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Swati Shah Patel

Swati Shah Patel, picked by the South Carolina mayor to be his chief deputy counsel, epitomizes the typical success story of an immigrant teenager.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 22:13 IST

Swati Shah Patel, picked by the South Carolina mayor to be his chief deputy counsel, epitomizes the typical success story of an immigrant teenager wanting to make a career in American politics.

Patel, daughter of Indian immigrant parents, was informed about Governor Mark Sanford's choice in December and was extremely excited about joining the legislative staff in the state House of Representatives.

"I have always loved politics, it is interesting, intriguing and also involves a lot of public interest work. I am really excited and happy that I've been asked to join Governor Sanford's office," Patel said.

"I worked for five years there and enjoyed every moment of it," she said, referring to her days as an intern in the House of Representatives.

Patel married Nitin Patel, a medical graduate, last year and even moved to Orlando, Florida to join him. However, the December call from the mayor's office forced her to return to South Carolina.

Asked how she landed the job, Patel said: "I worked for five years in the South Carolina State House of Representatives. I came across a lot of people and have good contacts. This obviously helped me in getting the job."

According to Patel, her main job would include advising the governor and his staff on any legal matters regarding his office, his powers and duties.

She would have to draft executive orders and also review the legality of any legislation that is ratified by the state assembly and advise the governor.

In her five-year tenure as legislative aide and legal counsel in the House of Representatives, the 31-year-old attorney has served on judiciary committee and the ethics committee.

While on the judiciary committee, Patel was involved in providing legal counsel to members, draft bills and amendments.

She has also worked on the Judicial Merit Selection Commission during her tenure on the judiciary committee. Patel interviewed and screened judicial candidates, advised members of the Commission rules during screenings and nomination of candidates.

On the Ethics Committee she was responsible for drafting formal and informal legal opinions, besides assisting members and candidates with ethics matters.

Patel initially started her career as a law clerk for the South Carolina Environment Law Project. Here, she researched on various issues regarding environmental and administrative law.

Patel's father, a mechanical engineer from Baroda, Gujarat, moved to the U.S. in the early 1960s for his masters in engineering. He met Patel's mother in Raleigh.

Patel loves travelling and has done quite a bit of it too. She has travelled extensively from Hawaii to Florida and to Jaipur, Agra and Gujarat in India.

She visited India first as a seven-year-old. Since then, she says, she has been fascinated by the land, the people, and their warmth and hospitality.

"I love everything in India. But I also appreciate the life here and feel fortunate for being in the U.S." she said.

First Published: Jan 04, 2004 00:00 IST