Myrtle Beach prepares for 2017 Mayoral Election
Myrtle Beach residents will go to the voting polls to write in their candidate choice for mayor of Myrtle Beach on Nov. 7. There are five candidates running for office, two of whom have already been incumbents, while the three others are eager to make a name for themselves in government and unseat the current mayor. Upon winning, the elected official would take the role of mayor in Jan. 2018. The five men and woman are as follows: John Rhodes, Brenda Bethune, Mark McBride, C.D Rozsa and Ed Carey. John Rhodes, the current mayor of Myrtle Beach, is pursuing his fourth term in office, followed by Mark McBride who has served two terms before being unseated by Rhodes. Absentee voters have already been able to cast their votes on the ballot as of Oct. 25. For their campaign platforms, the candidates have created proposals to aid the city of Myrtle Beach on issues that they consider to be crucial. In response to Myrtle Beach experiencing a major hit from multiple shootings during Father's Day weekend and bike week this summer, public safety has been a key issue in the race. Many tourists took to social media to express their concern about their safety. “After seeing the Facebook video, I have cancelled my vacation plans in your city,” Ken Schwartz said, a vacationer of Myrtle Beach. “I don’t want to vacation in a war zone.” Along with public safety, there are other proposals that the candidates feel are necessary to have such as economic development, tourism, taxes and the modernization of the library and “super block” in downtown Myrtle. Brenda Bethune is a businesswoman and owner of a property development company. She suggests improving the city's image and implementing a strong business facade. Bethune believes that developing a strategic plan of the “super block,” an area downtown, will foster an abundance of economic potential. “It will attract the right businesses to locate in the area," said Bethune. “When we improve our businesses, we elevate the look of our community. This, in turn, helps us to attract new businesses. We must work to incentivize diverse businesses to invest here." C.D Rozsa, the political newcomer and Myrtle Beach local, thinks the city manager can sway council votes too easily. "The people need an elected official in charge of the city and not someone who is hired," said Rozsa. "The mayor really doesn’t have too much responsibility.” He plans to change city council back into having a strong mayor form, and, if elected, would work on how the city’s funds are divided up and refocused. As for public safety, he wants more trained departments that specialize in drugs, human trafficking and homicide. Ed Carey’s objective, if he won the mayoral seat, would be public safety and to establish a “safe and lawful community" with reasonable parking policies and a streamline of government functions. Professor Muckensturm, Public Relations professor at Coastal Carolina had a different outlook on relevant issues. “Improving the cultural scene and the sense of community in Myrtle Beach is important. There is a big push on promoting tourism, but I don’t think there is enough emphasis on being Myrtle Beach resident," said Muckensturm. “Winning the College World Series has definitely helped out. There is definitely a need for parks and outdoor recreation provided to the city besides the beach.” John Rhodes, the active mayor since 2005, has touched on this – a vision he still wants to accomplish of helping Myrtle. When it comes to the topic of public safety, Rhodes had this to say. "We have addressed that issue, and I feel we have done a great job with our new police chief [Amy] Prock,” he said. “We see our efforts working. More people are being arrested that don’t need to be on the streets.” In an economic development plan and safety procedure plan, he intends to hire more investors and work one-on-one with the police department. “We try to contain and control it as much as possible,” says Rhodes. Mark McBride is already familiar with city council and mayor office and thinks that priority number one is public safety. "I want to increase the city’s police force by at least 100 new officers over the next couple of years," said McBride. To achieve this, he would have to convince state legislature to change the rules on tourism development fees, so that money sent to the chamber of Myrtle Beach commerce can be used instead to hire and train new officers. McBride also stated that he wants a diversification in the economy of the city. Another idea he touched on was the relocation of the Children’s Museum and Chapin Library to the Super Block area. “The Super Block would be ideal for small start-up companies, restaurants and other businesses that would draw more people downtown," said McBride during a WMBF debate. Liz Callaway, author of 9.55 WRNN and resident of Myrtle Beach, gave her thoughts on the city's economy. "When business development is done correctly, it attracts more foot traffic and increases tax revenue spent on public safety, infrastructure and resident amenities," said Callaway. “However, we are short staffed in our police department. We need to focus on officer retention with better pay and longevity benefits.” In the next few days to come, voters will have made their decision on who they believe to be the best candidate to represent them and the city of Myrtle Beach.