By Paul Gable
The election for Horry County Council Chairman is down to the same two candidates who contested the seat in 2018.
The choice is exactly the same. Chairman Johnny Gardner is the candidate of the people of Horry County while challenger Mark Lazarus is the candidate of the tourism and development cabal.
An estimated $300,000 has already been spent on Lazarus messaging of totally false statements about his record in the 2013-2018 period he served as county chairman.
Lazarus has run around the county bragging about all he did to improve public safety in the county and what a great leader he is.
Here’s the real story.
The local Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Fire Fighters organizations both endorsed Gardner in 2018 and have done so again in 2022.
Four years ago, the county’s Public Safety Division was in terrible shape with officers routinely leaving for other jobs and morale historically low.
Gardner’s motto for his 2018 campaign was “Public Safety Priority One Day One.”
“Four years ago, people were leaving the fire department because of burnout,” said State VP Roger Odachowski of the IAFF. “Pay was low, there was mandatory overtime because the department was 200 people short of requirements, equipment was going out understaffed when it went on calls, which is dangerous to the safety of personnel.”
“I went to address county council (when Lazarus was chairman) about the problems,” said Odachowki. “I was laughed at and told to go back where I came from.”
“There have been great strides over the last four years (under Gardner as chairman) making public safety safer for our personnel which makes the public safer,” said Odachowski. “Four years ago, the Horry County fire department was a department in decline. Now it is one of the strongest in the state.”
The same story applies to the Horry County Police Department.
Former national FOP President Chuck Canterbury spoke of the history of ignoring public safety morale by the two chairmen prior to Gardner.
“We have had people who want the chairman position for their own reasons and Gardner who wants it to help the people,” Canterbury said.
“Tom Rice took benefits away from Public Safety employees, benefits that were promised to them when they were hired,” Canterbury said. “Mark Lazarus knew that was an issue and did nothing about it, saying there wasn’t enough money (to increase benefits). There was enough money for I-73, there was enough money to buy wetlands in Carolina Forest, but there was not enough money to pay public safety officers a living wage.”
Canterbury spoke of the raises in pay, improvements in benefits and increases in staffing which have improved the morale of the police department.
“We had officers who would finish a shift then have to spend some of their off-time applying for food stamps,” said Canterbury. “That’s not good for morale. We now have a benefits package commensurate with the job.”
“Chairman Johnny Gardner has kept his promises,” said Canterbury in announcing this year’s endorsement of Gardner. “He has made great strides in improving public safety in Horry County. Johnny Gardner is not a politician he is a public servant.”
Lazarus spent five and one-half years serving the interests of the local cabal on issues such as I-73 and unrestrained development while ignoring public safety and local roads and infrastructure. That is why the cabal is so desperate to defeat Gardner and get Lazarus back as county chairman.
Gardner has spent his four years as chairman trying to repair the damage – working for the people, not the cabal.
Gardner is the leader who has actually improved public safety from the dismal state it was in before he took office. That is the real story Lazarus and the cabal are trying to change hoping the public won’t remember.