Grand Strand

Fraternal Order of Police welcomes Gardner's apparent election

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) - A group that represents police officers welcomes the apparent election of a new Horry County council chair.

The elections department for Horry County counted more votes Wednesday, after saying all precincts had reported in Tuesday night's Republican primary. As of the added count, attorney Johnny Gardner still leads by about 200 votes over incumbent Mark Lazarus.

The Fraternal Order of Police's leader says he's happy with Gardner's apparent victory.

"The citizens of Horry County realized that public safety has issues," said FOP national president Chuck Canterbury.

Canterbury says he hopes Gardner's apparent election as chair will lead to higher salaries for police.

"The attrition rate is over 30 percent, which means that officers just are not staying," he said. "They're getting trained and certified, and they're going somewhere else."

The FOP endorsed Gardner in May, along with the South Carolina Firefighters Association.

After his apparent win Tuesday night, Gardner said improving the county's public safety has been his top priority.

"We want to make Horry County safe again," said Gardner. "We said it from the very beginning and it's resonated with the voters."

Canterbury says he thinks Lazarus lost votes in Tuesday's primary after he called some police and firefighters "union thugs" at a recent meeting in the Burgess community.

"I think it showed that Mark lacks some leadership qualities and (has) an arrogance about frustrated employees," Canterbury said.

Canterbury also says he wants discussions between police and the county to improve, as Gardner promised to be more available when the FOP endorsed him.

"I hope that he'll appoint a public safety committee in January that will want to sit down with the rank and file and management, see what the issues are, and then try to work together to make Horry County a better place to work," said Canterbury.

The Horry County professional firefighters union says it doesn't want to comment until the final results are out.

The votes will be certified during a hearing Thursday morning and a recount will be held on Friday.

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