Gov. Nikki Haley chalked up a victory on her first full day in office Thursday as legislative leaders approved her appointment to head a key state agency and broadly agreed to overhaul that agency, which oversees much of state government operations.
The five-member State Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to appoint former Department of Insurance director Eleanor Kitzman as director of the budget board.
Unlike under former Gov. Mark Sanford, the budget board meeting was brief, featured no charts or lectures on fiscal responsibility, and no 3-2 votes. Instead, Haley and lawmakers left practically singing campfire songs together.
"This is the way previous boards operated," said Senate Finance Committee chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, after the meeting. "It serves the people well."
The long-term plan, Leatherman said, is to create a Cabinet-level Department of Administration to take over the functions of the Budget and Control Board, which controls much of the state's bureaucracy.
Kitzman's appointment is "the start of a lot of votes where we are all together," fellow Republican Haley said. "It's huge."
Haley started the day spending time with her two children in their new home at the Governor's Mansion, according to her office, followed by brunch with friends and family in town for the inauguration.
Staffers briefed her on what the Legislature was doing and on appointees for her yet-unfilled Cabinet.
Thursday brought good news on both of those fronts.
The House gave key approval to Haley's signature campaign issue: a bill requiring on-the-record votes for spending bills. The Senate also confirmed Haley's nominees for the departments of Commerce and Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
By midafternoon, Haley was unveiling Lillian Koller as her choice to head the Department of Social Services. Koller previously led the equivalent agency in Hawaii.
Monday's snowstorm, Haley said, has disrupted her scheduled Cabinet rollout. "It's very important that we get these done quickly," she said, indicating more announcements will be coming soon.
One will be made this morning.
Haley still was avoiding specifics, refusing to answer questions about whether she supported three state agencies - that now report to her - running a more than $260 million deficit or what duties the new Department of Administration should handle.
But by 5 p.m., Haley had won a Budget and Control Board victory that Sanford had sought for eight years.
"This is the start of the Haley administration," she said after the meeting.
The new governor stopped to talk and take photos with Erskine College students before heading out the door for another meeting.