Senator Greg Hembree stopped by the Monarch Roofing office to record Crowning Connections with Rob Clemons last week. The Senator shared about his career as an attorney, the foundation his Father guided him on in relationship building and a few mentors who also taught him what NOT to do. It is amazing to hear the insight into the legislative plans for Horry County, touching on education and our road systems. His experience has led him to the smells of a Middle School classroom to Chairing Committees that layout ethics for leadership! We hope you enjoy the success story of Senator Greg Hembree.
All right, welcome to Crowning Connections with Rob Clemons. Today we have a lot to talk about a mentor of mine, a guy that a lot of you guys are gonna recognize when you hear him. I’ve got a great guest with me today. And this is the one and only Senator Hembree. Welcome to the show!
Thanks, Rob. It’s good to be here with you. I look forward to chatting with you today.
And it said I you and I go back a little ways. We’ve met each other through the Home Builders Association. And we’ve always been so appreciative at the Home Builders Association for your support of, you know, the building industry, the business industry in general. If you would give us a little idea for anybody who doesn’t know you right now, give us a little idea of your background and how you got to where you’re at?
Yeah, well, I’m a lawyer by training and so I went to University of South Carolina School of Law way back when. Ultimately took a job in the Myrtle or the in the Horry County area in the mid 90s, as city attorney for North Myrtle Beach. So I’ve been a criminal prosecutor before that in Columbia, and came here to serve as City Attorney which includes some criminal prosecution as well as a lot of the municipal stuff. There’s a lot. It’s a very broad based kind of practices of municipal lawyer. I always loved, my first love was criminal prosecution, for a lot of reasons. I ran for solicitor in 1998 and was lucky enough had a lot of great support, a lot of broad based support, and was lucky enough to win that race. I served in that capacity for 14 years. It is the best job I will ever have. To lead that office, it’s a great prosecutor’s office. We had a lot of terrific people really good lawyers. Got to do pretty much what I wanted to do in the sense of, you know. I had had programs and ideas and priorities that I had formed over, you know, as I was kind of learning the job and even at the job, and was in a got into a position where we were able to do a whole lot of those kind of creative things, you know, with juveniles, and really trying to prevent people from ending up in the criminal justice system. I mean, we you know, if you want to go to jail, bad enough, we put you in jail, but and not blinking about it. But it’s really not, you know, it’s, it’s not sending somebody to prison is never a happy day. And even though it’s necessary, sometimes. What you really want is to try to turn people around and get them out of the criminal justice system. And that was a lot, it was a lot of fun working in that space. But then, you know, that been there for 14 years, I’d been a prosecutor for 25 and it was starting to wear, you know, wear you out a little bit. I mean, so high stress job. You know, you get a little a little more age on you, and it’s just, it’s just start, you could tell that I was getting a little bit a little worn, you know, worn down a bit. And my father had always told me, and he gave me a lot of good advice. But this was one: “Always leave a job a year early, not a year late.” And I sort of hit that point where, you know, I’m getting close to being at, you know, this is I’m gonna be not good at this anymore. You know.
Is this kind of like NFL quarterback? When you hit a certain age you just know it’s time to hang it up? Right.
Yes, yeah. You want to be, you want to be Peyton Manning, you don’t want to be Brett Farr?
There you go. Gotcha.
So that was that’s a great analogy. So, I wasn’t ready to get out of public service and in the Senate seat was coming open up on the north end, and Senator Elliot DeKalb had been our senator for a long time, decided to retire. So I thought, well, I’d give that a try and see if it’s something like. I came from the executive branch. So it’s going from the executive branch to the legislative branch has got some challenges. Because even the executive branch, if it’s illegal, and you got the money to do it, you can do it. Legislative Branch, you got to convince you know, 45 other Senators, it’s good idea that 124 House members than the Governor, and it’s much harder to move things around, you know, along. But anyway, it was a ran for Senate and got elected in 2012. And so I’ve been there ever since.
And, yeah, well, and, you know, everybody that I know, in my group, you know, of course, I’m with the Home Builders Association on the state level right now. And, you know, we’ve always looked at what you’ve done, and we’ve always felt like you had an eye on trying to take care of the people in general, but, you know, on the business level in the builders side, you know, we just, we’re eternally grateful for what you do. But it’s always from the right place. We don’t feel like you’re just you know, mailing it in for us you do it because you think it’s right.
Yeah, well, you know, keeping a strong local economy is critical. I mean that’s, everything else, so much of everything else flows from that. And you watch and communities around South Carolina, I represented some of them when I was Solicitor. You know, Andrews and some of the areas in our… and I represent Lakeview up in Dillon county now. And it’s tough to watch the small, proud communities shrink, shrink, shrink, because the economic activity has just gone away. And if you don’t have that strong, broad based economic foundation, your communities it’s either gonna be thriving or it’s gonna be dying.
Let me ask you a question if we could Well, while we’re on that subject, so Interesting. You mentioned Andrews, my grandparents are were actually from Andrews. There used to be R. B. Clemens and Sons in the middle of that town as a matter of fact. But when you go through there now, it has tended to dwindle down. You know, it’s it’s like there’s a McDonald’s in town, not a whole lot else. What? What can we do as people to prevent that kind of stuff from happening?
