By Paul Gable
Myra Starnes is a unique candidate in the Myrtle Beach election for city council. For over 50 years, Starnes has been a business owner and entrepreneur in the hospitality industry.
When she started her first business, Leisure Time Unlimited, Myrtle Beach was a summer tourist city. After Labor Day, the streets basically emptied until the next Easter weekend.
“I felt we had to do things to get people here in the offseason,” said Starnes.
Starnes started running bus tours in the fall for retirees who wanted to spend a few days at the beach while the weather remained good but without summer crowds. Those tours helped the business community stretch the tourist season for another several months.
The first hotel, motel, restaurant supply show in Myrtle Beach was started by Starnes. The show turned into a Southeastern show to attract larger dealers. Today, the Hotel, Motel Restaurant Supply Show of the Southeast draws visitors from all over the United States to Myrtle Beach in late January of each year.
The Dickens Christmas Show and Festivals, another creation of Starnes, brings thousands of visitors each year in November. In addition to drawing crowds which patronize local businesses, the show benefits numerous local charities who pay nothing to participate and receive 100% of the money they raise during the event.
Starnes served on the Horry County Airport Advisory Board during the time the most recent expansion of the airport took place. That expansion has drawn more flights and visitors to the Grand Strand over the years. She served on the Myrtle Beach Convention Center board during that facility’s expansion to its present size.
Over the term of her business career, Starnes has been at the forefront of efforts which have turned Myrtle Beach into the year around destination it is today.
“Myrtle Beach now has people coming year around, the restaurants and retail shops stay open throughout the year, instead of closing after Labor Day as they once did,” said Starnes.
She has garnered many awards throughout her business career, including the Governor’s Women in Public Service Award, Entrepreneur of the Year, Ashby Ward Pioneer of the Year Award and Lifetime Achievement Award from World Amateur Golf Tournament, to name a few.
Starnes is running for city council to bring her experience and ideas to discussions about new development in the city. She believes that the city should work with property owners, not dictate to them, when redevelopment is considered. She does not believe the city should be in the real estate business.
Never one to shy away from asking questions, Starnes believes city council discussions should be open and transparent and include citizen input. Starnes believes an open bidding process is the only way city council should decide who is awarded city contracts. She also advocates for increasing public safety staffing so the entire city will be patrolled equally.
If you are a resident Myrtle Beach who enjoys increased property value with some of the lowest property taxes in the state, who enjoys the variety of attractions the city offers and who wants to see an even better Myrtle Beach in the future, remember, those things started with entrepreneurs like Myra Starnes and will continue with her knowledge and experience on city council.