Gov. Nikki Haley named Swati Patel, a veteran of two gubernatorial administrations, as her new chief of staff Wednesday.
Patel will succeed James Burns on Sept. 1.
Burns is leaving after 10 months to return to the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough law firm where he worked before joining Haley’s office.
Patel, 44, has been Haley’s chief legal counsel since the Republican took office 2011. She also worked as legal counsel to Gov. Mark Sanford during portions of his two terms in office.
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Patel previously also was counsel to the S.C. House Judiciary and Ethics committees, and the Judicial Merit Selection Commission. She also was a staff attorney with the Legislative Council, which helps draft legislation.
Patel will earn $130,000 a year, the same salary as Burns.
“I can’t think of anyone who is more widely respected or uniquely qualified to lead our team than Swati Patel,” Haley said. “Swati’s steady leadership as legal counsel has strengthened our staff, guided our administration and helped us deliver results to the people of South Carolina – and, as chief of staff, Swati will keep that momentum going.”
Holly Pisarik, special assistant to state Department of Social Services director Susan Alford since last year, will succeed Patel as Haley’s chief legal counsel.
The governor appointed Pisarik as director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in 2012. She also worked at Nelson Mullins.
Burns, a former military attorney, worked on an ethics reform task force for Haley and chaired the State Ethics Commission before becoming the governor’s chief of staff soon after her re-election last year. He succeeded Ted Pitts, a former lawmaker who became head of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.
“When James Burns joined our team last year, he had an immediate, positive impact,” Haley said. “He was the right person to lead us into a second term. We have been incredibly blessed by his leadership and integrity – and by the sacrifice of his entire family – during one of the most challenging periods in our state’s history, and we couldn’t be prouder to forever call him a member of Team Haley.”
Patel is Haley’s fifth chief of staff since she took office in 2011.
Her first chief of staff was her campaign manager, Tim Pearson. He was succeeded by Bryan Stirling, later named head of the S.C. Department of Corrections by Haley.