By Paul Gable
As we come within 24 hours of the interview process for the county administrator candidates, I wonder what, if any, last minute attempts will be made to usurp the process by council members supporting interim administrator Steve Gosnell.
Make no mistake, any council member who tries at this late date to stop the public interview process is only following the directions of those special interests in the background who have his ear and his own selfish agenda.
Since those special interests were unsuccessful at keeping former administrator Chris Eldridge in place, their main goal has been to replace Eldridge with someone who wouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ as county administrator.
At the beginning of this process Gosnell said he didn’t want the position. Then, three stories about how he decided to seek the position rose and Johnny Vaught became his champion. There is a reason other than Gosnell’s eagerness why the push is on so hard to get him appointed.
And then there is the problem of the employment of Gosnell’s wife with the county and how his appointment as administrator could affect her employment because of state law, even though by all accounts she is an excellent employee. Johnny Vaught said she could just go to work for an elected official. What elected official wants to step into this mess?
Gosnell will not represent change. He is not the person by temperament or inclination to make needed changes in the personnel or internal operation of Horry County Government.
This is exactly why those council members who have been working hard to engineer Gosnell’s selection as county administrator want him to have the job. The special interests who have the ear of those council members, those expected to fund upcoming election campaigns, don’t want change.
Let’s just look at two examples of what could be interesting public interviews on Wednesday.
I know nothing of the two out of area candidates who are in the final five but I am looking forward to what they have to say regarding events that have taken place in their respective counties.
The following comments by state Rep. Stewart Jones say a lot about what Laurens County Administrator Jon Caime could bring to Horry County:
“We fought together to continue a budget review process which showed how the county had wasted monies for years,” Jones said. Jones went on to speak of how Caime shook things up in Laurens County by working to put an end to “good ole boy backroom deals in the county.”
After decades of reporting on Horry County budgets, I am convinced that there is a lot of public money spent on extraneous budget items that could be better spent on core items like infrastructure and public safety. There should be no ‘sacred cows’ in the Horry County budget and a fresh look at how the citizens’ money is spent could lead to many benefits for taxpayers.
And there certainly are many reasons to end the backdoor deals for the good ole boys in Horry County and many reasons those good ole boys are fighting to keep them.
I haven’t even seen such a quote about York County Manager William Shanahan. But, I do know York County and the municipalities within that county are leaders in South Carolina on the use of impact fees to help offset the cost of new development. I’m sure Shanahan has some knowledge that could benefit Horry County as it continues to struggle with the costs and problems derived from out of control development.
I can immediately think of several special interest groups who don’t want that discussion to take place.
Maybe those are not reasons to hire either of those two, or maybe they are, but not even being willing to listen to such candidates offer in a public forum what they can bring to the county only demonstrates an unwillingness for change on the part of council members who have tried to stop the process. It also demonstrates those council members don’t care about what is best for citizens only what is best for their own selfish agendas and for the special interests who have their ear.
In recent days there have been attempts to delegitimize the open selection process. That’s to be expected because of what the special interests and the council members they control perceive is at stake.
Ideas and information that could upset cozy, backroom interests in Horry County must be stopped if at all possible. To those special interests, it’s dangerous for the public to know too much.
The call for change that began at the ballot box last year could become a trend and the special interests would lose their grip on who and what benefit them. They have already lost the cozy Lazarus/Eldridge component in the formula.
The process will not end Wednesday. No vote will be taken. But it will provide an opportunity for the public to view what the five candidates being interviewed have to offer in the way of much needed new ideas for the administration of the county, or not.
When the vote for a new administrator ultimately is taken, I predict it will be far from unanimous, nor should it be unless the ‘fix’ is in. And, if the ‘fix’ is in, it won’t be in the best interests of the citizens of the county.