Interesting letter from Eleanor Kitzman today

I don’t read the letters to the editor as closely as I used to. OK, to be perfectly honest, I hardly read them at ALL now that I’m not paid to do so, unless someone brings one to my attention.

Today was an exception, though. As my eye ran over the page, something in the last letter jumped out at me. I saw the words, “As a former Democratic candidate for state superintendent of education,” and scanned to the bottom to see the writer’s name was “Carlos W. Gibbons.” Hmmm. I do not know a Carlos W. Gibbons, which made me curious, and I sent out an e-mail to someone who knows stuff I don’t know, and learned that apparently he is a veteran educator who ran for the office in the early 1970s — and the father of Leeza Gibbons of TV fame.

In any case, he was right to advocate that the state superintendent post be appointed by the governor.

But it turns out that, until a few minutes ago, I had missed today’s really interesting letter — the one at the top of the stack. Alert reader “Tim” brought it to my attention moments ago. I’m just going to go ahead and put the whole thing here, and hope I don’t run afoul of Fair Use. Because this was an unusual letter:

Keep ignoring reality, governor

I have known Gov. Haley for many years, and she is one of my five bosses on the Budget and Control Board. If the governor is ignoring reality as Roger Hawkins contends (“Haley can’t continue to ignore realities,” March 3), my advice to her is to keep it up; it has served her well.

Moreover, I’d suggest that others follow her excellent example. Rather than ignoring reality, however, I believe Gov. Haley has wisely rejected the so-called reality that others saw for her as a disadvantaged minority.

There’s never any shortage of people telling you that you can’t do something.

Perhaps more insidious are those who maintain that we need their “help” to overcome adversity because not everyone has the governor’s abilities to plow through the impediments of life or navigate around diversity issues. I couldn’t disagree more and would ask why not.

We may not all become governors, but we can achieve our goals if we stop seeing ourselves as victims.

We must be fearless and willing to work hard, make good choices and, most importantly, never give up in pursuit of a dream. (Don’t even get me started on yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works to an ethnic woman.)

Eleanor Kitzman


Now, the thing that was unusual about this may not be immediately apparent to you. But if you had known any of Ms. Kitzman’s predecessors as chief of the Budget and Control Board, you’d know. It’s sort of hard to imagine — actually, impossible to imagine — Frank Fusco, or Fred Carter, writing (or even thinking) words that would be anything like those that Ms. Kitzman put in that letter. Whether you think of them as faceless bureaucrats, or as the very models of professional discretion that they were, it’s difficult to imagine them expressing their views in such a manner.

If you don’t know those guys, and don’t have that background, my reaction to Ms. Kitzman’s letter probably won’t make much sense to you.

Under those guys, the B&C Board (which should not exist at all, but you know that once I get started on that subject I can be all day) was a lot of things, but one thing it was not was a forum for expressing personal sentiments about particular politicians — the governor, or anyone else. There was a reason for that — the director worked for five bosses with five different egos and agendas. What was the point of being too closely identified with any of them?

I mean, forgive me for sounding like “yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works,” but gee whiz, folks… (I thought, as exclamations do, that “gee whiz” sounded appropriately whitebread and old fashioned, didn’t you? I’m trying to play my assigned part as well as I can, and these small touches mean so much.)

The letter was so… emotional. So indignant. So partisan, in the sense of taking one person’s side against another. There are other terms I could use, but you know what? I just keep coming back to emotional — which I suppose will just expose me to, um, passionate condemnation for gender stereotyping, but hey, leave gender out of it (isn’t that what the brutes always say — “leave gender out of it?” the cads…). Think that I’m saying it the way Lee Marvin said it to Robert Ryan, “I owe you an apology, Colonel. I always thought that you were a cold, unimaginative, tight lipped officer. But you’re really … quite emotional. Aren’t you?” (The way I look at it, you can’t get any further away from gender politics than by quoting “The Dirty Dozen.” Am I right or am I right?)

I read something like that, and I think, what possessed her to write that? Yes, she owes her $174,000-a-year position to the governor as a matter of political fact, but why call attention to that in such a dramatic way? Did the governor know she was writing that letter? Does the governor approve of her having written that letter? She certainly didn’t need such a defense; she would have been fine without it.

