Beaufort News

Sanford brings farewell tour to Hilton Head

Outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford didn't need much time to reflect when asked Monday about the high and low points of his eight-year tenure.

"I think the low has been already well covered," Sanford joked, drawing laughs from some of about 75 people gathered at Aunt Chiladas Easy Street Cafe on Hilton Head Island to hear him speak.

But he defended the high points -- tax cuts, tort reform, land conservation and improved government service -- as accomplishments that have made South Carolina more efficient and business-friendly.

The stop at the Republican lunch was one of several events during a statewide farewell tour during Sanford's last week in office.

Sanford said his clashes with the legislature could lead to long-term reform.

"I don't think I properly appreciated some of the limitations of the executive branch when I came into office," Sanford said. "And yet, because of those food fights, because of that back and forth, I would venture to say that the Budget and Control Board is going to change this coming year."

Sanford also urged continued political involvement, and told the attendees to "keep making noise" about issues they find important.

"If there's ever a time to engage and re-engage in the world of politics, now is it," Sanford said. "I think we're at a crossroads the likes of which we have never seen in this country."

Hilton Head resident Jim Buckley saw Sanford during a campaign event in 2002, and said he applauds the governor for not changing his principles.

"I think that on balance, he's done a good job," the 70-year-old Buckley said. "I would have loved to have been able to see the legislature and the governor come together and achieve more. But I think that the governor's drive, with his fundamental beliefs, will leave a lasting, positive legacy."

Will Sturm, a Clemson student and vice-chairman of the S.C. College Republicans Federation,said the scandal over Sanford's extra-marital affair was irrelevant to him.

"I feel like he got raked over some coals," said Sturm. "I just wanted to say thanks and see what he had to say."

Sanford's term ends Wednesday when Nikki Haley is sworn in. He described his final days in office as a "sprint to the finish."

"We couldn't wrap it up the way I wanted to wrap up and at the same time be out there interviewing for jobs and doing all the stuff you've got to do, so I'll begin to figure it out on Thursday."

Sanford told the crowd he will split his time between Charleston and his farm in northern Beaufort County.