Showing posts with label me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label me. Show all posts

Remembering the night of Hurricane Hugo

Twenty years ago, I was one of many who opted to ride out the night of Hurricane Hugo in the Lowcountry.

Expecting the storm to only be a Category 2 or 3 and aiming for Savannah ... and then Myrtle Beach, sticking around seemed like the thing to do. But as the evening wore on, the storm strengthened and its course shifted, put it coming ashore just north of the Charleston area, aiming the brunt of its force right at those of us who stayed.

It was a hell of a ride that night, and words really don't describe the sights we saw the next morning, as we emerged to see a city which had been blasted and ripped apart by the midnight visitor. Devastation was everywhere: trees stripped bare or snapped at about 30' above the ground, debris everywhere, cars and houses ripped by fallen trees, and everyone milling about, not quite sure where to begin in untangling such a horrific mess.

My night was bad, but it could have been worse - such as the last police and fire personnel to leave Sullivan's Island, crossing the Ben Sawyer bridge just moments before it toppled in the wind, or my father and many other police officers who rode the night out at the downtown police station which had become an island, or the people in McClellanville who climbed into attics, ceilings, and roofs to escape the storm surge wave which swamped the town.

The experiences were memorable, and many of them not pleasant - including weeks without power, city water which smelled like pine trees, seeing the "Goat Island Yacht Club" - the jumbled pile of boats from the Wild Dunes Marina which had been swept into the trees of the island across the Intracoastal Waterway, and seeing the homes of friends which had been wrecked by wind, falling trees or flooding.

Oddly enough, my oldest daughter, just a few months old, slept through the entire storm.

The Lowcountry has faced dozens of disasters before this one - hurricanes, fires, plagues, and wars - and survived. Those shared experiences have much to do with forging the identities of true Lowcountry people. If you meet someone who has grown up here, you'll hear about Hugo, as well as Hurricanes David, Hazel and Gracie from years past, or of life during World War II, where German subs occasionally prowled off-shore. Being long-time Lowcountry, my family has those stories too.

But next time a major hurricane comes this way, I'm heading inland. One major hurricane is enough for me.

E-Verify usage now mandatory for all federal contractors and subcontractors

The E-Verify federal contractor rule, which became effective on September 8, requires federal contractors and subcontractors to use the E-Verify system to confirm that all new employees performing work under federal contracts are authorized to work in the United States. Federal contracts awarded and solicitations issued after September 8, 2009 must include a clause committing federal contractors to use E-Verify. The same clause will also be required in subcontracts over $3,000 for services or construction.

While E-Verify was originally intended solely to screen new hires, federal contractors will now be required to screen current employees who are working on that company's federal contracts. Those contractors will also be allowed to use E-Verify to screen all current employees, even those who may not be assigned to that project.

With new rules and regulations like this adding to the pressure to use E-Verify to screen employees, if you're not using it, you might as well go ahead and start, so compliance won't be so difficult later on.

Please email me if you have questions.

They came to the fairgrounds

The best lunch to be found yesterday in Columbia was down at the state fairgrounds, where a crowd of Midlands and state business and political figures came to celebrate the completion of my company's Fairgrounds parking area project.

Headlining the event was Henry McMaster, who shared a few stories about state fairs and USC games from years past and congratulated my company for a job well done. Also speaking were Bill Cantey, Chairman of the board for the State Fair, and Embree Griner, my company's President.

Also in attendance was Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Ag Commissoner Hugh Weathers, State Rep Nathan Ballentine, RNC Committeeman Glenn McCall, and Richland County Councilman Bill Malinowski. Staff from the offices of Andre Bauer and Joe Wilson were there, as well as all the top staff from the Adjutant General's office.

There was a lot of praise for the on-time completion of the project, just in time for Gamecocks football, as well as this fall's State Fair. Doc's BBQ did a great job feeding everyone.

A big line-up, a great lunch, and a well-done project - thanks to all who showed up! What a great way to end the week and kick off Labor Day weekend!

Introducing the new State Fairgrounds parking area

More than a few Blogland readers have asked me about what my company has been doing over at the State Fair parking area over the last few months.

We just completed a major rebuilding of the parking area, which is also a favorite place for USC Gamecocks tailgating. This $5 million project involved a lot of landscaping, paving, and the installation of an innovative stormwater management system.

