CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The new Horry County Public Safety Administrator has been on the job for about a week now.
Joe Huffman comes into the position after lawsuits were filed against the Horry County Police Department, several officers were indicted on misconduct in office charges, police officers ask for higher pay, and 911 operators and Horry County Fire Rescue battle problems with retention.
Huffman says he’s served nearly 30 years in local government. He’s worked as a city manager for multiple municipalities and as a corrections officer and sergeant in North Carolina and says he’s prepared to tackle any and every challenge in Horry County.
“I see a lot of opportunities, a lot of challenges,” said Huffman as he sat down with News13 to reflect on his first week in Horry County.
“I recognize that the bar is high. I appreciate and respect that and that’s actually part of the reason I came here. I would not have been as interested if I didn’t think that professionalism existed,” said Huffman.
He comes into the position after a lot of attention has been placed on public safety because of retention rates with police, fire, EMS, and dispatchers.
“If we’ve got situations where we’re losing people, obviously we need to take a look at that. I’ve not seen that data yet,” said Huffman.
Huffman says he plans to look into work environments and pay to find ways to keep people with the county.
We asked if he believed Horry County police officers should get an increase in pay after the president of the Fraternal Order of Police told us it was needed to keep people safe.
“What I need to do right now is to collect more data, you know, I have heard the stories and the news reports, and I need to see what that looks like. I’ve not seen a pay in class study conducted yet. So, I really need to operate from a point of knowledge and get that data,” said Huffman.
He says he was out with first responders this past weekend for Memorial Day weekend and he saw how hard every person involved in public safety worked to make the event safe, and he’s up for any challenge his departments may face.
“I’ve worked in local government since 1990, before that, I worked in state government. I’ve basically ridden every bull in the pens. I understand what I’m getting into, and I’m not flinching,” said Huffman.
Huffman also said he’s confident Horry County Council has done and will do everything to treat employees well and support public safety.
He says his major goal right now is to get out into the community and to each of the individual departments he oversees to hear from employees and better understand their needs.
“I think that’s probably the most important thing. If people don’t understand that you consider yourself part of it, then you don’t have any respect. I think you’ve got to first establish you’re interested, you care, you want to do a good job, you want to make their lives better and the citizens of Horry County safe,” said Huffman.