Originally created 11/30/02

Senate offices in Aiken to close



AIKEN - As office manager Elizabeth McFarland begins packing up Sen. Strom Thurmond's things next week, she'll do so knowing that constituent service might never be quite the same in the Aiken area.

Mr. Thurmond, legendary for going out of his way to help residents who encounter problems with the government, has kept an office in his adopted hometown for decades.

But now that he's retiring, the Laurens Street office will close.

Meanwhile, his successor in the Senate, Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, also will close his Aiken office, located on Barnwell Avenue.

He said he can't afford to keep the office open given his new budget, which is smaller than Mr. Thurmond's seniority-based allotment in the Senate.

"Only 5,400 square feet of office space is provided for the whole state," Mr. Graham said.

He said he will maintain offices in Greenville, Charleston and Columbia.

But he said he will have a representative from the Columbia office travel to Aiken on a regular basis to keep up with Savannah River Site issues and other constituent concerns.

"We're not going to leave Aiken uncovered. If there's anything we need to do for Aiken, we'll come to Aiken," Mr. Graham promised.

Mrs. McFarland has served in Mr. Thurmond's office for close to 16 years. She said she had hoped to be hired as part of the staff of Gresham Barrett, who won election to the U.S. House on Nov. 5, but she understands most of his positions have been filled.

"I guess I'm going to retire," she said.

She said she has enjoyed helping Mr. Thurmond help the community. Her last days in the office will be spent making sure the senator's historical items are packed safely for transfer to Clemson University, where they will be permanently housed.

"I'm grateful and appreciative I was associated with the office," Mrs. McFarland said.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.