Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts

Melissa Emery, Family Court candidate - Seat Five

In the first few weeks of this year's legislative session, this race to fill a number of state judicial seats will be at the top of the agenda of our state’s legislators. 

We at the Blogland believe our state’s judicial selection process is too hidden from the public eye, and that a little transparency is long overdue. To help shed a little light on this somewhat-shadowy process for the benefit of our readers, we ask those seeking upcoming judicial seats to answer a few questions - and appreciate those who respond.

Melissa Emery, a Pee Dee native and an attorney from Myrtle Beach, is seeking the Seat Five At-Large Family Court seat. The first in her family to get through college, she’s a proud Francis Marion alum who is nearing her tenth year as a member of its board. A graduate of USC Law School, Ms. Emery has been practicing law for eighteen years, with much of her practice time spent in family law.

Now, we’d like for our readers to meet Ms. Emery:

Inside Interview: State Senator Tom Davis

Beaufort Senator Tom Davis may be wrapping up his first year in the Senate, but he’s no newcomer to state politics. He served as Chief of Staff for Governor Sanford, returning to Beaufort to defeat Senator Catherine Ceips in one of last year’s most high-profile legislative races.

We have to give the guy credit. Even though the Blogland has been no friend to Governor Sanford, Davis' former employer, he reached out to us quickly after winning his Senate race in the summer of last year.

A fellow Catholic, he’s an attorney by profession who lives in Beaufort with his wife and their three daughters. He even met with yours truly and my daughter Bonnie for lunch recently and agreed to answer a few questions to help our readers learn a little bit more about him:

Between a law practice, family, handling constituent issues in such a widespread district, as well as legislative business in Columbia, how do you work to keep all these things in balance?

Well, the honest answer is that right now I don’t have them in balance, as my wife and law partners will attest. The State Senate will absorb all your time if you let it, and so far I pretty much have. As an attorney it is my practice to read and study every single document that comes before me prior to taking any action, and I’ve carried this habit with me to the State Senate – reading and then asking questions about every bill that comes before me, whether in subcommittee, committee or on in the chamber. So that takes up pretty much all my time during the legislative session (January to June). And this past summer, while session was out, I spent on average about three nights a week giving talks, attending community events, etc. , and about three hours during the day handling constituent issues or working on initiatives important to my constituents (for example, the new ocean terminal being planned for Jasper County). My resolution for the New Year is to budget my time better so that I can spend more time with my family and practicing law.

What’s the biggest issue affecting your part of the state, and how can this be addressed (and/or how is it being addressed)?

The EFA funding formula for public education really hammers Beaufort County. Last year we paid $134 million in taxes that went into the EFA reallocation bucket and got nothing back – all of our tax dollars went elsewhere. No other county in the state received zero in EFA funds. The EFA funding formula is broken, primarily because other areas of the state have "gamed" the system to take their industrial property tax base off their assessment roles and out of the fund reallocation formula. Problem is, the money the state allocates for public education is fixed, which means that for every EFA dollar our county is able to get, some other area (or combination of areas) in the state will get one dollar less. So legislators from areas who benefit from the current formula dig their heels in, regardless of the inequity. As state senator for Beaufort County, it is my job to get this thing fixed, and I need to advance every single possible legal argument and to make every single policy argument and to develop every single alliance with other legislators that I can. Other counties are also shafted by the EFA formula (though not as much as Beaufort County is). If I can get legislators from those other counties – Charleston and Horry, for example – to realize that this unfair formula shortchanges their constituents millions of dollars, perhaps a change can be leveraged. I know I can do it alone; I need allies.

You crossed over from an executive role in state government to a legislative role. What are some of the biggest differences, and how have you dealt with those changes?

In the executive branch, you’re always being forced to make quick decisions and you almost always in a “reactive” mode; problems arise that have to be dealt with immediately. In the legislative branch, there is the opportunity to think more strategically and proactively; the work is more methodical, incremental, collaborative and deliberative. Or to put the difference another way, in the executive branch the work comes to you – you are forced to deal with incoming – and in the legislative branch you “choose” what to spend your time on – education or Medicaid or tort reform, etc. – based on your assessment of what is in the public’s best interest.

What’s an issue or two that you plan to be heavily involved in next year’s session?

Well, first would be the EFA funding formula. But a very close second would be reforming how we tax as a state. Our tax code has 112 sales tax loopholes. There is no rhyme or reason to these tax breaks; they range from portable toilet rentals to time shares, newspapers to direct mail postage, amusement park machinery to manufactured housing. It makes no sense to have a tax system that encourages private parties to fight over obtaining public favors. When it becomes profitable for them to put time and money into lobbying politicians for favors, then that is precisely what they will do. The bottom line is that no South Carolinian should get special treatment at the expense of another and all special sales tax breaks to expire by a certain date unless a new law is passed to keep them. Some exemptions, such as the one on grocery sales, make sense and are broad-based. But since the 112 special tax breaks represent about $2.5 billion annually, closing even a fraction of them would result in a huge revenue increase. That new revenue should then be used to lower the state sales tax and the state income tax across the board so that everyone pays lower taxes, not just the politically connected. Lower taxes for everyone promotes free market entrepreneurship and discovery – the true sources of prosperity. That new revenue should under no circumstance, however, be used to increase state spending. Yes, there have been substantial budget cuts in the past two years, but state government spending grew by 41 percent in the four years prior. State government has enough money to discharge core functions if it is forced – as private households are – to spend wisely.

I also need to make sure the new ocean terminal being planned for Jasper County stays on track. Geographically, the Jasper County site has everything working in its favor. It is much closer to the ocean than Savannah’s terminal. It is also close to an excellent system of interstate highways and it is accessible by rail. And it is a surrounded by thousands of undeveloped acres that could easily support maritime and commercially related infrastructure. Moreover, South Carolina and Georgia have recognized that each has the power to stop the other’s independent development of the terminal – the South Carolina legislature even made a cooperative effort part of state law. And working together the two states have made impressive strides. Lawsuits have been dismissed, title to the port site has been conveyed by Georgia to a bi-state partnership and engineering for the terminal is underway. But there are a few legislators in South Carolina who now want to undo that state policy, believing that building a new port in Jasper County is a zero-sum game – that gains there do mean losses for the port in Charleston. That is wrong and short sighted: market studies show that over the next 15 to 20 years, shippers will need our region to annually handle millions of TEUs (“twenty-foot equivalency units,” or shipping boxes) that the ports in Charleston and Savannah are not large enough to handle. A new port in Jasper County could meet this surplus demand. If South Carolina and Georgia continue to work together, our region will become the most powerful shipping entry point on the East coast. And if we fail to build the new port, of course, the projected unmet demand, and the economic benefits of meeting it, will go elsewhere (most likely to the port in Norfolk).

Tell our readers about an interesting, but often-overlooked, place - or two - in your district that is well worth their time to visit.

Daufuskie Island is incredible. You can only get there by boat, so that’s why it’s often overlooked. On the boat ride over you see dolphins everywhere; it’s truly amazing. There are very few cars or paved roads on the island, and being there is like stepping back in time. And since there are only about 430 permanent residents, everybody knows everyone. If you’re ever in the Lowcountry, definitely make the time for a visit.

Inside Intervew: State Senator Larry Martin

This year, Republican Senator Larry Martin marks his 30th year of legislative service. Beginning his career in the House, he was elected to the Senate in 1992. Representing Pickens County, where he grew up, in the Senate, he chairs Rules Committee.

Recently, he agreed to do a little Q&A for our readers, so we threw a few questions his way, and here’s what he had to say back:

Thirty years is a long time in state politics, and a lot has changed. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen and how do you feel about them?

