One of North Myrtle Beach's two at-large council seats is up for an election this November. Incumbent Harry Thomas - known as Hank Thomas on council - is being challenged by Horry County native Greg Richardson.
Greg Richardson, 52, is a retired government employee of 32 years, including 22 years with the city of Conway. He spent the last seven years with the Horry County Sheriff's Office, retiring as a lieutenant of training at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Thomas, 69, has spent most of his life in real estate sales and development, and has served on North Myrtle Beach's planning commission and council.
The election is November 5 and citizens who wish to vote need to register by October 5.
MyHorryNews sent questionnaires to both candidates for the upcoming election. Here are their answers:
Number of years in North Myrtle Beach: Less than 1 year, but I am a native of Horry County, having been born in Conway where I lived until last November.
Why are you running for office? This election will provide me with opportunity to serve in my new city. Having been a government employee, I was not eligible to hold public elected office. Now that I am retired and love serving my fellow citizens, I want to continue to serve. My experience is relative and I also believe that citizens deserve options when voting.
Why do you think you’re qualified to hold public office? Public office is often viewed as needing special qualifications, but the truth is you need to be qualified elector of the city and shall hold no other public office or public employment with the city, county or state. Some exempts are listed in ordinance. Now, I believe my years of experience as a government servant, my character, common sense, and love of this community qualifies me.
What’s your biggest accomplishment in either the private sector or public service? My family. My wife and me just celebrated 30 years of marriage and have three successful children that we are very proud of. Our parents gave us the right tools to be successful in life and we have forwarded that to our children.
Do you have any plans or specific policy goals you want to accomplish if elected? I love the city of North Myrtle Beach and my goal is to see it maintain and build the infrastructure that our citizens expect. I don't want to see such growth that we lose the history and character of the city. Public safety will also be at the forefront, which keeps us all safe and secure.
How do you plan to handle growth and development as North Myrtle Beach expands? Growth can not arrive before we are able to handle it. Infrastructure (roads and services) must be planned out to handle the growth. Public services must be a part of the growth plan. Public safety staffing, public services staffing has to increase as the growth expands.
Have you ever held public office in the past, and if so, what was the position and when did you hold that position? If elected, this position would be my first elected position.
Is there anything unique or special about you that most people don’t know? I am a trouble-shooter that is willing to help anyone. I often go beyond what is expected in serving others. I do enjoy line dancing and know a few shag steps or moves.
Number of Years in North Myrtle Beach: 65
Why are you running for office? N. Myrtle Beach is home and I have watched it grow from a small sleepy town to a bustling retirement and resort community that is very active year-round. I spent my first 35 years building a business and enjoying the fruits that the community offered. Twelve years ago I decided it was time to give back to my town which has been so good to me. I enjoy representing the city and feel I can continue to make a positive contribution.
Why do you think you’re qualified to hold public office? I know the area, the land and have had the opportunity to [see the land change] from a village to a small city. I know the effects of severe beach erosion; the type of erosion that we experienced in the late 80’s when the ocean was lapping under the houses. This background information coupled with my many years of experience in real estate development, residential, commercial and multifamily make me well-suited to share my knowledge with others, in addition to working with many of the governmental agencies that a developer has to deal with in the process of constructing a project.
What’s your biggest accomplishment in either the private sector or public service? In the private sector my two biggest accomplishments are 1) the continuation of a family business that was started by my mother in 1962; 2) the development and construction of River Hills Golf Course and Subdivision in 1988. This was the first subdivision west of the waterway on the north end of the Grand Strand. Today it is one of the most desireable residential communities in the Little River area; and 3) around [the year] 2000 time period myself and Wayne Hill, another local developer, successfully removed the spoilage easement that affected half of the Belle Park subdivision and all of the city lands around the city complex. The spoilage easement was a detriment for financing purposes for that entire area.
On the public sector, my biggest accomplishment with the support of my fellow council members was obtaining a permit to dredge the Cherry Grove canals. The city and others had tried for the past 40 years to obtain a permit to dredge. It took 8 years of hard effort to get the permit. My hat goes off to council and city management…this was truly a team effort. Today, property values along the channels are rising quickly and you can see the many upgrades to homes, new boat docks and on top of that, more fish and crabs.
Do you have any plans or specific policy goals you want to accomplish if elected? Three very important items I want to continue to press. 1) Beach Parking, with the growth of N. Myrtle Beach along with growth outside of the city. The demand for more parking is paramount. With the help of council I want to expand our current parking capacity. The need to secure a source of funding for this will be an issue I will pursue. 2) Continue to support a policy of aggressively lobbying for state and federal monies for beach renourishment. 3) Stormwater management… we are a beach community, it is imperative that we have a clean ocean. Stormwater runoff can cause high bacteria count. There have been rare occasions where bacteria count has caused isolated health warnings along our beach. The beach is our life blood both for our residents and our visiting tourists. Once of my biggest goals is to pursue the construction of additional ocean outfalls to manage stormwater runoff. And 4) expansion of more park space east of the waterway.
How do you plan to handle growth and development as North Myrtle Beach expands? NMB is close to being built out. However, there are still several large tracts that at some point are subject to be developed. The three golf courses Possum Trot, Azalea Sands and Beachwood totaling close to 600 acres could potentially be developed someday.
The development of such tracts will require in-depth study. Stormwater and drainage would be critical components in development of a tract such as this. Also, street infrastructure, ingress and egress will be a determining factor as to how an area can be developed.
Have you ever held public office in the past, and if so, what was the position and when did you hold that position? From 2001 to 2007 I served on the planning commission. From 2007 to current I serve as councilman at-large for the city of NMB.
Is there anything unique or special about you that most people don’t know? I love the outdoors, love to farm and planting trees is a hobby.