You know, Rob, it’s such a tough question. And I’ve given a lot of thought we do a lot of things at the Statehouse to try to sort of artificially pump up our rural areas, you know, in some of our small towns that, you know, you want them to succeed. The, but fundamentally, if the, if there’s not an economic driver to keep that town going, then you can pump money into it and keep it sort of… It’s a bandaid. You know, they’re I mean, they’re, they need surgery, but you’re giving them a little band aid at the State house. So I don’t know, I really don’t know the right answer on that. You know, I think one of the things we’re seeing around the country, and it’s just at the beginning of it, but the pandemic hastened it. There were so there’s so many jobs that you can do anywhere now. And you don’t have to be he don’t even have to be close to an airport, where used to be, you’d have to be close to an airport, not as much even with that. So I’m wondering, and you’re seeing a little bit of it, where people might start migrating out of some of the urban areas, where there’s, you know, higher crime, higher costs, you know, the things that you’re it’s just not, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And they’re kind of going maybe moving back into rural areas and moving back into into some of the small towns out there. You know, that’s kind of what I’m hoping is that you see, you see sort of a resurgence, because you don’t have a big factory there. But you you don’t have a big factory period.
Because of the nature of the economy that we have. So I think that that that is kind of the hope we’ve got right now that you’ll see some of that shift back.
It’s great point, you know, and I think that what you look at is the cost of living, of course. And in Myrtle Beach, you know, I don’t know where we are nationally, I wouldn’t say we’re terribly low cost of living, of course, it is relatively if you compare it to some other areas of the country. But if you get to a point where people can live in a place that’s a little more affordable, like an Andrews and maybe not have to commute every day, you know. Can we do some remote work? And then and then I guess we get into another hot topic, which is the roads. You know, I know that a few years back, gosh, time flies, but a few years back, we worked on South Carolina’s road system. Going in a few years later, how’s it going? I mean, as far as the funding of our road system and things like that.
Funding strong, we got it, we increased the gas tax a few years ago. The great thing about that gas tax is it had to go from minus 100% of that increase has to go from maintenance of our existing system. Which is what we had made the mistake on.
Rob Clemons 7:42
Greg Hembree 7:43
We weren’t keeping up with our existing system. So that has been a success. It has we phased it in over a few years. Because the problem wasn’t the money. The problem is we didn’t have the construction infrastructure, you know, the people and the pavers and the equipment and the engineering. They weren’t ready quite ready for that much of an increase in their activity. So they’ve had to build up, which they’ve done. And now we’re, you know, we feel like we’re making we’re kind of on track kind of kind of knocking these projects out. And a lot of work going on in Horry county; a lot of work going on all over the state. You know, there’s there’s always more needs, and especially with the high growth area, like we have, you know, we’ve been playing catch up. And, you know, but I think we always play catch up. I mean, when you’re in a growing area, you’re off man catch up.
Rob Clemons 8:31
It’s kind of like almost like the minute that you build that new school. It’s time to expand that school.
Greg Hembree 8:36
Right? We’ve had that happen to you. And fortunately for us, we’ve had the penny sales tax that we collect, for our schools, for the capital, for the capital cost the building of new schools. Part of it goes a little bit of it goes toward Georgetown Tech, a little bit of it goes to Coastal, but the vast majority, I think it’s 75% goes to the Horry County School District. And they’ve been able that well, thanks to that, that sales tax, have been able to to really keep track and stay, you know, stay ahead of the curve on the building ever since we put that in. So it’s coming up for reauthorization this year. I think it’s the most, one of the most important votes people will be taken this year is reauthorization of that one penny sales tax, because it’s a little about half of it is paid by out of state people. So when you’ve got folks from Ohio and New Jersey, paying for our schools, that is a good way to fund your schools.
Rob Clemons 9:30
Greg Hembree 9:30
The alternative is to raise property taxes drastically and nobody wants that.
Rob Clemons 9:37
Nobody’s really anybody ever said to you can you “Please raise property tax.”
Greg Hembree 9:42
No, I have not.
Rob Clemons 9:43
Twilight zone when that happens? Yeah. Looking for hidden cameras with people laughing. Yeah. So as far as, in and I want to get back to some of that stuff. Let me go back to something you piqued my interest a little bit ago. So talking about the prosecution side. Give me an idea of like, how did you know when you were going to get into that field? I mean, what was this something that, you know, you’re six years old arguing over stuff, or?
Greg Hembree 10:09
Well, I had two younger sisters. And then this is true. My middle, my middle sister or my one two years younger than me. She just didn’t have any filter between her brain and her mouth. As a kid. I mean, she would just say anything, and used to just drive my father crazy. And she was my first client! I represented her from about age five to the time I left, left for college. And she was she was forever saying these inflammatory just crazy stuff. And I’m like, “oh, no!” I’d be like, “Dad, what DeDe is trying to say is… She’s really trying to say.” But no. I did some mock trial when I was in middle school and in high school. And that’s what got my, you know, piqued my interest in it. The first, my first case was in middle school, I was a defense lawyer on a murder case. I was representing a doctor. And we had three of us on the defense team, and I was lead counsel. And we tried this case in our civics class for about two and a half weeks, and we got guilty. And everybody in the class played a different role. And several people play judges and jury and so forth. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, all the witnesses. But that was my first taste at being a lawyer. Then in high school, I did another criminal case where I was the prosecutor. We did the the Patty Hearst case, so you probably okay, you’ve heard about it. Yeah, I was gonna say that. My mom, I’m a bit older than you are. But it was in the news at the time. And F Lee Bailey was representing her, and we convicted her and I was I was on the prosecution team that time. So I was I was two, I was two and 0.
Rob Clemons 11:42
Greg Hembree 11:42
Going into… my records is not nearly so good.
