Two more Conway City Council candidates jumped into an already crowded field shortly before filing closed Wednesday, but Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy is running unopposed.
Filing was originally set to close on Friday, but Hurricane Dorian's arrival caused the city to close its offices and end election filing at noon Wednesday.
The two final candidates hoping to land in one of the three seats up for grabs are Liz Gilland, former chairwoman of the Horry County Council, and Randy Alford, a nine-year veteran of the Conway City Council.
Two councilmen up for re-election are Larry White and Tom Anderson. A third seat was left vacant when Ashley Smith resigned his post to become Conway’s director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Alford, an insurance salesman and financial advisor, said he considered retiring before accepting an offer he couldn’t refuse to become CEO of Carolina Coast Insurance. However, because he has partners in the business, he will have more time to devote to a council position than he did during his past terms.
He believes he made several important contributions to council when he served. He cited the Rebuild Conway program, which targeted crime-infested areas for improvements to give people more pride in their neighborhoods and reduce crime, as one of his successes. He also said he was instrumental in helping Conway save significant sums of money by refinancing its debt and he helped city staff figure out how to finance the Conway Recreation Center and the City Shop.
He’d like to see council put more emphasis on economic development and improving infrastructure, citing the city’s poor roads and sidewalks.
“I still believe that the city is a, really by South Carolina standards anyway, a large business with a public service component and should be run that way,” he said.
He’d like to see closer oversight of the budget taking care to control expenditures as the year progresses instead of waiting until the end of the fiscal year and learning that they must make large cuts to break even.
He thinks the city should come up with a cost figure for each citizen and stick to it.
Alford also said he wishes he had been on council when the Conway Golf Club met its demise. He wanted to save the golf course and the old Conway swimming pool on Sherwood Drive.
He also opposes overwhelming development and thinks the city can find innovative ways to reduce the potential for flooding.
“We need to do things to alleviate flooding and I know it’s not just as simple as going down to a creek and dredging it out,” he said, adding that there are things that need to be done all along the Waccamaw.
It’s a subject he says he’d like to dig into a little deeper.
As for development, he says, he recently finished reading a book about the future of American towns.
“It was very much opposed to development…There’s a lot of ways to make the town more livable, the quality of life higher and it doesn’t involve development,” he said.
He sees the possibility of making development more cost prohibitive as one solution to slowing Conway’s rapid growth.
Alford and his wife, Dr. Siena Alford, have three sons. One is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, another is a graduate of the College of Charleston and the third is a student at the Scholars Academy.
Gilland said her 16 years serving on Horry County Council helped her understand how government works, and how a council member is supposed to work.
“That is by letting the employees do their jobs without micromanaging,” Gilland said.
Gilland spent two terms serving as an Horry County Council member, and two more terms as chairwoman of the council.
She said her plan, if she’s elected to Conway City Council, is to “respect the past, improve the present, and plan for the future.”
“That’s what you do with a small town like Conway that is on the cusp of being so much better than it has been that it is exciting,” Gilland said. “From my perspective, the city staff and employees are doing a tremendous job. They are proud to be employees of Conway, and I would be proud to work with them.”
She said she has visited friends who live in small towns in the Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, area and their communities have downtowns the same size as Conway.
“There are no empty storefronts," she said. "I want to delve into … what we can do about empty storefronts. I want to smooth the way for new businesses.”
The city is in her DNA, she said.
“Conway is so much a part of me and I gave back to some extent at county level – it would be real joy to contribute more at the city level,” she said.
As for other civic involvement, she said part of the reason she is interested in running is that she wants to do more.
“I’ve not been involved in enough things to satisfy me,” Gilland said. “I’ve not been making enough of a difference.”
Three times a week, though, she can be found playing volleyball at the Conway Recreation Center pool, for two hours at a time. She said she keeps close tabs on what is going on at the CRC, and thinks things are already improving, thanks to new director Ashley Smith.
“There doesn’t seem to be as much political posturing and negatives at the Conway city level as there are elsewhere or at the next level,” Gilland said. “I hate politics but I really miss public service.”
The other council candidates are incumbents Tom Anderson and Larry White; and newcomers, Justin Jordan, Alex Hyman and Barbara Eisenhardt.