- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The interim director of the South Carolina Department of Transportation did such a good job helping rebuild South Carolina roads after this month’s massive floods that Gov. Nikki Haley decided to ignore her typical practice of looking for an outsider to run state agencies.

Haley announced Wednesday she will ask the state Senate to make 20-year DOT engineer Christy Hall the permanent director of the state’s roads agency.

The governor said she offered Hall the job on Sept. 30, but couldn’t make the announcement before the massive floods from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5 crippled the road network. Nearly 600 roads and bridges were washed out or damaged. Crews have fixed all but about 150 of them.

“Now I don’t have to give you a list of credentials because you saw her in action,” Haley said.

But Hall will also face challenges that affected the DOT long before the waters started to rise. The state’s roads have been crumbling for years, with some estimates saying DOT needs $500 million extra a year for decades just to get roads to fair condition.

The DOT also still has a board, with seven of eight members picked by the Legislature. That leaves the agency director to balance the sometimes competing wishes of the governor and lawmakers.

Hall is the third director at DOT in less than two years.

“The last two DOT secretaries have been disasters mainly because they did not have the intuitional knowledge of the agency,” said Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Grooms said Hall has worked countless hours since the floods and shown leadership right down to the local level of her agency.

“She has been nothing short of phenomenal,” the Charleston Republican said. “When a leader was needed, a leader stepped up.”

Hall said all she will deal with the ongoing problems of poor road maintenance once this crisis has passed.

“We’re still very much focused on recovery efforts. That has taken a lot of my time,” Hall said.

Hall has an engineering degree from Clemson and also worked in road design and financing in her 20-plus years with the agency.

This is the second time Hall has been interim director. During the three months she temporarily had the role in 2014, a February ice storm forced crews to work around the clock trying to keep roads passable, then removing trees that blocked highways. Hall, who praised DOT employees for working as hard as she does, said she is ready to show leadership outside of a crisis.

“I’m grateful there are no volcanoes in South Carolina,” she said. “It seems like I end up being in the leadership position whenever we have natural disasters.”


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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