Rob Clemons 11:46
Greg Hembree 11:46
Nah, no, no, no, no far from perfect. But won my share, I guess. But the you know, that that got me, you know, initially interested and then went to law school, sort of drifted a little bit away, and then and then opening came up and in the Columbia prosecutor’s office, and a friend of mine called me about it said, “You always kind of had an interest in this.” “Well, maybe so.” Well, I try it out and it all worked out. And it was the best, best decision ever. Yeah, wella and my wife.
Rob Clemons 12:12
Greg Hembree 12:13
The best professional decision.
Rob Clemons 12:14
That’s fair enough. Fair enough. It was there. You know, from from your perspective, I know that, you know, you have like, armchair quarterbacks that watch football games where you’re better this year. Have you ever been watching maybe a case on TV or something? You’re like, “Oh, what did you say this?”
Greg Hembree 12:28
You know, I’m like watching Court TV and whatever. The thing that I was always careful about because you don’t know, when you’re watching somebody else try a case you don’t know what they know. And unless I’ve had I know what that I’ve read that file myself, I’ve looked at every piece of evidence myself. I’ve talked in prepared those witnesses myself, you know, there might be a reason why that lawyer says no questions. Because, you know, instead “they should ask him this.” But there may be a reason I don’t know. And so I’m really careful about judging other lawyers work. I mean, oh, you know, my lawyers are working for me. I mean, I’d watch them and critique them all the time. Of course. Yeah. But as far as watching on television, it’s not really the same. Now, you know, do you watch movies and you see him do these things that you could never do in real life? Oh, that makes me crazy. They can’t do that.
Rob Clemons 13:20
Give me a wildly give me a wildly inaccurate movie.
Greg Hembree 13:23
Rob Clemons 13:23
What would it… do you have one that you’re like, “Oh, that would never happen.”
Greg Hembree 13:26
Can’t. You know, you know, some of the Oh, the Grisham some of the Grisham. Okay. Yeah. Is is you know, it’s fun to watch or it’s fun to read. You know, they’re fun to read. But you go “no, no, no, no, no, you can’t do that.”
Rob Clemons 13:38
Kinda like maybe compare it to a Rocky boxing movie. You ever watched Rocky? And you’re like, “okay, the guy doesn’t ever put his gloves up.”
Greg Hembree 13:45
Rob Clemons 13:46
Just let him well away on your face for a while. It’d be fine.
Greg Hembree 13:48
I wouldn’t last very long. Right. Right, right, maybe over 30. So the fight would be over in about 30 seconds the way they do it.
Rob Clemons 13:53
Yeah, right. Right. Exactly. So going through that. Was there ever a time when on the prosecution side you that you had passed up on a case or something? Maybe you’re looking at something you’re just like, “Yeah, this isn’t right.”
Greg Hembree 14:05
Sure, sure. I mean, that’s one of our jobs. Our number one job is to seek justice. I mean, it was not to get convictions, it’s to seek justice. And so it’s just as big a success when you evaluate the evidence, and you look at it and say, “This guy’s not guilty of this.” You know, or the or he might be guilty, but the evidence is insufficient. And you and you do the right thing, and you dismiss the case. Now, it might not feel like you know, the victim might be mad at you. You know, and you might have some explaining to do, but using your good judgment to do the right thing is what you need to I mean, that’s what I was hiring lawyers for. I used to tell them all the time, I want you to use your discretion and your judgment. Do the homework. You know, you need to do your due diligence. But once you’ve reached that point, if you reach that point, that there’s a reason to dismiss it, dismiss it, that’s fine. I’m not gonna criticize you. But you better be able to, you know, to explain it. I mean, I don’t you know, I used to tell him as long as you could go out in front of the, you know, in front of the courthouse with all the TV cameras rolling and explain to the press why you dismissed this kidnapping case, then you’re gonna be fine with me.
Rob Clemons 15:05
I mean, I bet you got a lot of practice of that with your mom and dad back in the day to again, you’re like, “well, now let me tell you what had happened.”
Greg Hembree 15:11
Yeah. It was, uh, yeah, I don’t know if it was more. It was more. I don’t know. I felt like my dad was more of a judge then reporter.
Rob Clemons 15:21
Absolutely. Well, so. So Greg, I know it. Can I call you, Greg? All right. So one of the things from one of the first times I met you, I knew that we kind of had a couple of things in common there. You always talked about, you know, biking. We talked about biking and running. How important is this part of your life? Because I know I keep seeing it coming back and cycling around. I mean, what is it to you that means so much about, you know, kind of staying in that physical fitness circuit?
Unknown Speaker 15:48
Well, you know, it’s, um, I’ve got some heart disease in my family, it’s been there a long time. So I’ve always been a little bit wary of that and started running along years and years ago, and kind of just kind of, it’s just something that I do now. It’s just part of what I do. And I feel better when I do it. I mean, it’s kind of obvious, but I mean, you it’s kind of like “oh really!” You know, but when you do it steadily and try not to overdo it, but you know. I was a runner, then I switch to triathlon still doing those. And but they’re slower and slower all the time, and harder and harder all the time as you get older. But you know, I do and but I do a lot more walking now than I ever did. Yeah, if I just feel like I don’t feel it today, but at least I’ll go walk two or three miles and get a good, you’ll get that little bit of fitness in because. And then you know, I had a health scare back in 2018, I had brain aneurism, and led to… I was on ICU for 28 days, no event for eight days, it was not good. I was not supposed to make it. And I have three different doctors during the course of that experience, different for different reasons, that said, if you had not been in the condition you were in when you got here, you would absolutely be dead.
