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Past Wilkins Legislative and Civic Award Winners on Principled Leadership

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As we prepare for the January 10 Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Legislative and Civic Leadership Awards, we’re reminded of the examples set by past winners. Here’s a look back at what a few of these outstanding leaders had to say about principled leadership.

What is principled leadership?

“I believe that leadership is an opportunity not only to achieve goals for an organization but for the people with whom you work — to help instruct them and how to be better people, more successful and more honorable, more just.”

Joe Riley, Former Mayor of Charleston
2015 Award Winner for Excellence in Civic Leadership


“Principled leadership, to me, is leaders who are willing to do things in spite of the fact that it may not be popular. So much today is driven by polls and what people think and not necessarily what is the right thing to do.”

Former Representative Dan Cooper (R-Anderson)
2009 Award Winner for Excellence in Legislative Leadership

“Principled leadership is about being clear on who you are, whose you are, and why you’re there. If you are a true public servant, [you believe] the public should not serve you, but rather you should serve the public … It’s tough. It requires courage sometimes. It’s much easier to just go along to get along. But at the end of the day, for those who are principled leaders, I think they sleep a lot better at night.”

Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg)
2008 Award Winner for Excellence in Legislative Leadership

Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Legislative and Civic Leadership Awards

January 10, 2023

Join us in shining a light on two exceptional individuals, people who inspire rising leaders by exemplifying what can be achieved through empathy, collaboration, perseverance, and an overriding commitment to the wellbeing of the people of our state.

Reserve Your Seat

The Riley Institute would like to thank Duke Energy for supporting the 2023 Riley-Wilkins OneSouthCarolina Leadership Awards as a partner-level sponsor. Learn more about Duke Energy at

Winner quotes excerpted from 2020 video, “Fifteen Years of Wilkins Award Winners on Leadership, Service and Bipartisanship.”