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Citizen Reporter Brit Adams Champions Power to the People

Editor’s note: This article continues a series of profiles on The Nerve’s Citizen Reporters. See a companion video report to this piece, by Nerve videographer intern Katie Geer, in the embedded clip at the end.

Seneca resident Brit Adams found a vehicle for his “commitment to trying to fix what’s wrong in this state” through The Nerve’s Citizen Reporter program. 

The Citizen Reporter program provides grassroots activists across South Carolina, such as Adams, with an opportunity to take a more active role in the governmental affairs of their state by contributing to The Nerve in various ways: writing traditional news stories, filming meetings, interviewing public officials on video, or penning commentary pieces for the “On Our Nerves: Viewpoints” section of the site.

The essence of the Citizen Reporter program is participatory democracy. It’s about building a statewide network of citizens who monitor and report on government by engaging with their elected officials.

Adams’ efforts as a Citizen Reporter began a few years ago.

“I was at a training meeting in Columbia three or four years ago where Ashley [Landess] spoke,” he explains. Landess is president of The Nerve’s parent organization, the South Carolina Policy Council. “I was so excited to hear what she was saying, I about jumped out of my seat.”

Adams, 55, moved to South Carolina in 1982 after visiting the state on a number of occasions, and he has passionately followed local politics ever since.

“This [state] was vacation land to me,” says Adams, who is originally from Philadelphia. “I was tired of the rat race up north,” he says of his decision to relocate to the Palmetto State.

As a part of the Citizen Reporter program, Adams has covered several topics, from issues facing small, local businesses to zoning efforts in Oconee County where he lives.

In addition to writing his own pieces, Adams also has assisted The Nerve’s investigative reporters in covering those and other issues.

Adams’ contributions attest to his firm belief in limited government.

“South Carolina could be the freest state in the nation if our legislators would get out of the way and allow free enterprise,” says Adams, who owns a couple of marketing businesses, although he says his “main job now is being a grandfather.”

Elaborating on his views of an ideal state government, Adams says he would like to see a stronger separation of powers among the three branches in South Carolina, where the “executive branch takes care of its part and the judicial branch takes care of its part.”

His support for greater separation of powers, Adams says, stems from the fact that the General Assembly wields a lot of control over the executive and judicial branches.

On a broader level, he brings it back to the basics.

“Government is there for security,” Adams says. “But other than that, there’s nothing they need to do.”

He cites some examples of where he believes government has intruded in the free market where it shouldn’t, starting with the S.C. Research Authority (SCRA).

The Research Authority is essentially a state-created and state-controlled technology and real estate company. Created through legislation in 1983, the SCRA was granted $500,000 and 1,400 undeveloped acres in start-up resources from the state. (Click here to read an in-depth report on SCRA by The Nerve.)

Adams describes the Research Authority as “government in competition with business.”

In a local example, Adams says Oconee County “runs the cable business” in his area. “They’re building a broadband that they will be selling,” he says.

Adams refers to the fact that two years ago, Oconee County received $9.6 million in federal stimulus money to build a broadband network that will cover 90 percent of the county. The project will bring high-speed Internet connectivity to households and public facilities.

For all his political savvy, Adams is a chef by trade, and attended school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. He graduated with a degree in culinary arts, and his specialty is French cuisine. He has worked as a chef in several locations, including New Jersey and across the Upstate of South Carolina.

In the late 1990s, Adams began working in various East Coast locations for a large industrial coatings company. He enjoyed a lot of traveling in his work, but finally retired in 2008.

Adams says he strongly believes in the goal of the Citizen Reporter program to hold government accountable with the help of engaged citizens.

“Until the Legislature gives up the power and turns it back over to the people, I’m going to write about a lot of things,” he says, naming “this insurance mess” (the federal health care overhaul) as one of the chief topics he would like to cover.

Adams says he and his wife, Judy, have remained avid supporters of both the Policy Council and The Nerve since they first heard Landess speak, not only because the Citizen Reporter program gives the public a voice, but also an audience.

“It gives people a chance to express their views,” says Adams, “and gets it out to a larger audience.”

Reach Weston at (803) 254-4411 or kelli@thenerve.org.

Accountability Economic Development General Assembly Incentives Local Government SCRA

S.C. Research Authority S.C. General Assembly Ashley Landess Oconee County South Carolina Policy Council Brit Adams