The biggest change in the Legislature and in state politics since the late 1970’s has been the rise of the Republican Party. Some Republicans today question the sincerity of party switchers like me that began their involvement in politics in the 1970s as Democrats. But, that was practically the only game in town when I began. Conservatives were widely involved in the Democratic Party at the state and local level but that substantively changed in the 1980s and forward.

Another big change that has occurred is that our state’s economy is much more diversified than it was thirty years ago. Also, our higher educational system, particularly the research institutions, is contributing more to our state’s economy as is our technical education system. We’re also seeing a record numbers of students enrolled in higher education, particularly in our technical colleges. This bodes well for our future.

What’s an issue or two which are important to you, and what would you like to see done about them?

I’m once again sponsoring the tort reform legislation, and that’s a very important bill for the coming session and for South Carolina’s economic competitiveness. Also, I’m hopeful that the TRAC Commission will produce some meaningful recommendations that will enable us to enact a more balanced tax structure for the state.

Your career has been in manufacturing management in the textile industry, an industry which was once the bread-and-butter of the Upstate. What is the future of this industry in the Upstate?

A smaller textile industry presence will continue in the Upstate. It’s a tough, international environment that we face in competing with countries that don’t always play by the same rules we do. I also happen to believe that more than the remaining jobs in our domestic textile industry is at stake in discussing the industry’s health; it is vital to our national security that we maintain the capacity to produce fabric for a wide array of uses, particularly for defense, health care, etc.

After so many years serving in Columbia, do you have any plans to hang it up and retire in the near future?

It was never a goal of mine to serve a long time in the Legislature, and it has my policy not to make any plans beyond the next election cycle. The people of Pickens County have been extremely supportive and kind as evidenced by the support that I received in last year’s primary. Although the 2012 election cycle is three years away, I’m pretty confident that I’ll run again. I’m very involved in the day to day operation of the Senate and enjoy serving my constituency on a personal level. So, I’d like to continue to use what little influence I might have attained to make the process work for the betterment of our state and for the folks that I’m privileged to represent.

Inside Intervew: House Speaker Bobby Harrell

House District 114 covers a lot of historic ground in the Lowcountry. As the current House Speaker, District 114’s State Rep. Bobby Harrell has the chance to make his own mark on state history. Representing the district since 1992, he worked his way to the top, serving as House Majority Leader and Chairman of Ways and Means before becoming Speaker four years ago when former Rep. David Wilkins decided to accept an ambassadorship to Canada. Recently, he agreed to chat with the Blogland, so we threw a few questions his way.

What got you into politics?

I love South Carolina. I want to make a difference. I told my wife, Cathy, for years that I did not like what I saw happening in our government. One night at dinner, she told me to either stop complaining about it or go do something about it. Shortly after that some friends approached me and asked me to run for the State House. I told Cathy and she said,”I told you so.” She always has been ahead of me on the politics of the moment. We talked about the effect it would have on our family. We prayed about it. We talked to more friends to ask their opinion. Then, we decided to do it.

I say “we” because Cathy and I have always been a team, and she has always been my most important political advisor.

We announced I was going to run and then a funny thing happened. About a week later, we found out that she was pregnant with our daughter. So, we went through our first campaign (which was difficult because neither of us anticipated how negative a campaign can be) and we went through a pregnancy at the same time. Our son, Trey was nine years old.

She allowed us to take a family picture in the nursery at our home four days after Charlotte was born and send that picture out on a brochure to households all over the district. She was sitting and holding Charlotte, and they were both beautiful. Trey and I were standing there as proud brother and daddy. I’m not sure how many wives would allow a picture of themselves to be sent out to thousands of people four days after having a baby. If anyone ever needed proof of what a great wife she is, that pretty much sums it up.

Name three current or former politicians who’ve had major influences upon you, and for each of them, give us a sentence or two to explain.

Ronald Reagan- He showed us that you can be conservative without being mean. Because he had this wonderful trait, he had a huge positive effect on our country. Joe Scarborough explains this best in his book, The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in restoring conservative values to America.

Carroll Campbell- When he was Governor, he understood what South Carolina needed to do to be a dominant force in economic development. Some of his original staff told me that right after his first inauguration, he gathered them all together and told them that his administration would be all about growing South Carolina’s economy. Because of his efforts, that were continued by David Beasley, we got to the point that our unemployment rate became the third best in the country. I miss him terribly. We could use his leadership today.

Strom Thurmond- He was the best at helping people get through the red tape of government that I have ever seen. One of my favorite things about my job is the ability to help people who are not being treated right by some government agency. Senator Thurmond taught me, by his example, that people need their elected representatives to be their advocate in government, not only on the legislative level, but sometimes on a personal level.

A constituent of mine had received a ticket for not having her insurance card with her and even though she could prove she had coverage, she could not get anyone at DMV to listen. Her husband was in the Persian Gulf at the time. She called me one night in tears. The next day, I was able to get someone from DMV to simply listen to her, and after seeing her proof of coverage, they fixed the problem. She was in the right, but no one in authority would listen.

Senator Thurmond was immensely popular because he understood that people needed him to be more than just their Senator in Washington. I think that is something everyone in elected office needs to understand.

What do you see as the top priorities for the State House in the upcoming year?

The economy is the most important issue facing us. We have to get back focused as a state on the recruitment of business and industry to our state. We have to change the Employment Security Commission from a check writing agency to a job placement agency. The economy of our state has changed. Manufacturing, agriculture and tourism are still very important, but the knowledge based economy has shown great potential for growing our economy and per capita income in South Carolina.

Education is incredibly important for us to grow the economy. K-12 education (particularly K-3) needs to focus on the basics, most of all reading. This is the most serious problem facing our secondary education system and leads to dropouts more than anything else. I hope we can do something to deal with this particular problem this year. I don’t believe it’s a money problem, and hopefully, since we don’t have any this year, we can get our schools focused on the problem and make the systemic changes that are needed.

You told the Charleston Post and Courier that “People in this state are taxed enough. We don't need to increase the burden, so we need to prioritize with the money that's available.” What are some budget priorities you’d like to see established?

This question brings us to another important issue facing our state and that is that we must cut the budget where necessary to stay balanced. The pressure to raise taxes to deal with the budget shortfall will be bigger this year than it has ever been. We cut our state budget last year by over a billion dollars. It went from over $7 billion to less than $6 billion. North Carolina raised taxes last year by almost a billion dollars. Raising taxes in a down economy is the worst thing you can do to slow down the recovery. It is crucial that we beat back any efforts to raise taxes, and that government live within its means. The priorities of that budget must be the economy and education.

In addition to being the Speaker of the House of Representatives, you are also the Mayor of Importantville. Isn’t dual office holding forbidden in South Carolina?

From what I have been told, some people believe it is the same office. That would keep it from being dual office holding. Besides, there will likely be other constitutional issues discussed this year that are a lot more important. I want to make sure that from both offices, I do my best to keep us focused on doing the things necessary to move our state forward.

Inside Interview: Rep. Anton Gunn

One of the least low-key of the large pack of House freshmen is Richland County Representative Anton Gunn. Winning his second bid for House District 79, formerly held by Blogland favorite Bill Cotty, he has made a bit of a splash in Midlands politics. Holding a Master’s in Social Work from USC, where he played football (and looks very much like a football player), Representative Gunn makes his living as the President of Top Gunn Associates (but doesn’t look like Tom Cruise), a public affairs consulting firm.

