Joe Riley’s leadership and vision extend far beyond the day-to-day activities of running the city of Charleston. Over the past 40 years, I have had the pleasure of working with him on a number of community initiatives, one of which in particular continues to bear fruit today.
In 1987, following its fifth annual event, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition was preparing to fold its tents — permanently. That was not to be. Mayor Riley stood behind Joe Griffith Sr. and Jimmy Huggins to make sure that didn’t happen. Together they restructured the expo and brought together a group of local business leaders who provided the financial backing to allow the event to continue without interruption. The mayor saw the expo as a potential game changer by bringing thousands of patrons to the city in February, thereby triggering an earlier visitor season and generating significant tax revenue from food, beverage and lodging sales.
With the mayor’s leadership, the city stepped up and helped with transportation, traffic control and marketing support, paving the way for SEWE to become the largest wildlife art show in the world with an economic impact exceeding $1 billion over its 33 years. Thanks to this unwavering support and vision, we are preparing for the best expo ever in February 2016 featuring the new Gaillard Center.
Thank you, Joe!