Optimists Hear from State Representative Jay Kilmartin

On June 7, the St. Andrews Optimists welcomed Jay Kilmartin, the S.C. House Representative for state District 85, as their guest speaker. Kilmartin, who is nearing the end of his first term and is currently campaigning for reelection, provided insights into his experiences and priorities as a state legislator.

Kilmartin discussed the steep learning curve he faced as a newcomer to the House, taking over from long-time Representative Chip Huggins. He emphasized the dual focus of the House’s activities: lawmaking and constituent services. He highlighted that each Representative brings unique backgrounds and expertise to the table, which helps in understanding various business sectors. In Kilmartin’s case, his experience as a restaurant owner and operator of a cigar and tobacco retail store gives him a valuable perspective in a state where hospitality and tourism are significant economic drivers.

He delved into specific issues that impact business decisions, such as tax policies and insurance implications, drawing from his personal business experience to illustrate the complexities faced by business owners in South Carolina.

Kilmartin also articulated what he believes should be the core business of the House: focusing on legislation and funding for three main issues – roads, teacher pay, and law enforcement. He expressed concern that the budgeting process often gets cluttered with unrelated interests, leading to what he termed “crony capitalism,” which he lamented as an unfortunate aspect of government.

Addressing the Optimists, Kilmartin stressed the importance of direct communication with state representatives. “When push comes to shove, there is no substitute for asking for a face-to-face meeting with your Representative,” he said. He argued that such meetings allow for open discussions and the resolution of misunderstandings, helping to build rapport and understanding between constituents and their elected officials. He cautioned that without this personal interaction, polarization and misunderstandings can easily arise.

Kilmartin’s presentation offered a glimpse into the workings of state government and emphasized the value of direct, personal engagement in the political process. As he campaigns for reelection, Kilmartin’s focus on practical issues and personal interaction with constituents remains a cornerstone of his approach to public service.

Pictured are speaker sponsor and Optimist Gabe Penfield, Rep. Kilmartin, and Club Vice President Roger Johansson.