Former deputy chief of staff will bring Statehouse influence to university
USC hired a top aide to Gov. Nikki Haley as its director of state relations on Thursday, a new senior strategist “hybrid” position created for added influence at the Statehouse.
Trey Walker, formerly Haley’s deputy chief of staff, will earn $135,000 in his new role, which begins later this month. He will be charged with developing relationships with General Assembly members and their respective staff while monitoring higher education legislation that passes through the body, according to Luanne Lawrence, USC’s vice president for communications. Walker had earned $122,775 working for Haley.
Walker has long ties in South Carolina politics. Before taking his position with Haley, he served as former Attorney General Henry McMaster’s top assistant. He also directed Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign in South Carolina and previously served as executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party.
University officials say Walker will develop annual strategic plans, manage the university’s government relations support staff and inform USC’s board of trustees on various legislative issues. Walker provided a copy of his resume to The Daily Gamecock but declined further comment.
“One of our goals on bringing him on board is that we’ve been very reactive with our state efforts in the past,” Lawrence said. “We want to be proactive.”
Walker’s hire is part of a larger shift in USC’s lobbying and community relations efforts, Lawrence said. USC has created a Council for Government and Community Relations to overhaul its lobbying efforts, which will meet for the first time later this month.
Lawrence said USC no longer expects the South Carolina Legislature to better fund higher education. Instead, USC officials want to concentrate on priorities that include ensuring funding for the state’s lottery scholarships, highlighting regulatory reform priorities on construction projects and eliminating inefficiencies.
The move also precipitates personnel changes. Casey Martin, formerly USC’s chief Statehouse lobbyist, will now serve as USC’s assistant director of advocacy. She will no longer lobby at the Statehouse, and Martin’s $104,030 salary will not change.
Shirley Mills, USC’s other longtime state lobbyist, will now become a special adviser to the president. Mills will handle county and community efforts while doing “some Statehouse work.” Lawrence couldn’t immediately say whether Mills would see a change in salary.
USC has recently had its share of problems in the Statehouse. Funds for higher education have been slashed across the board, and President Harris Pastides recently told The Daily Gamecock that one of his biggest frustrations as president was watching constant calls for more support to the Statehouse go “unrequited.”
Walker is the latest high-profile political hire by the university. USC recently gave Henry McMaster a $191,000 annual contract to direct fundraising efforts for USC’s law school. Sunny Philips and Brad Henry, two of McMaster’s former political and fundraising aides, were also hired by the university earlier this summer to work beneath McMaster.
Philips will earn $118,000, and Henry will earn $112,000 in contracts that last until 2012.