He’s a regular Blogland reader and has been named one of the “Twitter Caucus”, regularly firing away tweets. From that, we seem to know what he’s doing on a daily basis – so much so, that sometimes we feel like a stalker. A rather outgoing guy, he’s always quick to greet whenever yours truly runs into him around Columbia, so it makes sense that he’d gladly accept an offer to do an Inside Interview.

1) You’ve been active in politics for a while as a policy advocate, and now you’re one of those who makes decisions. What are some of the more notable differences?

Making decisions? I would not call what I do in the House as decision-making. To me decision-making implies that you have definitive control over the agenda. In the House of Representatives, I am not privileged enough to dictate what happens or what issues get put on the agenda. However, I do get the opportunity to vote on issues that are put up by the leadership in the House of Representatives. So, I take my voting responsibility very seriously.

Your second question is about what’s different on this side of the policy table? I think the most notable difference between being a policy advocate and an elected member of the General Assembly is how we reach solutions. As a policy advocate I developed my position on issues by thoughtful discussion with everyone involved and I tried to develop a comprehensive solution that people on all sides could live with. In the House, I don’t get the chance to do that very much. We don’t spend much time discussing comprehensive bi-partisan solutions to common problems. Instead we develop Republican solutions or Democratic solutions, but not South Carolina Solutions. As an advocate, I didn’t get caught up in “the party’s agenda” or sticking together just because “we are in the same party”. Advocates discuss the merits of ideas and policies, it doesn’t matter which party it came from. Ideas aren’t democratic or republican, they are just ideas. They should be debated and supported as such, but in the House it’s not like that most times. There have been good ideas that have been voted down because it came from a member who was in the wrong party. Likewise there were bad ideas that were passed because they came from members who were in the right party.

I am annoyed by all the hyper-partisanship. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I think this is the main reason why we are not having success as a state. I thought we all would have understood that South Carolinians are fed up with the extreme partisanship. They want us to solve our problems together, but we don’t ever take off our “team’s jersey” and talk about issues together. We don’t sit down in meetings and break bread together to discuss the merits and ideas of our political philosophies, to come up with some consensus and principles that we can agree upon. This is what needs to be done to move forward. From there we should then strive to make good public policy. Instead, what happens is we make public policy based upon what the party or the think tank tells us to do.

2) What are some issues that aren’t getting the attention in the State House?

Wow, where do I begin? Let me start with the obvious--Job Creation. We have to address our 2nd in the nation unemployment. I don’t understand why it isn’t a top priority to pursue policy changes that would offer more incentives for small businesses to create new jobs. We also aren’t talking about our woefully inadequate infrastructure (roads, water, sewer and broadband). This infrastructure would help stimulate economic development (attracting large businesses that will bring in new jobs). I think being focused on getting our economy working again is the most important thing we can do for the citizens of our state.

Also, there is some discussion about restructuring government to make it more effective, efficient and accountable, but it’s not nearly at the level it should be. To address the long standing problems of education, health care, economic development we need to change the way our government does business. If there is any time to change how we do business in South Carolina, now is the time. Government restructuring should be higher on our agenda. I could go on and on with other issues that aren’t getting much attention, like the cost of health care, green energy, tax policies, and education reform, but I won’t go there. I could write a dissertation on the subject.

3) We were told that your family and faith are important to you. How do they influence how you approach politics?

My faith and family are what grounds me in my politics. First, my faith is the reason why I am involved in politics. God gives us all a purpose in life, that purpose is to be of service to Him. We execute that service to God through life ministries. Some people have the ministry to preach, teach, write, sing, minister, evangelize or even volunteer. I believe that my purpose in ministry is to serve in government. I believe that we need men and women of God involved our government, not to press our personal religious beliefs on others but to use our faith to be thoughtful and deliberate in our decisions because those decisions will impact His people.

We all should be willing to serve in government, just as we are willing to serve in churches, charities, even the military. So that’s my approach to politics. I take it just as seriously as I would volunteering in church, serving in the armed forces or helping in a nonprofit charitable organization. I see them as equally important. We should be mindful of how important it is for us to do the right things for people in where ever we work.

Second, my family is the lens that I can measure the effectiveness of my service in government. I have a beautiful wife who is a consummate businesswoman, mother and wife. She works very hard handling the day-to-day struggles of the real world; she doesn’t have time for politics or policy issues. She is the average Jane Q. She serves as a good sounding board on issues. I can talk with her about policy issues and she will give me “straight-talk” about how things would play out in her world. Tiffany helps me to see if things make common-sense or are they non-sense. Also, my daughter Ashley is a major influence. She is 4 years old. Every morning I get up, I think about what am I going to do today to make the world better for Ashley when she is my age? What kind of South Carolina do I want Ashley to grow up in? That’s what I think about. Then I think about, what I can do now to make our state better in her future, for all of our children’s future?

Lastly, my parents and my brother’s story influence my politics. My mother was an educator for 30 years. My father was a Naval Officer and is now a veterans’ counselor. One of my brothers, Cherone Gunn was in the United States Navy until he was killed 9 years ago in an Al-Qaeda terror attack aboard the USS Cole. Through his death and my parent’s example I have mastered the qualities of service, sacrifice and leadership. I live these qualities in my personal life. These are qualities that I bring with me into politics. These are the most important qualities, outside of faith in God, that I believe all leaders should have. So my faith and family are essential to my politics. I just think it’s so important.

4) You’re on Twitter, you read blogs – you’re very much a “new media” person. What are some of the big impacts that these technologies have had on how you do politics?

New Media is changing the way politics is being done all over America. These new mediums allow voters and others to see different sides of politics and politicians. In the past, all you learned from politicians were their stances on the issues. And you only learned it from their brochure or their media talking points. Now with New Media like Twitter and Facebook, you can see what are their interests outside of politics. Learning what people do for a living, what kind of music they like, where they shop or eat dinner gives voters and the public a 3-dementional view of the people who represent them. I think it also helps to hold people more accountable because it makes their role in government more transparent. It also allows the public to become active participants in politics. The more people actively get involved in politics the better government we will get. The more inclusive politics becomes the more effective government will be. I appreciate these new mediums because it not only has changed campaign operations, it is changing the governing process. New Media is moving politics from a process of exclusion and seclusion to a process of inclusion, transparency and accountability. That is what I love about New Media.

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!

Inside Interview: Rep. Boyd Brown

From lakefront recreation to lush forests and rolling fields, history-laden State House District 41 encompasses a lot of wonderful country in Chester and Fairfield Counties. There are a lot of nice drives through there - River Road along Lake Wateree, US 321 from Chester to Winnsboro, or SC 34 right across the district - that we'd recommend if you've got free time on a weekend.

Winnsboro was one of the state's first inland towns. General Cornwallis' army wintered there, getting their tails handed to them at Cowpens and Kings' Mountain during that time. Then you have Ridgeway, perhaps the prettiest town in the South. If you miss Mayberry, just head up I-77 to that little town and visit their antique stores, tea room, worlds smallest police station and magnificent homes.

The Brown Family has a long history in Fairfield County, originally hailing from that small town of Ridgeway. Boyd Brown started the Brown's public service file in 1936 when he was elected to the SC House, where he went on to serve as Chairman of the Labor and Commerce industry. When he died at an early age, his son, Walter Brown, took his place before becoming Sinking Fund director (now Budget and Control Board) under Governor Hollings. He went on to serve South Carolina in various positions, before becoming "the state's most influential lobbyist" according to The State newspaper at the time of his death in 1998. His two sons became public servants, one serving as Family Court judge, the other is one of South Carolina's longest serving County Councilmen.

