Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The news that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will be the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is just the latest milestone on an impressive career track that's taken her from a rural small town to national attention.
President-Elect Donald Trump's transition team confirmed Wednesday morning that the newly elected president would nominate Haley to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Related Coverage: Trump Confirms Haley as U.N. Ambassador
"Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” said President-elect Trump. “She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”
“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next Ambassador to the United Nations,” said Governor Haley in a statement.
Haley, 44, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, a small town about an hour and a half drive from Columbia, to parents who emigrated from India. Her dad had taken the family to America so he could take a teaching position.
It was not always an easy transition. Haley has often recalled her experience at the Wee Miss Bamberg pageant, where she and her sister were disqualified. "They pulled my parents aside and said they had a white queen and they had a black queen and they didn't want to upset either side by putting us in that category," she told USA TODAY in 2012.
Her mother started a women's clothing store, and by the age of 12, Haley was already helping to keep the books at the business. It must have been something she liked: after graduating high school, she went to Clemson University, where she earned a degree in accounting.
She then took on a series of business jobs, including at a waste management company and a return to her mom's business, which she helped grow.
Eventually her work took her to Lexington County, where she met her husband, Michael, a captain in the Army National Guard.
In 2004, Haley ran for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She defeated Larry Koon in the GOP primary, and won the seat outright in November. She became majority whip in the chamber.
Nearly five years later, in May of 2009, she announced she wanted something more: she was running for governor. Despite not having the statewide name recognition of some of the other candidates, she emerged from a crowded field to take the GOP nomination. (That group, oddly enough, included Henry McMaster, then man who will now succeed Haley as governor.) In the general election, she beat Democrat Vincent Sheheen to become both the state's first female and minority governor.
"My parents loved that when they came to America, if you worked hard, the only things that could stop you were the limits you place on yourself," she said.
The win made Haley a rising national star in the Republican Party, and her name began to be tossed around as a vice-presidential or presidential candidate in 2012. Ultimately, however, she remained on the job in South Carolina, and won re-election in 2014.
In her time as governor, Haley has argued for ethics reform and been a strong promoter of new job growth, and her staff dubbed her "the jobs governor."
In 2015, Haley would face several major tests, including the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott, the Charleston church massacre, and the historic floods that ravaged the state. Haley received high marks for her handling of each crisis, and once again, people began discussing her name for elevated offices on the national stage.
In January of this year, Haley was asked to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. During the primary campaign, she at times had public disagreements with the tone of Trump's campaign and his rhetoric, but after he secured the nomination, she backed him and said that he would be the best person to lead the party.
Now, she'll become the first South Carolina governor to serve in a Presidential administration since Dick Riley was Bill Clinton's Secretary of Education in the early 1990s.
Here is her full statement on the annoucement:
"Six years ago, South Carolinians bestowed upon me the greatest honor of my life. They took a chance on a little-known, 38-year old, minority, female governor – something our state had never done before. I will be forever grateful, and I expect I will never again receive a higher honor.
"In the six years that followed, our state has reached incredible heights. We made South Carolina's economic development the envy of the nation and brought new jobs to every county. We cut our unemployment rate by more than half, employing more South Carolinians than ever before. We reformed how we fund education, moving more resources to communities in greatest need. We passed landmark ethics reforms that make state government more accountable to our people.
"Our state has also persevered through some of the most difficult times. Nature damaged many of us with the thousand-year flood and Hurricane Matthew. Our hearts were broken for those we lost when tragedy struck Walter Scott's family, Mother Emanuel, and Townville Elementary School. Yet through it all, the greatness of our people overcame those tragedies, even coming together to heal the old wounds represented by the Confederate Flag on the Statehouse grounds.
"This month’s elections have brought exciting changes to America. Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally. Last week, President-elect Trump asked if I would meet with him to discuss those challenges, which I was happy to do. He has asked that I serve our country as our next Ambassador to the United Nations. Pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, I have agreed.
"I always expected to finish the remaining two years of my second term as governor. Not doing so is difficult because I love serving South Carolina more than anything. I was moved to accept this new assignment for two reasons. The first is a sense of duty. When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed. The second is a satisfaction with all that we have achieved in our state in the last six years and the knowledge that we are on a very strong footing.
"I will remain as governor until the U.S. Senate acts affirmatively on my nomination. We still have much to do in South Carolina, and my commitment to the people of our state will always remain unbreakable, both while I continue to hold this office, and thereafter.
“In this holiday season, we all have much to be thankful for. Michael and I wish every South Carolinian a joyous Thanksgiving.”