Rob Clemons 16:53
Greg Hembree 16:53
Just like that. And and you know that if you need some, some motivation? Go like, you know, that’s better keep this up. It worked this time, maybe it’d work again! So absolutely. Well, it just wasn’t my turn. But I think, you know, there’s no question that taking care of yourself was part of that.
Rob Clemons 17:11
That’s a great point. You know, we talk a lot about the mind body connection, and just being a great business person in general, which sounds funny, but I feel like the that part of things that’s really a tribute to staying in good shape, and, you know, life’s gonna throw you a curveball here or there. But you know, the more you can prepare yourself, the better off you’ll be.
Greg Hembree 17:29
Yeah. And then you don’t have to overdo it. That’s the thing. You know, as I say, I think I set my head to learn is pretty competitive. Well, I’m still pretty competitive.
Rob Clemons 17:37
Greg Hembree 17:37
But, but I’m my brains competitive, it’s just other parts are not as competitive as what I’m running into. But just that just to keep moving. You know, some all the time. You know, a little bit all the time can make such a difference with with people and they don’t have to be, you know, Superman. They don’t have to be Tom Brady. They don’t have to be you know, Ironman triathlon. You don’t have to do anything, don’t have to run, just get up and walk around, just get up and, you know, keep moving.
Rob Clemons 18:06
I’d agree with that. I think that’s like the first thing you know, if you can just commit to, a lot of people make this mistake, they go in, you know, like the Juggernaut trying to, like, just do everything on one week. But really, if you can commit to that 10 minutes a day.
Greg Hembree 18:18
Rob Clemons 18:18
Can you do that?
Greg Hembree 18:19
Rob Clemons 18:19
And then and then from there, sometimes just say, hey, this 10 minutes felt okay, let’s do another 10. You know, and that’s how it goes and get right where you want to be. Yeah, very cool. Very cool. So as far as your yourself, do you have any, anybody that in life was a, you consider a mentor, somebody that you know, you that inspired you to kind of be the best you could be or get in this line or anything else?
Greg Hembree 18:39
Well, no question my dad would it be would be the man in my life that was the greatest had the greatest influence on my life. There’s no two ways around it. And he was, you know, he wasn’t perfect, but he was really, really involved and cared and gave me a lot. Provided a really good example, for me as a young man. And about how to treat a wife about how to treat children, you know, and how to approach those things. He he gave me a great example. And that’s just a blessing that you can’t… it’s just you’re just lucky to get it, you know, you’re really just lucky to get it. But yeah, you know, it’s been a it’s been, but since then, I never really had somebody I would call a mentor. Anyway, you know, a cure you know, somebody that I kind of had some of that could go to it was more a mentor mentorship committee, I would say. There have been a number of people I’ve worked for throughout a different kind of seasons in my career that were really influential and I saw in some are influential because I saw the way not to do it, which is really interesting.
Rob Clemons 19:43
Greg Hembree 19:43
You know, I saw some bad, bad examples and some bad habits and what the consequences were. I knew what that looked like. But I also had some that were very good and and you know, in some: city at City Manager for North Myrtle Beach when I was there, a guy named Bill Moss. Kind of quiet, soft spoken sort of guy, but really just about brilliant and he taught me a lot of that in four years that I was there. And I didn’t expect it, you know, I’m just happy to my office just happen to be next to his watching him work with other department heads and city employees really taught me a lot about how to work with people that I’m that I’m managing. And prepared me so well for the solicitor’s office. I mean, I would have had a much tougher time, because so much of that when you’re when you’re the boss, you got 25 lawyers and a total of 90 employees. You’re managing people. You’re not, you know, it’s not like I’m, I’m trying cases, Monday through Friday, I’m not, you know, I occasionally try the case. Just because I love doing it, that was the fun part, it was the best part of the job, but the management is what you’re really gonna win and lose on. And you know, you’re gonna make, you’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna move, you’re, you’re either gonna make your community safer, or not, based on how effectively you manage. And, you know, hire and manage that team that’s doing the vast majority of the work. So and guide I mean, you know, there was and teach them. So he was one of those people. Several elected Solicitors I worked for, like I said, some taught me some good things, some taught me some things to avoid. And, and then a lot of other guys, you know, men and women I worked with in the solicitor’s office that were, you know, my colleagues that I learned from. So, in the Senate, I’ve had, you know, I’ve had a bunch of people there that, that I’ve learned from, you know. Just different ones that you sort of pick this from that one and that from that one. But you know, by the time I got the Senate, I was pretty well, you know, as you know, as in the 50s. And I was pretty well, you know, pretty well was who I was going to be.
Rob Clemons 19:48
Greg Hembree 20:06
And had my review was pretty well, pretty well set. So I haven’t had haven’t wobbled on that one as much, since it got to the Senate.
Rob Clemons 21:55
makes sense to me. So if you were to go back, you’re a sports fan.
Greg Hembree 22:00
Rob Clemons 22:01
So I’m a Washington fan. Washington Commanders now. It’s hard, gosh, it doesn’t sound right. We’ll move on that little stuff. But yeah, this is a tough one. But Joe Gibbs, when he was retiring the first time, Greg Williams was his defensive coordinator. And he said something always stuck with me. And I think it’s great management principle. But he said, they said, “Greg, why are you so good with a defense,” and at the time, they were thinking about making him the head coach. And he said, you know, look, he goes, “honestly, anybody can write X’s and O’s on the board and come up with, you know, fantastic schemes and ideas,” but he said, “but it’s the people relations that are what make me a good coach.” And he said, “Just understand the guys and how to motivate him and things.” So that’s one that always stuck with me is that, you know, you start first and foremost with understand your people. And so that’s, that’s what I think of when you tell me that story.
