By Paul Gable
City elections in three local municipalities could bring much needed changes to the way those communities work for their citizens.
Those three communities are Conway, Atlantic Beach and Myrtle Beach.
Below, we have highlighted the candidates we believe are most likely to bring new ideas that will lead to much needed positive change for those municipalities.
Mayor and three council seats up for election.
City council member Barbara Blain-Bellamy is continuing to build momentum in her attempt to unseat incumbent Mayor Alys Lawson.
Blain-Bellamy is well known to Conway voters. She has been elected to city council three times and has led the ticket each time. This is not an outsider attempting to unseat an incumbent mayor.
Blain-Bellamy’s message of finding new ways to ward off the influence of gangs and crime in Conway’s neighborhoods and listening to the concerns of citizens throughout the city highlight her message.
Council challenger Alicia Todd, with a message of helping Conway grow by maximizing development throughout Conway rather than concentrating on the downtown area alone, is creating quite a buzz.
Her bonding message for the community of bringing citizens together to achieve common goals and make all neighborhoods safer are strong points.
Challenger Ashley Smith, the “Voice of the Conway Tigers”, is gaining support throughout Conway with his message of community service projects for youths and better utilization of existing facilities to promote tourism growth in the city.
Mayor and two council seats up for election.
In Atlantic Beach, the BLT (Best Leadership Team) of mayoral challenger William Booker, council challenger Eric Lewis and incumbent council member Charlene Taylor are working hard to bring new ideas to town council meetings.
Especially important is their effort to include as many permanent residents of Atlantic Beach in town decisions as possible.
A particularly interesting concept of monthly “kitchen cabinet” meetings and quarterly town hall meetings to promote citizen input is novel in Atlantic Beach.
For far too long, important decisions have been made behind closed doors by those trying to maintain their hold on power.
Municipal elections in Atlantic Beach can be won with as little as 50 votes for a candidate, so it is better for candidates to be as inclusive as possible with the citizens.
The opportunities to improve and grow Atlantic Beach are virtually endless, but it will take a mayor and council members with more than their own selfish interests in mind to build a brighter future.
Three council seats up for election.
Two incumbents, Phil Render and Mike Chestnut, are running for re-election with the strong support of the only political machine in the county behind them.
Call it the Myrtle Beach Mafia, Dunes Club Card Room or whatever you wish, this machine has been building its power since 2007. It controls the city with significant influence in Horry County government and the state legislative delegation through its use of third-party PACS to blanket advertising and mail messages for its preferred candidates, generally incumbents.
For example, the PAC sending mail pieces supporting Render and Chestnut lists Steve Chapman as its registered agent, according to the SC Secretary of State website.
In return it gets things like the one-cent tourism development tax and other public money and projects to promote its interests.
There is one open seat in the city election with the retirement of Susan Grissom Means and I’m not sure the two incumbents are as sure of re-election as usual.
Two candidates outside the influence of the machine bring the best hope for change to the election.
Jackie Vereen, who lost a bid for city council in 2013 by an eyelash, wants to make Myrtle Beach more business friendly for all businesses, not just the chosen few. Additionally, new ideas to revitalize Ocean Boulevard and Downtown Myrtle Beach and improve public safety throughout the city are Vereen’s forte.
Vereen sees the city and its problems and possibilities through a wide-angle lens, not the telephoto lens that is preferred by the current council.
The other is former mayor Mark McBride, whose name alone apparently brings real fear into the heart of the machine. You only need witness the number of attack mail pieces sent out against McBride in the last several days, all funded by one of those machine PACS.
McBride has a plan to make 50% of those one-cent tourism development tax dollars work for all the citizens by using them to fund public safety. This would benefit the entire city, not just the machine.
Myrtle Beach is in need of change. It needs leaders on council willing to acknowledge
- crime is an increasing problem that must be addressed
- the traditional downtown needs to be revitalized and that the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation can’t get the job done.
- the retire/rehire program is stifling morale, especially in the police department, and robbing the city of the benefit of new and better ideas
- the interests, problems and future of all the citizens of Myrtle Beach must be addressed, not just the chosen few included in the machine
The best opportunity for Myrtle Beach to begin realizing such change is by voting for Vereen and McBride on Tuesday. Otherwise, it will be more of the same – a result that will benefit only the machine.