Fairfield County's second Boyd Brown is in his first term in the House, representing District 41 in his great-grandfather and grandfather's old seat. He won Creighton Coleman's old seat with 81% of the vote when Coleman moved up to the Senate. We met him recently at the Carolinas AGC event, and he took us up on the opportunity to be the first House Democrat that we've Inside Interviewed:

At the age of 22, you're the youngest member of the House. How well have you fit in with your fellow legislators? How might this be a different experience at your age than for someone older?

Well, my first day on the job, Thad Viers kept eyeballing me. He finally walked over and said "weren't you a page?" (I was for Creighton in 2005 and Senator Short in 2007) For the first couple of weeks, that was a common misconception, but over time it's beginning to improve. I had to pull out my ID to prove I was a member last week, and another member asked me to make some copies. I don't mind any of this... I'm just a Freshman.

As far as differing experiences for me than someone older, I see where I want to change the direction of this state, where some of the older crowd wants to either a)maintain the status quo, or b)they see this as a cap on their career. Personally, I think Bakari and I are in a neat position of representing not only our constituents, but our generation as well.

You campaigned for Tommy Moore for Governor and interned with Congressman John Spratt - how did these experiences help shape your own political plans?

I've always wanted to be a public servant, and it's kind of come naturally. Working for those two individuals were experiences I'll never forget. They both are known coalition builders who reach across party lines, and as I go forward in my career I hope I can model myself after Chairman Spratt and Tommy. As far as shaping my career, seeing parts of this state where government has failed our citizens really helped kick start my political career. I always wanted to go into politics, but after seeing shoeless children at a cold parade in Burnettown while working for Tommy Moore, I realized it was time for some new blood in Columbia. The next year, Senator Short announced her retirement, Creighton told me he was going to run for that vacancy, so I threw my hat in the ring about a year out... and it paid off.

What are some things that are important for you and your district?

Rural infrastructure, public education, the US Supreme Court case versus North Carolina over water rights... However, the most important issue facing my community and this state are jobs. South Carolina has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the country, heading to 2nd, and we're talking about wait periods for rape victims to have abortions and fusion voting. Are you kidding me?!? I bet 90% of this state can't even tell you what fusion voting is, and the other ten percent is unemployed. So let's keep our eye on the ball and talk about job development and put the tools in place to recruit new industry.

Inside Interview: Senator Joel Lourie

Considered by many to be a rising star in the state Democratic Party, State Senator Joel Lourie is a man to watch. To paraphrase Shakespeare, such men may be considered dangerous, but here in the Blogland, they’re considered darn good subject material.

If he is considered dangerous, there’s good reason for that belief: his political career started by ousting the brother of Attorney General Henry McMaster from what was considered a safe GOP seat, and went to a second level by taking an open Senate seat considered almost as safe for the GOP. Some see him running for statewide office in the not-too-distant future.

When we met Senator Lourie, we found him to be thoughtful, articulate, and darn likeable. He had a solid grasp of the issues of the day, and a clear vision of where he wanted to see the state headed. It’s easy to see how someone like this can win over normally Republican voters, as well as how hard it might be to recruit a viable Republican challenger to his re-election bid.

His family has long ties to the Midlands and the Lowcountry.
His father, Isadore Lourie, spent about two decades in the Senate from Richland County and was a major backer of CofC’s Jewish Studies Center. Not only that, but his family has a broad presence in the history of Charleston, including the Rittenberg family, for whom Sam Rittenberg Boulevard (SC Route 7) was named.

Senator Lourie has the rare honor of being the first Democratic legislator we’ve interviewed, as well as the first member of the Senate from either party, and we’re grateful he was willing to take the time to meet with us and answer a few questions:

1) Your father was a legend in state politics. What are some similar approaches you’ve taken to being a Senator, as well as some different ones?


My mom and dad taught me from an early age that politics should be about bringing people together to solve problems. Both have had tremendous influence on who I am as a person and legislator. My dad taught me through example the importance of working with members of both parties to get things done. I remember in 1984, two of his close friends and Democratic colleagues from Richland County lost their Senate seats to Republicans. Shortly after the election, Dad invited the victors, Senators Warren Giese and John Courson, to his office. He wanted them to know that although they had just defeated his good friends, they all had a responsibility to work together for the betterment of our community and state. He said he would help them in any way possible.

He displayed this same practice of bi-partisanship years later when he went from having an adversarial relationship with Governor Carroll Campbell to one of friendship and mutual respect. This left quite an impression on me as today I enjoy close alliances with members of both parties at the Statehouse.

Regarding our differences, others could speak to this better than me. He was the “real Senator Lourie” and if I accomplish half of what he did, I will have served my state well.


2) Your district, as well as the House seat you previously held, favors Republicans over Democrats in most races. How does holding such a district affect your approach to politics, compared to how those who represent heavily-Democratic or Republican districts might handle legislative affairs?


One thing I have learned while serving in the legislature is that we are all microcosms of our districts. I represent a mostly suburban area where people are informed about what is happening at the Statehouse, understand the importance of supporting public schools and want their tax dollars spent efficiently. My constituents are very moderate and independent in their political thinking. This also describes my approach and hopefully people know that I think through and research issues very carefully. I understand that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, and I have little tolerance for partisan bickering.


3) What issues do you see as priorities for yourself and your district?


I have the honor of representing some of the finest school districts in the state. A major priority in the next legislative session will be to make sure that public education funding doesn’t suffer in this unstable economy. Also, growth has caused incredible road and infrastructure challenges and our state must deal with this issue sooner than later.

Other priorities for me in the legislature will be to rein in or ban payday lending and get an agreement on the cigarette tax. I will also continue to push for access to healthcare options like the bill I authored which requires insurance companies to keep young adults on their parent’s policies until age 25. This legislation passed the Senate last year but not the House.


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


I think we have both a moral and legal responsibility to address the needs of the poor rural school districts. I have personally visited many of these schools and the conditions in some are deplorable. This crisis needs to be more of a priority. We need a coalition of legislators from across the state that can see beyond the boundaries of their own districts and think about the future of our state as a whole. People sometimes wonder why we have high dropout, unemployment and incarceration rates, and why a high percentage of our states’ population is on Medicaid. I believe that providing a quality education to all students in South Carolina will result in a significant reduction in these areas.

Also, as I referenced earlier, access to healthcare is perhaps the greatest domestic challenge we face in this state and country today. In South Carolina, close to 15% of our citizens have no health insurance and given current economic conditions, it is likely this figure will increase in years to come. We must come together and look at more ways to close this gap.

And, I want to see greater collaboration between our business community, the Legislature, the Commerce Department and our education system. When we pursue economic development opportunities, we need to have a better understanding of how workforce education and training relates to job creation. I question if we are meeting the needs of new and existing businesses. I know we have made progress on this front but I think we can do more.


5) There’s a lot of discussion about what may lie ahead for you in the next two years. Is there anything you’d like to discuss with us about what might be?


My priorities right now include raising two teenagers with my wife Becky, serving in the Senate to the best of my ability and running a small business. Two years is a long way off and there is plenty of time to speculate on the future later.