Greg Hembree 22:47
I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the bottom line. And it’s true, even, it’s true in the Senate. I mean, you know, you got 46 of us in the Senate, and, and we’re all different. We all have different things and motivators and have different little quirks and, and, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s really small enough in the Senate, that it’s quite an interesting little play that unfolds every week, when we go to Session. And, you know, and we all have our little, our little parts of it. But at the end of the day, you know, I try to just kind of look out for other people, you know, as much as I can. Try to treat him the way I want to be treated and just kind of… I’m not as I’m not as, as some of my colleagues are more calculating, and probably in a way more effective. At least in the short run, they’re more effective. And I don’t really play it that way. I just, I mean, I just kind of treat people the way I want to be treated. And, and it you know, sometimes it works. I think sometimes, well, you’re nice, you know, you’ll you won’t care if I vote against you on this one. But it’s okay. You know, yeah, in the long run, it’s okay.
Rob Clemons 23:47
In the long run. You know, one thing that you told me before… I was asking, and again, this is one of the first times we met, I said, you know, how do you you know, so being in the situation you’re in, people probably expect you to know a little bit about everything, and I’m guessing in some way you do. But how do you get to a point where you’re able to, you know, really be a subject matter expert on on so many things, or do you kind of hone down into certain things?
Greg Hembree 24:11
Yeah, you gotta, you gotta sort of to be an expert, you really can only be an expert on a few things. So, you know, I spend a lot of time on public safety, because that’s my background as a as a prosecutor, and I do have a bigger knowledge base, and most people there. If you put 25 years into it, you ought to remember a few things. I have become Chairman of the Senate Senate Education Committee. About… this is my third year. And I’ve had to learn that it was not my area of expertise, but I’ve had to become an expert in that field. And it’s so vast, and it’s so broad, and it’s so complicated. So many different interest groups, that I’ll never ever, ever, I could do it for 50 years and I’ll never figure it all out. I mean, it’s just one of the things you’re learning something all the time.
Rob Clemons 24:54
Greg Hembree 24:54
So that’s my second area and then in the area of ethics is my third area that I really I’d like to spend time in. I just feel real strongly about it. And it’s sort of first cousin to being a prosecutor, you, you know, you’re writing rules to regulate other people’s activity and ethics for elected officials and public officials. So I spent a lot of time working in that field. But otherwise, you know, when it gets to the creel limit on glass eels, I’m probably going to be looking to somebody else, to tell me what to do on that.
Rob Clemons 25:26
You tell me that’s not your subject.
Greg Hembree 25:27
No, no, it was it wouldn’t. Yeah. You just can’t, you know, it’s because we literally, it’s, it’s a crazy place in that respect, because particularly we get on the calendar, and during the regular session and normal session, like will be tomorrow. And we’ll, we’ll go from a bill on the Foster Care Review Board that’ll be complicated to Dispose the Low Level Nuclear Waste, and then you know, just like that. And it’s not, you know, you don’t have a lot. Okay, now, we’re gonna take, you know, we’re gonna explain. I mean, we you get if you get a 10 minute explanation on a bill, that’s a long explanation, and yeah, so it’s, it’s, it moves pretty fast. Because the committee process, you know, who you hope Yeah, is vetting this if you let it work? Right. And it depends on the chairman. I mean, I, you know, my committee is slower, but we were when it gets to the floor… my rule is, “I’d rather have it right and have it fast.”
Rob Clemons 26:24
Greg Hembree 26:25
So my subcommittee chairman that I appoint, you know, they know where we’re headed, and it takes us a while to get there. But by the time it gets to the floor, it’s a pretty… that Bill has been vetted thoroughly. I mean, we’ve just thought just about everything you can think about. So yeah, but others are quicker, and, you know, not some not as careful and so you can get some kind of messy bills up there, too.
Rob Clemons 26:47
I was gonna say there’s a lot of trust that has to come into it. You know, they have to know because to that point, one thing. I’ve been almost on a jury a couple of times. I feel like in Georgetown County, I get called, like, every year. I’m not sure how this happened, but I never get picked, whatever that means. I don’t know if I should be offended that they never picked me. But I don’t know. Anyway. I’m glad they’re not. But sometimes I think, I’m like, what if I’m on the fence on this thing? And they’re asking me to vote? I mean, I feel like it’s got to be kind of tricky. I mean, do you ever get to one where you’re just kind of impartial almost all you do? Well,
Greg Hembree 27:18
Well, you get you get somewhere you don’t have a strong feeling about him. You know, it’s like, I don’t know much about it. And it’s not, I don’t wanna say I don’t care. But you don’t really have a you don’t have any strong feelings about so sure. That happens a lot. And then particularly in areas that you don’t have any knowledge bases, you know, it might be an insurance bill. Well, I don’t know anything about insurance. And I don’t know much about this bill. So I’ve got my buddy, who has insurance State Farm Agency, and I say, “Ross, what do you think, dude,” and he knows it backwards and forwards. And he’ll, you know, well, this is what I think. And this is why and this is how I’m gonna vote. And this is why I’m but this is the other side. Okay. And so that’s… and we do that all the time.
