Candidates for Horry council chairman talk infrastructure, public safety, vision for county

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Horry County Council chairman seat is up for grabs in the 2018 primary election.

Incumbent Mark Lazarus is facing attorney Johnny Gardner.

There are 11 Horry County Council districts and Lazarus said he has support from every single member on council for his re-election bid.

Gardner said he has what it takes to lead Horry County.

“This position belongs to the citizens of Horry County, it doesn’t belong to me or anyone else. We need someone that can listen, can manage and can lead, someone who has a vision,” Gardner said.

“I think we’ve done a lot of great things in a short period of time, and I am looking forward to four more years to continue on that path,” Lazarus said.

Both Lazarus and Gardner share a passion for their Horry County roots.

“I was born and raised here; I went to Coastal Carolina,” said Gardner.

He then went into the Army and served as an infantry officer. Four years later, he served as a captain and then went to law school at the University of South Carolina.

Gardner worked for two years in the 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office and has been practicing law at his own firm for more than 25 years.

During his service, Gardner said he learned one motto that stuck with him.

“Mission first, troops always. We’re going to get the job done and take care of the people while we’re doing it,” he said.

Lazarus has lived in Horry County for 42 years.

“I grew up and raised our three children here; we have our new grandson here. I feel a commitment to this area and we feel very blessed as a family, with thriving businesses here and have done extremely well. I like to give back. It’s always been part of our family to give back to our community,” said Lazarus.

He has served as Horry County chairman for almost five-and-a-half years, taking over in 2013 after former county leader Tom Rice was elected to Congress.

“We’re working hard, we have 11 council districts, so each council member works extremely hard for their district, and it is my responsibility as chairman to work with them and help them achieve their goals, and I think my leadership has proven that,” Lazarus said. “I have the support of every council member behind me for this re-election bid and I think that proves we’re all working well together.”

Gardner’s campaign is based on the three “Rs” – responsibility, reform and respect.

“Total transparency, no back-room deals, things like that,” he said.

Having never run for public office before, Gardner said some dismissed him immediately, while others embraced him.

“You don’t have to be a career politician to listen to what your citizens want or a career politician to look around and see what needs to be done,” he said. “You need to step up to the plate and do your job and that’s what I am going to do. I want to see better roads, not crumbling roads. I want to see a quality of life, and the way we get there is balance the growth. What we’ve had happen in the last five years is what appears to be wild growth, subdivisions popping up all over the place.”

Lazarus said growth is happening in Carolina Forest.

“We are getting ready to four lane Carolina Forest Boulevard, we are opening up International Drive and doing improvement to 501 as all part of RIDE programs,” he said. “We just purchased 3,700 acres of pristine property that will be held in preservation forever to use for mitigation for road projects and also a recreational center for people, and what it won’t be is where more houses and more commercial development will be built on.”

With more growth in Horry County, both Lazarus and Gardner believe there is a need for more infrastructure, police and fire, but they have a different view on how to get there.

“We can say we need 400 more police officers and firefighters. That’s at a $40 million expense. Where’s that going to come from?” Lazarus said. “We only have so much money coming in, or do we raise the millage and raise taxes on the citizens in order to pay for it? It’s a delicate balancing act.”

“What I think will work is paying them a competitive wage and getting the manpower up to speed, where we can respond to serious calls quicker than 20 minutes. That’s outrageous,” Gardner said.

Registered Horry County voters can vote on Tuesday, June 12.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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