Inside Interview: 9th Circuit Judge Roger Young

Ninth Circuit Court Judge Roger Young is a veteran to public service in the Lowcountry. While his record of public service is certainly commendable and noteworthy, it wasn’t until we read his judicial bio that we knew he was someone we just had to interview:


Through no fault of his own, he was born in Michigan; however, his family moved to South Carolina when he was two years old, allowing him to maintain that he is truly a Southerner at heart. He grew up in North Charleston, and in 1980 graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Baptist College at Charleston, which is now known as Charleston Southern University. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1983 with the degree of Juris Doctor, and with the degree of Master of Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2000 …

Roger also served as a Municipal Judge for the City of North Charleston from 1988-90. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1990 and served two terms. He was Master-in-Equity for Charleston County from 1996 until he replaced Judge Vic Rawl on the Circuit Court bench upon his retirement on July 1, 2003 …

Through an odd confluence of interstellar events, Roger has received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Charleston in 1992, was appointed an Honorary Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Brereton C. Jones in 1993, and was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Gov. Carroll A. Campbell in 1994.



That’s a nice introduction, but as our readers know, the canned introductions are never enough. Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner, from the state's 14th Circuit, praised Young as:

A patient and dignified Circuit Court Judge who does not take himself too seriously, and uses common sense on the bench every week.

As part of our ongoing Inside Interview series, Judge Young was obliging enough to give us an opportunity to dig a little deeper and find out more about some of those who play roles in state and local governments in South Carolina. So let’s see what he has to share with us:

1) As an attorney, you could have made more money in private practice, or stuck around in the General Assembly and worked your way into a leadership position by now. Instead, you chose to pursue a career on the bench. Why?

Making a lot of money has never really been a motivating factor in my life, and I found through being in the state legislature that I enjoy public service. Serving in the General Assembly was a wonderful experience; however, I'm not cut out for that job. I have a special appreciation for those that do it and enjoy it, but constantly driving up the road to Columbia and always running for re-election is not my cup of tea.

There is nothing like being a circuit court judge to have something new to deal with every day. I consider myself one of those fortunate people who look forward to going to work every day, although there are some days it flat wears you down, but I suppose that is true of every job.


2) You’ve served the state both as a legislator and as a judge. Do you think that gives you perspectives that other judges who never served in the legislature might have? If so, what are they?

Every judge brings their own unique perspective to the bench, so while I would say it gives me a different perspective, I do not want to imply that it makes me a better judge than my colleagues, because some of the best have never served in the legislature. I would say the experience made me a better citizen. I think everyone should run for office at some point in time (as long as they don't run against me). It will humble you to have to go out and ask people for their vote.


3) What do you see as a major challenge for the state’s court system in the years ahead?

The case load for circuit court judges is the highest in the nation and is getting worse. While the legislature has authorized three new circuit court positions, they have not funded them in several years. We are trying to manage our dockets so that people don't have to wait years to get their case heard, but you can only squeeze so much.

We also now have two law schools in this state graduating twice the number of new lawyers. That has to have an effect on the number of case filings. Technology can only get us so far. You have to have a body on the bench to hear the case at some point.

We are trying to more cases resolved through alternatives to trial by jury, such as mediation and arbitration, but the sheer volume means that there are still a lot of cases left on the trial roster. In addition, those cases that do not resolve themselves are increasingly complex and demand more pre-trial attention from the judges, who cannot be in two places at one time.


4) Your term is up in 2009. Do you plan to seek another term, or maybe move up the judicial ladder?

I am filing for re-election this fall. That election will be early next year. I enjoy what I do immensely and have no foreseeable desire to seek an appellate court position. I may change my mind one day. However, I have set on the Supreme Court twice when justices have been sick or on vacation, and while it was a great experience, but left me wondering if I wanted to read briefs and transcripts all day.

I like the interaction with people you get as a trial court judge, especially with juries. I think the combination of the adversarial process and a trial by jury is the best system for settling conflicts ever devised by man.

5) Anyone who thinks Sweatman’s BBQ is a great place to eat rates highly in the Blogland. Tell us a little bit about your work as a BBQ judge. Also, name five of your favorite BBQ restaurants.

I started judging barbeque the minute I ate at Sweatman's 30 years ago in college. That's the gold standard for what a commercial barbeque joint should be, in my humble opinion. However, competition barbeque is something else entirely. I started judging at the local Prestigious Palmetto Pig-Pickin' in Charleston over ten years ago, and look forward to it every year. It's grown and become quite a well-respected event. The quality of barbeque produced by the competitors is very high.

Believe it or not, the hardest part of judging competition barbeque is to not over-eat early. You can't eat more than a very, very small amount because you will probably be eating 15-20 samples within a few hours. I learned the hard way.

As for commercial places, locally Fiery Ron's Home Team and Jim and Nick's are putting out some outstanding barbeque. I recently tried a new place in North Charleston off East Montague called The Barbeque Place and it showed great promise. I also held court in Moncks Corner this week and tried a new place called Moose's BBQ. It was very good and had an outstanding beef brisket, which you don't find much of in this area of the country. The owner, Moose, wandered around place constantly checking on his customers and chatting people up. It was a fun experience.

Candidly, growing up in the low country I have a soft spot for any of the Bessinger brothers' places when you just need to scratch an itch and eat a good sandwich and onion rings. There is a branch of Brown's BBQ in Moncks Corner that is really good. Finally, there are branches of the ubiquitous Dukes BBQ in Beaufort and Ridgeland that serve fried chicken gizzards on their buffet which earns them an honorable mention for that fact alone.

Man, I could talk about bbq all day.


6) It looks like you’re pretty well-read, with references on blogs and websites showing up. What are some websites and blogs you enjoy?

I have a friend in New Orleans who has one of the oldest law related blogs (as well as one of the most respected) called ernietheattorney.net. He covers much more than law, and often writes about computers, photography, philosophy, yoga, food and his mistress - the City of New Orleans. He is commercial law litigator who frequently lectures around the country on law and computers. He is partially responsible for my converting to Apple computers a few years ago, and he operates a truly paperless office out of his home. A cool guy to hang out with.

Until it recently shut down, I thought FakeSteveJobs, a blog satire about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was pure genius. You helped to be an Apple fan to really appreciate it, but it was fabulous satire, and anyone who follows the computer industry could appreciate it. I hope it comes back.

I listen to some podcasts daily while I walk since I'm not much of a music fan. A couple are, again, Apple related, but I also enjoy Dennis Miller's re-broadcast of his radio show. By now you've figured out I'm a big Apple computer fan, and love having an Apple store in Charleston. I also am grateful that SC Public Radio podcasts Walter Edgar's Journal. I'd never be able to listen to it otherwise. Those broadcasts are wonderful for those that love to learn about this state, and Walter shares my love of all things barbeque.


7) What is it about be a judge that most people would not understand?

First, judges do a lot more than sit on the bench and listen to trials. In fact, when you are serving a year as Chief Administrative Judge like I currently am, it is probably less than half of what I do most days. There is a never-ending mound of paperwork as CAJ.

I suppose most people would be surprised at how difficult it can be to sentence people, or perhaps I should state more correctly, fashion an appropriate sentence. Every person is different, and the vast majority of people are not evil, horrible people. If you stop and think about it, the relative rarity of brutal, violent crimes is why they are newsworthy when they happen. Instead, most of the people who come before the courts have wrecked their lives with drugs and alcohol, and we are dealing with crime which is either directly or indirectly associated with it. You can toss them in jail and throw away the key - and sometimes you have to do that - but most of them are eventually going to get out of prison, and as a society it is in our best interest to figure out some way to turn them into productive citizens as opposed to hardened criminals. I don't have the answer. I just deal with the problem.

Sentencing young people really is heartbreaking. Young people make so many mistakes, and every time I see one infront of me I envision one of my children. I can only imagine how their parents must feel. A sad fact of life is that far too many young people don't even have a family member that comes to courts with them. It takes no imagination to guess how they got there. Sadly, they are often parents themselves, and have no skills or education by which they are reasonably going to get a decent paying job or become a responsible parent. You wonder what chance their children have to succeed. It's a cycle that seems to have no end.



