Rob Clemons laughingly apologized to his wife for cutting short their beach retirement of just one year.
Clemons was sworn in Tuesday night by Mayor Bob Hellyer as the new Surfside Beach fire chief.
Clemons comes to the position with 32 years of experience with departments in northern Virginia. He served 28 years with the Prince William County department and four years as chief of the Manassas city department before retiring to Surfside Beach about a year ago.
“My wife and I decided to retire and come south a year ago,” Clemons said. “I saw the Surfside Beach chief position open and decided to apply. I feel very blessed to have been selected.”
Clemons replaces former chief Prentice Williams, who resigned this past June citing “a hostile work environment” as the reason for leaving the post. He had been promoted to chief last November. Larry Carter has been serving as interim chief.
Clemons said the Surfside Beach department has a long, extraordinary history and he plans to work at strengthening relations with the community, the businesses and the department members and volunteers. He said the department has seven career firefighters and numerous volunteers.
Hellyer said Clemons was chosen after a search that included interviews by a select panel and by the department firefighters.
In other action, the council gave a thumbs up to beer sales at next week’s Celebrate Surfside Beach festival that will take place between Surfside Drive and Third Avenue South. The event will be Sept. 25 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
With a 4-2 vote, the council agreed to temporarily suspend the town’s prohibition of selling alcohol in a public place.
Lee Zulanch, owner of Benjamin’s Bagels and one of the festival organizers, told the council that the beer sales will be provided by local restaurant Borgata’s and that alcohol sales and consumption will be confined to a marked and barricaded area.
“This is a chance for the downtown businesses to showcase what they offer and to get more people to the area,” Zulanch said.
Zulanch said the festival already has 32 vendors lined up and each vendor has a town business license.
Council member Cindy Keating said she was in favor of the festival but voted against the resolution because she did not like the idea of temporarily suspending town rules. She added that anyone wanting a beer could go into the restaurant.
The council gave a thumbs down to a request by the Waccamaw Market Cooperative to hold a holiday market in town on Tuesdays from Nov. 2 to Dec. 14.
The cooperative operates the farmer’s market in Surfside Beach and other locations throughout Horry and Georgetown counties.
The group had requested that Surfside Beach pay a $1,000 sponsorship fee for the holiday market.
Council members said other groups already have craft markets in town and these groups pay a fee to the town and their vendors have business licenses.