Title: Legal counsel to the South Carolina House clerk
Years of legislative service: Six
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.
Reading/watching: Celia Rivenbark’s “Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny With a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits.” Pearce says that, in the tradition of Southern writers such as Harper Lee, Dolly Parton and Fannie Flagg, “Rivenbark welcomes the reader into a mystery called ‘the Southern mind.’ ”
Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?
Actually, it chose me. Members of my local legislative delegation encouraged me to apply for the newly opened position of legal counsel to the clerk of the House of Representatives. After a decade-plus in private practice, a decade-plus in criminal prosecution and six years in local government administration, the interview quickly showed me endless opportunities for the pure practice of law that could be realized through this position later in my career. Six years later, that impression has been a fulfilling reality.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
Practical problem solving coupled with many opportunities to help members make a positive, kind impact on people’s lives is the skill I am asked to share most often. Members, other staff, citizens and the rest of us have at our core the desire to matter and to be treated with respect. No matter their background, social standing or walk in life, I strive to share my respect with inquirers for their plights. I have listened to them carefully and have been lucky enough to assist our members in locating resources and choices for their constituents to address their valid concerns in practical and meaningful ways.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Look at the long term and leave all emotions at the chamber door. Focus on helping House members succeed. Consider the ripple effect of any potential decision. Opponents today easily become devout allies the next, so refrain from getting caught up in criticizing or pigeonholing members or other staffers. As a staffer, I have always kept in mind the sign in my orthodontist’s office during my childhood: “There is nothing the doctor can do to overcome what the patient refuses to do.”
Who or what inspires you?
My happy and hilarious family is my foundation. They truly instill so much joy in me that it is easy to share it because there is plenty to go ’round. Helping people work through their problems while underpromising but overdelivering, and getting results that enable our members to make a positive difference in these constituents’ lives is energizing. Folks who express genuine, sincere gratitude inspire me to continue helping members help others.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
South Carolina has generated a very long line of characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. Over my lifetime, I have had numerous opportunities to sit with them in a multitude of settings and hear their stories—funny, hilarious, interesting, poignant, inspirational and educational—and then take away very valuable life lessons that have served me well. Storytelling is an art form and skill I am trying to improve upon every day. Turns out, that has been a lifelong quest: a story well told. If you will let us, South Carolinians will help you. Around here, you will never know where the most valuable information you need will next come from. Lend an ear and prepare to be bettered!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.