Rob Clemons 27:51
Greg Hembree 27:51
And people look to me, as the Education Chairman, they don’t know, on criminal justice issues. So you know, what do you think? and bring? You know, I’m gonna have an inordinate amount of influence on those few subject areas. But, you know, but we all split it up that way.
Rob Clemons 28:07
Let’s talk education. Alright, so I know that’s a biggie in the state. You know, one of the knocks on South Carolina, for years has been that our education has been lacking. And I may be going back many years, but but that’s the knock that we’ve heard. What, what’s hot right now, what are we trying to do about that?
Greg Hembree 28:24
The biggest thing we’re trying to do in South Carolina and happening all over the country right now, today, is to try to get our students caught up from the pandemic, loss of learning. Because that this virtual experiment we had, God bless the school districts, God bless the teachers, they tried. They weren’t trained to do that. That’s not how they were taught to teach kids. That’s not how kids were taught to learn. So it was it was sort of a perfect storm of, you know, failure upon failure. And so the kids, basically have, you know, one and a half to two years worth of learning loss across the boards in South Carolina. And trying to get our kids back up to speed, you know, back on grade level, is, is challenging. It’s hard. We, you know, it’s not like we’ve got, you know, the 1000s of teachers sitting on the sidelines waiting to come and, you know, get into the game and help, you know, do a bunch of tutoring for our kids. It’s, it’s, you know, we’re doing the best we can to try to accomplish that. We’re spending an awful lot of money. It’s a shocking amount of money to try to accomplish that. And that’s about all we can do. And so that’s the biggest thing right now. I mean, there are lots of, you know, there are lots of this is something about education, and I’ll share it with you. There are many false narratives in education that I believed when I got there. False narrative number one, we underfund education. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re funding education in South Carolina right now at nearly $16,000. $15,500, I’ll be conservative $15,500. We’re over $15,500 per pupil per year.
Rob Clemons 29:56
Greg Hembree 29:57
On average, okay. On average statewide average. So, you know, you think about educating 20 kindergarteners, and that’s over $300,000 to educate. You know, 20 kindergartens. Well, where’s all the money going? I mean, you’re paying a teacher with benefits, maybe $90k, you know. So that leaves $210,000 going somewhere. And so it’s a lot of you know, that’s that’s one false narrative. Another is that we’ve got a teacher shortage crisis. Good heavens, I read that in the paper, it feels like every day. We have a teacher… We have a recruitment and retention problem. I mean, it’s an issue that we have to stay on top of all the time and be creative with all the time. But we’re, we’re basically filling all of our teaching positions.
Rob Clemons 30:45
I’m glad you’re telling us that because I do think I’ve heard that.
Greg Hembree 30:48
Yeah, Well. What I’m saying. There are a lot of these things out there that I mean, I don’t know, as a parent, I heard these things, too. I read the paper. Oh, gosh, must have thought it. This must be the reason for all the problems. And it’s not. I don’t, I can’t tell you, you know, if I could tell you, “Okay, there’s the problem right there.” Then I would be on an I wouldn’t be on this. I’d have my own podcasts. I’d be everybody in education in the world would be hey listened to it. So, so.
Rob Clemons 31:14
Let me make a quick save way. God bless our teachers. I swear. I mean, like…
Greg Hembree 31:19
It’s hard, hard, hard job!
Rob Clemons 31:21
Gosh, it’s one of those few jobs. I was like, you know, you could probably give me a lot jobs. But being a teacher, man.
Greg Hembree 31:26
It’s a very hard job. I did a substitute day. I’ve served as a substitute a couple years ago, just to you know, I’m Chairing Education. Just check it out.
Rob Clemons 31:36
You got to get to get your hands. Yeah.
Greg Hembree 31:38
Get to get in there and give it a shot. And it was a middle school class, middle school social studies class. And it it was it was a good day. It was it was fun.
Rob Clemons 31:48
Greg Hembree 31:49
But I knew I was only doing it one day.
Rob Clemons 31:51
Greg Hembree 31:52
I had to do that every single day boy, because it’s physically demand.
Rob Clemons 31:55
Greg Hembree 31:56
And, and then at the end of the day, it was a spring day. And they had been playing a little bit outside and got to last last class like last period. And I was like, “What is that smell? What is that smell, I smell? Wait a minute. That smells like my middle school class.” Middle, I’m telling you, there’s a lot this change. But there’s the smell of a bunch of middle schoolers. At the end of the school day on a warm, warm-ish. Spring day is the same in 1972-73, as it was is in 2022.
Rob Clemons 32:28
God Bless America, man. We have our standards. Yeah. Middle schoolers never change.
Greg Hembree 32:32
But you’re right. I mean, the teachers are, you know, they’re public servants. I mean, they’re, they’re almost doing mission work.
Rob Clemons 32:38
And you know, I’m going to tell you to my respect level for you just went up a lot, because if you told me I was gonna do a substitute for a day, and you gave me middle schoolers, I feel like “no, no, no, no. Throw me some kindergarteners, here Buddy.”
Greg Hembree 32:49
Listen, I’ve talked to I’ve talked to a lot of schools in classes over the years for different things. And the most frightening ever had was a kindergarten class. That was a scariest. high schoolers are a piece of cake. Middle schoolers, a little more challenging. Little bitty kids, what are you going to talk to him about? “I’m a Criminal Prosecutor. Don’t mess up or I’ll put you in jail,” you know.
Rob Clemons 33:12
Little kids in the back crying.