If you'd like to know more, we have a project webpage that tells you more. We're also planning an event on Friday, September 4 - if you're interested in coming, let me know. No promises, but I'll try.

Fall fun time in academia begins this week

Fall semester starts at CofC this week, with lots of fun teaching another semester of public speaking, as well as helping facilitate a graduate public relations class for Tom Martin, the Department of Communication's Executive in Residence.

Several Blogland readers from various professions have volunteered to come discuss public speaking and their careers with my students this semester and I'm absolutely pumped to see them come discuss the importance of becoming an effective speaker.

Stay tuned ...

Twitter and keeping up with I-26 construction in North Charleston

As most of y'all know, I recently gave in to considerable peer pressure to get on Facebook.

My entry into Twitter, however, was only halfway. I set up a Twitter page for my company's I-26 project - http://twitter.com/i26project - as a means to improve on keeping the public even more notified than they already are on this project.

Working with our project management - this project pretty much runs 24/7 - I can get alerts out, even when traffic may be backed up because of a wreck which has nothing to do with our construction operations. Local emergency services have really appreciated getting real time information to send to their units which often use I-26 to reach hospitals downtown.

That also means I'm on call nights and weekends - and believe me, on this project, the calls come at 2 am and Saturdays and Sundays - so this information can get out quickly.

Part of my job has been to develop and maintain a community and media relations program for our highway projects - the first of its kind in the industry in the Carolinas, and the only one. Using technology like the web and email lists to help keep the public informed and put the spotlight on our projects creates a new level of transparency and what we call "customer service" ... that is providing useful information about road conditions and project progress to our "customers" - the 4 million people who live and work and pay taxes in South Carolina.

If you want to keep updated about our project via Twitter or non-Twitter regular email alerts, drop me an email and I'll be sure to add you to the list.

Me and my high school reunion

A number of individuals of you have bugged me to talk about how my high school reunion went last weekend, so since y'all are so darn curious, I'll tell you ...

Perhaps I'd have given a recap sooner, but I spent a lot of the last week doing a flurry of media coordination, nailing down as much earned media time as possible to publicize my company's pending closure of Remount Road where it crosses over I-26. Three TV interviews, two newspaper interviews, a news radio call-in, meeting with stakeholders, and so on ...

With that done and having had some time to sort some thoughts out, I will say it was one of the best weekends of my life! It was great to see how everyone turned out - and heartening to see that they all seemed to have done pretty well for themselves. It was good to reconnect with some friends, get to meet people I'd not really known back then and re-start on a positive note with others.

After the Saturday night social was winding down, a group of us, mostly friends from back then gathered in one of their rooms upstairs. It seemed a lot like what we'd have been doing back in high school ... except the hotel was a nicer, the booze was better quality ... and this time, we were all legal to be drinking.

In talking with some of them, I found a fellow James Islander who is also a big fan of South Carolina's coolest legislative freshman - Shannon Erickson!

So to my friends, I'll say thank you for a great time ... Angie, Alexia, Cynthia, Elaine, Jack, Jennifer, Julie (and her husband Tom), Kelly, Lance, Regina, Richardean, Risha, Sallie, Susie (and her husband Rory), Tiffany, TJ, and Worthy (and his wife Michelle) ... and thank all of you for forgiving me for my wilder and wierder days and not running away from me on sight!

Of course, much credit is owed to Sallie Baldwin Spangenberg, who planned and coordinated the event from her home in the DC area while pregnant and moving to Indiana. Talk about James Island Trojans Spirit!

Also, I have to thank Jennifer for talking me into attending. As I hadn't finished high school, I wasn't sure if I'd be welcome to attend. If she hadn't nudged me to have a little faith, the weekend wouldn't have happened - and I didn't even have to pick up her bar tab! What a bargain!

High school reunion time

A while back, I'd run across - and discussed - news of a 20th reunion of my high school class - the 1989 graduation class from James Island High School. Had my life gone according to plan, this is the bunch of friends and others I'd have shared four years of my life with before graduating and going off to college.

But as I've shared with my readers, my life didn't go that way - and it was a life much more difficult than it would otherwise have been.

