For his 77th birthday, Paul Prince’s four children gathered at his Loris home.
The Jan. 25 party served as more than a celebration. It was also about campaign planning. In his nearly 30 years on Horry County Council, Prince had always looked to his wife, Carolyn, to manage his bids for public office.
Her death in 2018 left him without his campaign manager, so his children offered to take up those responsibilities this year.
But after his family left, Prince sat alone in his house. He began to have doubts.
“I’ve been wrastlin’ with this since Jan. 25,” he said Friday. “One day I’d go and one day I’d not go. … I decided I didn’t want to put them out there taking up all their time to get me elected.”
So for the first time in nearly two decades, District 9 will have a new representative. The district covers Loris and Longs in northern Horry.
Prince took his seat on county council in 1983, back with council members served two-year terms. He stayed for a 10 years, left politics for a decade, then returned to office in 2002.
“Paul is a hardworking councilman,” said county councilman Harold Worley, who also took his seat on the council in 2002. “He’s an advocate on council for the fire department and parks and rec. … Paul’s been good for District 9. We’re going to miss him.”
Prince said he ran for office because community members asked him to. During his time on the council, he saw Horry officials develop a countywide program for managing garbage. He also played a role in the county’s development of a rural fire, EMS and 911 system. For years, he served as a volunteer firefighter.
“We’ve made a lot of strides since 1983 when I started,” Prince said.
The councilman also developed a reputation for supporting the paving of rural roads. In fact, it’s unusual for him not to mention paving projects at meetings.
“Everybody knows I’m the dirt road man,” he said.
Prince said his son, Rome, recently told him he wanted to run for his seat if the elder Prince decided against another campaign. Rome Prince announced his bid Friday.
Another candidate, former Horry County police officer Terry Fowler, has also said he’s pursuing the seat.
In his final months on council, Prince hopes to see the foundation poured for the Longs fire station. The council broke ground on that project Friday. He also aims to persuade council members not to create impact fees, which are levies on new construction.
Horry County voters overwhelmingly supported impact fees in a 2018 referendum and other council members maintain the fees could help cover the cost of infrastructure for a growing population.
"I still can't wrap my arms around it and say I love it and want it to happen," Prince said of the fees. "I don't trust it."
While Prince admits there’s a part of him that wants to run again, he also realizes he’s pushing 80 and he’s got 11 grandchildren, including some still in school. He’s at a point where he’d rather be in the stands at one of their ballgames than behind the council dais.
“I’m in a good, healthy body,” he said. “And I want to be a little bit free for a while.”