Say hi to The State’s new South Carolina opinion editor. He won’t be a stranger for long.

“South Carolina is a state of contained, unshared intimacies,” Pat Conroy once wrote. “It is a state of crosscurrents, passwords, secret handshakes, but it rewards the lifelong curiosity of both natives and strangers alike.”

I rejoiced at Conroy’s description of South Carolina this month as I, a stranger to author and state, strolled along the verdant Greenville River Walk with my AirPods in, listening as he narrated his 2010 memoir, “My Reading Life.”

His words gave me hope. They brimmed with a kindness and candor all too rare these days. Conroy, who died in 2016, sounded every bit as alive to me that afternoon as the greenery, creatures and people surrounding me and competing for my attention. I am innately curious. I’ve long sought to find uncommon understanding and to share discoveries with my own readers.

Who am I and why should you care? I’m your new South Carolina opinion editor, a neighbor, a convener of ideas, and more likely than not, a magnet for criticism. As long as it’s not cruel, I’ll welcome it, along with your thoughts and suggestions, as we begin to build this opinion section into a beacon of light — not heat, there’s enough of that — and a welcoming place for conversation. I’ll be based in Columbia but writing about the whole state and receptive to local voices throughout South Carolina.

“We are visitors everywhere we go.” Conroy’s candor again. His words are beautiful and true, and I’m proof. I’m a sojourner who once walked 100,353 steps in a single day to see if he could do it. I was born in Germany, got engaged in England, met my wife’s father in Mexico, where he lived. My wife and I have been married nearly 19 years, long enough to gain two daughters and lose both our fathers. I’ve called Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California and now South Carolina home. I’ve practiced journalism in four of those states for 30 years, 23 in San Diego, the last eight as an editorial and opinion director who fell in love with opinion journalism, who came to understand that civil, honest — and yes, opinionated — conversations can be a path forward for our deeply divided society. I mostly tried to tell people what to think about, not what to think, although I did that, too, while publishing other people’s opinions. I believe there is no such thing as small towns, only small minds, which are everywhere until information expands them.

In South Carolina, I hope to discuss issues that divide us and that bring us together. We’ll start by interviewing political candidates before the June 11 primary elections. Our interviews will be made public, and our endorsements will come after careful consideration. Our aim will be to allow you to judge both the candidates and me as the stranger asking them so many questions. We’ll talk and listen, listen and talk, and before long I won’t be a stranger to you. I’ll be someone you can count on to stand up and call it like he sees it, to listen when told he’s wrong, to learn, and, sometimes, to see it differently amid our ongoing conversation.

Conroy once wrote, “Great words, arranged with cunning and artistry, could change the perceived world for some readers.” I can’t promise my words will be as good as his, but I will try to inform, entertain and challenge you, and I want you to hold me accountable. I hope we can talk the talk and walk the walk together, and maybe even shift some of our perceptions, if not change the world itself.

I’m no Conroy, of course. He left an indelible mark on literature, South Carolina and the South itself, by shining a light on its characters and complexities, its humanity and horrors, its intimacies and secrets. Conroy accomplished the ultimate goal of any writer: to matter while here and be missed when gone. I’m too new for that goal, but I have another: to foster community conversation that is at once civil, inclusive, based on experience and expertise and rooted in fact — something that can influence and improve our lives and help us leave this place we all call home better than we found it.

Send me 200-word letters to the editor here, 650-word guest essays here and email here. Say hi on X anytime.