SCDPS admin hoped to get her foot in the door with state government. 41 years later, she’s ready to say goodbye. | SCDPS Skip to main content
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SCDPS admin hoped to get her foot in the door with state government. 41 years later, she’s ready to say goodbye.

Wed, 05/29/2024

Susan Terry

Susan Terry credits her late father not just for nudging her to work in state government, but for inspiring her to put in more than 40 years serving the state.

“My daddy pulled 54 years with the state,” Terry said of her father, who worked in the asphalt division of the SC Department of Transportation. “Back in the 80s and 90s, the state was where people went to work, where people were eager to work. My daddy told me if I wasn’t going to college, I needed to put in job applications for state jobs. So I did, and he is the one who encouraged me to do that.”

Just two months after graduating from high school in 1983, Terry began working at the Department of Highways and Public Transportation, often known simply as the “Highway Department.”

“I thought I’d get in here and get my foot in the door, and then I would eventually find something closer to home,” said Terry, who is from Newberry County. “When I got to the 10th year invested, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else.”  

When she started at the “Highway Department,” which included components that today fall under the Department of Motor Vehicles, Terry worked in the driver records division handling suspension letters, reinstatement letters, and court orders for 14 years. She worked hard and liked what she was doing, but when the Government Restructuring Act came before the General Assembly in 1993, people became worried about what the restructuring meant for their jobs and workplaces.

“You didn’t know whether you would be shipped over to some other state agency,” Terry recalled. “It was probably six months to a year (after the restructuring) before everybody settled down.”

The restructuring split the Department of Highways and Public Transportation into two separate cabinet agencies: The SC Department of Transportation and the SC Department of Public Safety. The office in which Terry worked became part of SCDPS, which after its creation included the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Criminal Justice Academy. In 1997, Terry took a position in the Office of General Counsel, and a year later moved to procurement in the Office of Financial Services.

“I liked the Trailer Park,” Terry laughed, referring to the original DPS headquarters, which consisted of a cluster of modular units on the campus of the SC Criminal Justice Academy.

A series of wooden boardwalks connected the modular units. Going from one building to another — “walking the plank,” as it was called — was not a problem, as long as it wasn’t cold or raining, Terry said.

“If you had to deliver something to another building, you had to go outside to do that, and some of those buildings were a distance away,” she said.

One of the things that has given her fulfillment over so many years is pride in her work and helping others.

“I want to do my work in a timely manner, I want to have a good reputation with my work, and a good reputation with my coworkers and leadership,” she said. “I strive to make that a number one priority in anything that I do.”

As this chapter in Terry’s life comes to a close with her retirement at the end of the month, she is adamant about one thing: She wouldn’t change anything about the previous 41 years.

“I have no regrets,” she said. “What I’ve done with the state and where I am now, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”