After spending 30 years in the South Carolina House of Representatives, a veteran legislator is uncertain about his political future after his district lines were changed.

Jerry Govan, however, is certain he will stay engaged in public service.

The lines for Govan’s District 95 were changed during the 2021 redistricting. He was placed in District 93, held by Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, saw her S.C. House District 66 seat moved to fast-growing York County. She had represented District 66 since 1992.

She’s now a resident of the newly drawn District 95, and has been re-elected to that seat.

Govan chose not to run against Ott. Instead, Govan ran for S.C. superintendent of education, but failed to win the nomination.

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He’s not sure whether he will run for office again in 2024.

Govan leaving the S.C. House and the change in Orangeburg County’s representation ranks as number three among The T&D’s top 10 stories of 2022.

‘Voter participation
is absolutely vital’

“Let’s let 2024 get here first, and then we’ll decide what we’re doing to do in the future. Under the current map, Rep. Ott and I ended up in the same district. In fact, the majority of where we’re at now is located in a district that is really primarily centered in Calhoun and Lexington counties,” Govan said.

He continued, “So with the last remap that was done, the one that we’re currently under, Orangeburg was basically splintered up and divided among four rural counties, namely being Calhoun, Allendale, Barnwell and Bamberg counties. So, at present, the representation from those counties that make up this delegation, the majority of the delegation is really from outside Orangeburg County.”

The S.C. House and S.C. Senate approved redistricting maps for both bodies in 2021 and Gov. Henry McMaster signed the maps into law.

The remap was legally challenged by the South Carolina branches of the NAACP; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the national American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina, as well as private entities.

“I’m very happy to report that as a result of that lawsuit, the state did agree to settle out of court. And, of course, two districts in the state of South Carolina were addressed based upon the compromise that was reached between the NAACP, the ACLU and the state. We’re happy to report that Orangeburg was one of those addressed,” Govan said.

“These two areas are going to be readjusted basically back to the way they were. They won’t exactly be back, but pretty much Orangeburg will be put back together. … The only catch is this won’t go into effect until 2024,” he said.

Under the redrawn maps, the City of Orangeburg proper is restored to its current two Black-majority districts, 95 and 90, with a large majority of the city falling into District 95.

Under the redrawn maps, District 95, now represented by Cobb-Hunter, narrowed significantly in Orangeburg County but does encompass most of the city.

The redrawn maps show House District 90, which is represented by Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, retained the northern portion of the City of Orangeburg, primarily the Brookdale community.

The district also includes the Hillcrest and Woodland areas surrounding Orangeburg.

Govan said he is “not thinking about politics” and what his next political move will be. He is now firmly engaged with his wife, Wanda, in running their insurance business and spending time with their family, which now includes a 2-month-old granddaughter.

“We’ve managed to stay very active in the community. My phone constantly rings when it comes to constituent services. Servicing the needs of God’s people is really what it’s all about. I enjoy that. That’s not ever going to change regardless of whether I hold another title or not. We just enjoy public service and being active,” he said.

Govan continued, “Since stepping down, of course, I was honored with an honorary doctorate in divinity from the School of the Great Commission Theological Seminary. I’m working on completing an Ed.S. at my alma mater at South Carolina State University. So we’ve been very busy keeping up with the grands and working with our business.”

Govan said he will also still be engaged in voter advocacy efforts.

“I strongly believe with the fiber of my being that voter participation in this ‘great experiment’ that we call a democracy is absolutely vital. I preach that and have been a part of that process for well over the majority of my adult and young adult life.

“Regardless of whether I’m holding a public position or not, I’m still going to be engaged in that process. I think it’s just that important, particularly for minority communities, to be involved in that process. So things haven’t slowed. Actually, they’ve sped up,” Govan said.

He said the effect of the remapping changes on Senate District 39, including its shift toward Berkeley County, will also affect Orangeburg County.

S.C. Senate District 39 has been redrawn to reduce the number of Orangeburg County voters and increase the number of Berkeley County voters.

Sen. Vernon Stephens, D-Bowman, currently represents the district, which had previously been represented by longtime senator John Matthews.

