‘More than just race’: Myrtle Beach’s newly hired diversity director ready to tackle new role

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The city of Myrtle Beach will soon have a new director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The city announced on Tuesday that former Georgetown Police Chief Kelvin Waites will fill the position starting on July 1. The move is a part of a settlement the city reached with the NAACP after a jury found that the city’s traffic plans for Black Bike Week were racially motivated.

More than 24 years working in law enforcement on the Grand Strand and four years of service in the U.S. Army unknowingly prepared him for the role, Waites said.

“A part of my job is — will be to help people understand within our workforce and the community that diversity is so much more than just race,” Waites said.

He said his plans to dig deeper into understanding and overcoming implicit bias in the community start with an open heart and a conversation.

“I think it’s important for the diverse community that we have to look at each individual — for each individual to look in the mirror and try to put themselves and see a different perspective,” Waites said.

In addition to the new role, the city also agreed to pay $50,000 to the NAACP and to hire traffic-safety and public-safety experts to make recommendations for future Black Bike Week plans.

“Educating the community on what diversity really means it’s so much broader than what some think that it is,” Mayor Brenda Bethune said on Tuesday.

[Diversity is] “gender, veteran status, disabilities, race, a way of thinking,” Waites said. “Equity involves making sure that everyone has the tools that they need in order to be successful in order to win. Inclusion is simply, from my perspective, is making sure that everyone has a voice.”

Although his first day on the job isn’t until July, Waite tells News13 he’s already meeting directly with city leaders to build better relationships with tourists and residents.

“People talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion — sometimes people get nervous, and sometimes people don’t understand it,” Waites said. “And they kind of wonder, ‘okay what’s this all about?’ So, I’ve been spending time with the directors really helping them to understand my responsibilities.”

News13 reached out to Mickey James with the NAACP about the new role. We are waiting to hear back.

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