S.C. businesswoman Pamela Evette charts a new course as lieutenant governor
By Leigh Savage
Pamela Evette has been lieutenant governor for just a few weeks, and she has already been hard at work meeting with state departments, breaking down silos, and informing the public about the projects underway.
“I see part of my role as telling people the amazing things going on in our state,” says Evette, president and CEO of QBS Inc., a Travelers Rest firm specializing in human resources and payroll. “We hear so much about what’s going wrong, but there are so many things that are going right. I’m seeing it every day, and I want to get that message out.”
Evette is carving out a niche as the first lieutenant governor to be voted into office on a joint ticket with the gubernatorial candidate, Gov. Henry McMaster. The change was approved by voters in a 2012 ballot referendum, and Evette says the system allows her and McMaster to work together to achieve their common goals.
“From the beginning, we agreed I would work as an extension of him on all of the issues that are important to the Governor’s Office,” she said. “We both philosophically believe that economic development is a mechanism that helps solve a lot of problems, so we are laser-focused on that.”
With McMaster’s legislative experience and Evette’s years in the trenches as a business owner, she says the two make a good team. “We laugh about it—he’s a man of law, I’m a woman of numbers,” she says.
An accountant for more than 20 years, Evette and her husband, Director of Operations David Evette, founded QBS in 2000. The company provides payroll, human resources, and benefits solutions for businesses who want to outsource non-core business functions. While she is spending a lot of time in Columbia, she is keeping up with her role at QBS, which is running smoothly under the leadership of her husband and the rest of the management team. She had backed away from the day-to-day operations in advance of her new governmental role.
“We have great team leaders in place, so it has all worked out,” she says. “The company continues to grow, and 19 years has gone by in the blink of an eye.”
Her perspective as a business owner is that keeping taxes low and regulations minimal helps businesses thrive. She cites fiscal responsibility as a top priority, along with building public-private partnerships to help the parts of the state struggling with education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
She says capital gains deferrals can help lower-performing school districts by bringing industry into those areas. The idea stems from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s Investment Opportunity Act, included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, that allows investors to use a capital gains deferral in exchange for investing the capital in economically disadvantaged communities, leading to jobs and local development.
Another priority is reducing the marginal tax rates, which Evette says is the highest in the Southeast. “Everyone is looking to locate businesses in our state, and to stay competitive, we need to bring that down,” she says. “And every dollar collected, we need to make sure it is being spent well. There are ways to be more efficient.”
Education is another critical issue for the administration, she says, and they are rallying behind the education bill, a major overhaul that would raise starting salaries for teachers and consolidate some school districts, among other measures. The bill, which some teachers claimed didn’t do enough, passed the House in March. A similar bill is on its way to the education subcommittee in the Senate.
As lieutenant governor, Evette would chair the Zero to Twenty Committee, which she sees as part of her effort to break down silos in government. The committee, which was stricken from the Senate version of the bill, would focus on education from preschool straight through the workforce, and Evette likens it to how she runs her business. “You don’t have payroll do their thing and HR do their thing and then just hope the product is a good-quality product,” she says. “It has to be a fluid process through all of the departments.”
Some teachers and other groups have argued for more than the proposed 5 percent pay raise, but Evette says it makes salaries competitive in the Southeast, with the goal of attracting great teachers. “I have three kids,” she says. “These are our next business leaders, our next public servants. We need to make sure we are investing time and energy into them.”
While government can’t be run exactly like a business, Evette sees many parallels, such as the need for budgets, prioritized spending, and transparency. “There needs to be transparency at all levels, not just for state officials but municipalities and school boards. People want more oversight when it comes to government.”
After experiencing her first weeks in her new role, Evette can’t wait to see what the next four years hold. “There are so many good people that are trying to make our state better,” she says. She cites a recent event where she met with members of the state’s bomb squad and SWAT teams, who work extremely long shifts and still found time to raise more than $1 million for the Special Olympics.
“That’s the great stuff I’m seeing every day,” she says. “This new spirit of collaboration is really going to have a huge impact, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it keeps rolling forward.”