MOUNT PLEASANT — Saying he is humbled to be back in Congress, newly installed U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford met with constituents of his coastal district on Monday during what he calls neighborhood office hours.
Sanford, whose career was sidelined by the fallout from an extramarital affair four years ago, staged a political comeback to win his old 1st Congressional District seat in a special election earlier this month. He was sworn in during a ceremony at the Capitol in Washington last week.
“It was a surreal experience. It was a humbling experience. It was dramatic that in a special election they call you before the whole body. It was something I had never experienced before,” he said Monday.
“You treasure things now instead of simply appreciate them,” he added, saying that when he was sworn in “in some ways you feel like you had been there yesterday and in some ways it felt like a thousand years.”
Sanford began his neighborhood office hours 20 years ago when he served the 1st District for three terms in Congress. He lets constituents know he will be outside a business or at a certain location in the district at a certain time and they can stop by and talk to him about whatever is on their minds.
“It’s to be available to somebody on their turf,” he said. “Too often you have to go through security, past the American flag and past the South Carolina flag and go through a bank of different assistants and finally you get to the inner chamber.”
During two terms as governor, he continued the tradition, allowing folks to schedule brief appointments at Governor’s Office to, again, talk about whatever they wanted to.
Marcia Rosenberg of Mount Pleasant visited Sanford when he was governor and stopped by to see him again on Monday. Her concern is plans to build a tall fixed-span bridge over the Wando River on S.C. Highway 41, something she said will damage the pristine environment.
Asked about the recent election, Rosenberg said “I thought he was the best candidate. Certainly, South Carolina politics are a thing to behold.”
Another constituent, Ruth Buck, chatted with Sanford about the state’s guardian ad litem program.
“I think he’s terrific,” she said of Sanford, adding “the worst thing he did was lie.”
Sanford told his staff that he was out walking the Appalachian Trail in 2009 when he was really in Argentina seeing the woman to whom he is now engaged.