By Paul Gable
The resignation letter submitted by Horry County Council member James Frazier last week stilled questions that have been making the rounds lately.
Frazier is the record holder for service on county council having been the representative for Horry County District Seven since the county established single member districts. He has represented the citizens of District Seven for 35 consecutive years.
Recently, however, Frazier became notable for his absences, having not attended a council meeting since September 2015.
State law provides that three straight unexcused absences, by elected or appointed officials, create an automatic vacancy in the seat they hold. The law further provides that the chairman of the council, board, commission or committee the absent member sits on is required to immediately notify the governor of the vacancy.
This was not done in Horry County. Frazier missed six straight council meetings beginning in October 2015, but no notification to the governor was given. While Frazier was absent due to medical conditions, numerous sources agreed they were conditions from which he would not recover.
This is not about individuals or their service. The law is in place to assure continued representation to the citizens affected by these absences.
Frazier’s letter makes his resignation from his seat on council effective March 1, 2016. It could be argued, according to a strict interpretation of state law, a vacancy has existed in the District Seven seat since November 2015.
James Frazier served the county long and honorably for 35 years, a record not in danger of being broken. Like many athletes and politicians, he probably stayed a bit too long, but knowing when to quit is often difficult for the person involved.
Below is a Public Servant profile featuring Frazier that I did for Carolina Weekly several years ago:
Public Servant James Frazier
As a young man in the Bucksport Community, James Frazier wanted to be a professional baseball player. Instead, he became the longest serving member of Horry County Council with 32 (now 35) years of continuous service.
Frazier said he used to hear the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and New York Yankees on the radio. “I really wanted to be a ballplayer. However, I got married and had children and the dream went aside,” he said.
Frazier grew up on a farm where they plowed with oxen. He still remembers working the plow. “When my head was high enough to reach the handles, I was walking behind that ox in the field,” he said.
Frazier took a 5 1/2-year hiatus in New Jersey after graduating from high school. During that time he became interested in politics.
“I got interested in politics when John Kennedy ran for president in 1960,” he said. “I volunteered to work for his campaign and I was out many nights knocking on doors to get people to vote for him.”
After marrying in New Jersey and having his first son, Frazier and his family returned to Bucksport.
“When my son was born, I decided I wanted to raise a ‘good country boy’, so we came back home,” he said.
Frazier returned to farming until he made his first successful run for Horry County Council in 1979. He hoped serving on council would allow him to help the small farmers in Horry County.
At the same time, Frazier went to work for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture as a consumer specialist, a position he held for 23 years.
“We accomplished some things to help farmers, but not as much as I would have liked,” Frazier said.
Paving dirt roads in rural Horry County became an early political goal for Frazier, who still holds that goal today.
“When I first joined council, there were over 1,000 miles of dirt roads in the county,” Frazier said. “I worked closely with Rep. John Jenrette to get assistance from the federal government for the roads. It is still a battle we are working on. It now costs $500,000 to pave one mile of dirt road in Horry County.”
Frazier said he recognized early in his political career that growth would become the biggest long-term challenge for Horry County government.
“As long as the ocean is here, people will come,” he said. “Keeping up with growth and change while we try to maintain a good quality of life is the biggest challenge for council today.”
Frazier, represents District 7, one of the largest in the county. It includes half of Conway, U.S. 701 from the Georgetown County line to J. Reuben Long Detention Center and east to Highway 707.
“There is something going on all the time that my constituents want to talk about,” Frazier said. “I average over 30 calls per day from citizens who have questions or need some type of help.” He added that the biggest lesson he has learned from his years of government service is patience.
“Things don’t happen in government overnight, even though we often wish they did,” Frazier said. “It takes a lot of patience to get things done, but eventually we get there.”
Frazier said when he was first elected, there was no rural fire service and everybody had to come to Conway to do business with the county. “We have extended those services in the county and we will continue to work to provide services to the people.”