By Kristin Hackler
It was a little bit of a wait as the crew prepared for guests, but once aboard the Spirit of the Lowcountry, it was evident why State Senator Chip Campsen chose to use the stately 100 person capacity cruise ship for his and Congressman Tim Scott’s visit to their new districts this past March 13 and 14. With plenty of room and comfortable seating, Campsen and Scott welcomed the approximately 60 guests to enjoy a plate of light snacks and a cup of coffee or juice before they opened up the first floating town hall meeting ever held at Bohicket Marina.
For Campsen, and Scott, the recent redistricting has been quite a change for both of them. With the drawing of the new lines in late October of last year, Campsen now represents 80 miles of coastline from Bulls Bay in Charleston County to Port Royal Sound in Beaufort, and Scott’s district extends 115 miles from the Santee River in Charleston County to Beaufort’s Calibogue Sound. After looking over the maps, Campsen was the first to propose the idea of a boat tour to Scott.
“It was a fantastic idea by Senator Campsen,” said Scott, “but I had to ask how far he wanted to go because I can only row so far.”
Designed to stop at Beaufort, Edisto, Bohicket Marina, and Mount Pleasant, the voyage, said Campsen, was not intended as a campaign but rather as a chance for both representatives to meet their constituents, conduct some question and answer sessions, and to get a feel for the composition of their areas within their new districts. And the people of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands did not let them down.
Chauffered by volunteer Maraide Sullivan of Kiawah Island Estates in the Sullivan’s classic 1989 Mustang GT, Scott and Campsen arrived at Kiawah Town Hall for a brief but succinct introduction to the island and its history as a town by Mayor Steve Orban.
Campsen took a moment to reminisce on his long history with Kiawah Island, stating that he stayed out at the Sanctuary about three years ago and before that, the last time he’d stayed overnight on the island was on a duck hunting trip as a teenager about 40 years ago. In fact, his father had almost partnered with Arnold Palmer to buy the island before it was purchased by the Kuwaitis in the 1970s.
“I’m excited to be representing this island,” he said. “This is truly one of the most beautiful districts in South Carolina.”
Jumping back into the Mustang, the group headed over to Seabrook Town Hall, where Mayor Bill Holtz personally offered to drive the representatives to a few areas of interest within Seabrook.
First stop was the Lake House, where Scott and Campsen were welcomed by John Thompson, executive director of the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA), and David Bauhs, president of SIPOA. The group toured the facility, admiring the workout area, indoor pool, and exercise rooms, but the highlight of the visit was the lending library. Both representatives spent a few minutes enjoying the wide range of books and, at the encouragement of both SIPOA representatives, each borrowed one. Campsen tucked a copy of Liberty’s Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World under his arm, while Scott took home a copy of Tom Landry: An Autobiography.
From there it was a quick trip up the road to Camp St. Christopher, where the entire staff turned out to welcome the representatives. Executive Director Rev. Robert Lawrence thanked them for taking the time to stop by and offered to take the group on a tour of the camp by golf cart. Starting with a quick jaunt down to the beach and back up to the Recreation Hall, Lawrence gave a synopsis of the history of the camp and pointed out significant structures and improvements that were made over the years. The one building he especially wanted the representatives to see, however, was the Chapel of the Palms. Built around 1949, the heart of pine structure served as a church for local residents until it was integrated into the camp.
Wearing the Camp St. Christopher baseball caps given to them by the staff as a welcome present, Scott and Campsen took a moment to enjoy the peace of the chapel, and Campsen recalled memories of hunting and fishing on the island back when it was little more than a maritime forest. In fact, the man who served as caretaker for Camp St. Christopher since its inception was a close friend of Campsen’s. Effie Seabrook, for whom one of the camp’s pavilions is named, used to teach Campsen about hunting and fishing on the islands, sharing tips and tricks that were passed down from his father.
“I still remember to this day, Effie would always say, ‘When the dogwoods are blooming, the bass are biting,” Campsen said, smiling. And from the look of the full bloom on nearby trees, it was the perfect day for bass fishing.
Reluctantly, the representatives said goodbye to Lawrence and the camp staff and made their way to the last stop on their tour: The Island House.
The group was greeted at the door by Caleb Elledge, general manager for the Island Club, and Ken Kavanaugh, president of the Seabrook Island Board of Governors. Taking the representatives through the spacious facility, Elledge explained the many amenities that make the club unique in the area. Several members stopped to say hi and shake hands with Scott and Campsen, and welcome them to the island.
As the visit came to an end, both Scott and Campsen shared their enthusiasm about representing the islands as part of their districts.
“This is a truly a beautiful area and I’m looking forward to being its representative in Washington. Some of the best ideas come from the people I work for, you, my constituents,” said Scott.
“We’ve had a lot of fun seeing it [the islands] and a lot of fun meeting folks,” said Campsen. “I’m certainly looking forward to representing the people of this district.”