Spratt's aide to retire; two Rock Hill men to help run office

Robert Hopkins, known to many as U.S. Rep. John Spratt's right-hand man for the last two decades, will retire next month, the office announced Thursday.

His successor is Rock Hill's Charlie McDow, named Thursday to the job.

As district administrator, Hopkins is the guy you'd call for an American flag flown over the Capitol or for help making sure your passport was processed on time. When Spratt speaks around the 5th District, Hopkins can usually be found standing off to the side, making sure the event runs smoothly.

"He was the person who took care of things back home," said Dave Waldrop, chairman of the Newberry County Democratic Party and a state representative from 1980 to 1996. "He knew how to cut all the red tape and get straight to the point. And he knew how the Congressman would think on a certain issue."

Maybe that's because Hopkins has known Spratt since they were toddlers. The two shared the same kindergarten class in York and graduated together from York High School.

They spent countless hours driving across the district in Spratt's old Ford Taurus, from Hickory Grove to Heath Springs and far-flung outposts in between.

"Robert has traveled this big, sprawling district with me for 20 years, and when I couldn't be there, he often filled in for me," said Spratt, a Democrat.

McDow named as successor

Hopkins, who turns 65 in August, said leaving now will allow McDow to learn the job before election season heats up next year.

McDow worked for Springs Industries for 26 years, most recently as a manufacturing manager for the newly-created Springs Creative Products Group. A familiar name to many Rock Hillians, McDow belongs to Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church and has chaired a number of community organizations. He is the younger brother of Clarkson and Thomas F. McDow.

"It's going to be a lot different, but I think the skills I learned with Springs will help me in this new job," said McDow, 59. "Dealing with so many different problems there, I'm used to making decisions and keeping things running smoothly."

Another longtime aide from Rock Hill, Jeffery Sligh, will serve as deputy district administrator.

Sligh is minister of music for St. Mary's Catholic Church and Mt. Prospect Baptist Church. He also serves as professor of music at Clinton Junior College.