GEORGETOWN — Three Republicans and three Democrats are looking to win Georgetown city council's three at-large open seats in a town that has historically been Democratic-controlled.
The Democratic primary in June saw incumbent Tupelo Humes, previous council candidate Ronald McInnis and political newcomer Dennzon Winley come out victorious.
The Republicans did not have a primary vote because at the filing deadline, there were only two candidates — incumbent Jonathan Angner and political newcomer Jimmy Morris.
Republican Jim Clements submitted signatures to join the ballot as a petition candidate Aug. 19, becoming the sixth overall hopeful.
With the election about two months out, here are the candidates and their backgrounds, ideas for the city and goals if elected.
Jonathan Angner, a local business owner, made his political debut by winning former city councilmember Rudolph Bradley's seat in April 2021 after Rudolph died in November 2020.
Angner is running again to keep his seat for another four years, and his platform has stayed consistent: to run Georgetown like a business and put economics at the forefront.
During his brief incumbency, Angner has supported development a $25 million project on the city's electric department building property with luxury condos, a market and offices overlooking marshland.
Citing rising taxes and expenses in areas such as utilities and roads, Angner previously said he wants to find creative ways to push down the forces that are causing these rising costs.
“If we are not (finding creative ways), then we’re either oblivious to it, we’re ignoring it or we’re not qualified to have these conversations,” Angner said.
He also has worked with fellow Republican city councilmember Carol Jayroe to push council to consider consolidating some city services with county ones, though this push was met with nearly zero support from his Democrat counterparts.
When all other candidates filed in March, Jim Clements said his work life as a Georgetown construction and development consultant was too busy to allow him to think about running.
Now that work has slowed down, though, Clements said he wants to serve the city he and his wife, Ede, permanently moved to in 2018.
Petition candidates cannot be listed on the ballot under a party, according to the Georgetown County elections office, so while Clements identifies as a Republican, that will not be reflected on the ballot.
What inspired Clements to run for Georgetown city council is his concerns for the city’s future growth.
“My concern is not necessarily the lack of growth, but when it does grow, we will not all grow, and by that I mean there are underserved communities, like the West End that we talk about all the time ... that aren’t getting attention,” Clements said.
While Clements said there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the medley of issues in the West End, there needs to be an effort to find those solutions now rather than waiting for what Clements said was the inevitable purchase of Liberty Steel.
Tupelo Humes was first elected to council in 2018 with little political experience and not much of a partisan platform, which he said was purposeful. He wanted to be a councilman for the people, not the advancement of his own agenda, and Humes is running for reelection to continue that practice.
While on council, Humes said he is most proud of his contributions to add more housing around the city and to approve grants to alleviate flooding on the West End and Front Street. Humes considers himself a transparent, easy to reach and supportive member of council who listens to residents and more experienced councilmembers on certain issues.
“No one councilmember can get anything done without the support of others,” Humes said.
If reelected, Humes said a main focus of the council should be creating plans for Liberty Steel. A former employee of Liberty, Humes said he supports the factory either way, but that the city must have a plan for what will be used for if it is not reopened.
Humes said he would like to see the land used for various types of economic development if a closure occurs. While he suggested leisurely and light industry as possibilities, he said ultimately it is up to the people and council to work together to figure out the best course of action.
Ronald McInnis ran against current city councilman Jonathan Angner this spring. Though he lost that time, he is running again to further his advocacy for the youth of Georgetown.
McInnis is a pastor at Mount Olive AME Church in Myrtle Beach and a program coordinator with Helping Hands of Georgetown County, a nonprofit focused on youth empowerment. Though his Spring campaign generally was geared towards making Georgetown better for future generations, this election he is focusing more on creating plans for the West End and investing in housing in the city.
“The West End of Georgetown, that’s where you’ll find most of your dilapidated houses, that’s where you’ll find most of the streets with the potholes and with the sidewalks in need of repair, so having a clear vision … on how we are going to revitalize that area (is important),” McInnis said.
The city also needs to ensure that businesses it’s incentivizing to come to Georgetown are able to pay employees living wages, McInnis said.
“Georgetown has grown because of the organizations that I am part of and me specifically as a career coach going out, making relationships with the industry in Georgetown and asking them what their needs were … and letting (them) know what our employees need,” McInnis said.
Coastal Asphalt salesman Jimmy Morris and his family moved from Sumter into Georgetown's historic district in the early 2000s, though he is originally from the upper part of Georgetown County.
Prior to the move, Morris was a teacher and football coach at Lakewood High School, and this experience inspires his goal of prioritizing education in Georgetown.
If the city better used an apprenticeship program Horry Georgetown Technical College has, Morris said, it could pair students with local businesses and industries to combat the brain drain the city has seen in recent years.
Though Morris has never held public office, he was inspired to run for city council by his daughters.
"I want for them to be able to call it home and have a place to come back to, and not have it wind up being a ghost town or a failed town, because it is a nice and beautiful place to live," Morris said.
If elected, Morris would focus on balancing the city budget and rebuilding flooding infrastructure. The city has to be more proactive, he said, in fixing flooding issues so they don't become unrepairable.
Making his political debut with this campaign, Dennzon Winley returned to his hometown in 2020 after several years working and studying in places such as Sierra Leone and France.
While he is the youngest Democrat running for city council, Winley believes his age and fresh ideas are what sets him apart from his opponents.
“We need to break the political gridlock here, and that’s only done when you infuse younger ideas and you have younger candidates running who offer a fresher perspective on things,” Winley said.
Among his ideas is establishing plans for what he says is the inevitable closure of Liberty Steel. To avoid gentrification of the area by both public and private sectors, Winley wants to see the area transformed into a research and development hub that employs young and local professionals.
Overall, Winley hopes to make inclusive decisions to allow for shared community benefits if elected to city council.
“We’re going to make sure things are much more inclusive, and communities that were traditionally planted here, for decades or even centuries, are not moved for the benefit of the market,” Winley said.