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House District 108: Majority party, but Ryan still in minority

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

As Republican Kevin Ryan prepares to take his place in the state House of Representatives, he’s ahead of the curve when it comes to getting familiar with the inner workings of state government, according to fellow legislators.

Ryan, who was elected last week to serve House District 108, has a degree in political science from Clemson University and served as an intern in the governor’s office the summer Mark Sanford gave new meaning to “hiking the Appalachian trail.”

In addition to giving Ryan a great icebreaker, that experience will serve him well in the first year of his term, said state Sen. Ray Cleary of Murrells Inlet.

“He’s already got a year of background under his belt. He understands the players and the pros and cons of what went on before [he was elected], and what worked and what didn’t,” Cleary said.

But Ryan may face some challenges other newly-elected legislators won’t have to deal with. At 22, he replaces Rep. H. Boyd Brown of Fairfield County as the youngest member of the state’s legislature. Brown, a Democrat who recently won his second term, turned 24 last month.

“It’s tough to be taken seriously when you’re 22 or 23 going into the legislature,” Brown said. “It can be done, but it’s tougher than being elected if you’re 45 or 60. You really have to bring sharp elbows to the legislature if you want to be taken seriously at 22.”

The best advice Brown said he can offer Ryan is to not “get too big for his britches.”

“That’s something I started to do and had to back away from,” he said.

Ryan, as a member of the majority party, will likely have “a much easier time” than Brown has, but he needs to remember that in at least one way, he’s still part of the minority in the legislature, Brown advised.

“The majority of those in the legislature aren’t part of our generation and they see things differently,” he said. “You have to be careful of how you say things and how you present things, because some don’t understand our way of thinking.”

Brown said he learned that the hard way after a heated debate or two, in which he got too emotional about issues he was passionate about.

“I shot my mouth off,” he said. It didn’t win him any points with certain members who already doubted his ability to serve.

Brown was nearing the end of his first legislative session before those folks started seeing him in a different light.

“When things started wrapping up, people said ‘you’ve made some good points,’ ” he said.

“I made some bad ones, too, but everybody does.”

Ryan said he isn’t too concerned about any issues his age might cause.

If anything, he’s hopeful it might be beneficial by drawing more attention to the issues he brings to the table.

In the week since his win — which required the defeat of a 14-year incumbent, Vida Miller — Ryan said he has been doing his homework and is raring to get to work.

He’ll attend a freshman orientation program for new House members on Monday and Tuesday, and take his oath of office and get his committee assignments on Wednesday.

He said he’s looking forward to seeing pre-filed bills, which should be available next month, and deciding what he wants to sign on to and what he might want to sponsor himself.

“I’ve already been in touch with a few legislators to get ideas about what they might be pre-filing,” he said.

Passing legislation to establish term limits is a top priority, Ryan added.

Cleary said he will pre-file a bill calling for term limits of 12 to 16 years, but Ryan said he would have to review that and other term limit bills before he decides to sign on to one.

“The very first thing on my agenda is getting through this budget,” Ryan said. “It’s a very difficult process and there will be some really tough choices to make.”

The first budget session will be the biggest challenge for Ryan, Brown predicted.

“That was the toughest thing I went through,” he said. “We’re talking billions of dollars. It’s very complex.”

But after that, it should be smooth sailing.

“I think Kevin’s going to be just fine,” Brown said.

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