In recent years, as I climbed the education and career ladder, I felt like I was getting my life back to the path it was supposed to be on. I returned to my old high school sport - cycling - last fall (the 7-10 hours a week of riding pale in comparison to the time I used to log back in high school), I reconnected with some old friends from school days and began to slip back into the rambling brainy-geeky mode that I used to be in back in those days.

I even bought another pair of checkerboard Vans shoes.

When I read about the high school reunion, I considered it, but I figured since I didn't graduate, I wouldn't be allowed to attend. After some prodding from an old high school acquaintance and fellow blogger, I decided that I would see if I could get into the upcoming event. For me, it presented an opportunity to connect with some old friends and tie up some loose ends from where my teenage life went astray.

Sallie Baldwin Spangenberg, the lead organizer of the event, graciously allowed me to attend the event - so that's where I'll be this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it! I'll report back on how things went.

Here's to hoping the rest of y'all have a great weekend!

Introducing the new State Fairgrounds parking area

With plenty of time to spare before football season draws hordes of Gamecock fans to the Williams Brice Stadium, my company wrapped up our work on rebuilding the State Fairgrounds parking area.

Those who have suffered through tailgating in a boggy parking lot will find assurance that these experiences will largely become a thing of the past, as well as a parking area which is far more aesthetically appealing that the empty open lot.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project is the innovative approach to handling stormwater. While the roadways were paved, the spaces were left grassed to help reduce runoff. In addition, an underwater stormwater retainage system - the largest of its kind in South Carolina - was put in place. Improved lighting will make things easier and safer for people parking there.

This project joins our portfolio of prominent Midlands projects, including the Lake Carolina and Lake Frances residential developments, as well as interchanges at Peach Road in Fairfield County and Sunset Boulevard in Lexington County, as well as the final phase of Clemson Road, near I-77.

You can learn more by visiting the project website, as well as watching a video on The State's website.

Karen Fulcher

Karen Fulcher, the wife of Father Titus Fulcher, my priest - as well as a fellow blogger and Blogland reader - left this Earth this morning following a struggle with brain cancer.

When she was first diagnosed with cancer several months ago, early treatments had seemed promising. For a while, she had seemed more clear and focused than in any time I had known her, just in time for them to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

Considering the degree to which the cancer had progressed when they had found it, even having the last few months together was a small miracle in itself.

Please keep Father Titus and their daughter in your prayers. If you'd like to share some words, you can go visit his blog directly.

For those who wish to pay their respects in person, funeral services will be Tuesday at Our Lady of Mercy on America Street in downtown Charleston, beginning at 11am. Visitation is at 10am. Burial will follow at St. Lawrence Cemetery at 60 Huguenin Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403.

I used to hang out here

My company recently started work on a new highway project on James Island, which is where I grew up.

The project is located at the "triangle" at Folly Road and Maybank Highway, including the James Island side approach to the Wappoo Creek drawbridge. When done, the modified intersection will help improve traffic flow and the old Folly Road, used as a shortcut between Maybank and Folly, will have traffic signals to improve safety.

I was down there the other day and in a moment of nostalgia, took some pictures of the underside of the bridge, which used to be one of my hangout spots back in my high school days. Obviously, others have continued the tradition, with lots of spray paint, mixed with a modest amount of booze.

I won't say what I was up to, and we'll leave it at that.

I'm wondering if one would find the faded message "F*** Earl Capps" down there. If not, I'm sure some readers of the Blogland will gladly repaint it.

Fun at the Charleston Greek Fest

When the folks at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in uptown Charleston throw a party, they really throw a party. Anyone who has been attending their annual Greek Fest - like me - knows this is an event which keeps growing and getting better as time goes on.

I arrived, with my little one in tow, straight from church, shortly after the event started. There was already a long line at the gate and the place was packed. With the vendors, the great food and beer and wine (domestic AND Greek), there was plenty to see, do, and of course - buy, eat, and drink.

The only thing missing from the event was a designated driver, so I had to behave, keep the drinking to just one beer, and not help stimulate the economy of the parish as much as I wanted to.

Rain moved in a bit later, but nobody seemed to care, least of all their dancers. The youth dance group at this parish apparently is an award-winning team and was doing a darn good job, even in the light rain that began falling when they took the stage.

All in all, it was a great event. If you missed it this year, too bad for you! Be sure to be there next year!

