Horry County looks to hire new public safety director

Horry County looks to hire new public safety director

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Two years after receiving a substantial raise to take on more responsibility, the man with the top job in Horry County will soon pass some of those responsibilities off to someone else.

In 2015, Horry County Council approved the raise for county administrator Chris Eldridge. That bump in pay means he will be making roughly $200,000 by the end of his contract in 2018.

The extra money meant additional duties for Eldridge. Specifically, he would serve as public safety director, which oversee the county's police, fire, EMS, 911 call center and emergency management.

The public safety director position has remained vacant following the September 2014 resignation of former director Paul Whitten.

However, on Monday – nearly two years after the fact – the position Eldridge had taken on himself was posted on Horry County's employment page.

County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said the position was never eliminated from the budget; it just hadn't been filled.

The question is, why is the county now trying to find someone to take on that role?

"The workload continues to increase and there is lots of employees within that public safety division and we really need to have someone to oversee the day-to-day functions over that to allow the county administrator to focus on the organization as a whole," Bourcier said.

Despite giving up some of the tasks he had taken on in 2015, Eldridge, who is the only Horry County employee with a contract with the council, will not lose the extra money he was given to take on the additional responsibilities.

According to Bourcier, the decision to have Eldridge take on the public safety oversight was always a temporary decision.

"It's always been in the plans to hire a public safety administrator," she said.

Back when the decision was made to increase Eldridge's pay, WMBF News talked to national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Chuck Canterbury. He was worried about how the raise would affect those who work in public safety.

"You give a raise of that size, it makes you wonder," Canterbury said in 2015.

While he is happy to hear Horry County is again pursuing one person to focus solely on public safety issues, Canterbury can't shake the concerns he has about how first responders will be affected.

"Public safety has taken a back seat in Horry County," he said. "I mean, this is county council's responsibility and they should be actively looking at the budget to make sure they are putting their money to actual public safety and not just public safety talk."

The open public safety director position will pay up to $135,000, depending on the applicants' qualifications.

Bourcier said recent lawsuits against the county and the Horry County Police Department did not contribute to the decision to find someone to take over this position.

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