Candidates seek to fill three open seats on Myrtle Beach City Council
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Two newcomers are challenging three incumbents for three seats on Myrtle Beach’s City Council.
Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and Mike Lowder are all defending their seats on the city’s six-person council.
Lowder is the most senior council member among the incumbents running. A retired police officer who’s lived in Myrtle Beach for decades, Lowder was first elected to council in 2009.
While he says funding the police department is important to him, Lowder explained he’s most proud of the work he’s done recently to the public works department. Namely with the transfer station, which includes building the first convenience center in Myrtle Beach.
If re-elected, he said leading the city through a new era of growth is his top priority.
“Understanding our community as it has grown from the small community it was when I first moved here 52 years ago,” Lowder said. “I’ve grown up with this community and I’ve seen the changes and understand the needs that need to be taken care of as our city continues to grow.”
Gregg Smith, a realtor who’s lived in Myrtle Beach since he was a child, is currently in his first term on city council.
He said he’s proud of the work they’ve done to raise police wages, keep the beaches clean and the ways they’ve started to revitalize the downtown area and revamp neglected neighborhoods. If re-elected, he wants to work to change people’s perceptions of Myrtle Beach.
“The reality is that violent crimes are down over the last 20 years consistently and we’re continuing to work on that,” Smith said. “But with the tight labor market we’re short with police officers and what I want to do is make Myrtle Beach the best place to work for city employees.”
Jackie Hatley is also in her first term and has worked in the hotel business for years.
She said the council needs to be focused on the needs of residents. In order to keep the city desirable for tourists and the hospitality industry, she said her experience and input are valuable. Hatley said her knowledge of how to get things done can make a big difference.
“Change is not a bad thing, however, anyone who would like to run for a political office I think you need to get involved with your city first, the background, how things work and everything else, and that’s one thing that I had before,” she said.
But newcomers Alex Fogel and John Newman disagree. As potential fresh faces to the council, they said their respective positions would bring a fresh set of eyes to the issues facing the people who call Myrtle Beach home.
Newman said he believes battling crime is most important for leaders to tackle, and wants to focus on building up all businesses. He says there’s a disparity between businesses in the northern part of the city and in those in The Market Common and further south that he wants that to change.
Most importantly, he thinks fresh faces on the council are what’s best for the city.
“I’ve got sick and tired of nothing changing,” he said. “Everyone knows what the problems are, everyone has ideas for solutions, but year after year, it’s the same problems and nothing really getting done about it.”
Fogel said he wants to focus on developing Myrtle Beach’s workforce by expanding partnerships with Horry Georgetown Technical College if he’s elected. He also wants to create an advisory board to focus on nuisance hotels and create best standard practices for all tourism-related businesses.
“We live here and that’s what matters,” Fogel said. “I want the residents to know that, I want the city council to know that. The people who live here are our greatest asset. The city has so much potential, but we’re never going to reach it unless we get the residents involved and that their living here matters to somebody.”
Election Day is Nov. 2.
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