Her last State of the State brings time of reflection for Gov. Nikki Haley

Her last State of the State brings time of reflection for Gov. Nikki Haley

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gov. Nikki Haley will address South Carolinians in her seventh annual and final State of the State address.

Next week, Haley will go before the U.S. Senate in a confirmation hearing to approve her as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

I sat down for a one-on-one interview with the governor as she looks back at her six years in office and ahead to the new position on the world stage.

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"Coming in six years ago, I wanted to make everyone proud," Haley said. "I knew and I said in the interviews when I walk out that door, I want everyone to feel like I did a good job and I want to make them proud."

Pending U.S. Senate approval, Haley will leave the office she called home the past six years, she says, as a different person.

"Looking at what has happened through the last six years, I am changed because I have so much more faith in people, if it was even possible, than I did when I began," Haley said. "You look at two winter storms, you look at a school shooting, you look at a hurricane, a thousand-year flood, a tragic church shooting, a man who was shot down by a police officer. I mean, the list goes on and on. And through every single situation, the people of South Carolina lifted me up and strengthened me in a way I didn't know I could get through."

Haley is South Carolina's first female governor and -- as the daughter of Indian immigrants -- the first minority. And there are other firsts.

"It was fun speaking at the Republican National Convention. It was fun giving the State of the Union address. But whether it was just bringing some of the international companies over – for me, that was such a major first. But to look back and see all that we were able to show South Carolina that they could be," Haley said. "You know, South Carolina has always had so much potential. And the ability for us to really lift up for the first time as one state and accomplish those things together, I will always be so proud of that."

The South Carolina Commerce Department reports since 2011, when Haley took office, South Carolina has announced more than $21 billion in capital investment, more than $13 billion of which is in foreign direct investment. In total, these investments have brought 82,000 new jobs including 30,000 from international based firms.

Waiting in the wings to take the state's top job is Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster. Though several years her senior in age and political experience, I asked what advice she'd give as McMaster finishes the remainder of her term.

"Trust your gut and remember who you work for," Haley said. "That's that's the only advice I know to give because that's what got me through it.

"I think he has to be his own governor. I think he has to make those decisions for himself. I will not be one who is critical of him because I know how hard this job is."

The governor says she has told McMaster of her desire to see the legislature -- with whom she's not always had the best relationship -- complete two pieces of business: one involving making the superintendent of education position a cabinet appointment and the other a roads plan -- left unfinished from her time in office.

What made Haley ready to be South Carolina's governor? And what will make her ready for the next position and/or other positions in the future?

"I had a love for a state that raised me. But I also saw a potential for a state that I felt like they didn't see.  And I wanted us to not be the joke of late-night comedy. I wanted us to be the pride that I knew we could be. And I think the people were able to accomplish that on their own. Not through any piece of legislation. Not through anything I did but through the way they responded to so many things. I think what will lead me going forward is all of the lessons South Carolina has taught me. The love that I have for the state but the respect, the kindness, the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Fighting when you need to fight and knowing when to back down. Those are all things that I think you have to do in this position and that I will always carry with me as I go forward."

Haley recalled the moment she received notice that the president-elect was eyeing her for the national stage.

"'Would you consider U.S. ambassador to the U.N.?'  I thought, 'Wow, that could be great.' The idea to serve your country, there's no better honor than to serve, so it is something I am looking forward to. I've got to get through the confirmation first, obviously, but we are focused on [January] 18 and getting through that and then we will go on from there."

As to what will always be special to the governor about South Carolina other than the fact that she is from here, is this being the start of her political life.

"More importantly, it was the start of a young Indian girl growing up in a rural town and watching the state change as she grew up. That's something that is very important - is to watch those changes and see what happened. And that's what I will remember - is the growing up in South Carolina. It's the idea that people took a chance on me six years ago when they had no reason to. But they acknowledged my passion, they acknowledged my fight, and they acknowledged the fact that I wanted to make them proud. And so I will forever be grateful for that. This has been the best job I could have ever hoped for - is serving a state that has been so kind to me and hoping that when I walk out those doors that I have made them proud."

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