“Again, get excited” (if you can): the Haley senior staff announcement

I missed the announcement of Nikki Haley’s new senior staff yesterday, but I went looking for it after a friend (NOT a professional political observer, but a communications pro) at lunch today mentioned how… lackluster the announcement was. My friend said it really looked like Nikki was saying, “Well, since I went and won the election, I guess we have to do these things…”

This struck me because it sounded so much like my impression of Nikki’s low-energy victory speech on election night. Like it’s all sort of a letdown to her, compared to the frisson of campaigning. I’m finding it a bit hard to reconcile campaigning Nikki and soon-to-be-governor Nikki, in terms of enthusiasm. But maybe I’m just being a sexist pig who expects women to be bubbly all the time, right? Yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, enough about style over substance. My concern is not whether Nikki is enjoying the job so far, but what happens after she takes office. Let’s take a quick look at the staff she announced (all of whom seemed about as excited as she did, by the way — not particularly enjoying each other’s company, like they’re afraid they might accidentally touch each other or something…. no, I wasn’t going to talk style anymore…). Let’s break it down this way: Here’s Nikki’s press release, and here’s some minimal commentary from me:

Tim Pearson, Chief of Staff. Well, Nikki really damned him with faint praise: “He not only comes from The Hill…” say WHAT!?!? That’s supposed to be a recommendation? “… but also has presidential campaign and gubernatorial experience and he’s getting ready to do great things for our state…” a state which, far as we know, he knows nothing about. Look, I’ve done no more than exchange an e-mail or two with Pearson, and shake hands when I ran into him with Nikki at a restaurant, and he seemed OK. But with such an inexperienced governor, the idea of a guy who’s not from here and has limited knowledge of our state, its politics or its government being her chief of staff is not reassuring. What she needs is what Mark Sanford had the wisdom to hire at the start of his administration — Fred Carter. Fred didn’t last long, but he was exactly what Sanford needed. And what Nikki needs, too. Worst way to paint this? The way an ex-colleague did in an e-mail today: Kevin Geddings. Yeah, the guy who who led the governor’s winning campaign, but had little else to recommend him. Here’s hoping Tim Pearson will be WAY better than that.

Katherine Haltiwanger, Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations). Can’t say I know her. Know some very nice people named Haltiwanger. Maybe she’s related.

Ted Pitts, Deputy Chief of Staff (Policy and Cabinet Affairs). Great choice! And I’m glad to know Ted’s back OK from Afghanistan. If you’ll recall, Ted is MY representative. I briefly thought about making a run at the seat on the UnParty ticket when I heard he wasn’t running again. But I let Rick Quinn have it instead.

Trey Walker, Deputy Chief of Staff (Legislative Affairs and Communications). Another good choice — in fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if merit guided the gov-elect, Trey would be the guy in the top job. But I guess that since Trey — who ran Attorney General Henry McMaster’s office — didn’t join her until after the primary, Pearson was just in line way in front of him. Aside from actually knowing South Carolina, Trey also has the kind of experience Nikki seems to value most — helping run a national presidential campaign (McCain’s).

Swati Patel, Chief Legal Counsel. Don’t really know her, but she’s got relevant experience.

Rob Godfrey, Press Secretary. Another veteran like Trey, although I have to say that Rob’s been a bit — testy — this past year, as evidenced by this and this. Maybe he’ll settle down. Or maybe we’ll have a Ron Ziegler situation on our hands. We’ll see.

Taylor Hall, Cabinet Liaison. Don’t know him. I’m impressed that “Hall also worked at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, where he dealt with Transatlantic and European security issues,” although I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Maybe Nikki plans on raiding the EU for her Cabinet. Watch out, Brussels!

Rebecca Schimsa, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. I know a lot of very young people, but I don’t know Rebecca. (Or do I? If so, I apologize.) Oh, and note that a few years ago I was grumbling about Ted Pitts seeming too young, so consider the source.

Jamie Shuster, Director of Budget and Policy. Don’t really know her, but I know the South Carolina Policy Council. That reminds me. I was supposed to set up lunch with Ashley Landess. Y’all don’t let me forget that…

Katherine Veldran, Legislative Liaison. This is the one, I suppose, that that same ex-colleague mentioned above referred to thusly: “the chick who’s going to be working with the Legislature whose experience is working for a Hilton Head hotel. Huh?” I don’t know what that’s about, either. Perhaps she’ll lecture lawmakers on the inherent superiority of the private sector. We’ll see.

9 thoughts on ““Again, get excited” (if you can): the Haley senior staff announcement

  1. Brad

    Oh, and just to show I’m a guy who’s willing to make new friends, I went to Facebook to try to friend the people I said I didn’t really know. Or at least, the ones I was sure were the actual people above. (Fun factoid: There are a LOT of Swati Patels on Facebook.)

    Of course, I was already friends with people like Ted Pitts and Trey Walker…

  2. Brad

    No, wait! I wasn’t Facebook friends with Ted, which was a real oversight, which I just took steps to correct.

    I WAS following him on Twitter, though, even though he hadn’t tweeted since May 2009…

  3. Ralph Hightower

    Breaking News:

    Out: Tim Pearson as Chief of Staff.
    In: Will Folks as Chief of Staff.

    Sorry. I just had to poke some fun.

    Sounds like Nikki’s gonna make a run for President with Tim Pearson’s experience running a presidential campaign.

  4. Brad

    Well, YEAH…

    That’s the curse of South Carolina. It’s been two decades since we’ve had a decent governor. We’ve just had a string of people who, against all reason, think they are presidential fodder — no matter how laughable the notion. Campbell was a good governor, but he was infected with that. So, as absurd as it is when you look at them, has everyone since him.

    It’s embarrassing. Anyone with such a distorted notion of their own capabilities lacks, almost by definition, the perspective and discrimination to be a good governor — even if they were interested in being that.

  5. William Tucker

    @Brad – I moved here during the Beasley administration. I hear people praise and idolize Campbell, but other than BMW what exactly did he do to earn this respect? Isn’t this also the time of massive corruption in the legislature? If Campbell is a genius for getting BMW to South Carolina, then Sanford must be equally genius for bringing in Boeing.

  6. bud

    Tucker, Campbell is often praised for his efforts at restructering state government. That 1992 legislation was a disaster that is not discussed in polite company. It created massive inefficiencies but because the media, especially The State newspaper, pushed so hard for it’s enactment they simply could not offer any unbiased criticism of it. The BMW coup worked out well so let’s give Mr. Campbell credit for that. Otherwise Campbell was not a very good governor at all.

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