Greg Hembree 33:15
And they’re so funny. You’re just there though. Like, do you have any questions? A hand goes up and you, “Yeah,” and they go, “Do you have a dog?” “Yeah, I do have a dog.”
Rob Clemons 33:25
It’s the hard hitting questions they are going to throw out.
Greg Hembree 33:27
Then they tell you about their dog. But it was little kids are hard, man. They’re harder to talk too.
Rob Clemons 33:32
That’s, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Good experience, though. It sounds like Right. Yeah. Cool. For this legislative season, which is just starting up. I’m gonna call it a season. I don’t know if that’s okay.
Greg Hembree 33:43
Rob Clemons 33:44
Yeah, let’s call it a session. There you go. Like the actual terminology. You’ll see everything back to sports, Greg. This is what I do. It’s always gonna be seasons and quarters and all this. Tell me what’s hot for this year? What’s a hot topic for you right now? Other than education?
Greg Hembree 33:57
Yeah, the biggest thing we’re going to do this year is appropriate a lot of money. We had a whole lot of federal money that that came down as part of the pandemic response that the state is spending. We were going to take it up and kind of two big chunks. We’ve taken up the first chunk and the biggest part of that we’ve spent on expanding broadband to the entire state of South Carolina.
Rob Clemons 34:17
Greg Hembree 34:18
So when we finish, we build that thing out virtually everyone in South Carolina will have broadband access. So, you know, that’s I mean, clearly, broadband and access to the internet is no longer a nice luxury. It’s an absolute necessity to live in 2022. So the broadband that’s that’s gonna be that’s a big thing. We got a lot of extra money in the budget, a lot. I mean, our revenues are really strong and it’s a thing it’s sort of counterintuitive coming out of the pandemic, but South Carolina did a really good job reopening and I’d give Governor McMaster, and many others too, but he was the you know, kind of the the guy that the buck stops here.
Rob Clemons 34:59
Greg Hembree 34:59
On how fast we’re gonna reopen and trying to walk that tightrope between a pandemic and an economic catastrophe. And he did a really superior job getting us open, keeping us open, keeping the economy going. People, you know, had the biggest season, as you know, you know this, we had our biggest tourist season in history in the history of our area last summer. So, you know, those are, these are all and other parts of the state are thriving as well. So it’s, we’ve got, I mean, our revenues are strong growth is strong.
Rob Clemons 35:37
And I want to jump in and tell you, I mean, we were grateful in the building industry, to Governor McMaster for for the way he, you know, went through this process, because we had a lot of people here. You know, were human beings will working, living every single day, and to be able to go out and provide a service to people that needed a service at a time. You know, you need a new roof, you need a new roof. You can’t, you can’t wait to be able to give us the ability to stay open and doing what we had to do. I think it showed a good understanding of the business community and what needed to be done to drive the state’s revenue as well. So I thought that was well handled by him. Just as far as it goes. So you got this, this money, it’s coming in and trying to figure out what else to do with it. Security? Is there anything on a on a safety level that you’re seeing?
Greg Hembree 36:24
You know, not too much. You know, what a lot of the stories we see from a public safety standpoint are national stories.
Rob Clemons 36:32
Greg Hembree 36:32
They’re coming from places that are not South Carolina, I’m not saying we don’t have. We got, we’ve got our own issues, too. We’re seeing some increase in violence and violent activity, as well. And they’re, you know, I mean, there’s some steps we need to take in our state to address that. But it’s not near the issue that it is in some other cities. You know, getting our courts back open was the biggest part of that. Our courts were closed and that led to, I mean, you can dispose of the cases, you got to let people out of jail. Well, these aren’t, you know, these, some of these folks are just they’re not gonna go, “oh, I figured it out now.” You know, that you let them out. They go “good, I’m gonna go do it again.” They’re not holding anybody anymore. So they go back to misbehavior, but I mean, there’s some things to tweak. But, you know, until I don’t think we’re quite, it’s not quite. among South Carolina voters. I don’t think they’re feel it quite yet, that we have to do something sort of dramatic.
Rob Clemons 37:30
I mean, it’s a good thing, then, you know, I mean, if there’s not the perception that there’s a major problem. Why, yeah, and this is what I’ve always been curious on. And you may or may not, you know, have a firm answer on this. But you have lived in some places. My father was Air Force. So we lived in a place. We lived in Arkansas for a while. And you always hear about…
Greg Hembree 37:46
North Little Rock?
Rob Clemons 37:48
Not North Little Rock, believe it or not. We were in Blytheville, Arkansas. You ever heard of that?
Greg Hembree 37:51
Well, my mom grew up in Camden. Okay. Okay, so I know a little bit about it.
Rob Clemons 37:56
Well, let me tell you, Blytheville. You know, everyone wants some fun go out to Blytheville sometime. Yeah, it sounds just as good as it is. Right. But, by the way, lovely place. Okay. But so here’s my thing, you would hear about Little Rock and you hear about gangs and Little Rock.
Greg Hembree 38:09
Rob Clemons 38:10
You hear about gangs and Los Angeles or places like this. But why, you know, what is it the forms the these pockets of activity with gangs? I mean, from your experience, is there any one thing that contributes to that?
