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Election 2012: Vacancy in little known office draws three candidates

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County will have a new auditor taking office next July 1.

Linda Mock decided not to seek re-election and has endorsed a member of her staff, Kathy Harrelson, as her successor.

Harrelson and Rod Stalvey, both petition candidates from Georgetown, are running against Republican Brian Shult of the Pawleys Island area in next Tuesday’s election.

Harrelson has been with the auditor’s office for seven years after a career in the health-care industry.

Mock called Harrelson “the best candidate for the job” in her endorsement.

“Kathy knows the responsibilities, demands and statutes which must be enforced,” Mock said. “She shows compassion, demonstrates problem-solving and helps move the office forward each day.

“A political label does not make the candidate. Experience and ability do.”

That reference to a political label is a signal that Harrelson is neither a Democrat nor a Republican on the ballot. As petition candidates, neither she nor Stalvey will get any straight-party votes.

Shult was one of the few political newcomers to file a Statement of Economic Interest correctly and not be disqualified earlier this year. He helped fellow Republicans Tammie Avant, candidate for clerk of court; Mike Andrews, treasurer; and Stalvey get some of the signatures they needed to become petition candidates.

“They were all kicked off without due process,” Shult said. “They deserved to get back on the ballot whether it’s to my advantage or not.”

Andrews accepted a job in private business and dropped out of the treasurer’s race, leaving incumbent Loretta Washington-Cooper unopposed. Stalvey, who has campaigned as a business-friendly Republican angry about his taxes, could divide the conservative vote.

Shult has campaigned relentlessly, offering praise for Mock while suggesting he would bring better management practices to the office.

“I’m qualified for the job,” he said. “I don’t like what the culture of government has become over the last two decades. I want to get in government to see if I can remedy some of the deficiencies in the system.”

Shult says his business background — he’s owned companies in Texas and Vermont — will allow him to improve service.

“It’s all service,” he said. “In business you’re selling a product or service so people come to you. The auditor’s office is not like that. People are compelled to come to you by the county. In that regard, I think they deserve more customer service than anybody else, so I’m going to insist on superb customer service, accountability and consistency. I’ll bring business knowledge and business practices into the auditor’s office.”

Stalvey says he will stop Mock’s practice of taxing boats at marinas and cars of county residents that are still registered out of state.

“Horry County’s auditor welcomes boats,” Stalvey said. “We shouldn’t be in the business of chasing good business off. I’ll put a quietus to it. And the same thing goes for airplanes. The auditor is part of the county’s welcome mat, and this is not the time to raise taxes or be business unfriendly.”

Harrelson said she was shocked the night Mock told her she was not seeking re-election. She had promised never to run against her boss. “I didn’t know how to react,” she said. “Linda has worked hard to get us where we are,” Harrelson said. “I am grateful to have worked beside her. I will try to keep the pace she has set.”

Harrelson said she has gotten to know the county while campaigning. “People want to know that somebody cares and is compassionate,” she said. “When they know your heart and what you’re about, they can trust you with an elected position.”

To learn more about Tuesday’s election, there is a sample ballot online.

To check your voter registration information, go to the state Election Commission website.

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