Beth Stedman, president and CEO of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, welcomes a near-capacity crowd to the "State of Our County, State of Our Cities" luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Seated at the table in the foreground are County Council Chairman John Thomas and his wife Peggy Howell, Sandra Yudice of Georgetown, Ryan Fabbri of Pawleys Island, Mauretta Dorsey and Frank McClary of Andrews and Sel Hemingway for Georgetown County.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of articles about the state of local government. The Georgetown Times / South Strand News will have more detailed information from the county and the municipalities in upcoming stories.

Beth Stedman told a near-capacity crowd Wednesday, Nov. 20, that “A key component of the Chamber is advocacy.” The ” luncheon offered each community a chance to tell people how they’re doing.

“This is an opportunity for elected officials to address their constituency,” the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO said. “We’re honored to host leaders from all of Georgetown County’s municipalities.”

Dr. Randy Dozier, Superintendent of Schools, welcomed people to the luncheon at the J.B. Beck Education Center. “This building is your building,” he said.

“I hope as the county and cities look at the building program we have, that have different events, they bring a lot of attention to the city and county, especially with fields and tracks.” He noted that the county recreation program uses many of the school district’s facilities.

“I want to wish Mr. Hemingway a happy retirement – at some point.” The remark prompted a lot of laughter, as many of the people present know that Sel Hemingway’s retirement has been pushed back a couple of months until a new county administrator is hired.

“I really have enjoyed working on things with Sel,” Dozier said. “We do things together. Sometimes we trade property. I don’t know if we get the best end of those deals,” he said. He’s glad, too, for partnerships with the county and the various municipalities.

City of Georgetown

Mayor Brendon Barber wasn’t present, but shared his greetings in a video.

Dr. Sandra Yúdice is City Administrator. She talked about the strategic plan the city has been working on.

“Everyone asks about the hotel,” she said. Developers plan to buy and demolish the Georgetown Times building in the 600 block of Front Street. Demolition will begin soon after closing on the purchase in January, she said. The target date for opening of the 70-room upscale hotel is the spring or summer of 2022.

Yúdice said Georgetown is building a new city hall that is expected to be completed in mid-2021.

She also discussed flooding.

“City finances are in good shape,” she said.

Town of Andrews

Mayor Frank McClary and Town Administrator Mauretta Dorsey talked about their town in the western part of Georgetown County.

“We are in the process of rebranding Andrews,” McClary said. “For the past 20 years, we’ve been in decline.”

The Town of Andrews has several plans in the works to deal with infrastructure problems. Finances are in good shape and new jobs have come to the area.

Horry-Georgetown Technical College has several courses available in town to help people pursue further education.

Andrews is looking to have people consider Andrews to be the gateway to Georgetown County.

Town of Pawleys Island

Administrator Ryan Fabbri said the Town of Pawleys Island is changing. While that is a word some people don’t like for the coastal town, he noted that it’s different from what it was in the 1950s and 1960s, and from what it was a century ago when people brought their farm animals to the island.

Newly sworn-in Mayor Brian Henry wasn’t able to be present for the luncheon.

Fabbri reviewed some of the changes to the town. They include underground wiring, a new Town Hall, and a $15 million beach renourishment project to create an “engineered beach.”

The Town has faced six storm events in six years, Fabbri said, but the renourishment and other efforts are helping the Town deal with the problems.

Georgetown County

County Council Chairman John Thomas and Administrator Sel Hemingway both spoke to the people who filled the room to near capacity.

Thomas has been chairman since January. He commented that some people use an over-the-counter medicine called Dramamine.

He said he calls it “Drama – mine” and he’s on his third bottle.

After the expected laughter, Thomas went on to talk about the search for a new administrator to succeed Hemingway.

“The two biggest issues that County Council is facing are developing a sustainable budget and coming up with a new business plan for our budget,” Thomas said.

“The increase in revenues is not keeping pace with the increase in the cost of county services. So, we need to tighten our belts, find efficiencies, and maybe also find new revenue sources.”

Hemingway said “The most encouraging thing and flattering thing I have heard is ‘collaboration’ and ‘partnership’ have been included in all of the remarks. That has always been a goal of mine.”

Both Thomas and Hemingway talked about the variety of capital projects the county has undertaken over the past decade and more. These include parks, a new judicial center, roads and stormwater improvements, fire stations and more.

He also talked about a need for a more sustainable budget and ways to fund facilities and services that county citizens want.

In her closing remarks, Stedman thanked each of the speakers for updating the audience on the state of their respective government bodies.