Wow ... great interview!

Inside Interview: Erin Gaddy

As part of the Blogland’s ongoing efforts to expose our readers to the wide range of movers and shakers in South Carolina through our Inside Interview series, we wanted to introduce our readers to the Midland’s own Erin Gaddy. She’s a career prosecutor who is currently working with the National District Attorneys Association, focusing on issues related to the abuse of the elderly and disabled. Prior to that, she spent four years as an Assistant Solicitor in the Midlands.

Erin is a Midlands native, born in Columbia, and after having lived in several states over the years, she’s back home. Her 91-year-old grandfather lives a couple of miles from her, her mother, sister, and brother-in-law live in northeast Columbia, and her dad’s on James Island. A member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Columbia, she loves to spend time with her family, both here and out of state, since she also loves to travel (that’s her in Hawaii).

In a state like South Carolina, with large populations of retirees flocking to its lakefronts and ocean shores, as well as the vigorous efforts being made in recent years by Lt. Governor Andre Bauer to raise awareness of these issues, her background in elder abuse issues caught our eye.

As we always do, we’ll throw some questions at her and see what she throws back at us.

1) Of all the options you had after law school, how did you end up in criminal prosecution?


I instantly liked criminal law (although it was probably my lowest grade in school), and tried both prosecution and defense. Social justice is a very important concept in the Catholic church, and my mother really emphasized it in our lives. I thought I might wind up a public defender, but it was quickly apparent that the people with the power to do the most justice were on the prosecution side. I believe we need great attorneys on both sides of the criminal courtroom, and have always felt like my place was on the side of the State.

2) For attorneys, a career in prosecution isn’t always the best-paying route, so we’ll assume you don’t do it for the money. What do you personally find to be the biggest rewards associated with your work?


When I was working in the courtroom, every night I could lay my head on my pillow with a clean conscience. I knew that I had done something good for someone every day, even when I’d just pushed paper on my desk or answered hone calls. That’s a pretty great reason to go to work every morning. I’d love it if both prosecutors and public defenders were paid better, in order to keep more of them in the profession long-term.

3) Tell us a little bit about what kind of work you do in your current position.


I’m involved with a Federally-funded project through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). There are three prongs of the training currently (for law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors), and training for victim advocates and adult protective services workers is coming soon. I work with an incredible faculty from all over the nation to put on the OVW training for prosecutors on elder abuse and neglect. I’m not generally at the front of the room, but in the background, making sure the curriculum is running as it should. I have a lot of help, but ultimately I‘m responsible for the education these prosecutors receive.

We use a multi-disciplinary faculty consisting of prosecutors, medical doctors, mental health specialists, adult protective services workers, and victim advocates. Law enforcement experts on elder abuse were also involved in the development of the project. I also run a listserv for the trainees and faculty, plus offer technical assistance to prosecutors on elder abuse.

4) Since a lot of your work in recent years has focused upon protecting those, such as the elderly, who can’t protect themselves, what do you see as the most important trends out there?


It’s an incredibly vibrant time for the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse, so I’d prefer to focus on some positive trends. Because of increased awareness, we’re seeing much more reporting of elder abuse by community members and family members of victims, as well as more victims being willing to report for themselves.

It’s important to remember that in many states, 55-60 is “elderly,” which most people who have reached that age wouldn’t call themselves. Our elders are active community members who are demanding fair and equal treatment under the law. We talk about elder abuse being in a similar place as domestic violence was 30 years ago, where people are really interested in stopping it, but not entirely sure what they can do.

I’ve been very impressed with efforts from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, as you mentioned. The more we can do to enforce the laws that are already on the books, the better off our elders will be. If each of our legislators simply thought about how they’d like their parents, grandparents, or themselves to be treated, I think we’d likely be in very good shape with our laws. There are great model laws out of Wisconsin and California, which of course is on the forefront of this issue. Florida and New York are also states to look to for instruction.

5) You're a Midlands native. For those who doubt that claim, we'll ask you to prove it by naming at least two good places to go for BBQ.

Doc's on Shop Road and Little Pigs up on Alpine Road.

6) As our final question – the Blogland loves to talk about music, so we’re going to ask you to name your favorite album(s) and/or artist(s).

For recent music, I’m a little obsessed with Corinne Bailey Rae’s debut album, but the classics still draw me: Joni Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast, and pretty much anything by CSNY or James Taylor.

Inside Interview: Phillip Lowe

Our Inside Interview this week takes a look at State Representative Phillip Lowe, who holds the Pee Dee region's House District 60, which reaches from the outskirts of Sumter up to the west side of Florence, roughly following U.S. Highway 76 (does one get their kicks on that Route as well?). He's a Republican who resides in Florence County, and is finishing his first term. He was elected with 60% of the vote to succeed retiring Republican Marty Coates.

1) How did you get into politics?

From an early age I have chosen to get involved in matters that interest me. From college days of class president to community involvement and serving boards of directors, I am know as someone who enjoys leading and solving problems.

In 2004 I came to the State house follow a bill from that would have effected my profession of physical therapy. I knew then, I wanted to become more involved.

When my representative decided to retire, community leaders and the Republican party approached me to run. After consultation with my friends and family, who unanimously advised me to not run, I did it anyway.

2) In looking back at your first two years, what would you say you've done to add value to the State House?

Several times I have looked up at the voting board and realized that I cast the one extra we needed to prevail. Freshman make the most difference in sub-committee where the details on bills are worked out.

Specifically, I worked hard on the small business health insurance premiums, immigration, prompt pay, DUI, and new hunting and fishing laws and several environmental bills.

3) Of the House seats in the state, yours is probably the most Democratic one which is held by a Republican. What do you learn about being a candidate and/or legislator in such a district that someone might not in a more Republican district?

My district is a blend of suburban and rural areas encompassing 700 square miles of Florence and Sumter Counties. Republicans from the larger cities generally do not have the same types of problems as my district. While some folks are securing funds for new museums and fine arts centers, I am trying to get the basic needs like sewer, water and libraries for my citizens.

Parts of South Carolina have a growing tax base with fine schools while small towns suffer from declining revenues, an aging population, dilapidated infrastructure, and failing schools.

Rural SC has a different set of problems that are largely ignored. As conservative as I am on spending, stopping growth of government, and reducing taxes, I still must represent my district and address basic human needs.

4) What do you see as the biggest challenges that you'd like to work on in your next term?

  • Job and Economic Growth
  • Educational Funding
  • Health Care
  • Protection of Family Values
  • Tax Reduction
  • Roads and Infrastructure
5) In the Blogland, we love our music. Tell us your favorite artist and/or album.

Old time is the Eagles and Skynyrd and Zeppelin


Today Three Doors Down, Match Box 20, Train, or anything Live

Inside Interview: Charlie Lybrand, Charleston County RMC

With the primaries over, our Inside Interview series will be resuming, giving you a look at more of the movers and shakers who make up the sum total of our state's political and governmental realms.

Charlie Lybrand is a veteran of nearly twenty years of GOP politics. Behind Senator Glenn McConnell and Sheriff Al Cannon, he’s one of the longest continually-serving Republicans in office in the Lowcountry. He started out on Charleston County Council, and in 1994, upset the incumbent RMC in the Republican Primary. Charlie is currently serving his 4th term in this office.

We've watched Charlie from the sidelines. In Lowcountry politics, he's seldom front-and-center in politics, but you can bet he's almost always there, ready to speak up or lend a hand when necessary.