Greg Hembree 38:23
I mean, poverty is part of it. I think drug activity is a big part of it. I mean, that’s sort of that’s sort of the economic driver behind is typically drug activity. And we have gangs in Horry County. I mean, they’re gangs, all throughout South Carolina now. It’s nothing like Los Angeles or Chicago, or some of the other big cities, but but there are. I mean, it’s real. I mean, they’re, they’re real gangs are generally they’re small. I mean, they might be sort of an affiliate of Crips or Bloods are something sort of identify with them. But they’re really just local guys that have gotten together and, and there have a, you know, they’re selling drugs, illegal drugs in a certain part of Horry County. So that’s, that’s typically what you’re seeing. But you know, it’s, it’s poverty, it’s lack of education. It’s a lack of… a lot of times just being able to see when the most popular or the most successful guy in the neighborhood is a drug dealer down on the corner. That’s a heck of an example, you know, to the kids. And so I think they’re breaking that. Breaking out of that cycle is hard to do. But it’s kind of the human condition. You know, it’s trying to show you’re really talking about issues that have been around in one form or another for 1000s of years. I don’t know how I don’t, I don’t think you could do that work better than others. And sometimes we do them and sometimes we don’t. And I see some stuff the General Assembly I’m like, you’re what you’re trying to do here is gonna make it worse. What do you do. Feels like it’s better, but let’s let people out of jail quicker and you’re like, this isn’t going to make your community safer, it’s gonna make it more dangerous.
Rob Clemons 40:01
Well, I can appreciate the leadership side of this. I mean, you know, you would you need a leadership and it’s a couple of things that are right in your wheelhouse, I would say better, you know, educational opportunities, maybe that leads in.
Greg Hembree 40:10
Right. I mean, that’s right. Well, that’s what got me interested in education in the first place really was the was my, you know, sort of the hope that through, you know, better educational system, you can you can cut into the crime. The public safety, criminal justice part, and then you can, you know, there’s I mean, it’s, it can work, it’s just, it’s not, it’s just not that easy. It’s not as you know, one plus one equals two. It’s a lot more complex.
Rob Clemons 40:32
Oh, my gosh, it’s gotta be, yeah, that’s a formula. It’s, it’s right up there equally equals MC squared, or something like that. Right? Yeah.
Greg Hembree 40:39
I tell… I’ve said 100 times, you know, roads are the easiest thing in the world. That’s just engineering and money. Sure. That’s all, you know, it might be hard to find the money. But it’s easy. You know, conceptually, it’s very easy people trying to fix people, it’s almost impossible. I mean, you can’t the government is not a good parent.
Rob Clemons 40:57
Greg Hembree 40:58
You know, to try to fix people is the go to for the call upon the government to fix people is really kind of an impossible task.
Rob Clemons 41:06
Makes sense. Makes sense. So I got one more as we get towards the back end of the show here, I-73 support or know where are you at with that?
Greg Hembree 41:14
I absolutely am strong supporter of i 73. There are a lot of good reasons to do it. My number one reason and among many good reasons. But my number one reason is diversifying our economy. We’re going to remain a tourist and a I’ll call it retirement economy because they’re sort of, they’re a little bit different. And the surge of retirees in our area creates its own economy. And so there’s a lot of money that’s being brought into to our community, from other places. From the New Jersey police officer retirement system, you know, every month that check comes from goes from leaves New Jersey, and it comes to South Carolina, and this is a good thing, because that money’s gonna get spent here. And it’s going to, you know, circulate in South Carolina, and it’s going to improve our economy. So it’s a, you know, it’s really about money supply. If you want to, if you want a strong economy, you got plenty of money coming in, then you’re going to the economy’s gonna grow.
Rob Clemons 42:13
Greg Hembree 42:14
So, but, we’re going to be, that will be it until we get into interstate access, you will not see any kind of major diversification of the economy. And then with that, we have at least a good hope of that. And, you know, I just hate it that we have the our best and brightest, we’ve got a good school, a good local school system we have, or a terrific tech school, terrific college, you can get the you know, we kind of raise up our best and brightest, and then they have to leave because there just aren’t that many service industry related jobs. You know, and we’re going to have more than those jobs don’t are not necessarily your your high level thinkers. I mean, you know, a lot of those, it might be a high level thinker, but it doesn’t require that. You don’t require that in the service industry, so. So we, you know, we don’t provide the opportunities for, you know, for the ones that we raise here, and that’s a shame. You know, that’s just a shame. And, and, you know, if that’s good enough for you, I mean, you know, it’s for somebody to say, well, you know, that’s good enough for me, well, it’s okay, but it’s not good for me. I’m not willing to accept that I think I agree better.
Rob Clemons 43:23
You know, I was Coastal Carolina grad, I’ll put Coastal Carolina University’s business school up against anybody. HGTC as far as technical schools, I’ll put that up against anybody. So, we do have the right schooling in this area. And we need to keep some of these people, because I’m with you. I have a lot of friends who have gone off to other places. We need to keep them here in Horry and Georgetown counties. Yeah, awesome. Well, Senator Hembree, anything else for today? Any other hot topics?
Greg Hembree 43:49
We covered a lot, a lot of ground. Alright, we should talk more about baseball.
Rob Clemons 43:53
We next time for sure.
Greg Hembree 43:55
We catch it next.
Rob Clemons 43:56
I’ll tell you what.
Greg Hembree 43:57
Well, hopefully we’ll be playing.
Rob Clemons 43:59
Well. Yeah. I mean, we’re two weeks gone already. So hopefully we can do a little better than that. But well, listen, I appreciate you being on the show Senator Hembree. You’ve been doing great for the area. We appreciate everything you do. And I’m always in your corner if you need me.
Greg Hembree 44:12
I’m glad you hired me.
Rob Clemons 44:13
Oh, all right. Sounds good. This has been Rob Clemens, Crowning Connections. We’ll see you guys next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai