me the skill of compromise, and working for solutions in difficult situations. I believe that skill set gives me the unique perspective and experience to address a broad range of issues facing the district.

Question 2 | If you were given the ability to provide more funding for one area/line item of the budget in the next four years, where would you provide more funding and why?

Answer to Q 2 | I would fund public safety. We have trained qualified people in dispatch, police, and fire/rescue that are leaving on a rolling basis. We must get the pay and benefits to a sustainable level for these crucial government services. We must retain these personnel that we have already made a substantial investment in. And we must be competitive with comparable governments and departments. Failure to make significant investments in public safety will lead to continually high turnover, with increased lack of on the job experience, leading to lesser quality of services. The primary role of government is the safety of its citizens.

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