Editorial: Voters indicate it's time for a change
Just as the voters in the United States signaled a desire for change at the federal level by electing Donald Trump, the voters in Laurens County have indicated they want new blood in the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. Don Reynolds, a retired highway patrolman, will take office Jan. 3, 2017, the first new sheriff in Laurens County in 16 years, when Sheriff Ricky Chastain defeated Jim Moore, for whom he worked in the sheriff’s office. After Reynolds defeated Chastain in the June Republican primary, long-time deputy Shephane Williams got enough signatures to run against Reynolds as a petition candidate in the general election. Reynolds made his first attempt at being the county’s top law enforcement officer four years ago, but a paperwork snafu threw more than 200 candidates off the primary ballots statewide. Then, Reynolds and a slew of other candidates took on Chastain as petition candidates in the 2012 general election. Chastain retained the office for another four years. Chastain’s last six years in office were rocky. He was beset by personal scandals – one he admitted to, others he never commented on publicly. But he had passionate supporters both inside the sheriff’s office and in the general public. He was a publicity machine and sponsored and conducted a number of events outside his duties as sheriff to help others in Laurens County. One long-time political observer of Laurens County politics called him the best politician he had ever seen. But, voters decided the sheriff’s office needed less drama and more law enforcement. Reynolds will have his hands full when he becomes the top cop. He will have an office in the old courthouse as he begins the transition effort, allowing him space and privacy as he interviews potential employees and organizes the department the way he wants it to be. There will be employees currently in the sheriff’s office who will not be the least bit happy they have a new boss. And if the national political scene has taught us anything, it’s that successful politicians must hold their friends close and their enemies closer. Reynolds will have to be an astute observer of human nature to determine which current deputies and others will fit into the Reynolds administration and which ones will need to seek other employment. Wisely, Chastain has asked SLED to conduct a full audit and accounting of all the evidence (including confiscated guns, we assume) and drug money under the sheriff’s control. The out-going sheriff also issued a statement declaring his support of Reynolds and his plans for a smooth transition. We hope he is sincere and that his supporters will follow his lead. Laurens County needs professional law enforcement. We need quicker response time. We need an investigation of every complaint because if someone calls 911, something is happening in their life that needs a professional response. As sheriff, Reynolds needs to put laser focus on arresting people who are committing crimes in our county. Before the primary, Reynolds said the primary role of the sheriff is to provide law enforcement – pursuing criminals and bringing them to justice. “I seek to serve the county in a professional manner to reduce crime and make Laurens County a better place to live and raise a family.” We join him in that hope and urge all citizens of the county to support him and all the members of his department. Politics aside, we are the ones who will gain if he is successful.