Wednesday’s editorial eulogizes David Brittain, who worked hard for the well-being of Myrtle Beach with quiet civility:
Last April, three men sat down at a conference table in the publisher’s office of The Sun News for a meeting with the editorial board. Two, a former Myrtle Beach city manager and former city planner, were there to argue vociferously against the new digital billboards under consideration by the current City Council.
The third, David Brittain, said far less than the men he came with, though he in fact had more at stake. Brittain’s family businesses – resorts, golf courses and the Sea Captain’s House restaurant – could easily afford the most expensive digital signs on Ocean Boulevard, but that’s not what Brittain wanted. His personal preference was for the city to retain its quiet, static signage ordinance enacted years before to clean up the Grand Strand’s visual clutter.
But Brittain wasn’t really in our offices to argue against the signs, either. His primary concern, he told us, was that the signs were close to approval but had received very little attention in the media, including our newspaper. People needed to think about the issue, Brittain said, regardless of what opinion they finally formed, and he was asking us to consider presenting it in an editorial.
This wasn’t the most significant community issue Brittain ever raised with us, but it was the last one before his untimely death Saturday at age 54, which is why it seems so poignant now. Brittain’s approach that day was illustrative of the leadership style that earned him so much respect among his peers: He was passionate without being confrontational, deeply concerned about issues of public policy on their own merits, and above all completely committed to the betterment of Myrtle Beach.
Brittain was involved in nearly every aspect of Myrtle Beach life. The family businesses he helped expand – including Breakers, Long Bay and Ocean Reef resorts, and Myrtle Beach National, Kings North and Long Bay golf courses – are area landmarks. Likewise, he contributed either his time and wisdom or his money to civic and charitable causes that also affect many Grand Strand residents: the United Way, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dunes Club, the Boy Scouts, his church and a homeless shelter.
“You don’t replace a David Brittain,” Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Brad Dean told The Sun News this week. “You only hope to build on what they leave behind.”
Brittain’s legacy of business success and public service will indeed be hard to follow, but just as important a memory for our community – so quick to divide itself – should be his graceful temperament. His restraint, his studiousness (Brittain could often be found attending detailed lectures on specific points of public policy) and his desire to promote public discussion of the issues all suggest a fundamental belief that we can disagree without being at war, that perhaps our disagreements, discussed and debated in good faith, will ultimately produce the best outcomes for our community.
Brittain’s advocacy on behalf of some of his beliefs more controversial than signage have led to strong opinions about him in our still-divided community. As long as we can discuss those viewpoints civilly, debating their merits without denigrating one another, those differences of opinion would have likely been just fine with him.