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Joan Gause, Lewis Hardee, Veda Lamar Nichols, Carroll D. Padgett, Jan Vescovi and the League of Women’s Voters and Women’s Coalition held a forum to get to know the candidates running for seats on the Loris City Council.

Mayoral General Election is next Tuesday

With the mayoral General Election coming up next Tuesday, Nov. 5, the two candidates, Mike Suggs and Todd Harrelson, were introduced in a forum hosted by the League of Women’s Voters and the Women’s Coalition.

Both candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and produce their history of service to the residents of the city of Loris

Opening statements began with Harrelson, “I grew up in the city of Loris.. He stated he worked hard as a child referring to himself as a young entrepreneur working in tobacco.

He said, “I am a man of integrity, I love the people of Loris and I would do everything I can do to do the right thing for the people of Loris.”

Suggs’ opening statement began. “Thank you for coming to this event tonight, it’s a shame this room is not packed, I wish everyone had the same interest in the city government as you folks do.. He said, “Like Mr. Harrelson, I grew up right here in Loris.. He said that he attended school here and recounted that he had Miss Joan Gause as his eighth grade homeroom teacher. He said he attended Coastal Carolina College,

The questions presented to the mayoral candidates were question one, “Did you sign the petition to reform voting district lines?. Neither candidate was familiar with the reform; however, both stated they would review the petition. Linda Bianca with the LOWV stated, “This is a very important issue and the League of Women Voters is behind the petition, and we ask everyone to stop by before they leave to gather more information or sign the petition.”

Question two, “How will you encourage more citizen participation?. An open ended question where Harrelson asked, “In government or just anything?” He said, “I guess if I understand it right, to encourage more participation is for me to participate more also. I get out into the community and I’d be willing to, if I was a betting man, I’d say that everybody in here has seen me in their community in the last month.. He stated if citizens see their leader participating they would likely follow. “I knock on doors, I go out to baseball fields, softball fields,” he continued, “I’ll be at schools, just like I was at every school the city of Loris has on the day that the schools opened.. He stated he was at the schools to visit the students and the principals to make sure everyone participates in what is offered in the city of Loris.

Suggs response to the question, “I think one way to increase participation be it in government activities, sporting events or recreational activities, no matter what it is you are looking for participation, you have to communicate with the citizens better.. He continued, “You have to let them know what opportunities are available; what meetings are coming up and what events are coming up.. He stated this information can be blasted on social media, newspapers and newsletters to increase awareness of communication with the population; you can encourage folks to participate in the various activities. He said, “Like Mr. Harrelson I participate in various activities. He said he goes to the high school football games and various activities around town.”

Question three, “Some among you are concerned about audits. Why weren’t the audits done yearly when state law requires it?. Suggs said, “You are right, the state law does require the municipalities to have audits on an annual basis.. He stated that the city of Loris had issues a few years ago where records were not readily available.  The city council was not made aware of the issue. Council was informed at a later time that records had been destroyed through shredding of documents. With the records not available the auditors were unable to compile audits in a timely matter. He said, “There is an administrator in place now that is in a position to hopefully uncover or recreate some of the records in order to get the audits on track.. Suggs stated that with this administrator hopefully the audits will be complete within months. Harrelson said, “The audits are very, very important, they were behind quite a bit, and when I took the office of mayor the city administrator that we had then resigned.. He stated within 30 days an interim city administrator was under contract. Harrelson said, “One who is [interim administrator] is more, more than qualified and will get the audits done” he continued. “He is on it now and is really big time on it now, you can believe they will be done and will be done soon. He said, “It will be done, there is no doubt in my mind that you will read it in the newspaper or you can call or we will be calling.”

Question four, “What is the purpose of the proposed sidewalk on Heritage Road?. Harrelson stated it is his understanding from speaking with SCDOT and Horry County Councilman Paul Prince and more people involved in this project is the safety for students who walk to school. A traffic signal will be placed where students will be able to cross the road safely. Suggs replied, “That, of course, is a DOT project that the State Department of Transportation is heading up and doing the construction.” He continued, “My understanding is very similar to Mr. Harrelson. It is an issue of safety having no sidewalks and no safe way to walk up Heritage Road.”

Closing summaries were:

Suggs summed up with a thank you for attending and the LOWV for hosting the forum. He said, “I have enjoyed my service on city council and appreciate the privilege of serving on council.. He says he tries to take part in all training available to make himself a better city council member. He said, “I have attended all of the municipal association training. I graduated from The Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government and the Advanced Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government.” He stated he graduated the last advanced class in Columbia two weeks ago. He said, “I take my service very seriously by obtaining the tools I need to be a better public servant.. He said he would love the opportunity to be mayor, with our council working more closely together through the committee structure in place and be able to get some good things done for the city. City hall repairs are in the process and the Watson Park building needs repair. He said, “I am qualified with my experience and training to be mayor of Loris.. He concluded with, “My promise to you is simple, I will listen to what you have to say, I’ll try to be fair in my analysis of the situation and I will make the best decision I possibly can for the citizens of Loris.”

Harrelson said in his summarization, “When I mentioned that $3 yard cutting that I did, I went from there to college at the University of South Carolina Coastal Campus. I earned an associates degree in forestry at Horry Georgetown Tech.;” he continued, “I was at Georgia Pacific for six years where I bought procurement timber up to $500,000 to $600,000 a pop on each one.. He stated that was at Tabor City as a procurement field officer manager where he managed a budget between twenty-five million dollars and six million dollars for six years. “I do have the business sense to run this city and I’ll run it the way that I think it should be run with ya’lls ideas.. He continued, “Watson Park, they’re going to be driving nails out there any time. We have put advertisement out today and if it is not out today it will be out tomorrow morning, we are taking action on Watson Park already.. He said many of the roads are on the list for repair, the old Loris High School on Broad Street issues are being “ironed” out between the city and the owner. He said, “We already got a lot of these things in line to do;” he continued, “and already got the iron on it, it’s getting hot right now.. He said the planning and progress is visible for all to see.

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