By Paul Gable
Coastal Carolina Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12 unanimously endorsed the candidacy of Johnny Gardner for Horry County Council Chairman during its monthly meeting Thursday night.
A donation to Gardner’s campaign by Coastal Carolina FOP Lodge 12 accompanied the endorsement.
Gardner is challenging incumbent Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus in the upcoming June 12, 2018 Republican Primary.
Membership in Lodge 12 includes active and retired law enforcement officers from Horry, Georgetown and Marion Counties.
FOP National President Chuck Canterbury, a retired officer from Horry County Police Department, said, “We are committed to support Johnny Gardner. We plan to work very diligently to help him get elected. We plan to put our shoe leather where our mouth is.”
Canterbury said many Horry County officers feel public safety is not a priority among county officials at this time. Canterbury said HCPD used to be a “go to” police department where trained, experienced officers lined up to join the department. Now it is a department where officers get training and experience under their belt, then move to another department where pay and benefits are considerably better.
“We believe Johnny Gardner is the best candidate “to help secure the county and help provide a safe environment for the citizens,” Canterbury said.
Gardner said he was very humbled to receive the endorsement from FOP Lodge 12.
“I feel very humbled and very fortunate to receive the endorsement from Coastal Carolina Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12,” Gardner said. “First responders are the people who go to work every day to keep the rest of us safe. They deserve the loyalty, respect and appreciation of the county government they serve.”
Gardner told the officers at the meeting, if he is elected council chairman, he would work to make HCPD the number one department in the county again. He harkened back to his training as an officer in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Infantry Division where it was understood that if you don’t take care of the troops, they can’t perform the mission.
“Our commitment to First Responders in the County will be the same as it was when I served in the 82nd Division – ‘Mission First, Troops Always’,” Gardner said.
Gardner told the officers that, if elected, he planned to host “Coffee with the Chairman” informal meetings throughout the county on a monthly basis where county employees could come and discuss their needs and concerns without having to formally address county council during public input at council meetings.
The endorsement by the police officers is the second major endorsement of Gardner’s candidacy in two weeks. Gardner was endorsed by the Horry County Professional Firefighter Local 4345 of the International Association of Firefighters on April 12th.
Canterbury said the members of FOP Lodge 12 would join efforts with members of Local 4345 of the IAFF to promote Gardner’s candidacy.