A councilor who’s spent close to 20 years working for the citizens of North Myrtle Beach sat on the dais for the last time Monday night.
Bob Cavanaugh, 80, one of North Myrtle Beach’s two at-large councilors, is moving to Richmond, Virginia, with his wife Mary to be closer to his children and family.
Mayor Marilyn Hatley thanked Cavanaugh for his service before the meeting ended.
“You’ve been good to all of the city just like a council person who’s at large should be,” Hatley told him. “You have shown that you care from one end of the city to the other. You have worked diligently to move the city agenda forward, to have forward thinking so that we can become a better and better community every year. I wish you the best in your new endeavor and Godspeed.”
After retiring from General Electric, Cavanaugh moved to North Myrtle Beach’s Tidewater neighborhood and bought a lot within two weeks of his first visit to town.
“I came down to North Myrtle Beach 22 years ago, retiring after 35 years with GE, not sure what the hell I was going to do,” Cavanaugh told Hatley during the meeting. “And you volunteered me for North Myrtle Beach Keep America Beautiful, then you told me there was an opening on council. And it’s been a pleasure working with you and all the councilmen over the 20 years. This is the group that uniformly is truly interested in serving the people. And it was an extreme pleasure working with all of you.”
In 1998, Cavanaugh had just finished his career and was looking for someplace to move. Someplace that wasn’t Ohio.
“The Ohio River was not the Atlantic Ocean, so I wanted the Atlantic Ocean,” Cavanaugh said. “We started up in Virginia and kinda worked our way down. Friends of ours called and said ‘Hey, we live in Tidewater and it’s a great community; a lot of things that I think you’ll like.’ Came down, bought the lot the next week.”
Cavanaugh’s wife began going to Visible Designs, and Hatley, who owned the hair salon at the time, encouraged him to get engaged with the city.
“He was one who was energetic and wanted to get involved in the city and that type of thing,” Hatley said. “I was on city council at that time. I said ‘We’re looking for people who want to get involved and we have some openings right now on the Keep America Beautiful committee, and get to know your city.’”
After less than two years working with the North Myrtle Beach branch of Keep America Beautiful, Cavanaugh ran for city council.
“We had at that time added two new seats,” Hatley said. “When I first ran on council, there were only five seats, counting the mayor. So we had added two more seats. I told him, ‘We’re adding two at-large seats; if you want to get even more involved, then you should run for city council.”
He ran against a handful of other candidates in 2001 and came out on top. He’s retained his seat ever since.
His advocacy work with Keep America Beautiful spilled over into his council time, including his tree preservation work that eventually became North Myrtle Beach’s tree preservation ordinance.
“It took me a couple years, but that’s OK,” Cavanaugh said. “You work with people and you try and compromise.”
And compromise is critical when representing the whole city.
“People talk to each other and they work problems out,” Cavanaugh said. “I don’t care if they’re red, blue, Democrat, Republican or anything if you sit and work things out and look for the best you can, rather than everybody shooting for everything. And that was my whole approach to it.”
Hatley said she believes the special election to fill Cavanaugh’s seat will occur in March. The city’s special election ordinance says filing for the seat must open on noon of the third Friday after a vacancy occurs, and the filing period will stay open for 10 days. The election must be held on the 13th Tuesday after the vacancy occurs.
But the process doesn’t start until Cavanaugh resigns. Although Monday was ostensibly his last meeting, he has yet to send in his letter of resignation, which begins the countdown to the next election.
Hatley called Cavanaugh an excellent councilor and problem-solver.
“This is an at-large seat,” the mayor said. “So many times when people run for district, they feel they only represent that district, which to a certain extent they do, although they vote on all the issues. An at-large council person is one who has to realize that they’re representing the entire city.”
Cavanaugh said he hopes his successor will carry on his tradition of working with people and homeowner associations.
“I’m not a businessman here, I had 35 years of business, but I’m not a business owner down here,” Cavanaugh said, “so that was where my focus was. This is a great place for that. People are fine when you work with them. I really think that’s the key for whoever comes in for my job; I hope they have the same approach.”