For my part, I hadn’t even read the piece she was referring to (remember, I’m no longer paid to), but I can bet you I went and read it after seeing that letter. It was… unremarkable, really. Kind of unfocused. Seemed like the writer was trying to make some strong points, but trying to be kind and gentle with it, and swinging back and forth between commending the governor for being a determined “don’t let anything stand in your way” type and admonishing her for engaging in “magical thinking.”

Was the op-ed from this Hawkins fella somehow an example of White Male Oppressor insensitivity? Did he show a lack of appreciation for the governor’s inspiring story of ethnic pluck that we’ve heard so… much… about…? Was he trying to brutally impose on her “the so-called reality that others saw for her as a disadvantaged minority?” Hardly. He had, on his own initiative, shown due deference to the obligatory talking points in that regard. In fact, he went on about it as much as Ms. Kitzman did:

Haley’s success to this point in her life has been built around navigating diversity, not letting it get in her way or positioning herself as just a diversity hire. She was born into Sikhism, an Indian religion that adopts elements from both Hinduism and Islam, and later converted to the Methodist faith.

Haley earned a degree in accounting — a profession dominated by men — and began her career at a waste-management and recycling company. Throughout her formative years, she never interacted with large numbers of people who looked like her. Her political career is also based on being an outsider. She recently told an audience that Sanford told her the state wasn’t ready for a female governor.

OK, wait a minute; here’s the trouble. Seems Mr. Hawkins was, rather than being too indifferent, a bit too CONCERNED about matters of Identity Politics, for he had just said:

What Haley has done that is troubling is appoint nine white men, three white women and one African-American woman to her Cabinet. None of her 16 executive staff members is African-American.

Hey, you know what I think about all that I.D. stuff — if you wanted a “diverse” Cabinet and staff in the superficial demographic sense, you should have elected the White Guy. (And if you ARE someone who cares deeply about such things, you probably DID vote for the White Guy, and Nikki Haley knows that, so quit your bellyaching. Whoops, I’m being insensitive again…) But this guy apparently DID care about it, and said so. And for this, he’s condemned as… what was it again… “yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works….” Yeah, that was it — no wait, I forgot the part about “to an ethnic woman.” Mustn’t leave that off.

Anyway, it just wasn’t the kind of letter I’m used to reading from B&C Board chiefs. This is going to be interesting going forward, folks.

14 thoughts on “Interesting letter from Eleanor Kitzman today

  1. Doug Ross

    Shame on Ms. Kitzman for speaking up. How are we going to keep the status quo of old white guys in backrooms handing out other people’s money for personal favors if she doesn’t keep her mouth shut? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Wait. It IS broke.

  2. Tired old man

    Interesting. More so because Eleanor was described by blogger Will Folks as the shoulder Nikki cried upon when their affair went sour. Thought it was quite daring of our governor to appoint Eleanor, the woman Sanford had fired after she correctly stood up to him about some hurricane/insurance issues.

    This screed from Elearnor is, however, no more than an amateur manifestation of political patronage: Respond, however slovenly or miscalculatingly, to any criticism of the boss who gave us our power (and the ability to re-decorate the B&C Board offices in a period of austerity).

    What is truly alarming about all this is that Eleanor is in direct control of the state’s HR policies, procedures, and actions.

    Apparently old white guys should not apply for jobs or hope for promotions. There seems to be a bit of discrimination about them from the top.

    We are about 38 months from the next cycle of gubernatorial campaigning. Anyone want to be the first to start a day-by-day countdown?

  3. bud

    So how much DID Nikki Haley earn in 2007? Also, why did the governor replace Darla Moore on the USC Board? Was she doing a poor job? Seems like the questions never end for our “reality” governor.

  4. Brad

    Doug, what on EARTH does that mean? For “speaking up”? About WHAT? The things you just said — “the status quo of old white guys in backrooms handing out other people’s money for personal favors;” “keep her mouth shut;” “It IS broke” — have absolutely ZERO to do with what she wrote in that letter, or anything that was in the op-ed piece that she was arguing with.

    NO ONE in this situation was storming the citadel or defending any status quo. No one was proposing to “fix” something and someone else arguing against doing so. There was NOTHING like any of that here… A guy wrote a fairly bland piece accusing the gov of vague, wishful thinking, and Ms. Kitzman snapped at him for it.

