Jane Page Thompson leaving Aiken to become lobbyist in nation's capital

Aug. 26—A local Republican grassroots activist is headed this weekend to Maryland, where she will live while working for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.

The move will allow Jane Page Thompson to pursue her interest in government on a bigger stage.

"Politics has been a hobby of mine for a long time," she said. "It was actually my major in college."

Thompson, 52, declined to reveal the identity of her new employer.

"Until my probation period is over, I'm not allowed to do that," she said. "I have an idea that some of the policy and lobbying work that I probably will end up doing will be related to real estate and land use."

And she hopes to make a real difference.

"I think that a lot of politics has become very polarized," Thompson said. "A lot of the policies that are coming out of Washington are hindering how commerce works, and how we engage in community development has been impacted, not necessarily positively.

"I think there's a way to find a middle ground," she continued. "I'm looking forward to being able to sell that idea to people who are voting basically on what the future of our communities will look like."

Thompson, who is a Realtor, also would like to encourage elected officials to back policies and changes in laws that will impact the real estate business positively.

S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, is sorry that Thompson, who has a reputation for being enthusiastic and persistent, is leaving the Palmetto State.

"Jane Page Thompson is one of a kind," he wrote in an email. "Because of her activism in various political and social issues, for some people, she is an acquired taste. For me, she is someone I have always counted on to be the tip of the spear on bringing important issues to the forefront to improve Aiken and South Carolina.

"She possesses a superior intellect that is only matched by her big heart," Taylor continued. "Aiken will miss Jane Page. I will miss Jane Page. Look out Washington, you are about to experience Aiken's top activist and will be better for it."

Thompson earned a B.S. degree in political science from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.

"I also focused on logistics while I was there because I was drawn to the campaign management side," she said.

In 1996, Thompson moved to the Palmetto State.

"My family had been coming to Aiken for a long time because of steeplechase horses," she said. "I met Mark [Thompson] in a bar after the steeplechase races one year and ended up dating him and getting married."

Thompson also became one of the major boosters here of Republican causes.

She was a South Carolina delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 2016 and 2020. She was a participant digitally three years ago because of concerns about COVID-19.

In addition, "I was Aiken County Republican Party's executive committee person for the state Republican Party," Thompson said.

She also served as a grassroots coordinator for the Convention of States movement in South Carolina.

In 2012, Thompson was the GOP candidate for Aiken County probate judge, but she lost to the incumbent, Sue Roe, a Democrat.

"The thing I'm most proud of is the Freedom of Information Act changes that we made in South Carolina that allow citizens to get documents and see what's happening with their money," Thompson said.

As for future political endeavors, she is looking forward to them with excitement.

"Mark and I got divorced this year, but he's very supportive of me doing this and wishes me all the best," Thompson said. "He knows politics is a huge passion in my life. I keep up with what's going on at the federal and state levels, and locally as well."

Discussing further her decision to leave Aiken, she added, "Sometimes there is a need for people like me to be at the center of things."

Thompson plans to return to Aiken on a regular basis.

"My mom, Jane Gunnell, is still here, so I anticipate being back for holidays and those kinds of things," Thompson said. "My real estate business will stay in place here. Elizabeth Blackwell and Bettina Ruckelshaus are going to keep my real estate team going at Carolina Real Estate Company. I will be getting real estate licenses in Virginia, Maryland and Washington."

Thompson also wants to keep her ties to Aiken strong because she enjoyed being a resident.

"When I came here, I was one of those young people that the Aiken Chamber of Commerce and the city are always talking about wanting to recruit to come live here," Thompson said. "I fell in love with the idea of a small town where you had stores and restaurants that were locally owned and not just big chains. Aiken definitely has charm. It's not homogenous like many other cities in the United States. Then, of course, the horse world is kind of wonderful here."

Through her maternal grandmother, the late Virginia Gunnell, Thompson was introduced to Washington at a young age. Gunnell was among the D.C.-area garden club members who helped decorate the White House with flowers on special occasions and also provided homegrown and wild blooms to brighten up the presidential mansion.

"I remember playing in the White House with Amy Carter," Thompson said. "There is a great picture I have with Ronald Reagan. I'm on his lap eating jelly beans in the Oval Office."