Ex-ambassador David Wilkins leads Haley transition

David Wilkins (Source: Nelson Mullins)
David Wilkins (Source: Nelson Mullins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) — South Carolina Gov.-elect Nikki Haley has chosen former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins to run her transition team.

It's the first announcement in the two-month run-up to Haley taking over from Gov. Mark Sanford. He leaves office in January under a two-term limit.

Wilkins is a former South Carolina House Speaker and was President Bush's appointee as the U.S. ambassador to Canada for his work as Bush's state campaign chair in 2000 and 2004. Wilkins is also a partner at Columbia law firm Nelson Mullins, which held a Washington fundraiser for Haley during the campaign.

Wilkins' Republican establishment roles are in marked contrast to Haley, who portrayed herself as an outsider during the election campaign.

Wilkins was presiding over the House when Sanford famously carried pigs to the doors of the chamber to protest how budget vetoes were handled.

Wilkins said it wasn't time to look back at mistakes governors have made in the past but instead time to look forward. "Communication with the Legislature is very important. I have no doubt she does that well and will do that well," Wilkins said.

Haley said Wilkins "knows what went right and he knows what went wrong. And rather than us recreating the wheel, let's take what everybody did right and let's add to it so we can create another story."

Haley says she's received hundreds of resumes for positions in state government, and can't move fast enough to fill agency leadership positions.

Haley also tapped Tim Pearson, who ran her come-from-behind campaign, to be the transition's executive director; Rob Godfrey to continue as spokesman in the transition and Swati Patel, now Sanford's chief legal counsel, to be the transition's chief lawyer.

Some in Columbia's legal community have speculated that Attorney General Henry McMaster, who ran against Haley and then joined her campaign, might be a candidate for SLED chief. A McMaster spokesman said that rumor had been circulated even before Haley won last week.

Haley is also said to be considering Sanford Chief of Staff Scott English to head the state Budget and Control Board.

It's not clear whether the talk about McMaster is anything more than rumor. But even if it was true, Haley would have to have a reason to replace SLED Director Reggie Lloyd, who was appointed in 2008 by Governor Sanford. State law says the director serves a six-year term, and can only be replaced for specific reasons like misconduct or incompetency.
Other agency heads, including Public Safety, DHEC and the Ethics and DOT commissions, are also covered by that same statute.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.