A Tale of Two Graduations

With two graduations to attend, Friday was a busy day in the Blogland.

For lunch, it was the Community Healthcare program, by which the Lowcountry Workforce Investment Board (which I serve on) funds and operates a Certified Nursing Assistant program, filling much-needed vacancies with local employers (in spite of a recession, many healthcare-related positions are yet unfilled). This program, taught by an RN with a Master's in Education, offers those who are often working in jobs near minimum wage an opportunity to learn the skills necessary to increase their wages by fifty percent or more, as well as give some the needed push to pursue nursing programs.

As a board member, I take pride in seeing this cost-effective initiative filling needs and creating new opportunities for them willing to pursue them. That's real economic stimulus, folks.

For dinner, it was down to the Sotille Theatre at the College of Charleston to attend the graduation of Master's degree candidates, for my first graduation as a member of faculty. To be among the faculty who led the processions both in and out of the theater, among those who did much to nudge and guide me along in my own studies, was one of the biggest honors I've ever had. But even more important was the pride I took in seeing two friends graduate:

  • Anna Fiona Cooke, one of the stars of the program (and fellow recipient of the Carolina Communication Association's Jarrard graduate research award), who now has her MA in Communication. Pictured with her parents and sister, she was wearing my Master's hood (and looked darn good in it), which she needed to borrow due to a goof-up in her Master's attire order. She'll be taking a little downtime before planning her next move.

    Her work in the graduate program was outstanding, and whether she goes to work or to pursue a doctorate, she'll make outstanding contributions. I was honored to share several classes with her while I was still in the program, as well as to be among those who watched her win the Jarrard award last fall, making the CofC graduate program a winner both times its grad students competed for the award.

  • Kolo Rathburn, who was the President of the Graduate Senate this past school year, where I formerly served as a committee chair. Pictured with his mother, he received his MS in Marine Biology, in what is arguably the College's most outstanding graduate program. After some downtime, he'll be off to a public policy job in DC.

    Kolo is a hard worker in a tough program. His leadership in helping bring the college's Graduate Student Association into being, as well as leading it in its second year of existence, was outstanding. His balance and cheerful nature will open a lot of doors in the future, both in his career as well as for those he will work with.

The Department of Communication's graduate program graduated its second-ever class, going from four graduates last year to nine this year. Much thanks for the success of the program is owed the faculty of the graduate program, as well as Department Chair Brian McGee, current Graduate Program Director Vince Benigni and former Director Doug Ferguson for their vision and hard work - as well as for not strangling yours truly when I was still a student in the program.

Teaching at UNC Greensboro


I'll be at UNC-Greensboro as a guest lecturer to teach classes today and tomorrow, talking about the effects of new media upon contemporary political culture, so the Blogland is going to take a couple of days off. I've gotten to know some of their faculty through the regional academic association, they invited me to come up, and much to the delight of my students at CofC - who get the week off from class - I accepted their invitation.

I'll be back in town Friday and then heading down to Bluffton on Saturday to teach classes for their local Red Cross chapter. Until I'm back, please feel free to talk amonst yourselves, but please, no wild parties while I'm gone.




Slow down on I-26

This excellent story which aired on Channel 4 news Tuesday night about my employer's I-26 project talks about the safety concerns:


Some recent data:
  • Four company vehicles have been rear-ended in the work zone since work began in August. Three with employees in them at the time.
  • A random sampling of traffic citations shows motorists cited when the work zone speed limit is reduced to 45 m.p.h. for night work showed an average speed of 74 m.p.h.
  • Since January, there have been seven critical loss-of-control incidents where motorists were going so fast they either hit concrete barrier wall or ran off the road entirely
  • In a recent two week period, the Highway Patrol issued over 300 tickets during night work.
The state troopers are limited in their ability to help us due to short staffing and funding. Requirements that all ticket monies go to the state's general fund were well-intentioned, aimed at preventing the classic "speed trap towns", but those towns found a loophole to allow them to keep ticket money. If this law was changed, then fines collected from dangerous drivers could pay for extra trooper coverage, instead of expecting taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Until then, our employees will continue to dodge cars and objects being thrown at them with little help. At least until someone gets killed.

