Best Heir to Riley's Throne
What can you say about Leon Stavrinakis' six-week career as a state legislator? He may not have a bridge or a highway named after him, he may not have an exotic yard bird fixation, but Stavrinakis is the readers' pick for best legislator. I'm sure that's not an indictment of the current lot of legislators with a good, warm seat in the Statehouse. It's more likely an indication that the people of Charleston are excited to see the hometown boy get to the major leagues.
The winner says it's because the people have gotten to know him over his eight years on County Council.
"Even though I'm new at this job, I've been around for awhile," Stavrinakis says. "I've earned their respect as an open-minded guy who listens before I open my mouth."
He notes that Glenn McConnell (a frequent winner in this category), House Speaker Bobby Harrell (the Susan Lucci of Best Of), and other local legislators were just as worthy of the Best Legislator award, because they're all working hard up in Columbia. That said, Stavrinakis is flattered.
He says the intense lobbying has been the most surprising thing about the Statehouse, as interest groups and potential appointees are constantly asking for support.
"The job part I can handle ... It's the lobbying that I didn't really expect," he says.
As a freshmen legislator, Stavrinakis is trying to focus on a few things at first. He's introduced legislation on teacher protection from violence in the classroom and minimum requirements for in-the-classroom spending. He also hopes to introduce bills on gun crimes.
McConnell has introduced hurricane insurance reforms in the Senate, and Stavrinakis plans to introduce a similar measure in the House with some additional consumer protections regarding deductibles and cancellations.
"The way that we view (insurance) as legislators needs to change," he says. "It's been looked at as a business. It's not a business, it's almost a public service function."
All of the work isn't keeping Stavrinakis in Columbia during the week. He still makes the drive home to Charleston when he can.
"It's easy to get caught up in all things Columbia, but I'm up there to take care of District 119," he says. "You've got to be in District 119 to know what's going on."
For the second year in a row, Stavrinakis was also selected Best Heir to Riley's Throne. The legislator claims that he has never tried out the mayor's chair ("I've sat in front of his desk but never behind it"), and we'll take him at his word. Stavrinakis called the award an honor, but said that he's not looking to replace the mayor anytime soon.
"I don't think Mayor Riley is going anywhere," he says. "He's going to be mayor for a long time and that's fine with me."