When John Rhodes died last weekend after a brief fight with COVID-19, he left behind more than close family and numerous friends.
Rhodes’ fingerprints lie on so many parts of the city it’s hard to include all of them in one newspaper. During his three terms as Myrtle Beach’s mayor, Rhodes oversaw the construction of the boardwalk and the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. He was there for the redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base into The Market Common. He pushed for the inclusive Savannah’s Playground, and, of course, he was the driving force behind the Beach Ball Classic.
A whirling dervish even into his 70s, Rhodes was the constant salesman and his product was Myrtle Beach. Whether he was recruiting the country’s best basketball teams to play in his tournament or pitching real estate to Chinese investors, Rhodes touted the Grand Strand around the globe. He knew the brand and was proud of the city.
This isn’t to say he was perfect. Rhodes’ faced valid criticism for the city’s crackdown on the spring motorcycle rallies in the late 2000s and for his support of passing the tourism development fee without a referendum. His attempt at bringing a $100 million Chinese cultural center to the area flopped, and I-73 remains largely a concept.
But as former city councilman Wayne Gray noted, Rhodes “aimed high.” He was never content to settle for a smaller vision the community he adopted decades ago.
While Rhodes will no doubt be remembered for his contributions to sports tourism, one part of his legacy that shouldn’t be overlooked is how he worked with Horry County Government to address the community’s challenges.
Since he left office, the city and county have struggled to get on the same page. There have been multiple lawsuits between the local governments and constant tension. This isn’t to say Rhodes was the main reason for the years of collaboration (former Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus also deserves credit along with former county councilman Marion Foxworth and other leaders), but there’s been a noticeable disconnect in recent years.
Rhodes certainly wasn’t a pushover and he wasn’t afraid to butt heads with the county, but he also understood the governments were better served hashing out their differences in a board room rather than a courtroom.
That type of leadership will continue to be missed.
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