Greg Ryberg awarded Order of the Palmetto

July 26, 2012

After 19 months in office, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said she’s been blessed “to have a fighter like (S.C.) Sen. Greg Ryberg.”

She demonstrated her appreciation Wednesday, presenting the retiring Aiken senator with the Order of the Palmetto award – South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

At an Aiken Republican Club meeting Wednesday, Haley said with a smile that she believes in term limits. But she was willing to make an exception with Ryberg, who served in the Senate for two decades.

“Greg was always where his gut told him to be, even when it wasn’t popular,” Haley said. “No one made a bigger impression when he would get up (during a budget debate) and say, ‘What are we doing?’ It was always from the heart.”

Ryberg and his wife, Betty, clearly were moved and pleased with the award. Ryberg said they’ve been together for 45 years and married for 43. He credits his success to her.

He said jokingly that he’s grateful for those who voted for him in 1992 “and for those who didn’t, I forgive you. I really want to thank District 24 for giving me this opportunity. Every day I went to work, I felt the responsibility of representing each of you. What an honor it was. I was in the fight to the end and would not back down.”

Haley also visited Aiken to sign a ceremonial bill honoring the S.C. General Assembly’s approval of pension reform. She credited Ryberg for his huge role in getting the bill through the legislature.

“For 10 or 11 years I’ve been talking about the S.C. Retirement System,” Ryberg said. “I’m proud of the package we developed bipartisanly. It’s amazing that, with this monumental bill, the Senate vote was unanimous. Everybody came to the table and realized we had to get the job done.”

There’s a lot of talk about bureaucracy within government, the senator said. But a number of state staffers had key roles in finding solutions that will result in a stronger credit rating from Moody’s.

“This shows that South Carolina is willing to sit down and solve its own problems,” Ryberg said. “We’re not waiting for a handout. This is one of the most complex problems, and Gov. Haley carried the ball across the finish line. I see this helping us in economic development and helping the Commerce department in attracting new business.”

Last mouth, the State House approved a resolution honoring Ryberg for his years of service. On Wednesday, Reps. Tom Young, Bill Taylor, Roland Smith and Bill Hixon presented him with a plaque engraved with the resolution.

“Sen. Ryberg has been a champion for taxpayers for 20 years,” Young said. “He has represented our area as well as anyone could do.”

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