Gubernatorial candidate Templeton waxes poetic on life, Columbia, and “leaning in” to politics at speaker series event
By Charlie Morrison
Longtime business woman, former state government leader and recently declared South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton dropped in on Daniel Island last week in one of her first official appearances as a candidate in next summer’s special gubernatorial election.
Templeton was invited to speak at the inaugural event in the Sands Leadership Speaker Series, a newly-formed discussion and speaker series formed by Daniel Island resident and business leader Ben Sands. The series is dedicated to highlighting “business and community leaders who are doing ‘brave’ things,” and in his introduction of Templeton, he made it clear her run at the governorship is emblematic of the spirit of action his series seeks to provoke in Daniel Island and greater Charleston.
“Daniel Island is filled with so many smart driven people men and women, men and women who have been given so many advantages in life,” began Sands in introducing his series to what was his first audience. “My hope is that we can create an environment where this community can listen together, learn together, and ultimately the lead together.”
Templeton’s talk, titled “Why Politics Matters: Now More than Ever,” focused on the idea Sands touched on, that not only individuals, but communities need to lead together. Templeton introduced the room to her own story and what led her to becoming politically active.
Templeton’s talk came just weeks removed from her April 3 declaration of her candidacy for the Governor’s seat vacated by former governor and current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, and currently held by her successor, former Lt. Governor-turned incumbent Governor Henry McMaster. She used the opportunity to focus the room’s attention on the need for new blood in American politics, particularly from private sector leaders who have built their professional reputations through their focus on results, but she first began her address with a reminder of why she entered public service and politics in the first place, by accident.
“It was an accident that I was even there,” laughed Templeton on her December 2010 appointment to the S.C. Department of Labor where for a year she waged a successful fight to keep labor unions from coming with Boeing to South Carolina. “I accidentally became an unelected bureaucrat.”
“I used to be in private business but I didn’t have to deal with the government, but then I started dealing with the government and there’s just so much, it’s ridiculous,” she continued. “I started to realize that I have this perspective, again by accident.”
“And when I got to the Department of Labor I had no idea I was supposed to worry about politics, I thought I was just supposed to run my agency, do the math,” she continued.
One of her tasks at Labor was to reform the agency from the top down. That task required her to fire one of four Department of Labor employees at the time, over 100 people. Still, the organization needed to approve a number of reform programs, that in previous years she asserted, had become outdated or obsolete.
“Not only did we approve all the programs but we saved money doing it, and when you do that in state government you get hit,” she continued. “I earned the reputation for being a buzz saw, because again, no good deed goes unpunished, but we are sending a lot of our tax dollars up to Columbia and we are not getting what we are paying for.”
“We send our money up there and they’re supposed to give us certain things. Right now, in Columbia they are not because everyone is afraid to call balls and strikes everyone is afraid to do the math everyone is afraid to make a decision that’s unpopular. If you do math and call balls and strikes in government it’s brave… or naive.”
“The gas tax,” she says with a mock gasp. “Everyone wants to know where I am on the gas tax. I’m not going to tell you where I am on the gas tax issue but let me ask you this, if I told you that you could get home faster, it would be safer and your car would not be as banged up as much as it is now, and you can stop paying the $1,000 that you’re paying right now and just pay $50 what would you say?”
“But if you say the word ‘tax,’ you can’t get elected,” she continued. “So, it’s all politics… it’s all politics and I’ve had enough of it.”
“When I left the state government in 2015 people would call me and say, ‘hey who do I call about this,’ or ‘I can’t get them to do this, do you know why,’ or ‘what do you know about this or that. And so, I started dealing with the government as an outsider. The government plays by a whole different set of rules, but I have a unique prospective, I can’t “unsee” when I saw in Columbia, and I think I can help.”
And in wrapping up her talk, which was followed by forum-style, one-on-on interview between Sands and Templeton and a question and answer period involving the audience, she turned to the role she feels every American should play to be truly involved in our democratic process. Templeton termed the act “leaning in” to public life.
“It’s me and one other fellow running and he’s been in politics for 30 years, and he will be here and if we elect him next summer, so that’s not okay with me. As painful as it is and as hard as it is to be involved in politics, if something’s not okay you don’t defer that decision to someone else.”
“We have to get involved we have to call balls and Strikes we have to do math and we have to not be afraid,” she commented. “I’m doing this because like you, when you see something you can’t stand for and you have the skills to do it, you should go do that we should go do that.”
“It’s about leaning in.”
For more information on Catherine Templeton’s candidacy for Governor, see her campaign website at RightGov.com. You can find the Sands Leadership Series on Facebook, and for more information on the Holy City Collective, see their website at HolyCityCollective.org. The shared working space is located at 142 Sportsman’s Drive on Thomas Island, just moments from Daniel Island.