    So what are you talking about?

  5. martin

    What is horrendous is that Kitzman and Haley obviously think in her new position as head of BCB, her primary duty is to act as the governor’s surrogate.

    Up until now, the position has been seen, and really seemed to be, apolitical and headed by people capable of behaving like grown up professionals. Those days are obviously gone.

    Re: Kitzman’s letter, if you read the comments sections in the papers, you can begin to put 2 & 2 together. EVERYTIME something about Haley has come out since the primaries, it’s just because she is a woman and a minority and aren’t the Democrats hypocites for attacking her when they have pushed for affirmative action. It’s insane.

    Kitzman was just putting it out there for the loyalists to parrot. Especially, since Hawkins mentioned ISLAM, OMG!!

  6. Doug Ross

    “Up until now, the position has been seen, and really seemed to be, apolitical and headed by people capable of behaving like grown up professionals. ”

    How’s that been working out for the state for the past few decades?

    And calling the BCB apolitical is like calling the Pope a secular humanist.

  7. martin

    As someone who worked for the state from 1974 -2007 (with a couple of years out in the middle), I don’t think the BCB worked out too badly…until the mess that was created by the “government reorganization” of Carroll Campbell screwed several of the newly created cabinet agencies, royally. They haven’t recovered yet. You just don’t read about it when the only paper in the state capitol has a political agenda of pushing for reorganization. To expose reorganization’s failings would hurt that agenda. There’s a lot covered up by “accountable” governors and their partners in journalistic crime.

    I’m sorry if your view from outside state agencies is a little different, but the BCB was really not a bad model for a meritocracy and the organization and consolidation of many of the functions of a state government.

    I know you have problems with some of the members of the Board itself, particularly the RINO Leatherman, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about its professional staff, which prior to Ms. Kitzman, included the director, and how it performs its responsibilities. I understand that the political part, the 5 member board is what you’re referring to and object to.

    I doubt the bones would be much different if the Department of Administration comes into being.
    But, with the governors we’ve been electing for the past 20 years, some might find it terrifying to think of handing all of the government over to one person’s total, unaccountable control. And, if what is happening at cabinet agencies and office of the governor agencies is any indication, it will be. Sometimes governing by committe is not really so bad. We do it in our cities and counties. I think that works OK, overall.

  8. Barry

    @Doug –

    “How’s that been working out for the state for the past few decades?”

    Thanks for your clarification. I had no idea our problem all along has been the unwillingness of the Budget and Control Board’s director to write a terse, over the top response to the local newspaper about another citizen’s vanilla letter to the same paper.

    and just think – people don’t think we can’t figure out the source of our problems in South Carolina.

  9. Virginia

    It’s tragic for cryin’ out loud!We’ve been set up, as evidenced by the primary campaigns.This place is in meltdown. We’re dealing with people who took instructions seriously from a colorfully graphic Powerpoint at a pretty resort. The hidden agenda, planned years ago is all about anything but our state,our children and their future. The ability to recover this state economy and prospect of jobs grows dimmer thanks to Haley and her mentor/predecessor.Spare me please.

  10. Steven Davis

    Term limits, that’s the problem in this state, no term limits. We’ve got a statehouse full of cranky old men who haven’t worked to change a damn thing in this state for the past 20-30 years other than what’s on their personal agenda. Set 12 year maximum term limits in both houses, make them meet for one session per year (3 months maximum) and maybe we’ll see some changes and won’t see their buddies positioned in departmental leadership roles.

    I just read about North Dakota in today’s USA Today. The economy and population is booming up there and their legislature meets once every two years. They set two separate budgets during that session. SC has to meet twice a year every year for a total of 6 months and still can’t figure out how to run this state. If they’d do something those first 5 months besides pat each other on the back maybe something could get done around here.

  11. bud

    I don’t think the BCB worked out too badly…until the mess that was created by the “government reorganization” of Carroll Campbell screwed several of the newly created cabinet agencies, royally.

    Here Here!!!! Absolutely correct!!

  12. bud

    Everybody’s going to accuse Martin and me of being the same person. It is very gratifying for someone else to point this out. Of course the 1992 restructuring bill was a disaster. Giving the governor more power is tantamount to giving a 2 year old a bigger box of matches. What could possibly go wrong?

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