Newcomers to the area may not be familiar with Myrtle Beach’s Council-Manager form of government, but it’s one of three forms allowed for cities and towns in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach voters overwhelmingly adopted the Council-Manager form in November 1973. The margin of vote was four-to-one, and the change took effect in 1976.
Under the Council-Manager form, City Council makes laws and determines the policy and direction of municipal government, with each Council member having one vote. In Myrtle Beach, City Council is composed of a non-partisan mayor, who serves as the presiding officer, and six non-partisan Council members. All seven are elected at-large to four-year terms in staggered, biennial elections.
The Council-Manager form requires that Council hire a city manager who is responsible for day-to-day operations of the city and its staff. Council also appoints the city attorney and municipal judges, but the remaining city employees all report directly to the manager or his department heads. Myrtle Beach currently has more than 900 full-time staff members and another 150 or so part-time or temporary staff members, depending on the season.
The City of Myrtle Beach is both a public agency and a multi-million dollar corporation offering a diverse line of services. In essence, City Council is the board of directors of this corporation, the city manager literally is the chief executive officer, and the citizens are its stockholders and customers. The city’s annual budget totals $190.6 million for fiscal year 2017-18, which began July 1.
Residents and visitors in Myrtle Beach receive traditional municipal services, such as police and fire protection, recreation programs and facilities, residential solid waste and recycling collection, maintenance of public parks and rights-of-way, public works, street maintenance, planning, zoning and building code enforcement. The city also maintains 10 miles of beach for the public’s enjoyment.
Beyond these services, the city owns and operates the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, Chapin Memorial Library, the Myrtle Beach Train Depot, the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center, the Grand Park Athletic Complex and a number of smaller parks. The city also owns Whispering Pines Golf Course, the F.G. Burroughs-S.B. Chapin Art Museum, the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, the Grand Strand Humane Society, the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel and 70 percent of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ stadium.
The other two forms of municipal government allowed in South Carolina are the Mayor-Council form and the Council form. In the Mayor-Council form, also known as the “strong mayor” form, the mayor is responsible to City Council and serves as both the presiding officer and chief administrator, although Council can choose to hire a professional administrator.
In the Council form, also known as the “weak mayor” form, power is vested in the Council, which acts as a collective body to govern the municipality. The Council can choose to hire an administrator in this form, too. The Council-Manager form has a more defined separation of powers than either of the other two forms.