RMC is the commonly-used term for "Register Mesne Conveyance". You'll only find these offices as stand-alone elected offices in larger counties. In smaller ones, the functions of office are handled by the county's Clerk of Court.

#1 ... Tell us a little bit about yourself.

This August I’ll be 62 years old. This Monday June, 16, 2008 my wife and I will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary. We have two grown children, Whitney Hannam and Wesley Lybrand. Whitney and her husband of five years have given us a wonderful grandson Oliver Clayton Hannam (Ollie to his friends) who is 16 months old. Whitney is 28 and teaches 2nd grade in the Greensboro N. C. public school system. Our son Wes is employed by Kiawah Island Company and is working as a bartender at the Night Heron Community Club. Wes hopes to be an Events Planner one day.


My wife (Phrona) and I are high school sweet hearts. We both attended Chicora High, from there I attended the Citadel where I was drafted into the United States Army in 1967. Back then if your grades weren’t up to par and you had two arms and two legs, you were Viet Nam material. I joined the Army for an extra year for additional training and then went straight to South East Asia (Viet Nam). My wife and I were married on my 30 day leave before I shipped overseas. We were married for 10 years, almost 11, before Whitney came along. Four years later Wes was born.

I went into business for myself in 1979. I owned Precision Builders which did Renovations and Remodeling work in the Tri County area. About twenty years ago, we moved from Wando Woods in North Charleston to a new home I had built in Rantowles or as I call it Red Top Heights. We built a house that mirrored Phrona’s grandparent’s home in St. George. Wood siding and wrap around porches. Nothing fancy just an ole farm type house.

We have had three Boykin Spaniels. Beau who is our current Boykin is the love of our life. Who could ever believe a dog could give as much love and be such a large part of a family. Beau and his bride (Mollie) have just had puppies. My wife insists that we bring one of the puppies home, she wants to call him BJ or Beau Jr.

We attend Seacoast West where I am very active in the First Touch Ministry. I have been to Honduras 5 or 6 times on mission trips and I went with our church to help out in Pass Christian, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. I am also President of the Low Country Miata Club. We have a 2006 Black MX5 Miata.

#2 ... How did you get involved in politics?

Politics started back in Boy Scouts where I was a troop leader, then President of our Explorer group, then President of the Hi-Y in high school. After the military, I was President of the Civic Club in Wando Woods and Administrative Board Chair at Cherokee Place United Methodist Church. That was back when North Charleston just beginning to annex unincorporated property. I was opposed to our area being annexed by North Charleston.

After the election, I was asked to serve on the Cooper River Parks and Playground Commission. I served there for 7 years before being asked to serve on the North Charleston Sewer Commission. I enjoyed public service and thought I might be an asset to County Government so I ran for County Council in 1984 and lost. Six years later I ran for County Council again and won.

At the time my business was doing great and I felt like for those who had been given much, much was expected. So I put my whole heart and soul into the Council. Hindsight being 20/20, I can tell you I neglected my family and my business. Both suffered because I thought I was important and my service to the community was a necessity. I was wrong on both accounts. I thank God that my wife didn’t leave me and my children didn’t stop loving me. As the four year term came to a close, my business was not so good anymore and my family was hoping I would not run again for Council.

We joke about my wife telling me that if I wanted to run for County Council again, I should file for Office and file for divorce at the same time. It never did come to that but I really enjoyed Public Service so I offered for the Register Mesne Conveyance Office (RMC) and was lucky enough to win. That was back in 1994. Since that time under my leadership, we have gone through two major upgrades. The Charleston RMC Office was the first in the State to scan (image) every document that was recorded. We were also the first RMC office in the State to go on the Internet.

Our douments go back to 1719 and they are currently be scanned for longevity and will also be put on the World Wide Web. Since then we have continually led the State in technology and are in the final stages of a new system that will allow the document to be book and paged as it is recorded. The document will also be bar coded and imaged the same or next day and be mailed back to its maker. We will enter data from the electronic image from a split screen monitor. This new technology will end up saving thousands if not millions of dollars over the long run by letting the computer do the work of 5 or 6 employees. I expect this new technology to reduce our need for so many employee but I have committed to no one losing their jobs.

I have worked out a plan where RMC employees who are no longer needed here will be transferred to other jobs in the County.

#3 ... With a political career that goes back literally over decades, you are presently one of the longest-serving Republicans in public office in the Lowcountry. What are some important lessons you’ve learned from such political longevity?

Political Longevity is not something you think about, until you look back on it and say “has it been that long?” I have always been one to understand that politics is a game of addition and not subtraction. I like people and I hope they like me. I have also learned you can’t continually burn bridges. People expect you to stand up for what you believe and vote or act that way but you can’t be negative all the time. I also believed that you must be seen and heard by the people who put you in Office.

So many politicians get elected and then just go away not to be heard from until it’s election time again. I attend the monthly Executive meetings, I am a member of the East Cooper Republican Club, the First Monday Republican lunch and I try an attend the Charleston County Republican Women’s Club as well as the Sea Island Republican Women’s Club. The evening clubs are harder because I like being at home with my wife, but I understand the need to be at these meetings. The folks who are members of the auxiliary clubs are just ordinary folk who want to help the Republican cause and I think Elected Officials should be at as many of these social functions as they can.

#4 ... are you comfortable about where the GOP is headed, and why do you feel that way?

I am not comfortable with the direction of the GOP. I think we have lost our vision. I don’t have a clue what Sen. John McCain stands for. In the name of non-partisanship, we have blurred the lines so badly between the Parties that I don’t know what a National Republican stands for. That may make a lot of my Republican Colleagues mad, but that’s how I see it.

We must have a plan to make this great Country of ours Energy Independent. I don’t hear it.

We must have true immigration plan that requires everyone in this country to follow the rule of law. Last year, it was our Republican leaders that led the fight for Amnesty for illegals. I don’t get it.

The Republicans at the national level spend money like “drunken sailors” like Alaska’s bridge to no-where. That was a Republican Senator behind that boondoggle.

All colors, faiths, nationalities and beliefs must be welcome in our Party otherwise it will become the lily white country club party that can not get elected. We must learn to rally around what unites us and not what divides us with the exception of the two things that have always been the strongholds of Republicanism; a strong military and our belief that the unborn child has a right to life. We can’t waver on those to ideals.

Other than that I am pretty happy. Yeah, right.

#5 ... You've been office longer than most in the Lowcountry. With two years left in your present term, do you know what you're going to do in 2010?

I’d plan to stand for re-election once again. I like my job. Plus, I can’t afford to be a Wal Mart greeter quite yet.

I plan to keep the Charleston RMC Office on the cutting edge of Technology and stay right here until I retire. That might change if our Congressman decided to retire. I support Henry Brown completely and think he is doing a great job but if he were to quit, I might take a serious look at that position. I’d really like to try and straighten out some of that mess in Washington. Knowing full well that one little freshman congressman can’t do much, but I’d sure like to try.

Inside Interview: Blair Jennings, 9th Circuit Solicitor candidate

Round two of our special Inside Interview look at the 9th Circuit Solictor's race goes to Republican Blair Jennings. In charge of the Berkeley County Solicitor's Office under Solicitor Ralph Hoisington, who died last year, Blair is running to fill the office for both counties in the circuit.

Let's hear what he has to say:

Tell our readers a little bit about what made you want to go into prosecution.

I actually got involved in prosecution during law school when I began clerking for the Solicitors Office in Columbia. What I found was that as an attorney, this was the best way I could give back to my community, and make it a better and safer place. It is an incredible feeling to know that everday when you go home, you have made the community safer. I am not sure there is a similar area of law where one can make such a profound impact. It is also incredibly rewarding to help people who are many times experiencing the worst situation of their life.

