Hugh Weathers, commissioner of agriculture

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Thursday, 10 a.m. — Republican incumbent Hugh Weathers acknowledges that his opponent, the enthusiastic Emile DeFelice, has good ideas — as far as they go. He says the Democrat’s emphasis on organic, sustainable farming "is good; it’s one of the spokes" on the wheel. But he makes a good case that there’s a lot more to advancing South Carolina agriculture than that.

"This race is pretty clear," he said. "I bring the big-picture perspective."

One place where he does not have the advantage, though: "My opponent has a good slogan." No kidding. But Mr. Weathers has at least tried to come up with "my version of a slogan: "Agriculture delivers." He says he kind of likes it, as it can be read on more than one level.

OK, five points out of 10 for trying, but no points for originality. As they say in the advertising biz, "What else have you got?"

Well, what he’s got includes substance, as a fourth-generation farmer and businessman. It was those attributes that Gov. Mark Sanford stressed when he appointed Mr. Weathers to the post vacated by the elected commissioner, who got all tangled up in cockfighting.

He says the governor charged him with two things:

  1. To use his business skills to look at the agency the way he would his businesses (Weathers Farms, Inc. and Weathers Trucking, Inc., a bulk milk delivery service for over 30 dairies).
  2. Use his farm background to make the agency more effective as well as efficient.

He believes he’s done those things, even if Mr. DeFelice hasn’t seen it. Because of assignment number one, he’s been focused inward — trimming managerial positions and achieving other efficiencies. As to number two, he says the agency is about to issue its request-for-proposal on a new branding campaign for S.C. products this very week.

In an almost mystical statement that would be worthy of his opponent, Mr. Weathers says, "We’re trying to influence two people — the consumer and the citizen. And they’re the same person."

And he refuses to take a back seat to the challenger in the one area where he would seem to have the greatest edge: Enthusiasm. The laconic Mr. Weathers insists he has enthusiasm, too, "But I blend it with the pragmatic… so that you don’t make big plans that don’t materialize." He goes on about it for several minutes, concluding, "You put up the whole of the enthusiasm that I create, I think it will stand up to any comparison."

So there, Mr. Charismatic.

On a personal note, like Ms. Footman, Mr. Weathers also gets his spirit recharged by singing at church (Bowman Southern Methodist). He’s a baritone, of course. Perhaps when this is all over, we can get them together for a duet. It might not solve all of our state’s problems, but it couldn’t hurt.

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