By Barney Blakeney
For the past 18 years, Rep. Robert Brown has served the constituents of S.C. House District 116. He wants to continue serving them after the November 6 general election.
The Hollywood native first was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2001 after serving six years as a member of Hollywood Town Council. A graduate of Baptist Hill High School, Brown is a small businessman, and retired nuclear submarine electrical systems inspector. A professional barber with a degree in electrical engineering, Brown is a graduate of Charleston Southern University’s Entrepreneur Program, the S.C. Municipal Association of Elected Officials Institute of Government and a 2006 graduate of Colleton County’s Leadership Colleton. He is married and is the father of two children.
As a family man, businessman and resident of the Sea Islands, Brown has used his skills and experience in service to his community. The U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran was chairman of the Town of Hollywood Economic Development Committee, the town’s planning and zoning commission and the town’s recreation committee. Brown has served as President of the E.B. Ellington Elementary School PTA and is an elder at St. Paul Presbyterian Church. He has served as a board member on the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester Council of Governments, the Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation, and was a member of the National Panel of Consumer Arbitrators for South Carolina. In his role in the House of Representatives, Brown has served on the Education Committee and chaired the Rural Committee for the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus.
During his tenure as an elected official, among his most notable engagements has been his support of the proposed East Edisto Project, the ambitious redevelopment of 78,000 acres along the eastern edge of the Edisto River in Charleston and Dorchester counties that would create a mix of commercial, industrial, residential and preserved properties. The project represents some vital opportunities for historic and new residents of the district, Brown said.
Foremost among his priorities has been constituent service, Brown said. To that end he has focused energy on promoting the return of industrial trade education in local schools. His constituents need work and employers need trained workers, he said. As a graduate of Trident Technical College, Brown knows firsthand the value of technical training.
In addition, District 116 constituents also need safe affordable housing opportunities. Brown says he currently is working on a bill that will increase salaries to ‘livable’ wage levels which allow his constituents to acquire good quality housing in the local market where housing costs are among the highest in the nation. And he’s trying to secure funding for home repairs for property owners.
Continued efforts to expand Medicaid, especially for rural area residents is a priority for Brown if re-elected. South Carolina loses millions of dollars in federal assistance because the state’s last two governors have rejected funding that goes to other states, Brown said.
But the legislature finally is addressing the need for highway infrastructure maintenance through last year’s approved increased gas tax. He supports funding for the completion of I-526 which will provide a desperately needed alternative emergency evacuation route to District 116 residents, Brown said. The department of transportation also has to be held accountable for other constituent services such as ditch clearing and road paving, he said.
In Colleton County, Brown has helped secure funding for streets and sidewalks in the Cottageville area, funding for a new bookmobile for the county library and funding for a community center in Neals Crossroad.
Vigilance will be his most important tool if re-elected, Brown said. As development continues to change the traditional character of the district, meeting the needs relevant to the new and the old will require the experience and focus he’s gained. He’ll continue to use those assets in service to the constituents of District 116, Brown said.