Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka joined dozens of city council members and mayors from around the U.S. at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the Let's Move! obesity-prevention programs.
First lady Michelle Obama was among the six speakers who thanked the local officials for their efforts to spread the word about healthy eating and building playgrounds, trails and other projects that promote physical activity.
"My first job here today is just to say thank you. It's as simple as that," Obama told the packed room.
"You do not have to do what you are doing, so it means a great deal not just to me as first lady, but to all those kids living in communities counting on all of us to get this right."
The hour-long event was streamed live on the whitehouse.gov website.
Other speakers included Sam Kass, the White House chef and executive director of Let's Move!; Howard Koh, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Nancy Chaney, the mayor of Moscow, Idaho.
Mayors and city officials from Wilmington, Del.; Southfield, Mich.; Kenmore, Wash.; and Casa Grande, Ariz., were among others who attended the event. Representatives from Columbia and Richland County also were there.
Speaking to a reporter from a Metro stop in Washington, Sulka said Beaufort County received a "shout out" in front of the entire room for South Carolina's efforts to boost life expectancy for women.
Although she did not get to meet Michelle Obama, Sulka described her as "very engaging" and said the room full of elected officials perked up when she began speaking.
"No matter what your political preferences are, it's pretty cool to see the first lady," said Sulka, a Republican.
Bluffton was the first town in the state to sign up for Let's Move! more than a year ago. The program, which the first lady created, promotes healthy eating and exercise.
Within the past five years, Bluffton has created bike lanes on S.C. 46 and extended sidewalks throughout Old Town and along the Buck Island-Simmonsville corridor. The town also has revamped Dubois Park on Boundary Street, adding a shrimp boat-themed playground and a walking trail.
Sulka was invited to the event July 1, and the airfare was booked a day later, according to town spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka. Airfare for the same-day round-trip flight from Savannah to Washington cost the town $1,589, she said.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.