If the White House has its way, the man in charge of counting every American will be a Rock Hill High School alum.
Dr. Steven Dillingham is the nominee to serve what’s left of a five-year term as director of the U.S. Census Bureau. The term runs through the end of 2021, meaning Dillingham would lead the bureau through its 2020 census.
The White House announced the intent to nominate Dillingham on Wednesday. The move still requires Senate confirmation.
Dillingham earned degrees from Winthrop University and the University of South Carolina, and from George Washington and Georgetown. He has a long career in public service, including his current work as Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning director for the Peace Corps.
Julia Cochran graduated Rock Hill High in 1970, the first integrated graduating class and a year before Northwestern High School opened. She was surprised when she came across Dillingham’s name as nominee, checking to make sure it was the same “Dean” Dillingham she remembered from high school.
Cochran wasn’t surprised to hear her former classmate was being considered for an important role.
“He’s an altogether good guy,” she said. “He was a great classmate.”
Rock Hill attorney Paul Dillingham is a cousin of the nominee. Paul Dillingham said his cousin, who also has a law degree, has “a great heart” and experience that would serve the role well. The nominee also has “always been good with statistics,” his cousin said.
“He’s devoted a good bit of his life to public service, and I think he’d be a good candidate,” Paul Dillingham said.
Statistical skills will be important if Dillingham is confirmed. There are more than 328 million people in the United States, and counting. The census bureau releases a variety of population, demographic and other estimates throughout the decade, but the official census every 10 years carries far more weight.
Billions of dollars in federal and state funding depending on official census data, from roads to education and more. Federal political seats depend on it, while state and even local political lines are drawn based largely on population centers.
Experts agree the coming census could change voting lines significantly toward high-growth areas like Fort Mill, Indian Land and Tega Cay. Those area rank among some of the highest growth communities of their kind in the nation, based on current census estimates.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross congratulated Dillingham on his nomination and called him “an excellent choice” to lead the census bureau.
“With his wealth of experience, the bureau will be well positioned to ensure a complete and accurate 2020 census,” Ross said.
Dillingham, with more than 25 years of statistical, research, management and legal experience with the federal government, said in a statement he is honored by the nomination.
“I look forward to working with all of my future colleagues as we prepare for the decennial census and ensure timely and accurate data are delivered to the American people,” Dillingham said.
Dillingham’s nomination isn’t the first with local ties by Trump.
The president tabbed former U.S. District 5 and state representative Mick Mulvaney, an Indian Land resident, to run the White House budget office. Trump picked former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Both South Carolinians were confirmed and still serve in those roles.