Gov. Henry McMaster Forms Advisory Panel for S.C. Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Search
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Governor Henry McMaster today announced the formation of an advisory panel made up of a diverse group of stakeholders to assist in the search of the first secretary of the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The panel will be chaired by former South Carolina Adjutant General Robert E. Livingston, Jr. and consists of 11 other members, each of which is uniquely qualified to advise the governor on veterans issues.
In May of this year, Governor McMaster signed H. 3438 into law, which creates the S.C. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and makes it a cabinet agency for the first time. Previously, the Division of Veterans Affairs was housed within the Department of Administration.
“Our history in South Carolina is all about the military,” Governor McMaster said while advocating for the bill before its passage. “It is time to pass this legislation. This is one of those things we don’t need to study any longer. It is important to the Pentagon. It is important to our defense. It is important that our veterans, through a cabinet agency, have the status, attention, and focus they have earned through their service to our state and country.”
Members of the governor’s advisory panel include the following:
- Chairman – Former S.C. Adjutant General Robert E. Livingston, Jr. – General Livingston's military service began when he enlisted in the South Carolina Army National Guard in March 1978. He was commissioned through the Palmetto Military Academy, Officer Candidate School in 1980 as the Top Honor Graduate. His military education began with his completion of the U.S. Army Infantry School in 1978 and Airborne School in 1979. General Livingston served as South Carolina’s Adjutant General for 8 years, from 2011 until 2019.
- Representative Bobby Cox – a former U.S. Army Ranger, Rep. Cox co-sponsored H. 3458.
- Senator Ronnie Cromer – Sen. Cromer retired as a Lt. Colonel from the South Carolina Army National Guard after 30 years of service and co-sponsored the companion bill to H. 3458 in the Senate.
- DAV Commander Willard Cunningham – Mr. Cunningham serves as the commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Department of South Carolina.
- VFW Commander Robert Holsclaw – Mr. Holsclaw retired as U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant after serving from 1979 to 2001 and joined Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in 1990 and became VFW State Commander of South Carolina in June of 2019.
- American Legion Commander Walt Richardson – While in the United States Marine Corp, Richardson served with the 2nd Marine Division and the 1st Marine Air Wing. Richardson currently serves as the Commander for The American Legion, Department of South Carolina and serves on the National Commission for Veteran Employment and Education.
- President and CEO of WLS Foundation Patrick Elswick – A four-year Marine veteran who did two combat tours in Iraq, Elswick has worked with the WLS Foundation for five years, and has served as its president and CEO for two years. WLS “exists to strengthen veterans and their families in the fight to heal from trauma and live well.”
- Anna York, Director of Human Chemistry and Talent at North American Rescue – a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, York served as a Captain in the U.S. Army.
- Todd Humphries, President of the S.C. Association of County Veterans Affairs Officers (SCACVAO) – A 13-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Humphries is the former Commander of VFW Post #3447 and current Commander of the DAV #54 in Gaffney.
- Bill Dukes – A Vietnam veteran who retired as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, Dukes is a South Carolina businessman who serves as Chair of the Dorn VA Fisher House Capital Campaign Committee. Previously, Dukes served as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army representing South Carolina and founded Honor Flight of SC in 2008.
- Dr. Caroline Fermin – a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Dr. Fermin retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2013. Currently, Dr. Fermin is the executive director for the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society and serves as a commissioner for both the Beaufort County Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Commission. She also serves as Secretary for the Military Officers Association of America, Wreaths Across America, and the Friends of the Whitehall.
- CPT Ashley Young – Ashley Young is a South Carolina native and serves as a Captain in the South Carolina Army National Guard. She has served in the National Guard for 18 years and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan. Currently, Young is self employed as a Licensed Professional Counselor and focuses on working with individuals suffering from depression; addressing emotional growth and development, anxiety, and sexual trauma. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Experimental Psychology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.
The panel’s first meeting will be held in the coming weeks.