Tuesday, June 24, 2014
History was made on more than one level last Wednesday when John Yancey McGill, D-Williamsburg, former SC Senator for the past 25 years became the state’s first democratic lieutenant governor in 20 years. Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell ended a 33-year career when he resigned the post to become president of the College of Charleston.
On June 18, McGill was first elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate - only the second person from Williamsburg County to have that distinction. Stephen A. Swails was the first having served in that capacity from 1872 to 1877. Moments later, after McConnell turned in his resignation, McGill was sworn in as the 90th Lt. Gov. by Chief Justice Jean Toal as his family and Governor Nikki Haley looked on. Afterward, McGill spoke to the SC Senate. “When I came into the senate, Williamsburg County was number one in unemployment. We were sitting around 18 or 19 percent. It was because of you (the senate) that the county was afforded an opportunity to go from number 1 - every cycle, every year... down to 6.9 percent because you afforded a rural county opportunity.”
McGill became visibly emotional when introducing Pam, his wife of 40 years. “Twenty-six years ago I held my hand up in this chamber. My wife was here. Yesterday was the second time in 26 year she was in this chamber,” said McGill, pausing to gather his composure. “God could never have given me a finer wife - a Godly gift for me. We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on May 18. Of course I was in meetings - gone to meetings as usual and have been for years. And maybe now there’s some things I can do for my wife.”
In a statement Governor Nikki Haley praised McGill. “The importance for South Carolina to have a lieutenant governor cannot be understated and I want to personally thank Yancey McGill for making this sacrifice. For 25 years, he has served this state and his district with great distinction and I know his legacy, as a statesman will only grow in his new role. I offer my sincerest congratulations to our new lieutenant governor and his family – he has made South Carolina proud today.”
McGill began his career in politics as Kingstree Town Councilmember then Mayor of Kingstree. He held the mayoral position from 1984 to 1988. In 1989 he was elected SC Senator for District 32. He ranked sixth in seniority. “The greatest thing about this district are its citizens,” said McGill in an interview with The News the day after he was elected. “They are some of the hardest working citizens in this state. I am absolutely happy that I was able to serve some 26 years. I know a lot of people would have loved to serve one month.”
As senator, he facilitated millions of dollars for economic development, secured funding for numerous senior citizen facilities not only in Williamsburg County but also throughout his district, facilitated financing for numerous libraries and funding for new school facilities throughout the county and his district. McGill also brought millions of dollars to Williamsburg Technical College, hospitals, transit, drug and alcohol abuse, municipalities, tourism, and many other governmental agencies during his 25-year tenure as not only a senator but also the Chairman of a Sub-committee of the Senate Finance Committee but also as Chairman of NESA.
His post as Lt. Gov. will end in seven months. “I am happy and I’m at peace because I know we studied and we prepared ourselves and we did strategies and plannings and we did it by working together with all the federal, state and local officials, working with the chamber of commerce, civic clubs, church groups, working with pastors and local community citizens. And by us all working together with a strategy, we’ve changed this county,” said the Lt. Governor. “Twenty-six years ago we were number one in unemployment in this state and I knew it was totally unacceptable. Today, we sit at 6.9 percent because everyone has worked together. It took teamwork on the local level to change this high unemployment but more than that, it changes the quality of life forever. Are we there, absolutely not. Are we close, absolutely yes.” McGill continued saying under the local leadership the county is growing. “Under the true leadership of this county, they will stay focused on economic development, they will stay focused on healthcare with our great hospital, and they will stay focused with our technical college and our school district. We’re growing bits and pieces at a time.”
On the morning of The News’ interview, McGill sat in the Food Lion parking lot. He was about to meet with Kingstree Mayor Ricky Burrows and coaching staff from Williamsburg Academy where the group would pose beside a highway sign proclaiming the school’s football team as the 2013 SCISA 1A State Champions. Though he was now Lt. Gov for the state of South Carolina, he made time for the photo. “I don’t go back on my word,” he said.
In the next few weeks McGill said he plans to visit every county in the state. “I will come to the table with resources and funding because of the partnerships we have in federal and state in local communities,” said McGill who is a member of the Senate Finance Executive Committee, said he’d also be focusing on the seniors of the state. “Immediately, at least two days a month - free produce should be delivered to the senior center’s in this state.” The Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging administers federal funds received through the Older Americans Act and the State of South Carolina.
McGill added he would meet with city and county officials across the state with the goal to set the tempo of creating more autonomy for local governments. “I feel like a lot of decisions that are made at the state level should be made at the local level.”
A new Lieutenant Governor will be elected in the November 4, primary election along with a special election for State Senate District 32. If necessary, a primary will be held September 2. “Projects that we started - we’ve got to make sure they’re finished,” said the 61-year-old. “We will not be able to do the hundred-plus things we’ve done for years - with enjoyment.
That’s the whole thing. Nobody understood I didn’t go to Columbia for the salary. And I didn’t go for the title. I went up there because I wanted to make a difference. And I’m happy to report by testament to the citizens in this area we have made a difference and we will continue to make a difference.”
McGill contributed his long career in politics to the people who had faith in him and to his family whose patience and unselfish support afforded him the opportunity to do all the things he has done. “A lot of prayer warriors kept me in their prayers and I feel like if the Lord opened the doors - and he’s opened the door now - over the next seven months I think a lot of individuals across this state will be in total amazement what is in my mind and where we should go.”
Whether McGill will run for the post or any position is yet to be seen. “In seven months the Lord will open another door,” said McGill. “I have no earthly idea.
I step by faith and not by chance. I step by faith to move to the Lieutenant Governor’s office - I felt that I could contribute. And I can tell you, that come January whenever we walk down those steps at the State House with the new Lieutenant Governor, a new opportunity - a new door will open. The Lord’s got it. He knows where I’ll be.”