In November of 2016, the voters of Newberry County will cast ballots to help decide who will be their voice at the local, state, and national levels of government. A new President of the United States will be elected, and also a new state representative will be elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives to represent Newberry County.
It has been a high honor and a pleasure representing Newberry County and its citizens for the past 19 years, 10 years of which I also had the high honor and pleasure of representing the citizens of the Chapin area of Lexington County. I thank the voters for their confidence and trust in allowing me to serve as your state representative, and I particularly wish to thank the voters for re-electing me in November 2014 with the splendid vote of sixty (60%) percent of the votes cast in the election for state representative.
But, after much personal reflection and consultation with family and friends, I have decided that next year will be my last year in the House. Twenty years of service in the House of Representatives is long enough, and my opinion is that our system of governing works better when there is a rotation producing new legislators at the State House. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Newberry County’s citizens, whose confidence, patience, and spirit has inspired me to be an energetic and effective legislator.
Nearly everyone recognizes that the opinions of our citizens can make a huge impact in building a stronger and better county and state. Underlying this self-evident observation is the fact that at all times during my legislative service I have declined to accept campaign contributions from political actions committees, businesses and organizations with lobbyists at the State House, or any other special interest entitles.
I have had no entangling alliances and have represented the citizens of Newberry County and no one else. I have strived diligently to represent the prevailing views of Newberry County’s citizens on a host of important state and local issues.
The most important legislative initiatives have come to pass because legislators from both sides of the aisle — Republican and Democrat — worked together to achieve goals which transcend county and district lines and which bring about positive change to build a stronger and better South Carolina.
Locally, in Newberry County, it has been a great pleasure to be a part of the rebirth and renaissance of the County of Newberry, much of which is symbolized by the renovation and success of the Newberry Opera House. I am grateful for being able to obtain the enactment of legislation to allow funding for the premier Newberry County campus of Piedmont Technical College.
It has been fulfilling to contribute to significant roadway improvements: the widening of S.C. Highway 219 and S.C. Highway 121, creating a two modern four-lane gateways to Newberry; the new railroad overpass bridges at Jalapa and on Wilson Road in Newberry; as well as the new river bridges carrying S.C. Highway 34 over Bush River, over Little River, and over the Saluda River at Buzzard’s Roast.
One of the enjoyable achievements in which I had a role has been the much-improved public landing located at Kempson’s Bridge over the upper reaches of Lake Murray.
Other achievements have been: helping change state law to allow baited fields for deer hunting in Newberry County and many upstate counties, a practice which has been lawful for generations in Richland and Lexington Counties and in the Lower South Carolina extending to the coastal areas; obtaining state money for renovation and maintenance of the Opera House; obtaining a grant for some of the construction money for the Hampton Inn Opera House on Nance Street; and helping obtain money for various sewer and water projects; various highway improvements, and various infrastructure enhancements.
Over the course of my service, I also pressed Department of Commerce officials to recruit a fresh industry for the vacant former Collins and Aikman building in Prosperity, which for more than a decade has been Pioneer Foods; helped with the recruitment of Komatsu in Newberry; and most recently, intervened on behalf of the newly recruited Sea Pro Boats facility in Whitmire. Being a part of the team that helped bring these vital industries to Newberry County is something I will always cherish.
As I have stated many times: I like people, like to be of service to people, and enjoy helping individuals, families, businesses, and churches achieve their goals and objectives. Once an election is over, it is the duty of a legislator to try to help the constituent — whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent — and this is a very meaningful pursuit. Sometimes intervention by a legislator is not successful, but making the effort is a vital part of the legislator’s job description.
I began my career in the U.S. Navy, was a young lawyer in Newberry, and entered government service in Columbia, predominately with the then newly formed S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control as General Counsel and Deputy Attorney General.
Observing first hand the control that rules and regulations have upon our daily lives gave me additional insight as a legislator in addressing and questioning legislation that would unreasonably impact our lives and livelihoods. It has always been my goal to serve the needs of the constituents of Newberry County, whatever that might be, whether the request related to education, health care, mental health, senior citizen services, or our children. I have worked hard to earn your trust. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve my community, county, and state. Again, I wish to thank the people of Newberry County for your trust and confidence and for allowing me to be your voice in the State House of Representatives. It has been a high honor for me, and I will continue to strongly support initiatives aimed at building a strong and better Newberry County for today and tomorrow.
Although this will be my last term in the House of Representatives, there is no time to waste and much work to be done. I look forward to continuing to work with each of you.
Rep. Walt McLeod represents District 40 in the S.C. House of Representatives.