“You could very well lose because that seat is no longer an Orangeburg County seat based on the numbers. You could very well lose your only sitting minority Senate representative from Orangeburg County for the first time since 1984, when Sen. Matthews won that seat,” Govan said.

He continued, “There are some very important decisions, particularly from an economic development standpoint, that are occurring in the state that impact this area.

“Orangeburg County was and is positioned to be a key player in terms of some of that economic growth and development, particularly as we further develop six lanes along I-26. That impacts us tremendously, particularly since we have at least three major interchanges that will benefit from that.”

Govan said people need to understand that elections have consequences.

“That’s why voter participation and involvement are so important. At the end of this past election cycle, we saw the greatest setback of African-American representation in over 30 years as a result of the way that panned out. We lost three African-American members of the House right off the bat either in the primary, or having their seats basically written off,” he said.

Govan continued, “That was the situation here in Orangeburg. You couple that with the loss of five members in the general election, that means that you have eight less minority members in the South Carolina House.

“Of course, that representation was basically Democrat. So now for the first time that I can recall in my 30 years of serving in the General Assembly, you have a super majority in terms of when you look at the composition of the body right now that’s dominated by one party.”

The veteran legislator said the “opportunity for compromise and a working framework” is diminished as a result.

“So I think that when you look at the overall picture, and particularly here in South Carolina, we really as a minority community have regressed as a result of this past redistricting. We may never regain what we had,” Govan said.

‘Focused more

on service,

not politics’

Govan said he is proud of his 30-year political career.

“When you compare my legislative record with many who have served, I would hope that the people in Orangeburg County would feel that I’ve done the best I could do in terms of trying to make a difference in the lives of all South Carolinians,” he said.

Govan said the expansion of sewer and wastewater services in his district and beyond was among the several things he is most proud to have worked on during his tenure in the General Assembly.

“I think that’s been a boon for not only economic development, but I think it’s been something that has been sorely needed for the residential population,” he said.

He’s also proud of the creation of special lighting districts and the successful fight to keep S.C. State’s and Denmark Technical College’s doors open.

Govan said he and state Sen. John Scott, a fellow S.C. State alum, also worked to ensure that S.C. State had a “permanent piece” of the $2.5 million in recurring education lottery funds.

Govan said working to make sure that the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services remained a stand-alone agency and helping usher in the Emergency Medical Services for Children Act are other things he is proud of.

“We have a financial literacy instruction law in the state. I did that back in 2005. We followed that up in 2006 and signed into law the Financial Literacy Trust Act. Also, in 2007 I sponsored a joint resolution creating the South Carolina African-American Heritage Commission,” he said, noting that he also authored a bill that created a School Safety Task Force that came out with 62 recommendations to deal with school safety.

“I think it’s been very beneficial in keeping our children safe. … And in 2018, we did the South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy and South Carolina Jobs Challenge Program Expungement Act, which basically allows records to be expunged to give our kids a chance to really start over,” Govan said.

The state’s initiation of teen afterschool centers also began while he was chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, he said.

“That teen afterschool concept has become a national model for the creation of a local partnership between DJJ and other entities. … There are currently some 42 sites across the state, including” Project Life: Positeen in Orangeburg, he said.

‘I’m not ready

to pack it in’

Govan said he plans to stay engaged even if he’s not returning to the General Assembly in January.

“I do plan to stay engaged and involved where I’m asked and where needed. I won’t have any hesitancy if called upon by the leadership of this state to serve in whatever capacity, whether it be on the local, state or national level.

“I’m not ready to pack it in. I still think I have a lot to offer, and if I’m called upon, I’m more than willing to share what I’ve been blessed to have learned. I’ve been blessed. What people have to understand is I’ve always viewed it as purely public service and doing my best to be a servant leader,” he said.

He continued, “There’s always things that you wish you could have done more of. It would have been great to have served on the House Ways and Means Committee. I think I could have gotten some more things done … but I don’t have any regrets.

“At the end of the day, you leave it all on the field. I’ll let the work I’ve done speak for me.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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