Inside Interview: Rep. Murrell Smith

Hailing from Sumter, State Rep. Murrell Smith has been in the House since 2000. Raised in the Pee Dee region, Smith is an attorney, owns a couple of other businesses - a Wild Wing Cafe and a medical supply company - and is active in a number of local boards and community organizations as well.

This is one seriously busy guy, so we appeciate his taking us up on our invitation to do an Inside Interview. Let's see what he has to say for himself:

1) Tell us how you got into politics.

I have always been interested in politics. Building on this interest is the opportunity I had to get to know Ms. Constance Antonson while at Wofford College. I housesat during the summers for Ms. Antonson and during this period her passion for conservative politics spread to me. She was a professor of Humanities at Wofford and became actively involved in the Republican Party from Goldwater forward. She helped with the George Bush campaign in 1988 while I was housesitting, was elected National republican Woman of the Year in the early ‘70s, and helped lead the charge at the 1976 Republican Convention, which almost resulted in Reagan being nominated over Gerald Ford. She inspired me to get involved in politics through her actions. Through her, I started working on state level campaigns while in college. She also sent me to the Young Americans Foundation Conservative Orientation Seminar in Valley Forge for ten days one summer. I spent those ten days listening and learning from conservative speakers from throughout the country. Next, fast forward to 1994 when I worked on Jeff Young’s Campaign for House. Jeff approached me in 2000 to tell me the incumbent for my house district was not running again, Jeff asked me to run. I ran and won my seat.

2) What issues do you see as priorities for yourself and your district this year?

Obviously the economy, unemployment, reduction in spending. From a larger perspective, I want to look at the stimulus package and try to avoid the traps it may be creating for our future. These traps would be the future obligations that will continue beyond the allocated stimulus money.

  • Crime- I want to look into meaningful reform to the state criminal justice system and not into those “quick political” fixes. I have been appointed vice chairman of the Criminal Sentencing Task Force, and its goal is to do a top to bottom review of the criminal justice system. This is important not only to the state but also to Sumter because of its increasing crime rates.
  • On the local level, the Sumter Delegation consolidated the two Sumter County school districts into one last year. I hope this brings efficiency, accountability, and increased opportunities to students in Sumter County. A last stand of one of the school districts against consolidation was an attempt to construct a $3.5 million administrative building for a district that will only be in existence two more years. I, with the rest of the delegation, worked hard to prevent the construction of the building. Last week, a committee created and appointed by the delegation voted against the construction of the building. This signifies a true victory for the taxpayers of Sumter County. It is my hope that the laying to rest of the building will allow the committee’s and the delegation’s focus to shift to that of the success of the consolidated school district.

3) What issues would you like to see receive greater attention?

  • Zero Base Budgeting - until we embrace this concept we are not able to produce any meaningful budget reform in South Carolina.
  • Restructuring - Governor Sanford has brought this issue to attention, and I wish that that the Legislature would take a more proactive approach to moving towards this reform. Restructuring would lead to more efficiency and accountability in government. It would also help bring the state government into the 21st century.
  • Department of Corrections - I think more attention needs to be brought to the funding and overcrowding of the SCDC. Jon Ozmint is currently running one of the most efficient corrections systems in the nation and we continually ask him to do more with less. We continue to approve and allow them to run deficits due to the incarceration of more people while not providing the department with adequate funds for the prisons. SCDC needs to be fully funded or we need to look into alternative criminal sentencing options. We need to continue to incarcerate violent offenders but need to look into alternatives for nonviolent offenders such as drug courts, mental health courts and other alternative sentencing options. These alternatives can provide a form of rehabilitation and a second chance at life for nonviolent offenders. If they fail to rehabilitate through these mechanisms, however, then they must return to prison.

4) You live in a region which is well-known for BBQ. Got any recommendations for us?

McCabe’s BBQ in Clarendon County- hands down. I do represent a portion of Clarendon County so I am still on home turf here. Next, we (Sumter) have a small BBQ place run outside of a man’s home, Maple’s BBQ. It is truly one of the best-kept BBQ secrets in Sumter County. I also have a liking for Ward’s hash- also found in Sumter. When I venture outside of Sumter or Clarendon County, I cannot pass up a trip to Brown’s BBQ in Kingstree.

5) What are your thoughts about new media, such as bloggers?

Bloggers have created an added dimension to news sources across not only South Carolina but also the nation, and have brought much transparency to state politics, which is always good for the system. It has broadened the scope of news media, as a whole, from the state house in ways that are good, bad, and ugly. It has created a heightened scrutiny for those of us who serve. I always say, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” I believe that blogs have brought a lot of sunshine to the state house, which can only be positive for the state.

6) What are you looking most forward to this session?

Surprisingly, this is not a political answer. While I am excited about all events and issues going on at the Statehouse this Session, the event I am looking most forward to, first and foremost, is the birth of my first child, a little girl, at the end of April!

5 Response to "Inside Interview: Rep. Murrell Smith"

  1. William J. Thrower 26/3/09 10:15
    I have gotten to know Murrell over the last few years. He is an asset to South Carolina as a keenly pragmatic legislator and an extremely good lawyer.
  2. June Brailsford 26/3/09 15:47
    Thanks Earl for an excellent interview. Murrell represents a small portion of Clarendon County and we are glad to him. Ditto Mr. Thrower who stated, "he is an asset to South Carolina,etc." I don't agree with Murrell on one small know what that is Earl. I also wish he and MaCaulay the best with their little "angel".
  3. Moye 26/3/09 16:28
    I know Murrell and he is one good legislator. I really should turn him on to some good BBQ.
  4. Becky 26/3/09 21:31
    Great interview! I served wth Murrell and you won't find a more dedicated public servant - we're in good hands with people like Murrell in the Statehouse.
  5. Anonymous 26/3/09 22:01
    This is a great guy and a great representative. I'm glad to support him.

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