She will be paid more than $46,000, have her own office and staff, but her specific duties remain undefined.
Travelers Rest business owner Pamela Evette, who will be sworn in as lieutenant governor Wednesday morning alongside Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, will set the marker for a position that now largely is undefined.
For the first time in the S.C. history, voters in November elected the governor and lieutenant governor on a joint ticket.
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Evette, a political newcomer, business executive and Ohio native, brings a counterweight to McMaster’s lengthy legal and political resume in Columbia. Together, they hold out the promise of a mix of experience and new ideas.
The 51-year-old Evette, who was unavailable for comment, has said she looks forward to helping extend the reach of the governor’s office, using her business experience and accounting background to bring a set of “fresh eyes” to how to best serve S.C. taxpayers, and advance McMaster’s pro-business agenda of lowering taxes and regulation.
“I’m excited to work with (lawmakers) to break down the silos that seem to happen in Columbia,” Evette said during an Oct. 29 televised debate.
McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said Evette will be an integral part of the governor’s legislative efforts and day-to-day operations.
“Lt. Gov. Evette is going to be a critical part of Gov. McMaster’s team, who is going to work, day in and day out, to further the governor’s agenda, both in the General Assembly and to the people of South Carolina,” Symmes said.
He added Evette will continue to maintain her primary residence in the Upstate.
She will have offices in Columbia and Travelers Rest, where her payroll, human resources and benefits firm is based. She will provide strategic counsel and direction to that firm, while her husband, David, will continue to handle day-to-day operations, according to the company.
“Governor McMaster and I are driven by an inherent desire to create good-paying jobs, grow our state economy, and protect and preserve our conservative family values on a statewide level,” Evette said in a statement after the Nov. 6 general election.
The specific role that Evette will play and policy issues she will push remains unclear, including to many lawmakers.
Some things will change, however.
The lieutenant governor no longer presides over the state Senate. Also, under legislation approved last year, the Office on Aging — once part of the lieutenant governor’s office — has been elevated to a standalone agency that is part of the governor’s executive cabinet.
Evette met and introduced herself to state representatives from both parties during the House’s annual reorganization meeting in late November. But she did not discuss what her specific role will be in McMaster’s administration, according to legislators.
“Most (Democratic House) members didn’t know who she was,” said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland. “She came in and introduced herself, and talked about working together to move the needle and move things down field.” But, he added, Evette gave “no real specifics.”
“It will be interesting how she works with us,” Rutherford said. “But, again, not knowing her role, I don’t know how important it is that she know how to work with the General Assembly because I don’t know what it is she’ll be doing.”
State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said Evette has expressed an interest in children’s issues and “will be helping the governor with ... bringing more business into South Carolina.”
“I have talked with her, and she’s feeling out what her role is going to be,” Shealy said. “She’s really engaged. She’s very personable. I think she’s going to work good with the Legislature.”
State Rep. Chandra Dillard, D-Greenville, said Evette told a legislative breakfast last month, sponsored by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, that she would be focused on economic development issues, including business recruitment and workforce development.
House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, and House budget committee chairman Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, see Evette acting as a conduit among the business community, the governor’s office and the General Assembly.
“Obviously, for my talks with the governor, workforce development is a big issue of his, and she’s got experience,” Smith said. “She’s been on the ground floor, creating jobs. ... I would certainly believe and hope she would be part of working with us on workforce development, and would welcome her experience and her expertise on that.”
Smith and other lawmakers said they look forward to the stamp that Evette puts on the new position, making the lieutenant governor a more effective partner to the governor, not a sometimes political rival.
“We did not put a specific job duty in there because we wanted to allow the governor to use the position in way he or she thought would best serve the state,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “We are certainly wanting to give the governor leeway to establish the position. ...
“(S)he’s obviously been very successful in the private sector, and I hope she can take those skills and use them to work with the Legislature and the governor to advance the state.”
SC’s 97th inaugural
The 97th South Carolina Inaugural — of Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pam Evette — will take place Wednesday, with the following events:
- 9 a.m.: Inaugural prayer service, open to the public at First Presbyterian Church, 1324 Marion St.
- 11 a.m.: Public swearing-in ceremony on the south steps of the S.C. State House
- 2 to 4 p.m.: McMaster family open house at the Governor’s Mansion, 800 Richland St.
- 7:30 to 11 p.m.: Inaugural ball at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St. More information can be found at https://ssl.sc.gov/2019inaugural/.