New staff, new vision for U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman: Whom will he choose?

Republican Ralph Norman speaks to supporters at a campaign party in Rock Hill, June 20, after winning the South Carolina's 5th Congressional District.
Republican Ralph Norman speaks to supporters at a campaign party in Rock Hill, June 20, after winning the South Carolina's 5th Congressional District. AP

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) is quickly touring the 5th Congressional District to build a full support staff as he prepares to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Norman, who was elected two weeks ago as South Carolina’s newest congressman for the 5th District, can hire up to 18 full-time staffers to serve in the district offices, as well as his new office in Washington, D.C.

The Rock Hill real estate developer and former state legislator was elected to fill the spot vacated by Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land, who left Congress to become Trump’s budget director.

Norman has hired “five to seven” people so far, and intends to fill the rest of the positions very soon, according to Walter Whetsell, who will soon become the congressman’s chief of staff.

Although Norman has the authority to hire staffers from a previous administration, he is under no obligation to do so.

“In most cases, there’s an election in early November, and the winner doesn’t take office until two and a half months later,” Whetsell said. “So they can assemble their staff in the next couple months. But in this case, (Norman) was elected, sworn in less than a week later, and now he’s hiring.”

About the staff

Congressional staffers serve an important role, either in the nation’s capital or in the local district.

Some of the most senior staffers serve in roles such as chief of staff, district or state director, or legislative director, which help support a legislator with important day-to-day priorities.

Congressional staffers often serve as a direct liaison between constituents and the federal government.

Most offices have several caseworkers that deal with consituent questions or issues, such as a lost Social Security check, denied veterans’ benefits, or immigration issues.

Staffers are often hand-picked by each incoming Congress member to best serve the district’s constituents.

What’s happening now?

When a Congress member leaves office, the staffers can either choose to move on to another job or continue serving in a new role with the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Norman was elected to finish Mulvaney’s term, which officially ends in November 2018. Norman can run to keep his seat in Congress at that point.

When Mulvaney resigned in January, several of his staffers chose to continue working for the federal government. They can continue working in that position until a new Congress member is elected.

The new Congress member has the authority to hire anybody to his staff, including holdovers from the last administration.

Linda McCall served under Mulvaney in his Rock Hill office on Ebenezer Road since he was first elected in 2010. McCall said about eight people, either in the district offices or in D.C., decided to continue working for the federal government after Mulvaney’s resignation.

She said she met with Norman, but did not receive an offer to return to the staff. The position is designed to be non-partisan, McCall said. At least one member on Mulvaney’s staff also worked for former U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat.

“I really enjoyed it,” said McCall, the wife of Republican National Committee member Glenn McCall. “I was hoping to stay on, but it is what it is. The congressman has to bring on the staff that he wants. I was very happy to help the constituents.”

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham