• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine
Cover, Features

Shannon Erickson – Our Public Servant


 

Story  by : Cindy Reid | Photos By: Susan DeLoach

“I strive to be a public servant, not a politician” says Shannon Erickson, who represents District 124 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.  Often seen as the “go – to” person for legislative issues, she has been championing Beaufort and its residents in the South Carolina House of Representatives since 2007. Her devotion to community shines through her actions, which reflect her “family first” philosophy. Although often working at the statehouse in Columbia (the legislative session runs from January to June), Shannon found time to sit down with Beaufort Lifestyle and talk about her deep love of the lowcountry and her commitment to its people.

Beaufort Bound

Growing up in  South Carolina, Shannon was  raised in Florence, SC. She says “My Dad was in the Army in Korea, and my parents were hard working people.” Shannon says she was quiet and conservative kid in high school, “I seemed to get along with most everyone. I was a nerd but had lots of friends, some  were more reserved like me, but I also had friends who played sports, were in the band or in various clubs. I was very active in the Episcopal Youth group but never in any student government or leadership roles. “

She says, “My husband Kendall and I married very young, and his job with the Department of Revenue sent us to Beaufort. We arrived here with a one month old baby, our daughter, Mariah. Kendall is from Charleston and we would go up there and see his family every weekend. After a while Kendall’s mother said ‘you need to build your life where you are’ and was the best advice she ever gave us. “

“Back in Beaufort, we immersed ourselves in our church, as at the time Kendall worked for the Internal Revenue Service.  I  somewhat joke, “so who would love you besides your church!” she laughs. Continuing, she says “ Beaufort really became our home when Kendall’s government job meant we would have to follow his position elsewhere. I was teaching preschool at the time and he had been with the IRS about six years. We decided that we had put roots down here and loved this community and decided we would stay in Beaufort -that‘s how Beaufort became home.”

Child Care Advocate

Shannon’s career in early childhood education led directly to her involvement in public service. She recounts, “In 1997, I was asked if I was interested in buying Hobbit Hill preschool. At that time there were few  good quality curriculum and professional hour child care available for working parents, and I thought I could make a difference.” Over time Hobbit Hill grew into three locations, Shell Point, Ladys Island and Mossy Oaks. It currently employees 46 men and women and serves approximately 300 children.

“Regulation of child care is extensive, as it should be to protect the children but,”’ she says,” what I ran across were folks who came to do inspections who had no real world experience. There was an issue regarding the amount of toilets per child, with the regulation  “reinterpretation” to include children in diapers, who do not use toilets. This meant, on paper and per this new application of the regulation, that there were not enough toilets and therefore less children could be served in the child care center.  Less children being served meant less parents could go to work. And it was completely nonsensical because babies in diapers don’t use toilets! So, I looked for a solution and ended up joining the  SC Early Education & Care Association in order to address this issue. I was in Columbia every Tuesday and bugging Governor Stanford’s office often. He asked SCDSS to work with us and expanded the definition within the regulation to make the age of toilet using children 24 months old. This helped about 500 child care centers across our state. We had come up with a way to work within the system. I always say the ‘potty problem took me into politics!’ It showed me what government can do unto people and in this case, the end result was punitive, to children, families and to business.”

While pursing the needed regulatory changes in Columbia, Shannon was also active in the Beaufort community. “I was on the Chamber of Commerce Board, and involved in United Way, and I was becoming more and more vigilant as to how government was dipping into our local Beaufort matters. In 2007, there was an open SC House of Representatives seat and I was saying that ‘someone needs to run for that seat” and then someone said to me- ‘maybe that someone ought to be you’!”

Shannon remains dedicated to children’s issues. “Right now, South Carolina law doesn’t cover child care that is four hours or less. There are no regulations in place. I am currently working on this at the state level, working with non- profits, faith based programs, summer camps, trying to hammer it out. We are getting there.”

Many issues impact local families, and Shannon says, “I am Chair of the SC Joint Citizen and Legislative Commission on Children  and we passed a bill on child seat safety. Also, recently we passed a bill allowing foster children to get their driving learner’s permits before the age of 18. In addition, we are involved in using federal resources to fight hunger, by using resources that are readily available. We have championed these things because they are important and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Coastal Champion

As fitting for a representative of Beaufort, Shannon is passionate about our waterways. “One of my hobbies is marine science. The world begins and ends in our salt marshes.” She continues, “I am so happy  that we got the summer regulations for submerged basket farmed oysters changed this term. We were losing business and  mariculture is potentially a huge job driver for Beaufort. Additionally, these are  great products to sell because they are good for people and good for the eco system. Oysters are very effective at filtering and cleaning our water.” Shannon adds,”  The balance of business and ecology is one of the key things we have to consider. Yes, it takes more work and may take some compromise but it is so worth the outcome. There can be good in compromise. I am pretty pragmatic, and I recognize that the life we have doesn’t stand still. We can get up every day and make the world better. We can say ‘someone ought to’ or we can grow in our roles.”

Families First

Shannon says, “There is not just one issue for me, although I am known for my expertise and interest in early childhood education. This term, I took up a bill about small group and individual private insurance coverage of autism.  We never mandated this coverage before and because of that children who had insurance in these two categories were forced to go on Medicaid. This issue came to me from constituent, a Grandmother, whose grandchild is not able to receive the services he needs. The result is of this contentious bill would be that children of small group and individual policies would be able to have insurance that cover autism spectrum disorder therapies.  Currently, the bill is in the SC Senate with Senator John Scott holding it up.  Insurance companies are citing high costs but my research shows me that our SC State Insurance, which added this coverage ten years ago, has seen costs per enrolled member per year rise only about $5 per year.  I understand business and costs but I also understand the value of investing in these children in the beginning of their lives in an effort to assist them toward self-reliance and independence later. We will keep trying to see this bill become law.”

Her leadership on the issue of domestic violence has directly impacted significant change .  “Two years ago I chaired the House Domestic Violence Reform Task Force” she says,” Before our work, domestic violence was treated like a DUI, the severity of the charges was based on the number of occurrences (convictions) of the crime. Now,  the charges brought are much more appropriate and based in what actually occurred. Is a weapon used? Did it happen in front of a child? Is the victim’s ability to get help compromised? Key factors like these now push the charged crime from the lowest level to much more serious consequences. “

“We also overhauled the counseling system that perpetrators of these crimes attend from statewide oversight to now being monitored by each solicitor. A lot of my interest, information and support came from local agencies such as CODA and Hope Haven, Solicitor Duffy Stone’s office and CAPA. Our success was based in teamwork which I was proud to be part of. I believe strongly in team work.”

Diverse  Issues

Shannon is involved with many different issues and serves on multiple committees to insure her constituents’ voices are heard. Below is a list of her committee responsibilities and legislative commitments.

  • Chair, Republican Women’s Leadership Caucus, 2009-2011 and 2016 to present
  • Member, Abstinence Education Task Force
  • Member, Affordable Housing Task Force, present
  • Member, Criminal Domestic Violence Study Committee
  • Chair, General Assembly Women’s Caucus, South Carolina State Legislature, 2011-2013
  • Member, House Education Funding Task Force
  • Member, House Republican Caucus, present
  • Member, Rural Counties Caucus, present
  • Member, South Carolina General Assembly’s Arts Council, present
  • Member, Sportsman’s Caucus, present
  • Member, Speaker’s Tax Reform Study Committee, present
  • Member, SC House Prescription Drug Reform Task Force, present

Community Connection

Well known for her active online presence, Shannon says, “Social media gets a different group of people involved in the governmental part of the world. And I try to share social pieces too. Just this month, I was humbled to be honored by the Junior Service League of Beaufort for my informational social media postings during Hurricane Matthew”.

When asked what is her favorite place in Beaufort  Shannon is quick to answer definitively,  “Anywhere  on the water. And the waterfront park or Hunting Island, I can sit there and just be. So time on the water with family and friends- and not having a schedule!”

Golden Rule

Shannon says, “I really pride myself on looking at an issue carefully. I am a conservative person. I realized long ago that there is a lot more to gain by being steadfast and relying on values and ethics. The golden rule can solve a lot of problems. I’ve been told I am over simplistic but I truly believe that.” She takes a moment and reflects  ,“Politics invites conflict and sometimes things can slide away from what is really the goal. Who is there to stop the slide?  For me it is putting children at the center of the issue. My business, my family and at the statehouse- what we do affects families and children profoundly.  After living in Beaufort for thirty years, I am proud of how many families and children my life has touched.”

Shannon Erickson

House of Representatives- 2007 to present, representing District 124

Serves on the House Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee

Serves on the House Ways and Means Committee

BA in Early Childhood Education, USCB

President of Lowcountry Building Blocks

Husband Kendall Erickson, CPA

Children Joshua Erickson and Mariah Owen, grandson Wilson Owen

Previous ArticleNext Article