What would you consider to be your most meaningful case? Tell us a little bit about it.

This is definitely the Jesse Sapp case. Mr. Sapp murdered South Carolina Hoghway Patrolman Jeff Johnson at a traffic checkpoint in July 2002. Mr. Sapp was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. This is extremely meaningful because it was an honor to represent all of the men and women who serve our community and country as law enforcement officers. They place their lives in danger everyday, and we need to do everything we can to protect them hen we have the opportunity.

To work on a case everyday for six weeks, you build an incredibly tight bond with the victim's family. It is impossible to express in words the fulfillment I felt after helping Missy and her family through their devastation.

In the next five to ten years, what do you see as the biggest challenges that will be faced in dealing with crime in the Lowcountry?

The next five to ten years will see unparalled grouth in the lowcountry. Therefore, it is going to be imperative that we use innovation and foresight to come up ith new ways to increase the efficiency and productivity of the solicitors office so that we are able to focus our resources on the prosecution of violent criminals. In addition, we must make sure that each governmental agency works together to make sure we maximize our response to the illegal immgration problem that is plauging the lowcountry.

Should you win on June 10th, what do you see as the two biggest priorities for your term as solicitor?

Should I be elected, one priority will be to bring them same working relationship I enjoyed with law enforcement in Berkeley County to Charleston County. THis is something that needs to be done no just in the month's leading to an election, but all of the time. Over my 7 years in Berkeley County I built a reputation working with law enforcement to not only assist with their training, but also to provide any needed assistance with ongoing investigations. I believe this working relationship was reflected in the decision of the Police Benevolent Association to endorse my candidacy for Solicitor.

Secondly, we need to reduce the overall backlog of cases in Charleston, so that the focus of prosecution can return to violent criminals and we can reduce the overwhelming backlog of Murder cases. By instituting many of the initiatives I began in Berkeley County we will reduce not only the backlog of pending cases, but also backlog of old murder cases.

Criminal prosecution is tough work. What keeps you going and committed to your profession?

There are many frustrating times associated with prosecuting. However, I am kept going by a simple thank you from a victim who has appreciated my help.

One of the most important things here in the Blogland is music. What’s your favorite album(s)?

Favorite album - with 11 and 8 year old daughters, I don't get to listen to much adult music. There is not much on our radio except Disney Channel and Hannah Montana.

Inside Interview: Scarlett Wilson, 9th Circuit Solicitor candidate

As promised, our Inside Interview series will introduce y'all to the two Republican candidates seeking to fill the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

Since she won the coin toss, Scarlett Wilson, who was appointed interim Solicitor, goes first ...

Tell our readers a little bit about what made you want to go into prosecution.

At first, I wanted to prosecute because I wanted trial experience. Very quickly, however, I was moved by seeing the impact that I could have on victims by giving them and their cases my time and attention. I feel blessed to have realized very early in my life that prosecution is my “calling.” Knowing that I help those who have been hurt and who have lost so much is the most rewarding experience; it’s one that you just can’t put a price tag on. Working with law enforcement also provides a camaraderie that is unique to those of us involved in prosecution. Knowing that we are all a team and are working together for common causes is great… you always know that somebody has your back! Becoming Solicitor was the highest honor of my career because the Governor could have chosen anyone. Continuing Solicitor Hoisington’s legacy and building upon it has been extremely rewarding. From aggressive murder docketing to taking steps to close the “revolving door” to streamlining the bureaucracies of the office, we’ve made real progress working together as a team.

What would you consider to be your most challenging and memorable case? Tell us a little bit about it.

In my first year as a lawyer, I tried a case in which a mentally handicapped woman had been raped. She was in her early 20s but had the mind of a 7 year old. She was the apple of everyone’s eye in her entire family and they doted on her like she was The Queen. Before I took over the case, there had been 4 prosecutors assigned to it. That is simply ridiculous. The family was so kind and patient but I was outraged that the case had dragged on for three years and that so many prosecutors had not wanted to deal with the case. I worked very closely with the victim and with her family and we convicted the guy and he got the max of 30 years. I will never forget how sweet the victim and her family were to me and how gracious they were in such terrible circumstances.

The most challenging case that I’ve had involved the prosecution of a “no body” murder case. The Feds wouldn’t take the case though there were interstate aspects to it. Edwina Sims disappeared after traveling from Virginia to visit Ronald Coulter (who was her daughter’s father) and his family in Charleston County. We proceeded to trial against Coulter despite the fact that Sims’ body had not been found. After convicting Coulter and obtaining a 30 year sentence, a team of investigators and I located the body in rural Berkeley County. Being able to take a case that no one believed we could win and to end up not only getting a 30 year sentence but also finding the Edwina and giving her family a proper burial was amazing. Calling Edwina’s family from the woods of Berkeley County and letting them know we had found her was something I will never forget. As difficult as it was, I knew that without finding her body, Edwina’s children would always wonder if she had simply abandoned them and was living somewhere else in the world. Working the co-defendants against each other until we found the body was a grueling process but one where my Federal experience came in handy.

In the next five to ten years, what do you see as the biggest challenges that will be faced in dealing with crime in the Lowcountry?

The growing problem with illegal aliens is going to be more and more of an issue in the criminal justice system. The federal government has failed us and it is now up to us at the local level to step up to the plate. As the chief prosecutor, I will continue to vigorously prosecute illegals and do my part to see that they serve time and then get deported.

Multi-defendant violence is a continuing problem that is likely to get worse. This includes gang activity. I already have provided my prosecutors with training on how to recognize gang activity and we are working with local law enforcement to make sure we are sharing information about related crimes. Assigning agencies to specific teams of prosecutors will help us all work together to keep our neighborhoods safer.

Should you win on June 10th, what do you see as the two biggest priorities for your term as solicitor?

1) Continuing to crack down on violent offenders, especially those who are repeat customers. Abolishing parole will be a key tool in keeping those who prey upon society behind bars. We have to approach this from both ends with fierce bond revocations and serious consequences for those who violate probation and parole (while it still exists!). I want my office to help an overwhelmed and discouraged Probation and Parole Agency get results in the courtroom. Unlike the federal system, the State system does not provide for our involvement in probation and parole violations. I want to change that and have taken steps to help them out. Probation and parole are privileges that should be “yanked” when criminals violate. Aggressive Murder Docketing will continue to be a policy while I am Solicitor. The results we have achieved in just 10 months have been remarkable, having brought more killers to justice than ever before.

2) Doing my part as Solicitor to crack down on illegal aliens who are robbing us of our wonderful quality of life is a priority. We cannot allow this area to be considered a sanctuary. We have to convict these criminals, give them prison time so that their message home is: Don’t come to Charleston and Berkeley Counties. It also will give them a second thought about returning to our area once they are deported… AFTER serving their time in prison.

Criminal prosecution is tough work. What keeps you going and committed to your profession?

It’s not hard to stay committed. Seeing the face of a victim turn from devastation to empowerment and accomplishment is very rewarding. Knowing day in and day out that I am making a difference in people’s lives and am helping make our community safer is all I could ask for in a career.

One of the most important things here in the Blogland is music. What’s your favorite album(s)?

There is absolutely now way I can pick a favorite album. I love music and seeing folks in concert is one of my favorite things to do. To give you an idea of what I like, in theWinter, I listen to a lot of Country Music. I listen to Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Dolly Parton, Dirks Bentley and Sammy Kershaw. The Summer months call for Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow and a little James Taylor.