COLUMBIA -- The day after her inauguration, Nikki Haley got down to the business of being governor Thursday, posting her first legislative victory on her promise of more government transparency, filling out her Cabinet and taking on what she and her allies consider to be a symbol of bureaucracy in South Carolina.
Of her big win with the Budget and Control Board, the new governor said, "This is the start of the Haley administration."
Haley said she may have just officially taken over, but she has been working toward the day's victories for some time.
"I feel like my first day was November 3, because we've been working so hard on this transition," Haley said.
She was greeted by applause from her staff when she arrived at her office at about 11 a.m. She spent the early morning with her children and had family and friends over to the governor's mansion for brunch.
By the time she arrived, the House already had given key approval to Haley's hallmark issue -- requiring the House and Senate to take more roll call votes.
The House voted 104-0 for the bill. Although rules in the House and Senate already require recorded votes, the legislation would cement the practice into law. The House needs to take a third procedural vote on the bill, which also must be approved by the Senate. The bill is identical to legislation the House passed last year.
Haley's persistence on the issue of roll-call voting is what originally put her on the political map.
"I appreciate the fact that the House and Senate have not only moved quickly on on-the-record voting, but have understood that this is about the people's voices and the fact that people wanted to see these votes on the record," Haley said.
Time will tell whether Haley's first day wins will end with a government honeymoon or lead to a successful marriage with her and the Legislature.
Sen. Hugh Leatherman, a Florence Republican and powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he hopes the day is indicative of the future. His comments came after the five-member Budget and Control Board voted unanimously to put in place Eleanor Kitzman, Haley's nominee, as the agency's executive director.
Kitzman is expected to be paid $173,380, the same salary as the previous board director.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford made the elimination of the Budget and Control Board a priority during his tenure. The board was, to him, the epitome of government inefficiency.
But he never saw much cooperation from Leatherman, also a member, and two other board members, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dan Cooper, R-Piedmont, and former Treasurer Converse Chellis.
The fifth board member, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, also a Republican, historically voted with Sanford. Like Sanford, Haley said she wants to restructure the budget agency, including its staff and services, into a Department of Administration that would report to the governor.
A panel of lawmakers is meeting to discuss doing just that, among other proposals to restructure government agencies. Such a move would require approval by the House and Senate.
Haley said her ability to put in place the person of her choice to run the board does not equal the first step in dismantling the board, but she said she wants Kitzman's first order of business to be evaluating ways to reorganize the way government operates.
"I think this is the first move in saying we're going to come together as five members," Haley said.
Also on Thursday, the Senate unanimously confirmed her appointments of Bobby Hitt, a former BMW executive, as the state's Department of Commerce secretary and Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant resident and labor attorney, as the director of state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
On her first full day, Haley also nominated Lillian Koller to run the state Department of Social Services, an agency strangled by increased demand and fewer dollars. Haley said she selected Koller because of her successes at the Hawaii Department of Human Services.
Koller reduced the number of children in foster care by half, brought the rate of child re-abuse down by two-thirds, reduced staff by 21 percent, reduced errors by 50 percent and provided more timely customer service, Haley said.
Koller said she will start right away figuring out how to balance the books at the Social Services Department.
"There are opportunities being overlooked, I am confident of that," Koller said.
She replaces Kathleen Hayes, who was paid $144,746. Koller's salary will be set by a committee, pending Senate confirmation of her appointment.
Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855.