Come talk to college students at CofC

Yours truly is busy teaching some evenings at the College of Charleston. This semester and in the fall, I'll be teaching Public Speaking courses, and for the Spring '10 semester, I'm working on developing a course in politics and new media.

An important part of the teaching experience is to get beyond the theory of things and present real-world examples and the insights of those who actually do things. To help do this, I've extended an invitiation to those who have professional insights to come talk with my classes and share some relevant thoughts.

This semester, a regional sales manager for Honda and a circuit court judge have graciously agreed to talk with my students. They've shared insights about how to be a good speaker and the importance of developing one's speaking skills, as well as some valuable career advice.

While it's not as prestigious as talking to the way cool bunch at Dutch Fork High School, it's still a great chance to share some real-world experience to help give these students a little more enriching experience. If you're interested in coming to talk to my classes, drop me an email and let me know. So long as you keep your discussion germane to the class, I'd greatly appreciate having the help!

The Blogland will not comment as to if this video represents actual conditions in my class:



My Zune ROCKS!

Recently, I decided that a good companion for my return to cycling was to pick up a Microsoft Zune player. Specifically the 120 gig model. I put my hundreds of CDs on there, comprising about 300 hours of music programming, and have a lot of room on there.

What I've made Ebaying CDs from my connection has paid back for the player, with plenty more unsold ... so yeah, Blogland readers can expect some giveaway contests real soon.

I'm sure nobody's going to be much surprised at the content of my player, but if you run into me in my car or on my bike, check it and maybe you'll be surprised ... or then again, maybe you won't.

Screw your loved ones - go buy one for yourself and enjoy.

Having fun today at the State House

After attending a labor law seminar at the Clarion in downtown Columbia this morning, yours truly stopped by the State House with Ken Privette, my company's HR director, to give him a little meet-and-greet tour of the State House.

We want to thank a few people for their hospitality during our visit and for helping Ken learn a little bit about how things (sometimes) work at the State House:

  • Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and Jim Miles, his Chief of Staff, along with several of their staff members,
  • Trey Walker with the S.C. Attorney General's Office,
  • Sammy Hendrix and Leslie Hope with Carolinas AGC,
  • Former Rep. Shirley Hinson, working for the College of Charleston these days,
  • Representatives Alan Clemmons (who was in a rather jublilant mood), Shannon Erickson, Anton Gunn, Chip Limehouse, David Umphlett and Annette Young.
  • We also want to thank Rep. Patsy Knight for taking a few mintues to chat with us, and Rep. Carl Gullick for giving us a short tour around the House.

Happy Birthday to me

I turn 38 today. Happy Birthday to me.

Instead of getting egg on my face today, I'll think try cake instead.


Much better.

I'll be in Columbia this afternoon at the Underground Utilities Coordination Legislative Task Force gathering. We'll be meeting at the AT&T building on Huger Street at 1pm. If these kinds of issues excite you, then please come and join us.

Using E-Verify

These days, workplace immigration issues are no laughing matter. Working in the construction industry and being responsible for the hiring of workers, I know this better than most people.

I do the hiring processing for new hires, which includes checking their eligibility for employment using the E-Verify system. While the proper scrutiny of the identification documents which are required by the I-9 form should be enough, thanks to a lot of unscrupulous employers, it's not enough.

The E-Verify system is a good way to make sure a new hire is who they say they are. If they're not U.S. citizens and are presenting work visas, images of their documents are kept in the E-Verify database displayed on the screen for comparison to the documents which the new hire has presented - if it's not a perfect match, then you may be required to send them to the local USCIS office to clarify the issue, or release them from employment.

For most employers, the use of the system is voluntary, but in states such as South Carolina, which are mandating screening, E-Verify is something that you either are using, or may soon be getting accustomed to. If you're a federal contractor, there is a pending Executive Order which will soon mandate its use.

A word of caution - current employees or prospective employees cannot be screened, only new hires. Anyone using this to weed out their current workforce or screen applicants risks getting in trouble.

I use it regularly to screen new hires. Take my word - it's fast, easy to use, and protects your company from civil and CRIMINAL (yes, they prosecute these days) liability. A bonus for employers is that when using E-Verify, they can't be held liable for a wrongful hire that was authorized when using the E-Verify system.

Anyone who has any questions about using E-Verify is welcome to email me.