By: Ebonn Hixson
Mother Nature had other plans for the Leadership Columbia Class of 2014’s 4th class day, Political Systems Day, but nonetheless, it turned out to be an encouraging and informative event.
It was a cold start as the 2nd round of “Snowmagedon” made its way to the Capital City. The class began the day at the offices of IT-ology, a non profit collaboration of businesses, academic institutions and organizations dedicated to growing the IT talent pipeline, fostering economic development and advancing the IT profession, where Cory Lorick, a Leadership Columbia Advisory Board member, welcomed our group to the facility and the day. The weather was causing some guest cancellations, but we were determined to carry on.
The morning continued as we heard from a panel of State Lobbyists including Sue Berkowitz of South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Ken Kinard of Thompkins & Kinard, LLC, Craig King of Palmetto State Teachers Association and Katie King Schanz of South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Each spoke to their roles with their respective organizations and the issues they face when trying to represent clients or issues. They walked us through the day-to-day activities of a Lobbyist and told us about their jobs in the “off season.”
Next up was someone not on our agenda, but someone who was certainly inspiring. Rania Jamieson, of Purpose Promotions, LLC, spoke to us about the importance of getting involved. She has been involved with many issues including the anti-smoking campaign that ultimately eliminated the ability to smoke while on the grounds of the Riverbanks Zoo. She focused on the reasons for getting involved and encouraged us to stand up for what we believe in and to not be afraid of the pushback that may be received. She wrapped up her speech by sharing her support for the Bull Street project and the controversial baseball stadium, and asked us to stand up if we too supported the initiative.
SC House Representative Todd Atwater of Lexington County was next on the agenda and was the only Midlands legislator who braved the storm to join our class. He was very open and honest about his decision to run for legislation and shared his position on many issues facing South Carolina today. We even learned the different ways to drink and identify Bourbon; which led to his story of why he chose to run.
After Representative Atwater’s presentation, we made our way to the Statehouse. It was a wet and cold mess, but being “The Best Class Ever” (an LC inside joke), it was no surprise that we rallied together and marched through the treacherous conditions to continue our education.
Once inside the beautiful Statehouse, we were greeted by an energetic tour guide who shared with us the history of the building and fun facts. Like for instance the real and the fake domes. It seems that the dome you see on the inside isn’t the one you see from the outside. In fact, the one you see from the outside is located far behind the one you see on the inside, which located in the lobby between the Senate and House of Representative Chambers.
We later moved into the library, the Senate chambers where we learned about the portraits on the wall and the seating priority based on years in the Senate, then to the House of Representatives (HOR) chambers to hear Representative James E. Smith, Jr., District 72 of Richland County explain the process of voting and the way of the HOR. When asked “what are some ‘no, no’s’ in the HOR?” Smith responded with one being, “Don’t go to the bathroom when it’s time to make a vote.”
Our final stop was to a meet and greet with Governor Nikki Haley who spoke about our state and answered questions regarding her top agenda items and any challenges she has faced while being Governor, specifically related to her gender. She also posed for a group picture before heading off to her State of Emergency press conference.
The weather made it a quieter than normal day at the Statehouse, but it was nice to be able to tour the building without the hustle and the bustle of a busy legislative crowd.
We made our way back to IT-ology for lunch where we then heard from The State Media Company. Sara Johnson Borton, the new President and Publisher, Mark Lett, VP and Executive Director, and Bernie Heller, VP of advertising joined us to discuss the evolution of The State and their focus for the future. We learned that Columbia, and South Carolina in general, is a great place for news…even if it’s not always good news.
We rounded out the day with Porter Barron, Reporter for The Free Times and Adam Beam, former Reporter for The State Media Company. The two discussed their roles in covering state and local politics and shared their day-to-day activities of being a reporter.
The day ended sooner than expected with the threat of ice drawing near. And although we were unable to finish the rest of our agenda, we learned a lot about politics in our city and walked away feeling inspired to get involved. #LC14