Whether anybody agrees with Gov. Nikki Haley and her staunchly conservative frugal ways, she sure has stamina. And the guts to listen to all sides and give an answer - even if the answer isn't what somebody wanted to hear.
In her first town hall meeting in York County since becoming governor in January, Haley stood before a mostly conservative audience of more than 300 people Monday night and took more than 20 questions on topics as varied as immigration, taxes, small business and the retirement system for state employees.
A few of those questions came from people clearly miffed by her approach to handling the retirement system, her nationally-known differences with President Obama over health care, and her stance on unions. But Haley answered all of them with a smile.
The crowd applauded for Haley as she spoke of shrinking government and making it more accountable. The largest applause came after a social worker talked about too many people getting benefits from the government while not seeking out opportunities themselves. Haley vowed to make eligibility for government entitlements more stringent, including drug testing.
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Many of the people who were there just wanted a chance to hear Haley in person, or ask a question if they got the chance - or both.
Jim Sullivan, a Rock Hill small business owner who operates a computer services company, arrived a half hour early. He waited patiently for his turn to ask about the economy.
Sullivan, who said he is neither Republican nor Democrat, heard Haley say that South Carolina needs to become more business-friendly, and Sullivan liked that.
But more than Haley just answering the question, Sullivan said afterward, he liked the format where Haley listened to people and answered questions, rather than just giving a campaign speech revamped after winning in November.
Haley jumped from economics to social issues, politics to immigration without skipping a beat. She has done several town hall meetings across the state to prepare for crowds, but Sullivan said it is obvious Haley has done her homework and her hands-on approach is working.
"Nothing rattled her, and her enthusiasm, you can feel it in the room," Sullivan said afterward. "In our state we need a positive person in charge right now after all the negatives we had to deal with, so I appreciate that she sees good things ahead in the future."
The crowd was made up of many of the same people who swept Haley to the Republican nomination last summer and then a victory in November - older people who are concerned about the ability of government to pay for all the services it provides. Much of the crowd was at least age 50 or older.
Brian and Kathy Tuttle of Fort Mill didn't ask any questions, but listened through the night and left impressed with Haley's enthusiasm.
"She brings an excitement," Brian Tuttle said. "I am not going to agree with anybody on everything, but she gets it. She sees that the state has some serious challenges ahead and is trying to get something done. The people who were here tonight in the audience are the people, mainly, who agree with her thinking on smaller government that spends less."
Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065 * email@example.com